A blog dedicated to the pursuit of all roads in the United States except Interstates

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Blue Highways: A Better Way

So you're driving down the interstate. You're going 70 and just keeping up with traffic. Everybody is six feet behind the car ahead of him. Then a big tractor-trailer practically kisses your rear bumper. It starts to rain. The big rig whizzes by you, sprays water on your windshield, and practically blinds you. The state hasn't painted the lane lines since Ronald Reagan was president, and you can barely see where you're supposed to be. There's a fender bender ahead some place, and traffic slows down to 20mph. Everybody's just got to look at the accident, right?  Construction closes one lane. Down to 20 again for the merge. By now, you're wishing you'd never started this trip, and you'd much rather be at home watching TV. There's got to be something better than this, right? There is. It's called blue highways.

This term is derived from map legends. On many maps, the most important roads are red lines, the lesser highways are blue lines. The term gained prominence after William Least Heat Moon wrote a book called "Blue Highways" in 1982. Moon was at loose ends after losing both his job and his marriage. He set his van up for camping and took off on a 13,000-mile journey around the United States. He must have had enough money saved to be able to do this for three months.

The book was a best-seller, but a lot of people haven't gotten the message (and actually, I hope they never do). I just described Interstate 81 in Virginia above. That road is a horror show, and I do my best to avoid it. I-81 replaced US 11 as the primary route through western Virginia. However, Route 11 is alive and well, running parallel to 81 and sometimes right next to it. I've encountered bumper to bumper traffic on I-81, switched over to Route 11, and, in five minutes, had the road to myself. I've had moments driving Route 11 when I didn't see another vehicle ahead of me or behind me. In open country, I can cruise along at 60 on Route 11.

I am starting this blog to show you how much better a car trip is using secondary roads. I realize that often, time is a factor, and one has to use the interstates. I end up driving I-81 too, if I've got a deadline. But being retired, I often  don't. Someday, I'd like to drive ocean to ocean without a single mile on an interstate highway.

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