I hate interstates. Yes, they are fast, but they’re also encrusted with the ugliest buildings and purveyors of junk in American life – billboards, franchised fast food, garish gas stations, clotted shopping malls and strip malls and parking lots. There is little beauty and lots of consumerist architecture that varies little place to place.
So you can imagine my delight when I learned today that Google Maps (still my go-to for navigation, though I know the dangers of Google and need to change) has a setting which allows a driver to “Avoid Highways.”
I had a good bit of extra time to spare on my trip home from the mountains today, so I took the option.
The back roads of a country have the character and personality which interstates lack. They have the old stuff, the multigenerational stuff, the handed-down stuff, and the different stuff. I saw fields of crops, lots of BBQ restaurants, lots of produce stands, and lots of small auto shops. I saw modest homes, modest farms, lakes, picnics, communities, and families. I drove down famous old city streets and streets that have seen better days.
Even though it took me an extra two hours to finish my journey, I couldn’t have been more happy with the decision. I knew the interstate still existed (I passed it a few times), and it still exerted its sway on the lives of the people along these older and less crowded routes, but I was permitted to feel otherwise. And from foothills to coast I got much more of an idea of the changing landscape. This felt more like travel than interstate driving.
I reckon I’ll be traveling this way whenever I am not in a hurry. “Avoid highways” is a nifty feature and good advice.