Monday, August 04, 2008

Why Highway 20 is better than I-80

Highway 20, near Chadron

There are two ways to get across Nebraska. There is the boring, direct way, and there is the non-boring indirect way. Interstate 80 was constructed along a riverbank to make it easier to build. Highway 20 cuts through the sandhills and buttes of northwest Nebraska.

There are a lot of reasons to take the slow boat. Here are just a few of them.

1) Accommodations. The hotels and motels along the interstate are expensive, generic boxes with no soul. The hotels along the backroads can be lovely, clean, cheap, family-owned places of lodging. True, there are the occasional Bates Motels, but if you keep your eyes open you can find places like this one.

2. Good Food. If you take the Interstate, you get a choice every ten miles of Cracker Barrels, Subways, McDonalds, or in some latitudes, Waffle Houses. With the exception of the latter, most of these are also soulless boxes with the same crappy food served with the same crappy attitude. At least you get interesting waitstaff at the Waffle Houses.

If you get off the brainless ribbon of asphalt you get places like this one. Great food, lots of it, and the total was $4.95. Half the price of Cracker Barrel. And you don't have to walk through the tacky gift shop.

3. Interesting Sites. If you stick to the path most traveled, you miss places like this: Carhenge. It is nowhere near anything. It is not on the way to anywhere, nor is it on the way from anywhere. It has to be a destination. If you're setting your schedule so that you can pee every 2.3 hours at a nice, clean bathroom, you'll never see Carhenge.

Carhenge totally rocked. 60 miles out of the way, if you have a way that needs getting out of.

Ian got a Carhenge t-shirt. I went surfing on stationary cars.

3/4: Interesting Good Food Sites. Combine 3 and 4 and we're talking Nirvana. Out of the way (again, that strange concept) was the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Museum in LeMars, Iowa.

Whit places the cherry on the giant sundae.

Lots of information on how ice cream is made, how it takes 250,000 gallons a day to feed the factory, and of course, the obligatory consumption of fresh product.

There are numerous other reasons to take the blue roads over the mindless 4-lane. Better gas mileage. The ability to pull over and stand in the middle of the highway for three or four minutes to compose a picture (try that on an interstate!). The ability to wave to people and have them wave back before you pass them. That, and the whole highway is like a giant rest area. Stop where you want.

Slow down, people. Take your time. It's your time, so take it. Carpe tempus. Or something like that. Stop and smell the hay.

Reporting from somewhere in rural northeast Colorado,



Silbs said...

Awesome piece. Family + fun is always a winner in my book.

Gulland said...

Wait a minute. Who's this talkin' bout slowing down?
Good roads to you my friend.


canoelover said...

I can slow down with the best of them. You taught me. D

Mark Ritz said...

I agree with you totally. We drive to Vegas every year for a trade show. We have two choices: a straight shot down I-5 through the "Central Void" of California, or across CA-44 around Mt. Lassen and US-95 through the Nevada mountains. The faster route is I-5 with its 70 mph speed limit (rarely enforced), but we really enjoy the trip through places like Tonopah, Mina, and Susanville. Beats the Interstate any day!

Enjoy OR...