In the days of Jael,
the highways were abandoned.
Travelers took to winding paths.
When it comes to long-distance travel, most people book airline flights or drive Interstates. Personally, I prefer blue highways, those two-lane roads printed in blue, squiggly lines on foldout maps.
My schedule does not allow much for scenic routes, but a recent trip to the Midwest found me driving through the hills of southern Indiana. How do blue highways compare to other modes of travel? The biggest difference, of course is the time involved. A second difference is a loss sense of locality. Whether flying in a plane or flying down an Interstate, you miss all those “little towns with funny names” that Jason Aldean sings about in “Fly Over States.”
On my recent trip, I actually drove through a town called Gnaw Bone, Indiana. The town was so small, I passed through it before I had the chance to stop and ask if the place was named for blood hounds or blue heelers.
Odd names aside, blue highways take you into landscapes accented with farm houses and trailer homes, grave stones and grain silos. Horizons notched with factories, transmission lines and football fields.
My jaunt through Hoosier Land did not yield any particularly memorable experience or conversation, yet, I felt connected to the residents in a geographical kind of way. I could picture the type of house that the gas station cashier lived in. I noticed sweaters sporting the local school mascot. I drove by the DMV where dads take their teenagers to get their driver’s licenses. I passed by a church where someone’s grandmother sings in the choir.
I realize that most travelers need to make time, save time and show up on time. But, once upon a time, “taking a drive” meant packing a picnic basket and checking out the crops in the neighbors’ fields.
I’m not sure if folks in Gnaw Bone, Indiana still enjoy such rides, but I hope some of them do.