This is a road song in a world without road trips, where our collective experience is reflected in words like homebound, locked down and socially distanced. I’ve been on exactly two road trips (definition: a multiday jaunt at least 3 hours away from home by car) in the past year, one last spring to pick up my son when he hiked off the Appalachian Trail near Roanoke, Va., and the other to Maine for a September vacation. I drove fewer than 10,000 miles in 2020, the fewest since I was in college, probably. When I bought a used car in November 2019, one consideration was that it would be fun to drive on the highway. Haha. Nice thought. It has done a great job of sitting in a garage. Even worse, when out of the garage, I think I’ve regressed as a driver. I am a mess in parking lots — skittish and bad at estimating distance behind and around me. I don’t hit anyone. It’s the opposite. I don’t come near anyone if I can help it.
I do wonder if one consequence of this pandemic year is a lessening of the impact of cars in general — culturally, transportationally, environmentally. That’s great news for the planet and I do appreciate that young people are generally much cooler on cars than their parents and grandparents, and the pandemic took many people off the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report for the first half of 2020 showed a 17% decrease in miles driven. While numbers increased in the second half of the year, it looks like there was at least a 10% decrease for the year in total. One sad non-consequence: less driving equals fewer accidents, you’d hope, but accidents per driving mile increased about 18% for the year. Apparently, there was more impaired driving, more speeding and less use of seat belts, resulting in more-serious accidents.
That said, I miss traveling, I miss the road. More than flying, I want to go on a serious road trip when that becomes a thing again.
Oh yeah, the song …
Texas musicians Khruangbin & neo-soul singer Leon Bridges really got the vibe on this one. I could listen to Bridges sing all day. I first heard him about 7 years back when he had a song Better Man on his debut album. At Men’s Health, we had a book called The Better Man Project that came out about the same time, and there was some talk about seeing if we could somehow do something to bring together the two. Sadly, didn’t happen. Bridges hasn’t recorded as much as I’d like and I’m hopeful he’ll release something soon. For now, this suffices.
This is what Bridges had to say about the song:
“I feel like this song is the perfect marriage of country, soul, and R&B. And historically, artists have incorporated elements of country music — like Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland and Joe Tex — so it was important to keep the spirit of that. This song really captures the mood of cruising Texas highways and taking it all in while the sun sets.”