Interstates stretched before us. My website inquiry had reported that Dennis and I had 632 miles to drive from our hotel in Dallas, TX to our front door in Collinsville, IL. Interstates – the fast lane for traveling – would get us from where we were to where we wanted to go in the shortest length of time. So, we departed Texas, entered Oklahoma, drove along the multi-lane highways, arrived into Missouri, and were headed for Illinois.
Along the freeway, we passed car after car, truck after truck, billboard after billboard, and exit after exit. While Dennis weaved and bobbed through traffic, my job was to read the signs. A few things caught our attention, like the endless buffet at the Choctaw Casino in Durant, OK or the world’s largest candy shop in Phillipsburg, MO. In both cases, discretion prevailed and we drove past those enticements. Most exits promised the same travelers’ amenities – hamburger havens, gas station necessities, and the chain restaurant regulars. In the distance, we could see the towns; but the interstate buzzed us on every cities’ outskirts as we continue on our quickest route to home.
While yet a little over 100 miles from St. Louis, I noticed a sign for a home-town malt shop on old Route 66, which led us to a discussion about that famous highway that got travelers from here to there before the days of interstates. “Should we take that detour?” I inquired. Since we were making good time, we decided that we would get off at the next exit and make our way over to the older and less used road.
A right turn off of the interstate onto exit whatever-it-was, a two block trip down the street that-I-don’t-recall, and then a left turn onto Route 66; and we were there. By there – I don’t mean at the malt shop; I mean we were on the slower road that showcased the less hurried side of life. There was a city square, a main street, a neighborhood grocery store, plus a kid on a bike. The speed limit went from 70 miles per hour to between 30 to 50. We were forced to stop at intersections. We could see the faces of the people in the oncoming cars. While Dennis still had to keep his eye of the flow of traffic, I stopped reading billboards and turned my attention to the style of the house we just passed or the roses that grew on a trellis in a front yard.
We rolled down our windows for a few miles to feel the fresh air. One local barbeque stand was smoking the day’s meat, and the charcoal smell wafted into our car. We were arrested by sights, sounds and smells not afforded us in our closed-up, air-conditioned car suited for interstate travel. Fun! These scenes were fun to see and smell. Joy! This route engendered smiles, relaxations, and pleasures.
After traveling twenty to thirty miles on Route 66 and going through several small towns nestled along the road, we returned to the interstate. Keeping the pace in the fast lane of interstate driving can heighten the stress level. Our deliberate detour had renewed and refreshed us for the last leg of our journey.
The slower road of life – what unexpected sights await us there! Route 66 is a metaphor for that life-route where we can relish the moment, embrace the now, and linger in the present. I don’t drive that road often enough. I can gulp down a meal and not savor the taste, see the sunset and not view its magnificence, read the headlines and miss the story – you know what I mean. An occasional trip in the slow lane can serve to remind me that life’s journey is not best traveled when I rush through it.