Every morning, you get in your car and drive towards work, class, and responsibility. Yet America's roads and highways keep going on, past your office, past your schools. What would happen if you just kept driving a bit farther? If you tapped into the temptation of the frontier and headed toward the coast? A fantastic road trip — that's what.
With books like On the Road, movies like Little Miss Sunshine, and shows like American Gods, the myth of the American road trip is an undeniable presence in pop culture. The farther you get from home, the greater possibilities for reinvention and possibility — or so the myth goes.
Summer's the perfect time to see for yourself whether Route 66 actually holds great adventure. If you decide to hit the road, these songs will prime your pioneering mood. Here's everything from old classics about midnight trains to Georgia, to songs you want to belt out of the window.
"Home" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
Get up and go lyric: "Home, I'm going home / Home is wherever I'm with you"
This functions as the folksy love anthem of the 21st century and the kind of booming, jubilant song you want to blast from your windows.
"Where the Night Goes" by Josh Ritter
Get up and go lyric: "Let's see where the night takes us / let's see where the night goes / In those long nights, old cars / Backroads and the boneyards"
In this song, the singer's old crush comes home after a long stint in L.A.. With the help of a soulful piano and a booming, infectious chorus, he persuades her to take a nighttime road trip. We'd definitely go, too.
"America" by Simon and Garfunkel
Get up and go lyric: "Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike / They've all come to look for America"
Inspired by Paul Simon's real road trip across America with his girlfriend Kathy, this song captures the melancholy mood that comes after too many days on a Greyhound bus. Everyone's out looking for America, but one knows what it is, yet.
"Go Your Own Way" by Fleetwood Mac
Get up and go lyric: "You can go your own way" (duh)
If you ever need a dose of confidence, calmly hum this song to yourself. Even though it's technically a break-up song, you'll be reminding yourself that you, too, can go your own way — whether it's to Yellowstone or L.A.
"I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)" by the Proclaimers
Get up and go lyric: "I would walk 500 more / Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles / To fall down at your door"
If you're in the camp that believes this is an annoying song, then we're sorry. But for the rest of us, we'll be walking (or driving) 500 miles to deliver grand gestures of affection.
"Born to Run" by Bruce Springsteen
Get up and go lyric: "Someday girl I don't know when / We're gonna get to that place / Where we really wanna go / And we'll walk in the sun / But till then tramps like us / Baby we were born to run"
Instructions for a road trip: Play "Born to Run," infuse your car engine with Bruce Springsteen's charming desperation, and go run. After all, you were born to do it.
"Joy Ride" by the Killers
Get up and go lyric: "There's something in the distance / A glorious existence / A simple celebration / A place you've never been before / Tell me that you wanna go"
In "Joy Ride," the Killers string together iconic images of the American road trip — a howling desert wind, motels, and "rattlesnakes and romance" — to form the best celebration of the power of the American highway since Bruce Springsteen.
"Dusty Trails" by Lucius
Get up and go lyric: "Dusty trails can lead you to a golden road / I've been told"
Let the soaring harmonies of this Brooklyn-based indie band restore your belief that the journey is the destination. This is a must-listen for the mid-twenties, road trip or not.
"To the Great Unknown" by Cloud Cult
Get up and go lyric: "Sometimes this life’s a lonely road, but you gotta find it on your own / So build a happy ship, cause this livin’ is a trip / You gotta sing the kind of song that you like singing / To the Great Unknown."
More than a road trip song, this song marks the start of an epic journey. It's part motivational speech set to melody, part philosophy for the good life, part tear-jerker — and it's all epic.
"Put a Light On" by the Generationals
Get up and go lyric: "This one wicked road / You're gonna make it right / You found your way to go / You gonna take that right"
Let the Generationals show you how to use a road trip to facilitate self-betterment.
"Casey Jones" by the Grateful Dead
Get up and go lyric: "Trouble ahead, trouble behind / And you know that notion just crossed my mind"
The Dead understand the appeal of using transportation to run away from problems. But a brief PSA: Don't be like Casey Jones, the protagonist of this Grateful Dead song, and drive under the influence. Even worse, Casey's driving a train, not a car.
"Route 66" by Chuck Berry
Get up and go lyric: "Well if you ever plan to motor west / Just take my way it's the highway that's the best / Get your kicks on Route 66"
If you're indecisive, let Chuck Berry be your road trip route oracle. He can't rave enough about the iconic highway that connects the Southwest to California.
"Midnight Train to Georgia" by Gladys Knight and the Pips
Get up and go lyric: "I'll be with him / (I know you will) / On that midnight train to Georgia / (Leaving on a midnight train to Georgia)"
To pass time on the road, get your "Midnight Train to Georgia" group routine down pat. The driver can sing Gladys Knight's part, and everyone else will perfect their backup singer timing as the Pips.
"Ramblin' Man" by the Allman Brothers Band
Get up and go lyric: "And when it's time for leavin', / I hope you'll understand, / That I was born a ramblin' man."
Essentially, this great American song justifies one man's inability to commit — but it's too catchy for us to care.
"Graceland" by Paul Simon
Get up and go lyric: "The Mississippi Delta was shining / Like a National guitar / I am following the river / Down the highway / Through the cradle of the civil war / I'm going to Graceland"
No one captures the American heartland with the same poetry as Paul Simon. In "Graceland," he strings together vignettes from a road trip to Elvis's famous home.
"Keep the Car Running" by Arcade Fire
Get up and go lyric: "They don't know where, and they don't know when / It's coming or when / But it's coming; keep the car running
In this grungy anthem for fear and paranoia, one man stays prepared for doom by refusing to settle down.
"On the Road Again" by Willie Nelson
Get up and go lyric: "Goin' places that I've never been / Seein' things that I may never see again / And I can't wait to get on the road again"
You probably already know the lyrics to the country classic, even if you don't know how.
"The River of Dreams" by Billy Joel
Get up and go lyric: "And I've been searching for something / Taken out of my soul / Something I would never lose / Something somebody stole"
In this gloriously catchy song, Billy Joel describes the magnificent sights and sounds of his dreamscape.
"Party in the U.S.A." by Miley Cyrus
Get up and go lyric: "So I put my hands up / They're playing my song / And the butterflies fly away"
Infuse your road trip with a Miley Cyrus burst of patriotism.
"Tiny Dancer" by Elton JohnGet up and go lyric: "
Hold me closer tiny dancer / Count the headlights on the highway"
If you've seen Almost Famous
, you know the greatest cinematic singalong took place in a tour bus, when the band sang along to "Tiny Dancer."
Recreate the triumphant scene in your sedan.
"Road to Nowhere" by the Talking Heads
Get up and go lyric: "We're on a road to nowhere / Come on inside / Taking that ride to nowhere / We'll take that ride"
In the book Once in a Lifetime: The Best of the Talking Heads, the band's lead singer David Byrne said that he wanted "to write a song that presented a resigned, even joyful look at doom," and that's how "Road to Nowhere" was born. In that way, this song is a good alternative to listening to news on the radio.
"Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman
Get up and go lyric: "You got a fast car / I want a ticket to anywhere / Maybe we make a deal / Maybe together we can get somewhere / Anyplace is better"
In this melancholy but hopeful song, a woman latches on to the promise of the road to kickstart a better, brighter future with her partner.
"Band on the Run" by Wings
Get up and go lyric: "In the town they're searching for us everywhere / But we never will be found"
Listen to this song, and live like a rock star.
"Send Me On My Way" by Rusted Root
Get up and go lyric: "Well, I would like to hold my little hand / And we will run, we will"
Play this song in the background of your car enough times, and you'll get the uncanny sensation that your life is a movie, and "Send Me On My Way" is the song played over the opening credits.