The Road Less Traveled

Gretchen and I took a new route for this year’s Thanksgiving trek and it made a vast difference in our perception of this holiday. These lines from Robert Frost’s poem still hold true, for us at least…

Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference

We have great open highways in this part of Virginia which provide high speed access to distant destinations at all points of the compass. We have used them often and marvelled how these limited access highways still deliver effortless speed where the crowded freeways of California no longer can. Even so, hours and hours of coursing these highways, admiring farms and scenic views from afar would leave us curiously burnt out.

We would pause our flying Windstar at comfortable rest stops, emerge abstractedly and stretch in an effort to refresh ourselves. Our annual trip from Charlottesville to Raleigh and back was an ordeal, even though the seats were comfortable and the driving was swift and uninterrupted.

In the recent past, we had used some Virginia byways to visit consulting clients and we found these alternate roads to be more interesting and even refreshing. Whether we drove the Blue Ridge Parkway or some less famous route like State Road 15, we seemed to end up more cheerful and rested when we arrived. These client trips were less than two hundred miles, but they hinted at the possibility of a new mode of travel for longer trips. Byways instead of highways.

We put our ideas to the test this week and traveled more than 500 miles on the byways of Virginia and North Carolina. It was an unexpected treat. We saw this part of America at close range and we found a lot to love. Unexpected details of everyday life spring into view and evoke long buried memories. We get up close and personal on these byways instead of shuttling across the state in an insulated cocoon on a throughway.

We found we had a choice of business route or bypass in almost every city, so we could control our immersion in local culture. We returned by the same route and found we were anticipating many of the interesting views we had spotted on the way down. I think we saw and discussed perhaps sixty different points of interest on this trip where we might only discuss five or six on the usual mind-numbing flight on major highways.

I don’t know how this would work in states where there are fewer things to see each mile. Parts of the country like California, Florida, and Texas have vast areas where there are few details to rest your eyes on. After the first hundred miles, I always found myself moving at ever increasing speed.

I’m sure Tiger took the high roads on his Thanksgiving trip from Beaumont, Texas to Key Largo, Florida and back. Sagebrush and sawgrass get real old after awhile.

The bottom line is, if there is something to see, perhaps you might want to get closer to it. We did and are the better for it. We also saved ourselves time. Our travel on the byways instead of highways saved at least an hour on the round trip!

Go figure…

UPDATE: Tiger has returned safely. He must have been flying low on the fastest roads he could find. I have driven that route myself and all I can remember is that the needle stayed above 85 most of the time.

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0 Responses to The Road Less Traveled

  1. Mark says:

    It’s nice to take a road less traveled once in awhile. 2 weeks ago after visiting Madison, I missed the exit for the normal way home, I guess I was day dreaming on the non-descript 4 lane. We had a nice little excursion through downtown Sun Praire. We were so much more aware of what we were driving by (…and my wife thought we were lost) it made a dull drive a little more interesting.

  2. Beth says:

    Nice post. Reminds me of a good book I read a number of years ago — Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon.

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