View from the Interstate

I recently read a blog post done by a person who said they traveled through Montana via Interstate.  Their post talked about how they did not see all the wonder that so many talk about in Montana.  This post got me to thinking about how we travel.

The signs on the interstate don't even hint at the potential places have if you visit.

The signs on the interstate don’t even hint at the potential places have if you visit.

Many of us travel via airplane.   When we fly, we accept that we are miles above the earth and what we see is from a perspective that many will never see.   We also accept that at this elevation we will miss much of what is below us. The most we will get is a mosaic perspective on the earth.

Others of us will travel via auto and the interstate.   When we travel this way we assume that we are getting a look into the world through which we travel.   I had always assume that to be true until I spent my summer on the backroads of Montana.  It was having my summer job and reading this blog that lead me to a new discovery, interstate travel really is only a common denominator for speedy travel.  It is not the way to see the USA.

An interstate was designed to allow a truck to travel from point A to point B with the least resistance.  It was to have the least amount of curves and hills. Business are located along the interstate to save truckers time and milage when traveling from business location to business location.

Knowing the objective of the interstate highway system it makes sense that when traveling to a vacation destination that we too will take the interstate.   We want to get to our vacation location as fast as possible.  When we travel at 65, 75 or even 80 miles per hour down the road we only get a glance at what lies along the interstate.  It also means that we sacrifice the places we drive through. When traveling through Illinois or Montana when we hit a town it will be lined with exits with easy access to the Home Depot, Target and Costco.   Each town will appear to have the same national chain restaurants.   No one would ever claim that McDonald’s and Chili’s are as good as the culinary experience you could find in neighborhoods in Chicago, but if one were to judge the Windy City by the restaurants named along the interstate one might assume that to be true.  The same is true of the viewshed offerings.   What lines the interstate will feel very same, almost monotonous.   This is why people claim the Dakotas are flat, the mountains in Colorado are just ok and Chicago is just tall buildings.   It also explains why driving seems monotonous and hypnotic.   The interstate is designed to be the same on each mile.  When we travel via the interstate; we get the interstate view.

So the next time you go on holiday and decide to drive remember that when you drive though a place and you never get off the interstate for more than gas or to eat you really have not visited that place.

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One comment on “View from the Interstate

  1. This is so true. While traveling this past summer, we did get off the interstate a lot and onto two lane roads, taking us through many small towns and vast landscapes. In South Dakota, we visited the wild horse sanctuary in Hot Springs and then took a two lane road across the state, stopping at the Wounded Knee massacre site and driving through three reservations. We saw a lot that we wouldn’t have seen from the interstate. It really is the best way to see the USA!

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