Taking the roads less traveled

Yes, I know there is a worldwide pandemic going on.

Yes, I know this year’s election could be one of the most divisive in history.

Yes, I know there are protests going on that could turn violent.

So get off the interstate.

I had to go to Columbus the other day. In my younger days, I would hop on I-70, charge over to Columbus and then hurry back. I gave up on that approach a while ago.

I now avoid the interstate. Instead, I take a bunch of secondary roads like Routes 41, 161, 4, 40, even some hyphenated roads like Troy-Urbana. It takes a little longer but it can give you a whole different outlook.

Instead of playing chicken with 18-wheelers and driving in heavy traffic, I now drive past fields of corn and soybeans and through out-of-the-way towns. Here is what I have discovered.

I know people make fun of Ohio because of all the corn and soybeans. They just need to look more closely. There’s something majestic about a vast field of corn ready for harvest. I guess it’s not too peaceful for the farmer who has to do all the work, but for an observer it can be a calming sight.

In between those fields there are lots of small woodlots. You don’t have time on the interstate to think about trees like these. Consider all the different kinds of trees and creatures that inhabit those woods. It helps put our human problems into perspective.

Along those roads there are surprises — farm markets, historic homes that may have been there for a couple hundred years, interesting old churches or restaurants.

Then there are the little towns scattered along those roads. Some of them are charming little towns with people who clearly take a lot of pride in keeping their homes nice.

Of course, everything isn’t perfect. Some of those small towns look like they’re one step from extinction. I assume the young people flee as soon as they can and there just isn’t much capital to take care of what’s left. But even those towns can be beacons of optimism — people are still there, hoping for something that will bring the good old days back (assuming, of course, that there were good old days at one time).

And you can’t get away from politics. As you get out into the country, you see more and more political signs, especially Trump for President signs. These aren’t the little signs you see in town. These are banners and flags and campaign slogans painted on the sides of trucks and even homemade displays that put nearby Halloween displays to shame. On one stretch on Route 161 there was maybe a quarter mile of road lined with Trump and American flags. No matter how you feel about it, you have to admire the work involved. On the whole, though, a drive over those roads can lift your spirits. I imagine for someone from New York City the cows and the soybeans and the old barns might be a bit boring. But for me, they’re special, better than any skyscraper or shopping district. Yes, you might get stuck behind a piece of farm equipment for a few miles or behind someone who is taking their time and seeing the sights (wait, that might be me!), but what’s the hurry? The whole world seems to be in a hurry, only we don’t seem to be able to arrive anywhere. Why not take a few minutes and enjoy what’s there?

No, driving in the country won’t solve any of those big problems, but it sure makes me feel better. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is step away from the madness for an afternoon.

Get off the interstate. The world looks different when you do.