Lots to see when traveling off the interstate

Published 7:30 am Saturday, October 15, 2022

When construction was underway on an interstate highway one hot, sunny day, my husband and I chose to travel the back roads on the way to Montgomery.

Interstates with miles and miles flanked with trees bore me. It was nice to see pastoral signs, eye-catching signs, the glimpse of a hawk perched high in a tree, to cross bodies of water and catch any unusual sights. I had brought along my usual bag of books and magazines for interstate travel, but I pushed it aside when something interesting came in view on State Highway 31. This alternate route was reminiscent of trips through rural country sides and small towns before interstates criss-crossed our nation. For some people the advent of the interstate highways that rerouted traffic meant the demise of flourishing roadside businesses. We saw evidence of this from abandoned, tumble down buildings that were silent witnesses to those changing times.

We saw lots of trees along the highway, too, since we noticed some major wood products businesses. We saw stretches of farm land and pastures. Great rolls of hay rested in fields. Visible from a long distance was a rickety barn sporting a “See Rock City” sign. Weeds grew out of control in some spots almost obscuring weathered out buildings and picturesque barns.

Also on the route we took were several side of the road communities with unique names, including a place called Sandy Ridge. I pointed out it sounded as if there should be a Methodist Church. Seconds later, there it was, a charming framed building with a sign out front. We saw both humble and majestic houses, wide, well manicured lawns, as well as some unkempt places. Attractive white fences stretched long distances enclosing several of the more elaborate spreads.

In contrast to the hustle and bustle of the interstates, we noticed people going about their business, moving at a leisurely pace. A mother walked along the side of the road with a baby in her arms and holding a toddler’s hand. Children romped in the front yards. A woman sat in a rocking chair on the front porch. Clothes hung on a line in a back yard.

The sight of a little country store brought to mind the days before cars had air conditioning. There is absolutely nothing more refreshing than sipping from a soft drink bottle pulled from an ice box in one of those roadside spots.

Interstates get you there quicker. State rest stops and service stations at interstate exits offer convenience for travelers. I would not shun any of those things when travelling long distances. But as a diversion now and then, travel off interstates presents scenery you might otherwise miss.