Saturday, January 9, 2010

Skip the Interstates

It's embarrassing that I need to be reminded of this, but I do. Unless it is my goal to get from Point A to Point B in the least amount of time (in which case interstates are the clear winner), they are best avoided. Stay on the interstate and you find occasional scenic views, but mostly the same fast food joints and gas stations regardless of where you are. An overabundance of these interstate staples does not a good road trip make.

Venture away from I-XX, and you begin finding the good stuff. The little charismatic towns, the jaw-dropping scenery, and the narrow, windy roads that are just damn fun to drive. I was reminded of this again today by my host in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I was leaving his place for Albuquerque. I'd been planning on taking the easy, obvious route of I-25. He suggested I take NM-14.

The drive was gorgeous, and routed me through Madrid, a town that my host had characterized as "a mining town that was bought by hippies." So far as I can tell, it's a pretty apt description. I paused at a local restaurant for a delightfully tasty and satisfying salad, then proceeded on my way. One could point out that taking the state road put me a few miles and a few minutes out of my way, but that begs the question of exactly what my way was.

To be sure, there are times when I really do just want to get to my destination as quickly as possible. I do not want to be all warm and fuzzy and exploratory. I just want to get there. But other times, the destination is secondary, if it's even known at all. It's the time between Point A and Point B.. Point C... Point D... that matters. Over the next few months, I'll be making my meandering way through the southwest and up the west coast. I know approximately where I'll be when, but still have a fair bit of flexibility. I've also made a point of blocking out several days at a time for losing myself in the desert.

The only way for me to do that is to get off the interstates, and so that is what I'll do. So here's to the meandering one-lane highways and state roads. I can only guess at what I'll find.


  1. :like button:

    This is the thing that drives me craziest about my inability to drive.
    If I had it, I'd have toured in a car and taken several days between cities to just get lost.

  2. The skinny roads are much more fun for sure, just be certain you run double nickles and slow down into towns. Gotta copy driver??? Big 10-4.