Backroads Journal


The theme for 2011 is “Wander”.
Unfortunately, that’s a word that is not used much these days.  When it is, it generally takes on a negative connotation, most often associated with aimless or lost.
Wander happens to be one of my favorite words.  To me it has a positive connotation of following your curiosity and having an open mind to truly seeing new surroundings and experiencing new adventures.  It’s turning off of the most direct route and onto the winding backroads to see what you can find out there. 

More and more we are forced by electronics and time constraints to stay on track.  The auto GPS, and now even our phones, direct us to take the quickest route to our destination.  They don’t allow for impromptu detours.  If we go off route to see some interesting site, we are chided by the electronic voices and quickly given the directions to get back on track. 

I travel with a GPS, but I set it to track where I go rather than to tell me where to go.  I would much rather have computer records of my wanderings and photo locations than to have a computer chip direct my experiences.  When a GPS system is developed to direct me to the best sunset view with exact time of the greatest color, then I will start following its directions.

It does make me sad that young people are growing up fixated on electronics.  From the cradle on they are plugged into soothing sound devices, earphones, games, DVD movie screens and smart phones.  Their necks are becoming bent over and their minds are becoming trash receptacles rather than creative engines.  They spend the day watching their little screens instead of looking up and experiencing the world around them.  It’s ruining their postures as well as their minds. 

Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, we sat in the back seat of the car and looked out of the windows at the world.  If we were lucky, we had a transistor radio to cut the wind sound from the open windows.  We got bored, but we saw a lot of new things.  The two-lane highways took us through new towns and past unique roadside attractions.  Our world expanded on every trip we took.

I do understand the attraction to the electronics.  With the Interstates, a drive to Minneapolis looks almost exactly like a drive to Dallas.  You see the same Golden Arches and truck stops.  The highway shoulders are mowed to the same six inch height.  There’s uniformity in signage and highway design.  From the Interstates, each unique region of the country that make travel an educational experience has been homogenized and pasteurized until there is no reason to look out the windows.  Why go anywhere if it all looks the same? 

I encourage you to try something new.  Carve out some time on each trip to follow an interesting looking road.  For an hour or for a day, turn off all electronics.  Turn off the radio, the GPS, the phones and the movies.  If the weather is good, turn off the AC and open the windows or at least the moonroof.  Drive slowly and look at the homes, the farms and landscape.  Talk about the differences between where you are and home.  Stop at scenic views and historic markers.  Look at the wildflowers, the trees and the grasses.  Have lunch at a unique local eatery.  Put the fun and adventure back into auto travel.  Do this once and you will begin to crave the experience and will want to find more and more time to include some wandering into all of your travels.

Take some time to experience a new region.  Wander some backroads.  See what there is to see around the bend of a country road.  Let’s enjoy traveling again!