As I write this, it is a Saturday in late summer. Temperatures are hovering steadily in the 70s, and we may even get into the 80 tomorrow. But by the time this post is published, it will be autumn. This is nothing to bemoan—autumn on the Northeast coast is perhaps the most pleasant of seasons, with ocean breezes insulating the city from the cold creeping down from inland and upstate.
But one thing about that “crisp” inland weather—it ripens those apples, pumpkins, and other harvest crops we so associate with autumn, the time of year most associated, for children and adults with souls, with picking stuff (besides our noses). And apple and/or pumpkin picking is an eminently worthy excuse to drive, rent a Zipcar, or catch a train out of town, whether out to Long Island, over to Jersey, up the Hudson, or even further in any direction.
And so it is in honor of the harvest that I present the Autumn Road Trip Playlist. I’ve formatted it as a Spotify playlist, an easy soundtrack to your extra-urban excursions:
Start the trip out of the city with Sarah Vaughan’s “Autumn in New York,” just to remind yourself of what will be waiting for you on your return. On your way out, enjoy Nico’s “The Fairest of the Seasons” and Bill Monroe’s “Gotta Travel On,” both of which play with the nomadic impulse that can accompany the shortening of the days. Next, Van Morrison’s “Autumn Song” plays almost like a to-do list of fall activities, and clocking in at over ten minutes it may get you out of the city before the next tune.
OK, you’re now on the open road, kid(s) in tow. Time to settle in and take in the scenery. Besides being distinctly autumnal in itself, Alexi Murdoch’s “Orange Sky” was also used in a Honda advertisement, giving it a distinct pedigree as a song for autumn road trips. (You might also recognize it from Zach Braff’s 2004 movie “Garden State” and numerous TV shows throughout the mid-aughts.) Keep the gentle groove going with Luna’s “Indian Summer” and John & Mary’s “Piles of Dead Leaves.”
Getting near the farm/stand/orchard? Let’s do this! Work in a little geography with Jimmie Rodgers’ “Peach Pickin’ Time in Georgia,” then get the party started with two thematically linked old standards, “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree,” performed here by the Mills Brothers with Louis Armstrong, and “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree with Anyone Else but Me,” performed here by the Glenn Miller Army/Air Force Orchestra. And I’m banking on some of y’all bringing along your kids’ classmates, and adding the back-to-school classic “We’re Going to Be Friends” by the White Stripes.
I’m going to make another assumption, and that is that your kids (and possibly your spouse) will be spending at least part of the return trip konked out, so these last few songs might fit the vague admixture of satisfaction and melancholy a harvest day can bring. Start with the crown prince of melancholy Nick Drake’s “Harvest Breed,” then watch the sun set with two guys who’ve serenaded their share of sunsets, Neil Young (“Harvest Moon”) and Van Morrison (“Moondance”). Finally, reflect on long-faded memories with Joan Baez’s medley “I Dream of Jeannie/Danny Boy,” and bring it all home with Jimmy Durante’s rendition of the year’s-end classic “September Song.” And if you happen to get to the end of the playlist while still in bridge-and-tunnel traffic, just start it over; Sarah Vaughan sounds as great coming into the city as she does going out!