Music for Road Trips

I just came back from a long trip to the Idaho Panhandle, to help celebrate a family birthday.  On the road, my thoughts turned, as they always do, to music – what kind of music did I want to listen to for this segment of the trip?  Or would the radio be better?   I realized I have very defined habits and opinions.  For this particular trip, I like:

1.  Starting out – “On the Road Again” by Willie Nelson – what else?  Then Oldies but Goodies – as I drive through the Columbia River Gorge.  AM 1400 or FM 97.7 work well.

2.  Turning north and heading to Tri-Cities – and even quite far beyond – Northwest Public Radio is superb.  It comes out of the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication at Washington State University – good job, you guys!  Always something new, interesting and unusual to keep my mind busy during the long hours. I think it’s 91.5 FM.

3.  In spots of northern Idaho (and sometimes in the Gorge) it’s difficult to pick up a radio signal, so then I switch over to Credence Clearwater Revival, Fleetwood Mac, or Simon & Garfunkel on the CD player.   I know, old-fashioned stuff for many people.  But the energy of Credence Clearwater is always a pick-me-up; and there’s both joy and irony in the music of Fleetwood Mac and Simon & Garfunkel – not to mention gorgeous rhythms and harmonies.  And yes, I sing along – sometimes quietly, sometimes at the top of my lungs.

4.  Spokane has a couple of great Oldies but Goodies stations as well.

5.  If the music becomes too much during 6 or 7 hours on the road, I sometimes switch over to AM talk radio.  I like to yell at one particular advice-giver when she’s rude to her guests, which seems to happen quite often.  I like to listen to different political opinion and discussions just to see if I still feel the same or if new information might change my opinionated ways.  And once in a while, again on PBS, I’ll catch a version of “Prairie Home Companion” and revel in Garrison Keillor’s wonderful storytelling abilities.

That’s the Idaho trip.  But there are special occasions which require special music.  If you find yourself driving through the California redwoods – or over some of Montana’s most spectacular mountain passes – you really should be listening to Mozart.  Maybe Brahms.


If you’re on the coast, well, obviously Jimmy Buffet – it’s bound to be 5 o’clock somewhere, isn’t it?

If you’re stuck in commute traffic, put on a CD of Rod Stewart’s “Great American Songbook.”  It will help you mellow out.

Nope – not into rap, not into hip-hop, not into anything that has too much noise and is liable to make driving harder.  But there are songs that belong on the road, and many years after they’ve been produced, they still work beautifully.

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