Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory
Detour to Discovery
By Ralph P. Yates
Venture off the interstate for experiences that will enhance your travels.
Interstates.What a blessing. They keep us on the straight and narrow by getting us from here to there in the shortest distance and without getting lost. Featuring at least four lanes, mile-markers, gentle hills, well-designed curves and clean rest areas, they have much to offer. Sure, there are more trucks, and the scenery is sometimes obscured by billboards, but heck, at 70 mph and with our eyes glued to our mirrors, who has time to view the landscape anyway?
However,did you ever notice when you review your photos after a trip that you have shots of your destinations and interim stops, but very little of the scenery you passed along the way? Could you have missed something? In the words of Charles Kuralt, author of On the Road with Charles Kuralt, “Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything. From the interstate, America is all steel guardrails and plastic signs, and every place looks and feels and sounds and smells like every other place.”
It seems our choice is: take the interstate and get there quickly, or take those oh-so-slow secondary roads and see the sights. But, what if you could have your cake and eat it, too? You can, if you’re willing to take well-planned detours—I call them “Detours to Discovery.” Many interstates were built parallel to secondary roads or the old road that predated them.
Get off the interstate, follow that parallel route for a while, and you will see what America has to offer without adding too many miles to the trip.
Rewards of Exploration
On these secondary roads, you’ll not only see things you would have otherwise missed,but you’ll travel at a more leisurely pace, take a break from the truck traffic and get a feel for the local color. Exiting the interstate is often like stepping from one world to another. Not only is the pace slower, but you’re also struck with a sudden sense of adventure. You check that the camera is on the seat next to you, ready to record an image of…well, whatever waits around the next curve.
Let’slook at U.S. 1, for example. It parallels Interstate Highway 95 for more than 2300 miles. That’s a lot of opportunity for side trips. It’s a bit daunting to exit the interstate in a big city, but do so and you’ll give yourself innumerable choices of things to see and do. For example, you can meet Big Birdat Sesame Place in Langhorn, Pennsylvania, visit the Philadelphia Insectariumand walk through beautiful gardens, all within minutes of historic U.S. Route1.
You can zip across the state of Maine in 4.5 hours, but if you stay on I-95 you’ll miss some of the most beautiful sights in America. Get off the highway in Brunswick and follow U.S. 1 to Bangor, to explore the heart of the Mid-Coast Region. Send for Maine’s Travel Planner and you won’t miss a thing as you enjoy views of Penobscot Bay and trundle through one picturesque town after another.
Have you been to Williamsburg or Jamestown? In Virginia, get off I-95 in Richmondand take I-64 or U.S. 60 to the east. See these two historic places and continue to Norfolk. There are many points of interest in the area, including the National Maritime Center (Nauticus), Virginia Beach and the Dismal Swamp. You can then take U.S. 58 back to I-95 and continue south, having added 80 miles to your trip, but also having seen some great sights you otherwise might never have experienced.
Interstate 81 and U.S. 11 parallel one another as they track across Virginia. Along the way you will find numerous opportunities for detours that will show you what this beautiful state has to offer. In the north, get off at New Market and go see the Caverns of Luray or Endless Caverns, or venture over to U.S. 340 and follow the river through the heart of the Shenandoah Valley.
Feeling even more adventurous? Detour to Skyline Drive, a gorgeous “top of the world” route that might take a while longer but is worth the time. Further south you’ll find Natural Bridge, Dixie Caverns, parks, campgrounds and many other interesting places to stop. Hop back onto I-81 whenever you’re ready.
You’retraveling south on I-85 in South Carolina and have grown weary of reading “Wash Me” on the rear end of dirty 18-wheelers. You spot a detour with possibilities and, noting that you can follow Scenic Highway 11 all the way to the Georgia line, you take the Gaffney exit. This route will give you a close-up view of the Appalachian foothills, take you past Aunt Sue’s, where you can stop for icecream, listen to the music and stock up on their jellies. It’s a good road, and you’ll see beautiful lakes Keowee and Jocasee, and can photograph Table Rock Mountain. You can also take a tour of Duke Power’s World of Energy. This detour could be a vacation in itself, and you would have missed it if you had stayedon I-85.
If you’re crossing the country from Cincinnati, Ohio to Brunswick, Georgia, it’s easy to hop off I-75 and journey down U.S. 25 for parts of the trip. Awaiting you are wonderful little towns, bubbling creeks and shops. See Renfro Valleyand Levi Jackson State Park near London, and in Corbin you can visit the original home of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Get off anywhere and get back on in Corbin.
When you’re traveling out West in California, you can make good time on I-5, but you will see an interesting detour near Sacramento that takes you to Yuba City and Chico. You’ve heard of these towns, but what do they have to offer? Well, you’ll find out if you follow highway 99. I’ll tell you this much—you will cross and follow the famous Feather River, you won’t add many miles to your trip, and you won’t be disappointed.
Spice Up Your Travels
And finally, let us submit that taking detours can save your sanity. If you find a particular drive to be less than exciting, then taking a detour might be just the ticket. If you’ve seen Kansas from I-70, you may never be eager to do it again. U.S. 24 is a made-to-order detour. Take it from Topeka to Manhattan, and follow the Kansas River.
We know you want to reach your destination, so we aren’t suggesting you go traipsing all over the countryside or deadhead to points of interest. The idea is to simply get off the interstate and take a more-or-less parallel road for some distance. All across America there are wonderful little spots you can visit by simply altering your route slightly. Next time you’re planning a roadtrip, look for interesting Detours To Discovery. Hey, you might even find cheaper fuel on those roads.