June 6, 2023

Ensanta Catalina

Aventure et nature

3 new series let you take the great American road trip without leaving home

High gas prices aren’t keeping us from hitting the open road. According to the Vacationer, a trip-planning website, roughly 80% of Americans are vacationing by car this summer, up nearly 20% from last year.

But wanderlust and a full tank won’t get you everywhere. That’s where three new limited series come in handy.

“The Great Muslim American Road Trip,” airing on TPT, Ch. 2 at 9 p.m. Tuesdays for the next three weeks, shows you how to tailor a journey to your personal tastes.

During their 2,500-mile drive along Route 66, rapper Mona Haydar and husband Sebastian Robins make their fair share of predictable stops, including the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City and Cadillac Ranch in Armarillo, Texas. But the couple are most keen on exploring religious touchstones.

They seem to enjoy the Las Vegas Strip, but they’re ga-ga for the Muslim Village just outside of Sin City, where ex-prisoners help feed the homeless.

Along the way, you often feel like you’re in the backseat, eavesdropping while they read aloud from “Blue Highways” or bicker about their marriage. For the most part, they’re good company.

Almost all the places they visit are accessible to viewers.

The same can’t be said for “America the Beautiful,” which starts streaming Monday on Disney Plus. Most of the sites in this six-parter are within the continental United States but far off the beaten path. And you’d need some pretty high-powered equipment — and a whole lot of luck— to capture their footage of an alligator snapping at a white-tailed deer in the Louisiana swamps.

The docu-series, narrated by Michael B. Jordan, is less interested in helping you plan your next trip than it is finding comical moments. In an episode focused on the Heartland, aerial cameras attached to jets literally zip over the Badlands so that viewers can spend quality time with prairie dogs. It’s a cute choice, but not particularly helpful.

For those seeking more practical experiences, try “America Outdoors With Baratunde Thurston,” airing at 8 p.m. Tuesdays on TPT, Ch. 2 through the end of August. The amiable host explores familiar territory — but with an emphasis on his search for diversity.

In a Minnesota-themed episode, airing Aug. 9, he takes the obligatory trip to the Boundary Waters. But he also harvests wild rice with Native Americans and goes birding with Dudley Edmondson, one of the few Black photographers specializing in capturing nature.

When he hits the beach in Los Angeles, it’s to catch waves with Color the Water, a group consisting mostly of Black surfers that formed in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

His trip to Idaho, highlighted by a hike with teenage refugees, will make you want to invest in a new pair of boots and start tooling West.

None of these series mirror the thrill of your own road trip, in which the unexpected — stumbling across a classic diner in small-town Alabama or discovering local art in the Berkshires — becomes more memorable than anything on a scheduled itinerary.

The show that comes closest to that experience is “Long Way Round,” an adventure series in which actor Ewan McGregor and his motorbike companion Charley Boorman turn in their own version of “Easy Rider,” getting high off encounters with strangers in strange places.

The three seasons, all available on Apple TV, consist mostly of overseas adventures. But it’s been two years since the last installment. Time for them to restart their engines.

When they do, let’s hope they choose a trip through the middle of America, inspiring us to follow their lead.