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.

All That Is in Your Backyard

So often we don’t take advantage of all there is in our backyard.   People live in NYC and never go to the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  The same can be said for so many people wherever they live big city or rural America.

One of the things we try to, in each place we lived across the US, is play tourist regularly.   For us,  this means  to do only the things that people from out-of-state would do and see.  To go to those things that locals would consider hokey, to commercial or to packed with out-of-staters.  To give ourselves a chance to look at our home as others see it.  It allows us to take lots of mini-vacations and not break the bank.  Often they are daytrips.

We have done many things locals and Montana natives  have never done.   We have been to Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks.  We have gone to many ghost towns and can tell you which are best to see and which may be better skipped.   We have hiked  on the Continental Divide Trail in various areas and can tell you which areas are “better.”   We have stayed in Forest Service rental cabins (old guard stations) and can tell you which are better for facilities and which are better for stargazing .  We have taken in local symphonies, concerts, theater shows and art galleries.    We have gone to living museums, historical sites, toured caves, dug crystals and panned for gold.  We have taken walking tours and road tours.   We have seen so much but there is so much more to see.

These experiences give us a greater appreciation for  where we live, but it also makes us good tour guides when we have family who comes to visit.  This year is looking to stack up with lots of visitors for us and we are well equipped to show off the best our state has to offer.