A common request we get at the shop is music for a road trip. Similar to requests like “music to work out to,” “music to study to,” or “music for a dinner party,” road trip music serves a purpose beyond satisfying our particular taste. It can heighten our senses and spark attention and observation in our brains, while the rest of our body sits almost motionless for hours on end. A good road trip collection should have a challenging aspect to it. We all have our tried and true “go-to’s,” but often times these albums can just be drowned out and ignored from countless listens.
For a recent two week long jaunt, I explored the idea of less is more. Instead of weeks of preparation and consideration for what music to bring along, I simply grabbed the first 20 or so CDs that caught my eye. I decided that a road trip should be left open to spontaneity and improvisation. There are things you should plan for. But, more importantly, there are many things you should leave to the moment. Perhaps music can be one of those things.

So, I’m going to share just a few songs that successfully fit the backdrop and situation. Needles to say, these were all CDs in my collection, so of course these are more fitting to my taste than any others. But, I will include a little bit about why these albums were perfect for my trip. Like we always try to preach on our blog, music deserves attention and thought. I wouldn’t look at this list as suggestions for your next excursion, but a discussion of thoughtfulness.

Joshua Tree

Our trip didn’t get underway till 8pm on a Sunday Evening. The goal was to hit Joshua Tree National Park, camp out, wake up early and head into Los Angeles. Well into the midnight hours, we rolled in to an eery landscape, with alien looking trees, massive boulders that seemed well out of place and a stillness that could have very well been hiding something sinister in the darkness. Of course I’m going to reach for my favorite creeper album.

Los Angeles

Since we managed to live through the night, it was on to Los Angeles, where the first stop was, of course, the Pacific Ocean. Lucky for us, we had brought along some perfect beach tunes.

Mammoth Lakes

Being a Phoenician, of course I’m going to plan my trip around water, cooler weather, and if I can get it, snow! This meant taking the scenic route to the east of the Sierra Nevadas to Mammoth Lakes. The climb in elevation made for highs in the mid 70s and some year round snow pack. This called for something more primitive and natural with just the right amount of weirdness. After all, I’m seeing snow in July.


We decided to take the less traveled route into Yosemite which offered some beautiful vistas and treacherous cliffs, which was more of what I was paying attention to, being the driver for this particular stretch. I needed something to calm the nerves and keep my eyes on the road. Luckily for me, our trip though L.A. included a stop at Amoeba Records, which happens to have a stellar Classical section.

San Francisco

San Francisco is about as global of a city as you can find in this country. This can make it hard to lock down a perfect soundtrack. Perhaps the global nature of Django’s “gypsy jazz” is just the right amount of everything.

Sequoia National Park

This ancient forest is about as Tolkien as a National Park can get. I don’t think trees are supposed to get that big. Clearly, there’s some mystical elvish force at work here. Clearly, these are monsters.

Zion National Park

All these National Parks can really get you thinking about your Dad. Hit it Mac.

Grand Canyon North Rim

Being a native Arizonan, of course I’ve been to the Grand Canyon numerous times. However, I can’t remember the last time I went to the North Rim. YOU GUYS! It’s totally worth the extra drive to see the same canyon! The drive in had some of the most lush forest I’ve seen in this state, wild turkeys, plenty of deer and bison! Seriously, make the trip. Big ice age mammals, big trees, big canyons call for some Big Thief.

In closing, I would like to encourage everyone to pick up a National Parks Year Pass. Not only does this make a contribution to preserving such beautiful landscapes and eco systems, it also motivates you to get as much out of it as possible. This would have been a much shorter and uneventful trip, had it not been for the $80 spent on this card.

On a side note, and this might be a bit embarrassing, but hell, I just gave you all a family road trip slide show, so what’s a little more embarrassment going to hurt. This card really makes you feel like a baller. Every time we whipped it out at a ranger station, we sang a little song…