I saw a poster or a bumper sticker or web site (or some such mass communication device) the other day that said something like "All Roads Lead to a Rural Route." (Gosh -- I hope that's not copyrighted somewhere ...) And it got me to thinking.
It's true. If you are in a hurry to get from point A in one part of the state (or country) to point B in another, you can always take the freeway, or, to be more technically correct, the Interstate Highway System. It is a great piece of work and most of us think we could not live without it. But in most cases, to actually get where you are going, you must get off the freeway and onto a side road, a side street, or a dirt or gravel road of some sort.
Why? Because America -- real America - is not truly located on the Interstate Highway System.
Sure, the big slabs of concrete with three, four and five or more lanes of traffic go through major metropolitan areas and through the hearts of many large cities and past smaller cities and small towns all across the nation; and they take us close to where we want to go. But they can't get us there - exactly.
Try getting to Yosemite National Park on the "95"in central California. It ain't happenin'. Or try taking Interstate 80 or Interstate 90 into the heart of Yellowstone; you'll never make it. When folks drive to see family "back home" in Indiana or across Illinois to visit folks in Chicago, they still have to get off the Super Slab and take a back road or a back street before they arrive at their destination.
Some will say -- "Yes, but our destination is close to the Interstate." That may be so, but even Jersey boys and girls ask one another "what exit?" Face it, unless you live at a chain restaurant or a hotel that is part of a large chain of hotels or a major truck stop or a XXX adult bookstore, you probably don't live all that close to the Interstate.
With rare exceptions, the Interstate does not take you to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico (I'm not sure if it does at all). It may take you close, but it does not deposit you on the sand. The Interstate can take you in sight of the Empire State Building in Manhattan, or the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, or Pike's Peak in Colorado, or Mount Hood in Oregon, or Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, but you can't drive there on the freeway. The Grand Canyon is 60 miles or more from the nearest Interstate, and other Southwest destinations -- such as Zion and Bryce and Canyonlands and Arches National Parks - are similar distances from the closest super slab. Heck, even the infamous Wall Drug and the just-as-infamous Corn Palace in South Dakota are a few miles off the Interstate.
Sure, the Petrified Forest straddles Interstate 40 in Arizona, but that speaks only to its original location and size -- the department of transportation contractors just couldn't find an easy way around it, so they built the highway right through the middle of it.
If you ever decide to trace the food you buy at the store or eat in restaurants to its origins, you'll have to get off the Interstate and get onto the rural routes of our nation. Be prepared to drive slowly at times -- you might end up behind a tractor or a combine or a truck filled with hogs or cattle, but just know that their very presence on the road means you most likely won't be hungry at the end of the day.
Yep ... All roads lead to a rural route. And I'm glad they do.