Road Trips: Choosing A Path
July 17, 2014

Road Trips: Choosing A Path

When I road trip, there are two different paths I consider: interstate driving and small highway or back road driving. I thought I would take a bit to discuss the differences and pros and cons of each of these. After all, for one who has not really ventured into road trips, he or she may not know which path to take.

The Road More Traveled

Interstate driving definitely falls under the category of road more traveled. There are always drivers on the interstate, and in some cases, interstate driving demands that we share the road with lots and lots of other drivers. Let’s start with the cons of interstate driving.

On the whole, the biggest con is that travelers basically see the same scenery over and over when traveling an interstate. When we make it to a metropolis, we will see the same budget motels: Motel 6, Super 8, Microtel, et cetera. Then there are the “fancier” motels and hotels: Holiday Inn, Hampton Inn, Fairfield, et cetera. Dotted within these are mom and pop motels, of course. Additionally, the same restaurants line the freeways: Denny’s, Applebees, Red Lobster, and the like. Fast food chains also show their fronts: McDonald’s, Subway, Arby’s, Taco Bell, and all the others. Finally, even the same retail stores pop up along the freeway: Home Depot or Lowe’s, Wal-Mart or Target, Ross, Petsmart, grocery stores, and all the others. City after city, town after town, the views are the same.

And in between these, we see not that much. Sure, sometimes interstates can chance upon pretty views, but most often it is just the road and the cars in front of us.

The major pro of interstate driving is the speed. When we take freeways, we will likely be taking the quickest, most direct routes to our destinations. This is the entire purpose behind freeways, well, at least one of the major purposes. We give up stunning vistas in return for quicker arrivals. So, if travelers are road tripping to get to a destination only, then interstate driving is definitely the way to go.

The Road Less Traveled

The other major path when taking a road trip is to take smaller state and national highways and back roads. Let’s first look at the major con of these roads less traveled.

The biggest downfall to the smaller highways and back roads is that they are slower and often less direct. First, drivers cannot go as fast on this path due to speed limit regulations as well as the windiness that may pair with smaller highways and back roads. On top of that, these tend to go through small towns, so drivers will have to slow down to make their way through the towns. Plus, these routes are often not a direct line like interstates can be. Now, that being stated, smaller highways and back roads may often be the shortest in terms of distance, but they may not travel as quickly. And sometimes they do.

The big benefit to smaller highways and back roads is seeing parts of the country that often get missed. I have seen some of the most intense, amazing views simply by taking the roads less traveled. Plus, travelers can pull over on the side of the road and take time to enjoy the sights. Much of what makes America great comes from the smaller highways and back roads. If the fun and spontaneity of a road trip is the vacation as much as the end destination, then taking smaller, less traveled highways and back roads are the way to go.

I tend to prefer the road less traveled. I have written about my two favorite highways: Highway 50 and Highway 101 (see here also), but I have traveled many small state and national highways that I absolutely adore. In fact, my commute to work takes me down one of these during fall and spring semesters. I love smaller highways and back roads for traveling. I see the practicality of interstates, and sometimes I cannot avoid traveling them, but if I have my druthers, I will always choose the road less traveled.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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