Avoiding The Interstate

I've never been so bored driving as when I'm on a long trip traveling down a series of Interstate highways. Nice straight wide roads with high speed limits. I am sure that if I was running at "Cannonball" speeds they would be a tad more interesting, but at 65 (or even 70 or 75 when out west) the endless smooth pavement without anything so much as resembling a technical turn is downright mind numbing.

This brings into a focus an odd problem; high speeds and bored drivers. When the driver of a vehicle is engaged in the drive (and with luck, skilled at it as well) it is far less dangerous than someone who is sitting with their chin on one hand (leaning on the door) as they drive. There are sections of highway which, according the U.S. Department of Transportation, handle over 250,000 cars and trucks per day; that's rather a lot of bored drivers who are only just barely paying attention to the road as they drive. Around Boston where I sometimes commute it's all too common to see people engaging in a multitude of activities which are not related to driving; reading books and newspapers, texting on mobile devices, talking on the phone, shaving, doing makeup and most popularly, eating. All these things take at least one hand off the wheel and the driver's attention off the road. Bored drivers tend to equate to bad drivers, effectively, even if not intentionally.

Add to the mix today's more modern vehicles with so many distracting entertainment options and it's a miracle we don't have more accidents that we already do. The only upside I could possibly see of today's parents ignoring their kids in the back seat while they mesmerize them with DVDs and video games is that the driver isn't distracted with their kids while they drive (which, of course, if one is going to be distracted by something, paying attention to the fact that you have children is probably the only good thing to be distracted by). That is, if they weren't distracting themselves with something else. Really the only reason parents use in car entertainment systems is so that the kids don't distract them from whatever form of entertainment it is they want to focus on; and it never seems to be the driving that most of them want to focus on. So we're back to the same problem; driver's not paying attention and traveling at high speeds.

Now, don't get me wrong, I use the Interstate System when I need to. As much as I love to drive, commuting is a rather grating process so I prefer to keep it as short as possible; the Interstate, so long as some distracted driver hasn't wrecked in front of me somewhere, tends to move along nicely and make short work of a boring drive.

But why do we use it the rest of the time? Because everyone is in a hurry, ALL the time. Sometimes it's justified; sometimes it's not. A few years back I needed to make an emergency run to visit my in laws due to a death in the family and to be certain, I used the Interstates to make that trip rather a bit shorter than it really should have been. I have driven that route to my in laws house many times; I know the way without needing a map, and it's 1499 miles from my door, to theirs. Something dawned on me recently though; for the most part I have NO idea what's between our doors. I've never stopped for anything other than fuel, food and an occasional nap; the trip takes slightly under 30 hours and I usually do it just like that. Straight through, no stopping.

Why? I have no idea. It's not like we're driving fast enough for the drive to be interesting (well, normally) and it's not like we don't usually have time to make the trip more interesting. We're always just in a hurry; for no reason that I can think of.

I have decided that the next time I drive there I will plan to take three days. Not because I want to loaf along and drive slowly (far from it), but because I want to choose a more interesting route and perhaps actually see what's on the way. Google Maps has this interesting option labeled "Avoid Highways" and it makes the trip SO much longer. Choose a few interesting mid points (perhaps some roads I specifically want to drive on) and just make the drive fun.

What I need to find is a collection of the most "interesting" roads to drive between here and there. World class driving roads, if you will. Perhaps down the Appalachians lengthwise, then across to the Ozarks. Mountainous areas always have the best driving.