Best Podcasts for a Road Trip.

I guess 2020 is the year of the road trip, right?! I am taking a road trip this weekend and, well, in a normal year, I would fly to my destination. But COVID.

So, I’m driving. There’s always a part of me that thinks road trips are fun! But there’s another part of me knows how tiring they can be, especially when you’re driving alone.

As a result, I put together a list of binge-worthy podcasts for your next road trip… or maybe you’re just taking a walk around the block. Either way, here you go:

“Floodlines” | Investigative

Written and hosted by Vann R. Newkirk II, The Atlantic’s revisiting of Hurricane Katrina and the botched federal response that followed is a genuinely illuminating piece that holds extra weight and resonance in the current pandemic context. 

I am a sucker for news investigations and having lived just an hour outside of New Orleans when Katrina hit, the stories surrounding it have intrigued and haunted me all at once.

At the time of this writing, there’s about 10 episodes, approx. 30 minutes each. Excited to jump into this one!

“Smartless” | Comedy

“SmartLess” with Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, & Will Arnett is a podcast that connects and unites people from all walks of life to learn about shared experiences through thoughtful dialogue and organic hilarity.

A nice surprise: in each episode of SmartLess, one of the hosts reveals his mystery guest to the other two. What ensues is a genuinely improvised and authentic conversation filled with laughter and newfound knowledge to feed the SmartLess mind.

I heard about this one when Sean Hayes was on “Watch What Happens Live” recently and the concept sounds pretty funny. There are 10 episodes, approx. 45 minutes each.

“Undisclosed” | Criminal Justice

The Undisclosed podcast investigates wrongful convictions, and the U.S. criminal justice system, by taking a closer look at the perpetration of a crime, its investigation, the trial, and ultimate verdict… and finding new evidence that never made it to court.

This is for fans of “Serial” – particularly season one’s case of Adnan Syed vs. The State of Maryland.

“Undisclosed” was started by a woman named Rabia Chaudry, a friend of Syed’s, offering additional information on the case that “Serial” did not. If you’re missing “Serial”, you really need to plug into “Undisclosed”.

“Making Oprah” | Pop Culture

Perfection.

The inside story of a TV revolution. In this new WBEZ podcast, Oprah Winfrey tells the behind-the-scenes story of her iconic TV talk show, along with producers, staffers, TV executives, and ratings rival Phil Donahue.

The three-part series chronicles the show’s scrappy roots in Chicago, its rise to daytime dominance, and the powerful sway Winfrey came to have in American life.

I kept seeing this one on the top charts, and finally decided to dive in. I have never been a huge fan of Oprah, but this podcast made me understand just how important Oprah was to daytime television, and to the overall conversation in our culture.

“Missing Richard Simmons” | Investigative

On February 15, 2014, fitness guru Richard Simmons disappeared. He stopped teaching his regular exercise class at Slimmons, cut off his closest friends, and removed himself from the public eye after decades as one of the most accessible celebrities in the world. Nobody has heard from him – and no one knows why he left.

Filmmaker Dan Taberski was a Slimmons regular and a friend of Richard’s. Missing Richard Simmons is Dan’s search for Richard – and the deeper he digs, the stranger it gets.

So, this is a legit search for understanding as to why Richard has been missing. Each episode is very Serial-esque, with interviews of those who knew him, and clips from his career. It’s fascinating!

“Dr. Death” | True Crime

We’re at our most vulnerable when we go to our doctors. We trust the person at the other end of that scalpel. We trust the hospital. We trust the system. Dr. Christopher Duntsch was a neurosurgeon who radiated confidence. He claimed he was the best in Dallas. If you had back pain, and had tried everything else, Dr. Duntsch could give you the spine surgery that would take your pain away. But soon his patients started to experience complications. And all they had to protect them was a system ill equipped to stop the madness. From Wondery, the network behind the hit podcast Dirty John, DR. DEATH is about a medical system that failed to protect these patients at every possible turn. 

I’ll say two things right off the bat: it’s a bit graphic, so know that if you’re squimish. And two, it’s NOT as frightening as “Cold” or “Dirty John” — the reporting is less aggressive and the music isn’t creepy. The story though, is quite terrifying.

“Broadway Backstory” | Pop Culture

Broadway Backstory is a documentary style podcast from TodayTix and Theater People that explores how a show develops from an idea to a full Broadway production.

We get the behind the scenes story directly from the people who lived it – the conceivers, actors, directors, and producers. Season two will feature stories from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, Kinky Boots, The Light in the Piazza, Bring It On, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, Come From Away, and Bonnie & Clyde. Some shows are gone too soon, others seem like they’ll last forever — either way, it all started with an idea.

I miss being able to book a flight to NYC and see a Broadway show! So, maybe this will hold me over…

“Ear Hustle” | Insider’s Perspective

Ear Hustle brings you stories of life inside prison, shared and produced by those living it. The team works in San Quentin’s media lab to produce stories that are sometimes difficult, often funny, and always honest, offering a nuanced view of people living within the American prison system.

As I continue to learn more and more about the institutional racism in our country, the prison system is a large part of that cycle. This podcast provides a non-political and very non-judgmental view of life in prison through the stories and interviews of those living in it. It’s fantastic!

“Cold” | True Crime

Susan Powell vanished on Dec. 7, 2009. Her body has never been found. From the beginning, West Valley City, Utah police suspected Susan’s husband, Josh Powell, had murdered her. They never arrested him. COLD dives deep into the case files, uncovering never-before-heard details. You’ll learn why Susan stayed with an abusive husband, why Josh did what he did and how the justice system failed Susan and her two boys. 

This is for all my true crime lovers, and ONLY you, because this one will chill you to the bone. There’s a reason for the title. I started listening to this podcast after a recommendation from a fellow blogger. When I started listening, there were 15 episodes available (about one hour each), and I binged them all in two days.

It creeped me out, but I COULD NOT STOP listening. It’s very quality reporting and the audio clips are insane. This podcast is just as much about the justice system as it is about a missing person/murder case.

“Welcome to LA” | Insider’s Perspective

Welcome to LA is essentially a series of love letters to the City of Angels, with each story — some reported, some as memoir — capturing something fundamental about the nature and feeling of that place.

There’s an episode set in an old restaurant that stretches out across time and space. Another weaves together a few different lives across time to tell a story about redlining in Southern California. One is simply about the thrill of Friday nights.

There’s something deeply traditional about Welcome to LA, whose classically composed stories are reminiscent of much older stuff in the KCRW/late-night L.A.-radio tradition. And yet it feels gloriously modern, like the podcast has figured out how to extract fresh new sounds from an age-old instrument.

“The Dropout” | Investigative

Money. Romance. Tragedy. Deception. The story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos is an unbelievable tale of ambition and fame gone terribly wrong. How did the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire lose it all in the blink of an eye? How did the woman once heralded as “the next Steve Jobs” find herself facing criminal charges — to which she pleaded not guilty — and up to 20 years in jail? How did her technology, meant to revolutionize healthcare, potentially put millions of patients at risk? And how did so many smart people get it so wrong along the way?

ABC News chief business, technology and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis, along with producers Taylor Dunn and Victoria Thompson, take listeners on a journey that includes a three-year-long investigation. You’ll hear exclusive interviews with former employees, investors, and patients, and for the first-time, the never-before-aired deposition testimony of Elizabeth Holmes, and those at the center of this story.

I watched the HBO documentary on it AND the 20/20 episode on it, and here I am listening to the podcast. This whole story is so creepy to me, but I can’t quit! Here’s more details on the podcast:

“RomComPods” | Fiction

Introducing RomComPods, a hilarious and heartfelt new fiction podcast bringing you a new romantic storyline each season.

In Season One we meet Claire, a 28-year old Chicagoan who seemingly has her life totally and completely together… until she catches her fiancé cheating on her the week of their wedding! Heartbroken (and broke), Claire decides to go on her non-refundable honeymoon — a romantic couple’s tour of Italy — alone. Through her fellow tour guests and a *very special* tour guide, Claire begins to mend her broken heart, and learns that upending your life and opening yourself up to a wild and unexpected new chapter isn’t such a bad thing!

“Confronting OJ Simpson with Kim Goldman” | True Crime

25 years after the crimes that ignited the “Trial of the Century” Kim Goldman, sister of murder victim Ron Goldman, is digging deep into the vicious crime that changed her life, and many others, forever.

Thrust into the public eye at the age of 22, Kim was devastated when OJ Simpson was found not guilty of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole and her brother Ron. There has been much debate and confusion about what really happened the night of those brutal murders and for the first time Kim gets answers to questions that have been haunting her since the trial.

She sits down with prosecutors, investigators, and witnesses who never got to speak and jurors who voted not guilty. In this 10-part series, Kim takes you on a journey as she reclaims and reflects on the part of her life that was changed permanently.

“WeCrashed” | Investigative

The founders of WeWork thought they were on the brink of making history. The company was valued at $47 billion dollars, it was ready for a huge IPO, and its charismatic CEO Adam Neumann thought it was going to change the world.

Adam had a prophet-like vision for WeWork that he sold to some of the world’s savviest investors — but did his vision ever match the company’s reality? Hosted by David Brown of the hit podcast Business Wars,

WeCrashed is a six-part series about the rise and fall of WeWork. It’s a story of hope and hubris, big money and bigger screwups, and the lengths people will go to chase “unicorns.”

“Even the Rich” | Historical

Sometimes we all think our lives are crazy. But on Wondery’s new series, co-hosts Brooke Siffrinn and Aricia Skidmore-Williams pull back the curtain and dish on someone else’s craziness for a change.

Brooke and Aricia will tell the stories of some of the greatest family dynasties in history, from the Murdochs to the Carters (Jay-Z and Beyoncé, that is). Because as none other than Queen Elizabeth once said, “A good gossip is a wonderful tonic.”

I heard about this one from another blogger and it sounds really interesting, particularly the episodes on the monarchy!

“To Live and Die in LA” | Investigative

In February 2018, Adea Shabani, a 25-year-old acting student who’d moved to Los Angeles a year and a half earlier to pursue her dreams of becoming a star, vanished out of nowhere from her Hollywood Boulevard apartment.

The door was left unlocked.

At the time, there were no leads and no witnesses.

This is the story of what happened next…

This one was recommended to me by a high school friend who messaged me on Instagram — this is the kind of stuff that makes me appreciate social media. I told her I would start listening to it once I was done listening to Dr. Death. Well, I listened to all 8 available episodes of “To Live and Die in L.A.” back-to-back.

The podcast is hosted by Neil Strauss, a journalist for Rolling Stone.

“74 Seconds” | Criminal Justice

74 Seconds tells the story of a July 2016 traffic stop that ended with the world watching a man die, live on their phones. This is the story of that man, Philando Castile, and the officer who is about to go on trial for his death, Jeronimo Yanez.

Through comprehensive reporting, MPR News examines this intersection of race, policing, justice and safety in America. A lot can happen in 74 seconds. 

Police have killed so many innocent Black men, but this one… this one ripped my heart into pieces. I haven’t listened to this yet, but I am looking forward to hearing the trial portion of it.

“In Your Own Backyard” | True Crime

A documentary podcast series investigating the 1996 disappearance of Cal Poly student, Kristin Smart.

There aren’t many details about this one, but it’s got such good reviews!

Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about this case, so all of the information presented in the podcast will be new to me.

I think this case remains unsolved, so I’m curious where the podcast would go, but I want to check it out!

“Dying for Sex” | Life Adventure

When Molly’s diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, she decides to do something bold: she leaves her unhappy marriage and embarks on a series of sexual adventures to help her feel alive.

She shares the funniest and most touching details with her closest friend, host Nikki Boyer. As they peel back the layers, we learn that Molly isn’t just grappling with breast cancer: she’s also dealing with some trauma from her past. Along the journey, the friends explore bigger themes that affect us all — like healing, forgiveness and what do we do with the time we have left.

From Wondery, the makers of The Shrink Next Door and Imagined Life, Dying for Sex is a six-part series about friendship, sex and love, and overcoming adversity. Hosted by Nikki Boyer.

“Accused” | True Crime

Accused podcast.

When Elizabeth Andes was found murdered in her Ohio apartment in 1978, police and prosecutors decided within hours it was an open-and-shut case.

Two juries disagreed. The Cincinnati Enquirer investigates:
Was the right guy charged, or did a killer walk free?

I devoured these episodes. It’s well-produced, and it does a good job of looking into every lead up until the end.

“Zack to the Future” | Pop Culture

Mark-Paul Gosselaar (aka Zack Morris) has not watched an episode of Saved by the Bell since he walked off the set over 25 years ago. Partnered with Dashiell Driscoll – who is currently writing for the series reboot and who wrote the Funny or Die series “Zack Morris is Trash” – the duo revisits the show and recaps the most epic moments for the audience to relive the incredible series.

So grab a burger and shake from The Max, get so excited for some special guests and don’t let the dog eat your homework, because Zack Morris is back.

UMMM. This calls for a Zack Morris TIME-OUT. First of all, I totally forgot about the “Saved By the Bell” reboot and secondly, I have been watching SBTB reruns every Saturday recently, so this is just perfection.

“The Mysterious Mr. Epstein” | Investigative

We now know that Jeffrey Epstein was a sexual predator. He was also accused of fraud, embezzlement, coercion and more.

But for most of his life, he was a mystery to the public, and to many of the people who knew him. In this six part series, we peel back the layers of Epstein’s life to detail his financial and sexual crimes, and his network of enablers, with original reporting and interviews.

From humble beginnings, Epstein came to amass significant wealth which he used to buy sex, social status, silence, even justice —until money wasn’t enough. From Wondery (“Dirty John”, “The Shrink Next Door”), and hosted by Lindsay Graham (“American Scandal”).

“Fake Heiress” | True Crime

The rise and fall of Anna Delvey, who conned New York high society into believing that she was a multi-millionaire heiress.

Vicky Baker and Chloe Moss dig deeper into the scandal.

Okay, I hadn’t heard of the Anna Delvey story until recently and then I went searching for more info and came across this podcast. It’s so good and the story is crazy!

There are parts of this podcast that are fictionalized, but I felt it really brought the story full-circle. It’s a goodie. I binged all of these episodes in one day.

“Heaven’s Gate” | Investigative

In 1997, thirty-nine people took their own lives in an apparent mass suicide.

The events captivated the media and had people across the planet asking the same question…‘

Why?’ 20 years later, those who lost loved ones and those who still believe – tell their story. 

I was in 7th grade when this happened and I remember hearing about it, but I definitely didn’t understand it. I’m looking forward to listening to this and understanding more about what happened.

“Beautiful / Anonymous” | Storytelling

Loves it.

1 phone call. 1 hour. No names. No holds barred. That’s the premise behind Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People, hosted by comedian Chris Gethard (the Chris Gethard Show, Broad City, This American Life, and one of Time Out’s “10 best comedians of 2015”). Every week, Chris opens the phone line to one anonymous caller, and he can’t hang up first, no matter what. From shocking confessions and family secrets to philosophical discussions and shameless self-promotion, anything can and will happen!

From what I understand, Gethard puts the phone number on his Twitter feed, and just starts taking anonymous calls. Of course, I love hearing all of the random stories from these people – but I think the show has been such a success because, it’s not often we hear real things anymore. Think about it; pretty much everything is scripted or staged – even the things we think won’t be like documentaries or Instagram. I think the fact that it’s anonymous allows the callers to be honest about things that have happened to them; it’s really relatable and inspiring. I listened to the first 15 episodes (which are a little more than an hour each) in about a week, and as I write this, I’m seeing there are two new episodes, so guess what I’ll be doing later?

“LISK: Long Island Serial Killer” | True Crime

In May 2010, sex worker Shannan Gilbert inexplicably disappeared inside the gated Long Island community of Oak Beach. Months later, while police combed the area in search of Gilbert, they unearthed the remains of ten bodies—none of which were Shannan—including the infamous Gilgo Four.

The discovery, which officials quickly deemed the work of a serial killer, sent shock waves throughout the country and soon incited a media firestorm with rumors of widespread police corruption at the forefront.

Inspired by the New York Times bestselling book Lost Girls by Robert Kolker and brought to you by Mopac Audio, a subsidiary of the leading, independent Austin-based production company Megalomedia, the ‘LISK: Long Island Serial Killer’ features rare interviews, new leads, and incisive analysis from host Chris Mass and team. Mass is a writer and producer whose team has spent the last four years researching and investigating the LISK case.

“Margaritas & Donuts” | Fiction

Josephine, a pediatrician, is pretty unlucky romantically. With a little coaxing from her best friend Katrina, Josephine starts a relationship with Malik, an ophthalmologist that works in the office across the hall from hers. Malik is exactly what Josephine needs, but she doesn’t quite realize it…yet.

I listened to the trailer of this and it sounds so good, especially if you’re just looking for something light and fun.

Also, they have a Super Cut episode that plays all of them at once, with no interruptions. Perfect for a road trip!

“Chasing Cosby” | Investigative

For nearly half a century, Bill Cosby brought warmth and laughter into hearts across the country, cementing his image as “America’s Dad.”

But he also led a dark, secret life preying on women. The comedian carefully coaxed each one into feeling safe and cared for, then left them to pick up the pieces of their lives.

It all started with Andrea Constand. She carried the burden of being the only one of the 60-plus accusers whose case could be tried in a court of law. Now, she’s telling her side of the story, along with firsthand accounts from more than a dozen survivors, jurors and prosecutors.

From the Los Angeles Times, and hosted by investigative reporter Nicki Weisensee Egan, “Chasing Cosby” is the definitive take of the rise and fall of Bill Cosby.

“Running From Cops” | Pop Culture

Dan Taberski and the team behind Missing Richard Simmons investigate COPS — the longest running reality show in TV history — and its cultural impact on policing in America. Our story begins with the footage of a routine arrest behind a church in Georgia…

This podcast isn’t necessarily new, but it’s so timely, I figured it would be interesting. Plus, I loved “Missing Richard Simmons”!

To see more writing from me, be sure to subscribe to The Bitter Lemon by clicking “subscribe” on the right side of your screen. Want even more? Subscribe to my newsletter to get roundups, book recs and lifestyle tips. 

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