On a Friday afternoon in Philadelphia’s East Passyunk neighborhood, Mike the baseball writer and Metro the morning-show-host-turned-radio-producer walked into a Mexican spot known simply as “Cantina.” It was about quittin’ time for the 9-5 folks and we were closing in on summer’s midpoint. Everyone who wasn’t stuck sitting in Shore traffic was looking for a margarita. The joint wasn’t packed — just full enough that we couldn’t find seats at the bar.
Instead, we ordered our drinks and planted ourselves in the back corner, where we discovered a good ol’ fashioned jukebox. It wasn’t the kind of jukebox that requires you to download an app, but the kind with hard copies of classic albums and buttons that stick when you try to leaf through the pages. We dumped a couple of bucks into the relic and leaned against its hulking mass in that classic James Dean pose. Side-by-side we surveyed the room, watching closely as people reacted to our carefully curated playlist.
We led with “This Charming Man,” followed by “Alison,” and then the obligatory-and-cliche-but-still-somehow-wonderful “You Make My Dreams” by Hall & Oates. Before long, the whole place was like this:
The scene at Catina got us thinking: Back in ye olde times, the most exciting part of a road trip was making it to the end of the Oregon Trail without dying of dysentery, but summer was moving fast and we craved an adventure. What was stopping us from driving across the country in search of the perfect jukebox? What was holding us back from a Jack Kerouac-inspired, Americana infused road trip? Nothing, that’s what. We started sketching a route on a cocktail napkin.
As of now, things like rent and girlfriends and dogs and deadlines have left our little plan at a crossroads. It’s stuck in the idea stage…but we still swear we’re going to make it happen…someday. And if we don’t, maybe you can. Get out there, roll down the windows, turn up the stereo and just go. If you do, please send a postcard and play some Hall & Oates for us.
Here are eight juke joints and dive bars worth visiting as you cross the country…