Road trips call for audiobooks. This recommendation hasn’t changed for me in the decades plus since I moved to Montana without knowing a soul. On that long stretch of U.S. Highway 2 from northern Michigan to Montana, it was either the radio or a book on tape that kept me company as I wondered what lay ahead of me on the shores of Flathead Lake. For that long of a trip, I had stacks of books on CD scattered in the passenger seat.
Books on tape have long been the balm that keeps the traveler focused, entertained, or even moved to tears as those miles tick against tire. Now I no longer travel like I used to via car with two young children, and last year our travel was grounded. However, pre-COVID and now with a road trip scheduled to Michigan later this summer, I know that one way of surviving and even enjoying those long days on the road is — besides copious amounts of snacks — through story.
My son and now daughter love to be read to, and the car is the one place where the audiobook takes command. This past spring break we drove to Washington to visit my dad, our first trip as a family of four, and I searched online for good, entertaining kids books to download. Much to my surprise, I was even entertained by the Captain Underpants series. Actually I was more than entertained by Dav Pilkey’s books, much to my 5-year-old’s chagrin who rolls his eyes when I bellow “la la la” like Captain Underpants when he arrives on scene to save the day from giant toilets or alien invasions at school.
I try to balance out the antics of George and Harold from Captain Underpants with the classics of children’s literature like Winnie the Pooh or Dr. Doolittle, or The Wind in the Willows. As the voices from the books we cherish come to life over the speakers in our car, our kids are transfixed, and most of the backseat bickering is quelled. Many times, after the hour-long listen comes to a close, my son is ready for another title, or even a second listen.
Road trips, at any age, are a magical experience — almost an uncanny experiment in time and travel, of being and seeing. Sure, our Charlie gets his fair share of screen time during that long stretch of road between Spokane and Olympia, but the pull of a story — in my book — is what truly makes the road trip a road trip.
Unless we’re talking about mixed tapes, but that’s an entirely different story.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.
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