Friday, June 17, 2011

The road less traveled

Back from another brief business trip, again to the Nashville area.  And instead of my usual pattern, I overnighted in Bowling Green, a city a bit less than an hour north of the metro Nashville area, so that I could join a friend and take in a baseball game (nice ballpark in Bowling Green, by the way).

Then I did something very different from my usual travel patterns.  I had noticed on several recent trips to Nashville that the I-65 corridor between Elizabethtown (where I merge onto this highway) and the "cave area" of Kentucky (home of Mammoth Cave and other natural attractions) is rife with extensive construction due to lane additions to accommodate the massive amount of traffic on this road.  My friend from the Elizabethtown area explained that this has been in the "ten-year plan" for about twenty years, but, no matter, when it's completed, it will be much safer and better able to accommodate all of the cars and trucks zooming north and south.

Anyway, I saw yet another miles-long backup when I was heading south on Wednesday, so I began to think about alternate routes.  I don't often do that, as traveling is hard enough without having to think about where you're going.  So I asked my friend and he suggested that I merge onto U.S. 68, a traditional U.S. highway (not an interstate), just north of Bowling Green.  Scenic and much less hectic, and, given the delays I'd likely encounter, probably the same amount of time.  And best of all, the road leads directly to Lexington, so as long as I stayed on that route (paying attention to signage in the many little towns was key), I'd return home safe and sound.

So that's what I decided to do, and it was a marvelous experience.  Let me share some of the things I saw and experienced.

*  I hadn't been on this road for five minutes and I encountered an Amish horse-and-buggy, with a bearded man in "plain" clothes and a straw hat driving.  As I passed he briefly touched the brim of his hat, as I moved around him slowly, and I nodded in response.  I had heard there was/is an Amish community near Glasgow, so there's some evidence.

*  Lots of little businesses, all in the middle of nowhere, with signs advertising antiques, pressure-washing, honey, hairstyling, scrap metals, florist services, and, of course, fresh produce sold from roadside stands.  I didn't stop, but later in the season, where some of the items I like would be in season, I might.

*  Honest-to-God farms, small enough for one family or possibly one person to tend, where they grow, you know, FOOD.  Corn seemed to be a popular crop in the part of Kentucky through which I traveled.

*  Miles and minutes where I saw no cars at all.

*  Town squares.  A vestige of times passed, certainly.  Invariably, the courthouse was at the center.

*  Great names of little communities.  I think "Wisdom" was my favorite of this trip.

*  Small independent grocery stores.  I grew up working in one of those, and that certainly brought back some memories.

I could go on, but it was a nice change of pace.  Along with it, U.S. 68 between Oakland (the town nearest where I entered the highway) and Lexington is largely two-lane, with just a few sections looking remotely like a highway with broad shoulders and passing lanes.  And there were numerous signs pointing to the "county lake" of a certain area.

The most interesting aspect of this was that, despite taking about an hour longer than the trip would have on interstates and parkways during optimal (non-delay) conditions, it was a grand total of seven miles further.

Somehow, given what I saw, it seemed a lot further away.

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