Four essential playlists for a Grand Canyon road trip

September 6, 2010

I had a lot of fun making music playlists for my family’s epic road trip from Chicago to the Grand Canyon this summer. We survived the trip in our rented minivan and racked up 4,200 miles and over 80 hours of driving time. If you are planning a similar trip across the country, I really recommend planning ahead and creating playlists for specific moments and experiences on your journey instead of a giant playlist that is difficult to manage.

My four playlists:
I’ve Been Everywhere

We visited absolutely stunning national parks and saw incredible scenery throughout Colorado, Utah, and Arizona and I wanted to create a playlist soundtrack for these moments, as if I were creating a Ken Burns-type documentary. For my Grand playlist I went with symphonic composers who were inspired by the American West and the American Landscape.

Ferde Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite was an easy pick for this trip, and driving through Arches National Park listening to the first movement, “Sunrise” was extremely satisfying. Other grand and reverent selections included “Moonlight” and “Dawn” from Britten’s Four Sea Interludes and the elegant second movement from Dvorak’s New World Symphony. Copland’s Appalachian Spring made the list as well as excerpts from Billy the Kid: “The Open Prairie,” “Prairie Night,” and “The Open Prairie Again.”

While in southeastern Utah at Monument Valley we switched to the Cowboy playlist which was full of tracks like Willie Nelson’s “My Heroes have Always Been Cowboys” and “Pancho and Lefty”. W.G. Walden’s “Love Unspoken” created a beautiful backdrop for driving through the desert sunset.

My I’ve Been Everywhere doesn’t-matter-where-you-are road trip playlist included classic road trip tracks like Johnny Cash’s eponymous “I’ve Been Everywhere,” Ray Charles’s “America,” and Lindsey Buckingham’s “Holiday Road” (which we tried to listen to in each of the 10 states we drove through). Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo'ole’s “Somewhere over the Rainbow” provided some magical moments which coincided with beautiful rainbow vistas. Other great highway-drivin’ tunes are “Life is a Highway” (pick your version) and Mark Cohn’s “Walk Through the World.”

Last but not least, a great Nighttime playlist was essential when other passengers were sleeping. I tried to keep it mellow without putting the driver to sleep, so I chose tunes like Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Like a Star,” Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon,” and Ingrid Michaelson’s “Maybe.”

These are some of the highlights of more than 10 hours of music I prepared for our vacation. I hope it gives some ideas that can enhance your future trips.


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