October 22, 2021

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Hit the Road, Jack – OZY

Saturday, June 12, 2021

They’re as American as apple pie. Road trips are part of the USA’s cultural DNA, rites of passage that Jack Kerouac wrote about and Bob Dylan sang about. They’ve inspired films from the classic Easy Rider to the recent award-winning Nomadland and are the perfect way to emerge from a pandemic funk. In this Weekender, we tell you the best road trips to take — not only stateside but abroad — what to listen to en route, and what to read along the way. Road trips are also Instagram gold, so what are you waiting for? Hit the road, Jack!

Joshua Eferighe, Reporter

1. Get Your Kicks on Route 66

This is arguably the most famous route in America thanks to all the references to it in popular culture. American singer Bobby Troup forever immortalized the highway in the 1946 smash hit of the same name, which was covered by everyone from Nat King Cole to the Rolling Stones, and it was also featured in John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes of Wrath. Spanning over 2,400 miles from Chicago, Illinois, to Santa Monica, California, it traverses eight states with stops along the way that are quintessential Americana: think retro neon signs, giant astronaut statues and legendary diners.

2. North Coast 500

This journey is Scotland’s version of Route 66, but instead of seeing bison, meteor craters and petrified wood, you’ll find legendary castles, lakes and famous whisky distilleries along the way. As it covers more than 500 miles that wind through the Scottish Highlands, you’re going to need at least a week to take everything in on this epic drive. The route starts in Inverness, a town famous for the monster that’s believed to live in a nearby loch. It’s also a good base for visiting Clava Cairns, a 4,000-year-old Bronze Age stone cemetery that feels magical and was the location for some scenes in the hit show Outlander. Another highlight? Visiting the famed northeasterly tip of Great Britain: John o’ Groats.

3. Great Ocean Road

Located in Australia, this road trip is as scenic as they come, taking drivers along cliff tops, past great surf beaches and through luscious rainforest terrain. At 413 miles long, the journey should last a total of about 9.5 hours, making it a glorious three-day excursion. Start in Melbourne and make your way to the surf haven of Torquay, visit the famous limestone pillars known as the 12 Apostles and end at the quaint fishing village of Port Fairy. There are also plenty of other places worth stopping along the way — like Great Otway National Park, where you can find the oldest surviving lighthouse in mainland Australia. Count how many Aussie animals like koalas, bandicoots and kangaroos you can spot en route.

4. The Garden Route

You might have to wait a bit for your road trip Down Under, with the country closed to travelers due to COVID-19, but South Africa is open for business and desperate for tourists. Stretching just over 125 miles, this route takes in amazingly diverse scenery, from forests to beaches. The drive starts in the surf town of Mossel Bay and ends at Storms River Mouth, where you can take part in adventure sports like bungee jumping or go for a hike. If you’re lucky, you’ll also spot some otters and monkeys in Garden Route National Park. 

5. Karakoram Highway

Among the highest paved roads in the world, it begins north of Islamabad in Pakistan and passes the world’s largest non-polar glaciers before ending in the city of Kashgar, in China’s Xinjiang region — just 800 miles later. Constructed over the course of 27 years and with an elevation of around 15,400 feet at its highest point, this highway traverses some of the toughest but most breathtaking terrain on the planet along the ancient Silk Road.

6. Ruta 40: La Cuarenta

One of the world’s longest roads at 3,195 miles, it traverses almost the entire length of Argentina, from its southernmost point at Cabo Vírgenes to the Bolivian frontier, passing through the plains of Patagonia and flanked to the west by the Andes. If one road trip could show you all of Argentina’s wonders, this is it.

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1. ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’

One spring break during college, a group of friends and I traveled from D.C. to West Virginia and stayed in a homely hostel in the mountains. It wasn’t the longest road trip I’ve ever taken, nor the most extravagant, but we played this John Denver classic nonstop and, let me tell you, the experience was spiritual. I still get goosebumps hearing the song now. The 1971 smash hit encapsulates the mystique of the striking terrain with the lyrics: “Almost heaven, West  Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.” Play it on repeat!     

2. Midyear Jams

From the U.K. music website One On One, this 2021 playlist is a must for your road trip for several reasons. It not only takes up a significant chunk of time, running a cool six hours and 30 minutes, but it’ll catch you and your crew up on a plethora of this year’s new releases, as well as some songs from the past couple of years that you might have forgotten about. The playlist is refreshing, featuring a number of jams that you otherwise might not have stumbled across on your own. Sing along as you hit the gas and make like a rolling stone.

3. ‘Goodbye, Again’

At three hours and 42 minutes, this audiobook is a sure way to stay entertained for a significant leg of your journey. Author Jonny Sun shares a collection of heartfelt, personal essays, stories and poems that take a range of forms, from essays on loneliness to short humor pieces. There’s something for everyone here. You might find it’ll come in handy on the less scenic parts of the car ride, when you’ve run out of things to talk about with your fellow travelers or when the kids keep asking: “Are we there yet?”

1. A Grandmother’s Voyage

If you need inspiration before heading out, you have to read about this intrepid 80-year-old South African grandmother of nine named Julia Albu, who went on a solo drive through Africa. Her age isn’t even the most impressive thing. The journey from Cape Town to Cairo is one of the world’s most challenging, spanning over 6,200 miles, and is usually taken on by only the toughest travelers. This article details everything about Albu’s epic journey, from car troubles along the way to encounters with baboons: It’s a tale about defying the odds.

2. BLM Biker

If Grandma Albu isn’t inspiration enough, read about the Harvard ornithology professor who traversed the U.S. to raise awareness for Black Lives Matter by bicycle! Scott V. Edwards, 57, decided to make the trek when classes ended last year due to the pandemic, live tweeting updates of his journey along the way. It’s no surprise the prof is a Twitter fan he loves our feathered friends, and supporting Black Birders Week was one of the reasons he undertook the grueling bike trek. The trip from Massachusetts to Oregon took 76 days, spanning 15 states and 3,800 miles. 

3. Beatnik Bible

If you ever thought road trips were a bore, pick up Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel On The Road, and it’ll soon set you straight. Loosely based on Kerouac’s adventures with fellow Beat Generation legend Neal Cassady, the book follows two friends as they traverse the country, haunting bars and jazz joints from New York to San Francisco. “Mr. Kerouac has a distinctive style, part severe simplicity, part hep-cat jargon, part baroque fireworks,” as pointed out in The Atlantic’s review at the time. While your trip might be more wholesome, you’re going to find it hard to put down this American classic about young people searching for self-knowledge and new experiences.

4. ‘Blue Highways’

Released in 1982, this autobiographical tale by William Least Heat-Moon is considered a masterpiece of American travel writing. Having lost his wife and job, the writer sets off on an adventure down the country’s backroads, venturing into often forgotten small towns which he writes about with poignant detail. From Oregon and Pennsylvania to Tennessee, Arizona, Mississippi and more, his first-hand account of the extraordinary people he encounters along the way will have you itching to take to the tarmac.

1. Neck Pillow

Moaning about sitting in a car for long periods of time is a part of what makes a road trip. You fight with your fellow passengers a bit, you sing at the top of your lungs together — it’s great. But that solidarity goes out the window when it’s time to sleep, with people vying for space to stretch out. That’s why this neck pillow is a must. The foam-filled cushion forms a perfect U-neck curve to provide support and its iCOOL technology allows for breathability in even the stuffiest of cars.

2. Puppy Seatbelt

Why hire a pet sitter if you can just bring your four-legged friend along on your road trip? I mean, we all remember the plot of Homeward Bound, right? This zipline seatbelt not only gives your fur baby free and unrestricted movement in the back seat — it also prevents them from clambering into the front with you — for those dogs that like calling shotgun. Besides, what good is exploration without man’s best friend?

3. Headrest Covers

There’s no better way to be an obnoxious sports fan than by showcasing your team while you voyage across the country. These NBA vehicle headrest covers featuring embroidered team logos and colors will let every passing car know what a true diehard looks like and which state you hail from. Whether your team is competing in the NBA playoffs or not, show some pride and support your players.