Music for the road

Graphic by Noemi Gonzalez. Graphic by Noemi Gonzalez.

Childhood memories have an enormous impact on my life that often slips through the cracks. One of my favorite things about growing up in my family is the road trips we would take every summer across the country. While my fellow classmates would brag about luxury cruises and trips to Disney Land, I would talk about the crazy, tumultuous adventures my family partook in as we drove from Wisconsin to the Florida Keys or Washington D.C. There always seemed to be something special about being in such close quarters with my parents and sister for an extended period of time with nothing but each other, gas station snacks and mixed tapes to keep us amused.

My dad made the craziest mixed tapes for us. They would include a range from Neil Young to Dizzee Rascal to the most obscure, bizarre country songs or Hawaiian music. I think his goal was equal parts getting us to laugh and getting us to stay distracted, and he succeed every time. The weirder, the better, the more we asked him to press repeat.



This past weekend, for my 22nd birthday, I drove to Southern California with two of my best friends. One of them asked me to create a playlist, but I would have made one instinctively. I can’t stand six minutes in a silent car let alone six hours. Like every other playlist I make for an occasion, it turned into a painstakingly neurotic process. Should I go rap or indie rock? Surfer or ‘90s? Classic or current? I tried to envision the landscape of jagged brown mountains that smoothly transitioned to the rolling green California hills, the gentle roar of the ocean waves, the taste of salty air and fish tacos. I thought about my childhood road trips with my parents, and how my dad always threw in some “wild cards” just for laughs.

What I ended up with was 64 songs and four hours of electronic, punk, hip-hop, ambient and indie rock. The more aggressive riffs of Childish Gambino and Kendrick Lamar were balanced with a healthy dose of chill Tycho and Darius, and even some old school Blink-182. It wasn’t perfect, but I think my dad would have approved.

Reach the blogger at or on Twitter @IsabelleNovak.

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