Road Trip Soundtrack

Do you cry at the movies?  I find that with each passing year I can well up with incredibly little provocation.  A couple weeks ago the second-to-last episode of Parenthood aired (I’m waiting on the edge of my seat for the show to be renewed for a 6th season…nerd, I know) and I cried a minimum of 9 separate times.  Did you see the movie “Get Low” a few years back?  That speech at the end by Robert Duvall’s character had me weeping.  If not for the two percent of self control I had left, I would have wailed and snorted and choked in that packed theater, much to the horror of those around me.


They say we cry at shows and movies because scenes depicting various types of pain cause oxytocin to flood the brain, allowing an empathetic response that promotes better survival for all of us.  The thing is, our neurons do not distinguish between screen life and real life, so it all feels (relatively) the same.  Scientists are finding the same to be true of other types of brain chemical responses to media, whether it be the news, violent films, video games, or even your Facebook feed.


These sorts of things remind me how important it is to unplug from the digital world for large chunks of the day.  Instead of stimulating the ol’ brain with new posts/pics/updates/headlines/tweets/tags/videos/etc., what about doing something that involves actual connection to other people and/or the physical world we inhabit?  Eh?  It’s an increasingly novel idea, it seems.


My one suggestion to help cure the digital black hole disconnected mental state (beyond gardening, duh, but it gets boring always talking about gardening, don’t you think?) is to go on a solo road trip.  I know, you’ve got a partner/kids/a job or two/pets/a house/blahbity blah blah.  I know.  But even if you can just swing it for a night, it’s so worth it.  If you’ve never done a solo trip, maybe it sounds boring or scary to you.  Yes and yes.  But that’s part of the fun of it.  You will notice new things about yourself and your inner dialogue, the people around you, and the environment you’re traipsing around in.  So in the next few months as summer presents itself, grab your keys, pack a tent, shut off your phone, and head somewhere you’ve never been.


I’ve done solo trips to the following places, and each one has had an accompanying soundtrack.  That part is key, because when I don’t have the opportunity to head out on my own, I can turn on these songs and be right back on the open road:


Vermillion Cliffs National Monument narrated by the whistling of one Mr. Bird



Capitol Reef National Park accompanied by Lady in the Moon, Neko Case

capitol reef


Kodachrome Basin State Park with the fine sirs of Calexico

kodachrome basin


Canyonlands National Park with my buddy Brandi Carlile



Dinosaur National Monument guided by The Avett Brothers



And, last but certainly not least, Canyon De Chelly with Gregory Alan Isakov


Obviously I have a thing for the Colorado Plateau.  You could scramble around that region for a lifetime and still not see any of it, don’t you agree?  Anyway, I do hope you’re able to take a solo trip or two as the years roll on.  It’s good for the soul.  While you can’t look over at anyone and say “remember the time I almost rolled the Honda off the cliff while trying to reach the Green river?”, you’ll have memories that are fully yours that will be seared into your brain forever.  I call upon mine when I’m feeling particularly loony (weekly, at least) and I remember that there’s this whole world out there that could care less about the finicky little details of my life, and that’s just great.


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