Our first road trip was in June 2001, in a red hatchback Honda Civic that had no air conditioning. Steve and I were dating, deeply in love, about to start our lives together. I knew I wanted to do my MFA in Creative Writing somewhere. Steve wanted me to see more of America than Miami. We decided it would be a great idea to drive across country, looking at college campuses.
We drove up from Miami – I’d never realized how long Florida was until then. Then we drove all the way across the south. We spent the night in the following cities – New Orleans, San Antonio, El Paso, Phoenix — where we stayed with Steve’s parents, soon to be my in-laws. We went on to from Arizona to Los Angeles, where we visited UC Irvine. Then we went up the coast to San Francisco, Modesto to stay with our best friend from college, and then we visited the University of San Jose. And back. In a red hatchback Honda Civic that had no air conditioning. In June! It was the best, craziest, most memorable road trip ever and it began a tradition with my husband and I. Whenever possible, we go on road trips. It’s gotten harder, with life and jobs and responsibility. But we get out whenever we can.
When I think back to that first road trip, I remember it in songs. I married a strong driver who doesn’t mind being behind the wheel – in fact that’s his preference and I’m happy to not drive. I’m the DJ. My job is to choose the songs to set the mood for the perfect road trip.
It’s amazing how a specific song will trigger a specific road trip memory. Outkast’s SpottieOttieDopaliscious will always remind me of driving from Miami down to the Florida Keys, cruising over the Seven Mile Bridge. Wyclef’s Apocalypse reminds me of driving at night on I-95. I clearly remember listening to Jacob Miller when I noticed my lip had cracked and started bleeding as we drove through the New Mexico desert in 2001 – it was so hot that we were using a portable fan and a spray bottle of water to try to keep cool. Oh, college recklessness and hindsight. Two Sevens Clash by Culture is one of my favorite reggae albums – one of the best reggae albums of all time. Those songs remind me of our road trip from Las Vegas to Lake Tahoe for Cousin Abby’s wedding, driving along lonely desert roads with my sister in law and brother in law snoozing in the back seat.
There are the songs you ride out to, and the songs you head home to. On the end of a long road trip we like to listen to songs about going home. (Ain’t That) Good News by Sam Cooke, because we’ll be home tomorrow. Homeward Bound by Simon and Garfunkel. Find My Way by The Gabe Dixon Band. Talk about music that brings back memories – my husband and I went to college with the members of the Gabe Dixon Band and I still think they should have become more famous than they did.
This summer we’ll be road tripping again, from Illinois to Ohio, to New Jersey for the wedding of one of our best friends and back again. I can’t wait to get in the car again, to load up the cooler with drinks and snacks, to get my playlists ready to go. It’s one of my favorite things about summer!
What makes a song a must-have on the road trip soundtrack? It has to make you nod your head or tap your foot or sing along. It has to keep you going, it has to keep you relaxed. It shouldn’t be a song that makes you angry or raises your blood pressure. It’s gotta set the tone for your ride. You need a chill groove.
I hope you love my road trip soundtrack. It’s eclectic and funky, there are songs from the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s right on up to today. It’s all over the place. Just like you’ll be, on your own road trip adventure.
Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Spotify via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Spotify.