Roads less traveled

Did you know Virginia Rte. 8 comes to a dead end when it intersects with U.S. 11 in Christiansburg?

Or that U.S. 221 ends its 734 mile journey in Lynchburg?

As an incurable road explorer in either a Wrangler or on a Harley, I like to see where highways lead. It’s interesting to travel a road from its origin to its end. I’ve driven U.S. 221 from Lynchburg to Perry, Florida; Rte. 8 from Christiansburg to the North Carolina line and U.S. 50 from Annapolis, MD, to San Francisco (a three-and-a-half week journey).

Older roads like 221 and 50 often take you through the heart of America to places far different from the look-alike interchanges of Interstate highways. Amy and I have discovered great local restaurants along U.S. 50 in West Virginia and a mom-and-pop gas station that still offers full service in Southern Indiana.

In Nevada, U.S. 50 is called “the loneliest road in America” and stretches onward for hundreds of miles with no car or truck in sight. I photographed a sunset on U.S. 50 one afternoon, standing in the middle of the road with no car approaching from either direction for more than an hour.

Closer to home, we have many roads that offer stunning trips into the backwaters of Americana: U.S. 58 from Independence to Damascus or U.S. 52 over Big Walker Mountain.

U.S. 11 runs from New Orleans to Rouses Point, NY — 1,645 miles.

Some think U.S. 460 is a coast-to-coast highway. It isn’t. It begins as a spur off U.S. 60 in Frankfort, KY and ends when it reconnects with 60 in Norfolk — 655 miles.  The “National Road” running from Cumberland, MD, to Vandalia, IL, is considered one of the first attempt to build a major U.S. highway that spanned multiple states. Construction began in 1811 in Cumberland and the road was completed in 1839.  An Eastern extension later connected Cumberland to Baltimore.

Even the country’s most famous highway — U.S. 66 — originally ran from Chicago to Los Angeles. Sadly, much of that road is gone now although a large motorcycle road trip along the route of the old road is planned for this fall.

Sometimes, the road less traveled is the one best traveled.

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4 thoughts on “Roads less traveled”

  1. Nice article. When I was younger, and had less responsibility, I used to take vacations that I thought of as “Hobbit Walks” or walkabouts where I chose an area (I lived in New England), and traveled around on roads as small as possible, staying away from the highways. The trip was about the traveling, not the arriving. You’re right about seeing the real country, not a series of cookie cutter interchanges and landscaped interstates. If I shopped, it was in local stores, and when I ate, it was in community restaurants, not chains.

  2. When gas was cheaper, I used to do weekend road trips just picking a starting point and driving on secondary roads until I found something interesting to stop and look at, or a place to stay the night. Got to see some amazing things that way, and I always managed to find my way to a route I recognized to make my way back home at the end…never used a map. It’s a lot of fun, but with a truck and an SUV and gas near $3/gallon, it’s a bit too pricey to do that regularly. We do try to take the scenic routes as much as possible though.

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