It’s midsummer. It’s hot, we’re a little partied out, and it feels like it’s about time for a low-key, easy weekend on the open road. Just chuck a tent and a cooler in the trunk, pack a (very small) bag, grab an easy-going friend and see where your fancy takes you. At these temperatures, I’d probably recommend up–head north or to higher elevations. Personally, my road trip M.O. requires that we stop at second-hand stores and cemeteries (bonus if it’s raining). Oh, and I try very hard not to eat at chain restaurants on a road trip. And, good music + an awesome audiobook or two is essential. Nothing beats a low-stress summertime road trip, a fact that has also ensconced it in the imaginations of authors and audience since the creation of roads. So here’s 10 of our favorite literary and cinematic road trips. If you can’t actually hit the road this weekend, come check one out and take a virtual ride through the open road.
Smoke Signals: This is one of my favorite movies. Victor and Thomas venture together on a road trip to collect the belongings and remains of Victor’s dead father. This story of friendship, belonging, and forgiveness is both humorous and heartwarming.
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech: I read this book when I was 12 and it has stuck with me ever since. This is the story of Salamanca Tree Hiddle (Sal) as she road trips from Ohio to Idaho with her grandparents to be reunited with her missing mother. Along the way, as her own story unfolds, Sal entertains her grandparents by telling crazy stories about her friend Phoebe.
I Love Lucy Season 6 Episode 6: Most people think about The Long, Long Trailer when they think about Ball, Arnaz and road trips. But I think about this episode. Lucy loses the train tickets that were supposed to take her and Ethel to Florida to meet their husbands. Determined not to ask for any more money, they decide to share a ride with someone who advertised in the newspaper. It isn’t until they are on the road that they realize that a murderer is on the loose… and the description of the murderer matches that of their companion. If you like that check out season 4, which is just one huge road trip.
It Happened One Night: A spoiled, unhappy socialite runs away to marry her rakish pilot playboy, but ends up traveling incognito with a handsome, rakish newspaper man who can’t decide if she’s the best or worst thing that’s ever happened to him. Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable star in this delightful film from the 30s.
The Straight Story: A call comes that Alvin Straight‘s estranged brother, Lyle, has suffered a debilitating stroke, and Alvin sets out in his 1966 John Deere lawnmower and plots a 260-mile course from his small Iowa town to Lyle’s home in Wisconsin. Richard Farnsworth is perfect.
Lolita: I love Vladimir Nabokov’s exaggerated and distorted America. I love his wordplay of the American states (Utana, Idoming), and the weird, mirror image America that Nabokov delights in writing. Nowhere is Nabokov’s shadow America more interesting and sinister as in his road-trip book Lolita. The first time I read the novel, I became obsessed with tracking the route of Humbert Humbert and his nymphet hostage. I’m still convinced they spent a lot of time in a Nabokovian Utah, a Utah that also shows up in Pale Fire. At least that’s my opinion. Perhaps what makes Nabokov’s road-trips so appealing is his ability to create fictional worlds we accept as our own.
Pierrot Le Fou: Leaving wife and child behind, Ferdinand takes off on a wild adventure with the babysitter Marianne. As they become entangled with murder and gangsters, mysterious events destroy their happiness and lead to an explosive finale.
La Strada: Gelsomina is sold for a few coins by her very poor mother to Zampano, a fairground wrestler. She follows him on the road (“la strada“) and helps him during his shows. Zampano ill treats her. She meets “The Fool”, a funambulist. She feels like going with him, but he puts confusion in her mind by pointing out that perhaps Zampano is in fact in love with her.
Almost Famous: It’s the opportunity of a lifetime when teenage reporter William Miller lands an assignment from Rolling Stone magazine. Despite the objections of his protective mother, William hits the road with an up-and-coming rock band and finds there’s a lot more to write home about than the music.
Paper Moon: a Bible-selling scam artist and a girl who may or may not be his daughter set off on a cross country trip to deliver the girl to her aunt. Addiel, smart and precocious, soon joins Mose in his money-making schemes in this Oscar-winner.