The Road Less Travelled: Route 20

Route 20 runs from the Atlantic Ocean to within a mile of the Pacific Ocean in Oregon. I’ve been on various sections of this route over the years, but my favorite stretch may just be in Upstate New York. The highway snakes along rolling hills, dipping into valleys and small towns along the way. Stunningly beautiful in places, sadly distressed poverty in others, but always interesting.

In autumn the views can be breathtaking, but it’s always good to remember you’re zipping along at highway speeds with nothing to keep you from a terminal velocity head-in crash but a double yellow line. 55 plus 55 is a bad equation for traveling souls. Yeah… Right lane travel is preferable. It’s not like the roads are jammed out here. Go to Charlton, Massachusetts and you’ll see many white crosses on Route 20 marking tragic endings to road trips. Less so here, not because the road doesn’t present the same risk, but because there simply aren’t as many cars. Another reason to prefer this stretch of this long road.

Highways cross-cross the landscape, transforming the communities they pass through in the process. Some communities win, some lose; It’s all depends on how you look at it. Fuel the economy or retain the character of your small town? Choices… Route 20 was once the major east-west route across the northern tier of the United States, until the parallel, more efficient I-90 diverted traffic. There’s a lot to be said for a steady speed limit ride across long distances, and I-90, for a price, offers efficient high speed. But you lose the local flavor of the land. Driving will never give you everything, but it gives you more the more you slow down. Slowing down (at least a little) gets more interesting to me as I get older.

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