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Road Song

Behind the wheel, we find ourselves in the chorus. Here’s why.

Flight is born on the horizon,
Somewhere else you could’ve been,
When you wonder what you’re missing,
Well, I bet it’s something big

Those are the first verses of “Road Song,” which I wrote back when I was still playing guitar. When I had yet to realize that the more I played, the less I wrote columns like this. That was 15 years and 100 articles ago. And 10 years before I set the guitar down to write The God of Skiing.
Maybe the dream will overtake you,
Show you where you’re meant to go,
Let it come right down and break you,
Remind you of all that you don’t know

Music always makes me think of motion. It’s not something I often sit still and listen to. I like to hear music the most when I’m driving. Especially on Route 285 between Santa Fe and Summit County, with the rising road and the mountains getting more majestic by the mile. Like some good movie just beginning that you already know you’ll want to see again.

Oh this summer’s got me in the wind,
Lord I’m searching for my soul again,
Won’t you come hold me down,
Won’t you let me come around

American music is made of road songs. A never-ending open-air genre of fresh adventures tuned out of some existential yearning more for the allure of constant motion than any actual truth you’re bound to find.
“Running on Empty.” “American Girl.” “Fast Car.” “Born to Run.” And, of course, the timeless Willie Nelson’s gypsy paean to the sheer thrill of just getting everybody out of the house to anywhere, “On the Road Again.” Like you don’t want to ever stop moving and from the first beat, start pushing the pedal harder, going faster and faster than you ever have.

There’s a road out your door,
And a chance for you to take,
There’s bare earth beneath every floor,
And someone’s heart you’re bound to break
I can’t think of another country more steeped in the myth of nomads than America. A melted pot folklore of restless poets, motorcycle monks, 16-wheel gurus and asphalt cowboys. A white line literary canon born of The Grapes of Wrath, On the Road, Night Driving: The Adventure of the Wheel and Other Blues, and Travels With Charley. And maybe beside you a lover, a happy dog, or a funny friend. Or just the first notes of Truckin’ coming on.

I stopped to smoke a cigarette,
Something I quit doing,
I stopped to taste real regret,
For a life that wasn’t ruined

Chorus Again
Oh this summer’s got me in the wind,
Lord I’m searching for my soul again,
Won’t you come hold me down,
Won’t you let me come around

Road trips and music may be two of the last constants left in my life right now. Other than being in love with my wife, walking dogs, and skiing. And football season. While everything else jumps around with the short-attention-span staccato of texts, phone calls, Google alerts, caffeinated concepts, and random “great ideas” that are quickly forgotten, nothing holds my focus faster than an open road and the well-worn beginning and too-soon ending of a favorite song. Even in traffic, and other than sitting on a chairlift, the car feels like one of the last places I can truly be alone.

Baby someday I’ll be a star,
That’s what I like to say,
Make a film or pick back up
my guitar,
Write a song you like to play

I bought a new car just before the pandemic. Other than trips to the ski hill (which is about 35 miles away), the airport, the park to run the dogs, and the local brewery, it still has less than 20,000 miles on the odometer. That’s a lot less idea time than I would’ve liked to have driven. A lot more new songs I missed hearing on my favorite local radio station. A lot of new ideas I have yet to meet and learn and own. New truths I could have known.
But for now another drink,
And a little time to plan,
One more night to dream and think,
Of when I am your man

Which is why I’m so glad it’s roadtrip season again. Summer. Time to pack up the car and go somewhere to hear someone sing. To feel a song change my life again for the better. Because nothing feels more grounded than being in motion. Nothing feels truer than a truth that is sung. The truth of the road. Of music. And being with friends. Of going out your front door and then coming home again. Better for what you’ve seen and known.

Oh this summer’s got me in
the wind,
Lord I’m searching for my soul again,
Won’t you come hold me down?
Won’t you let me come around?
Won’t you let me come around?

Want to play this song live or as a recording? Drop Pete Kray a line at and find out how.

— Elevation Outdoors editor-at-large Peter Kray is the author of the God of Skiing and American Snow.

Cover Image: Kevin Howdeshell/

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