ArmorLite 20" Hardside Spinner Carry-on

  • 9" x 14" x 18.5", which means you can carry it on a plane unless it’s filled with, like, snakes or acid or something
  • Polycarbonate and ABS plastic are all like “better step off, incidental travel damage”
  • Inside there are these strap thingies, and a zipper pouch kinda deal, and another pocket sort of thing
  • 360-degree wheels for racing through infuriating airport dawdlers to catch your connecting flight
  • Model: PC001311A (the ultimate generic model number shares its Google results with a therapist’s license number in Pennsylvania and a bottle of Australian rosé)
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A Travel Mixtape

Hey, Meh writer @JasonToon here. You know who knows a lot about traveling? Touring bands. Photojournalists. Professional assassins. And you know how they carry their vital stuff? In tough, rigid protective cases.

Used to be that only hard cases like those guys used hard cases like these. Not any more. Now any old civilian can wheel this Armor-Lite carry-on-sized hard case onto the seniors’ casino junket from Indianapolis to Tunica. Its polycarbonate and ABS plastic construction weighs only six pounds, and it’ll protect your junk from everything this side of that one gorilla from the old commercials.

You know what else goes great with traveling? Music. Whether it’s eating up the miles on the road or shutting out the other passengers in the air, it’s hard for me to imagine getting from one place to another without a soundtrack. So, naturally, travel is the also the subject of a great many great songs. Here’s my personal travel mixtape - and I call it a mixtape on purpose. Even though I haven’t listened to a cassette while traveling in maybe 20 years, those spinning wheels will always seem, to me, to roll right along with the spinning wheels of a car.

You could drive, fly, or ride around the planet and never listen to the same great travel song twice. (I touched on some of them in my playlist of touring songs .) I just found this one maybe six months ago and it was instantly one of my favorites. From 1962, here’s a classic example of Jet Age optimism, Ray & Bob with “Air Travel”:

The early excitement of mass travel would sour into the jaundiced cynicism expressed in movies like Vacation (1983). But at least its theme song, “Holiday Road” by Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham, is just as catchy:

You probably know “I’ve Been Everywhere” as a Johnny Cash song, or maybe you know the earlier version by Hank Snow. Did you know it was originally an Australian song, written by Geoff Mack and popularized by Lucky Starr’s 1962 hit single? Down Under place names like Tuggerawong, Woolongong, Parramatta, and Wangaratta were perfect for the song’s rapid-fire rhyming travelogue:

During the '90s Britpop boom, Ocean Colour Scene were considered Dad rock for teenyboppers, kind of a gateway drug to the more sophisticated likes of Paul Weller. But they got off some good ones, like “The Day We Caught The Train” (1996), a wistful invitation to a stoned seaside idyll:

As my previous psychedelic country playlist will attest, I’m fascinated by the period when country music was coming to grips with the fast-changing world of the late '60s and early '70s. At “L.A. International Airport” (1971), one of the characters Susan Raye notices is a “hippie in a leather shirt”:

I couldn’t leave out “Leavin’ On A Jet Plane”. But instead of the familiar John Denver or Peter, Paul, & Mary versions, I decided to hip you to a higher-energy cover by Sloppy Seconds. Bratty Indianapolis punks obsessed with sleaze culture, they also knew their way around a melody, and this version from their classic 1989 album Destroyed does it right:

I shared the Limeliters’ version of “Gotta Travel On” in my pop-folk playlist. Now here’s the guy who made it a hit, Billy Grammer, with his much more rockin’ 1959 version:

Martin Courtney’s “Airport Bar” (2015) not only has the wistful feel of sitting in an airport bar, thinking about people far away. It also sounds like the kind of deceptively inoffensive song you might hear in such a place and suddenly find yourself crying in your $9 beer:

The aforementioned Sloppy Seconds also covered the Go-Gos’ “Vacation”, but this time let’s stick with the flawless 1982 original:

And speaking of songs whose familiarity can numb us to their greatness, to take another listen to Gladys Knight & the Pips’ 1973 masterpiece “Midnight Train to Georgia” is to be awed all over again:

To me, “Weird” Al Yankovic is at he’s best not when he’s parodying individual songs, but when he’s more subtly making fun of entire genres or styles. His take on the Gordon Lightfoot school of pomp-folk, “Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota” (1989), turns the mundane details of a family road trip into epic mockery:

Finally, we can’t end this trip without a nod to the first travel-themed concept album from way back in 1958, Frank Sinatra’s Come Fly With Me. “It’s Nice to Go Trav’ling”, as the song puts it, “but it’s so much nicer, yes it’s so much nicer, to come home.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this travel-song journey as a much as I enjoyed putting it together. As always, I’d love to hear your favorites in the forum. And I hope you found a few songs worth toting along with your Armor-Lite carry-on on your next trip.

Find more music recommendations than anyone could possibly want in our weekend playlist archive.

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