By on June 6, 2017

(Public domain)

We’re deep into a nebulous time of the year called “driving season.” This, of course, is the part of the calendar when it suddenly becomes possible for vehicle owners to leave their homes and drive away. So, driving season it is.

If you’re a Northerner, the season holds far more emotional and spiritual importance than for those in sunnier climes. The open road simply doesn’t beckon if the landscape mimics a scene from Fargo, unless it’s to escape south. But come summer, every road’s a destination. Every street, highway, and back laneway is another opportunity to enjoy the miracle of the Earth’s tilting axis, the glorious wobble that lurches our side of the planet towards the sun for half a year, melting the snow that covers our cigarette butts, coffee cups and corpses.

The road beckons, yet many of us fail to properly heed its call.

Be it time, money, family obligations, or maybe just a general lack of adventure (perhaps you’re already dead inside?), countless roads remain untouched by our Goodyears or Bridgestones.

In this writer’s life, the greatest memories seem forever attached, in some way or another, to driving. I wander. I wander more than most, and it’s been that way since first getting my license. You discover more of a country from a car, full stop. It’s simply true. Far too often I hear urbanites who claim to have seen the country by flying from one urban center to another, ignoring the flyover country (which is almost the entire country, north or south of the border), not to mention those isolated locales only accessible by — get this — a road.

That’s where real things happen. Life exists there. It’s in these places where a driver can take stock of their own life, far enough away from the problems they’ve strived to distance themselves from. It’s where a fleeting sense of appreciation for the things left behind can rekindle itself, or perhaps a realization that the lonely road to somewhere unexplored holds a suggestion for your life.

I recall back in the summer of 2009, blasting down an unpaved forced road in western Labrador, how the sight of a single, lonely streetlight — the first real evidence of the modern world I’d seen in hundreds of miles — filled my heart with an appreciation for civilization and mankind that hadn’t existed at the beginning of my long journey.

Another summer, I batted black flies from my neck as a herd of bison put the brakes on my progress down Northwest Territories Highway 3, north of Fort Providence. Were two of them fighting, or was this head-ramming activity the beginnings of a courtship? With no GPS or solid itinerary, I count that cross-country slog as one of my best memories, choking on smoke as I wondered whether the million-acre forest fire had leaped the only highway pointing north. And what do I do if my fuel pump quits? Screw it. What happens, happens.

There’s still so many roads left unexplored. I don’t like it. Something needs to happen. Before our cars are legislated away from us, be it by government or the advancement of technology, those roads need to hear the steady hum of my tires. No doubt the same longing fills the heart of many members of the Best and Brightest.

So, let’s think. What great road trip has always eluded you, yet remains on your must-do list? What highway, state, province or country emits a siren song calling just for you? And, to make this post slightly more relevant, what vehicle would complete the picture you’ve created in your mind?

Maybe it’s floating down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris in a black Citroën DS. Perhaps it’s slogging across the vast wastes of Siberia in a Lada Niva. Or, just maybe, it’s a long, old, white Cadillac convertible conveying you across the desert Southwest, past bleached cattle skulls, on your way to the Pacific.

Tell us about it. Describe your driving dream.

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46 Comments on “QOTD: What Is Your Road Not Taken?...”


  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    In high school had a friend who had an array of old Ford sedans. With other friends we would often ‘skip’ school to go on road trips or take an entire weekend to just drive somewhere.

    Didn’t see him too often after high school, but always meant to eventually fix up an old project Ford, call him up, load the car with high school friends and just drive for a few days. Didn’t matter where.

    Unfortunately he passed away, all too young. So we never got the chance, at least in this world.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    I still need to drive the Western NC roads – Cherohala, Dragon, etc. I think I’ll be able to get to them next year.

  • avatar
    jkk6

    When picking up your rental on a trip in Maui make sure to check the tire treads before navigating the side mountains.

  • avatar
    CobraJet

    I’ve driven all over the US except for the New England states. Some interesting roads I have driven include to the summit of Pikes Peak back when the road was gravel. Once in my 94 Silverado and once in a 2000 Astro.

    I have driven the Natchez Trace Parkway from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN in several phases. Mostly in my 69 Mustang.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    My S.O. is from the Bay Area, and we’ve long wished for a trip up and down California 1. How many years before our kids are finally out of our respective houses?

    • 0 avatar
      Mike G

      You’ll need to wait a little. Highway 1 in Big Sur is currently buried under multiple massive landslides after a wet winter. It’s expected to take at least a year to dig it out.

  • avatar
    doublechili

    Discussions of roads tend to gravitate towards scenic roads, but the best stretch of road I’ve ever driven was a pretty mundane mile along Patrick Henry Hwy (Rt 151) a few miles south of the Wintergreen Resort in Virginia (and just south of the Devils Backbone Brewing Company, but go there afterwards, not beforehand). No views – just great variations in turn radius and elevation.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Whenever possible I take a known scenic/challenging road or try a new hopefully scenic/challenging road for all or part of one direction of a round trip and take the boring fast way (Interstate) the other direction. Had some nice trips in much of the US and Europe using this method.

  • avatar
    twotone

    My “roads not taken” are any road in the US from June to August. Too hot, too many tourists and idiots on the road. This is the time of year for road trips in Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, etc.

    For me, US road trip seasons are March – May and September – November. Much more enjoyable both road-wise and weather-wise.

  • avatar
    Frank Galvin

    My mechanic saved up for years to take a month long cruise on a BMW touring bike throughout Italy. That’s more bucket list.

    Roads not taken – I’d kindly suggest that a road not taken is that path of asphalt or dirt around the corner that we’re always to busy or preoccupied to venture down (or up).

    A couple of years ago, I hit a tough patch. Better living through pharmaceuticals could only do so much. One night I opened up google maps, and mapped out a bunch of interesting roads near me. Since then, at least one weekend day has included time for Dad to “go for a ride.” Even if I’m leaving the house at 4:00 AM. My therapy is Iced Coffee, American Spirits, Spotify, a stick shift, and old roads.

    I’ve watched the sunrise over Native American monuments and sacred land, seen trains cut through the fog coming out of what has been referred to as the “Bloody Pit.” By chance, wound up at short track on a Saturday night and have been bringing my kids back every summer. Grieved for a lost family member while redlining down back roads. Damn.

    I don’t want to pick the ultimate road to drive: they’ve been discussed to death in every form of auto media. I want to be someplace, stumble on it, and experience it with no preconceptions.

    The Road Not Taken is the one you don’t know is around the next corner.

    F’it. Take the right – see what you find.

    • 0 avatar
      haroldingpatrick

      +1.

      William Least Heat Moon said in his glorious “Blue Highways” that if a man couldn’t make his life go right, he could at least go!

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @Frank Galvin – “Roads not taken – I’d kindly suggest that a road not taken is that path of asphalt or dirt around the corner that we’re always to busy or preoccupied to venture down (or up).”

      I still have the urge to wander down roads or trails that I’ve never been down before. I did that exact same thing a few weekends ago with my 15 year old son. We were poking around looking for an old road/trail for him to drive since he isn’t old enough for a learners licence.

      I did that all of the time on mountain bikes and dirt bikes. My street legal KTM 620 was a joy for that. When I was single , I’d wake up and put on my leathers and role the street bike out of the garage. I’d flip a coin to decide to head north or south east or west.

      I miss that sort of thing. Family life and associated responsibilities limit that freedom but it is a sacrifice I am willing to make.

      • 0 avatar
        Frank Galvin

        Amen to that. Sometimes all I need is 20 minutes. My 8 year old just started getting into carts, and watching him is a treat in and of itself.

  • avatar
    warrant242

    US 550 south from Grand Junction to Durango.

    Did it once at dusk in the rain. I need to see it in the daytime.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    Taking any secondary road in the Muskoka area of Ontario just for the purpose of finding out where it goes. But with the knowledge that no traffic is coming the other way.

  • avatar
    Fred

    Well I just moved to Sonora CA and I want to get the Lotus going so I can tour the gold country as they call it. Texas was nice, but I’m looking forward to going up and down mountains and around corners.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    U.S. routes 2 & 6 across the northwestern U.S.

    Those highways are out of the way from most traffic, regardless of season.

    Thing is, those roads roughly are covered by the Empire Builder, so I’d take the train instead – much more fun.

  • avatar
    zayg

    An aimless road trip through Nova Scotia. A good friend of mine and I were supposed to drive up there last summer and camp/road trip around the province but work stuff got him caught up and he stayed home. I would like to get up there soon as I have never been and it isn’t a very long drive up there. However, the lack of a ferry from Maine will make it a much longer drive than it would have been a few years back.

    The plus side about not going on that trip is that I was able to save up a lot of vacation time and that same friend and I (plus another car enthusiast buddy from college) are doing a multi-week road trip in Norway and Sweden starting at the end of the month. We have a rough itinerary and will need to make it to some Airbnbs to have a place to stay, but we are giving ourselves time to explore the Ocean Road and all of the areas around it. I think that is a proper consolation prize.

    Unfortunately I have not explored much of the US by car. I grew up in New Hampshire so I have spent plenty of time driving some of the more famous roads in the state such as the Kanc. Most of the “good roads” in New Hampshire are extremely overrated and require pushing a modern car far too much in order to have fun. I don’t like getting popped by cops for doing 120 in a 55. My favorite roads I’ve driven in the US are out in the Berkshires in Western MA. Route 8A holds a special place in my heart. It is a little road that drives through the absolute middle of nowhere and is never crowded but contains some of the best flowing curves that I have driven. I have also seen some similar roads out in the Catskills but I haven’t had the fortune of exploring those too much.

  • avatar
    Onus

    Nothing like driving through rural Vermont.

    Did a trip with my friend a couple years ago drove up in my old f250. We drove around rural southeast Vermont. Can’t beat driving on gravel roads.

    Though later we got back on 91 to make the trip to Burlington to visit a friend at UVM.

    • 0 avatar
      zayg

      Southern VT has some really great roads and many of them dip down into Mass onto the roads that I was talking about in my post above.

      I want to drive the Smuggler’s Notch area as well. I have ridden in the backseat with my parents around there when I was a kid but I never have made a point to drive up there myself for some reason…

      • 0 avatar
        Onus

        Zayg,

        I’m familiar with the the roads you spoke of. Been through many times.

        Probably my favorite is the road that run by the Deerfield River and the Hoosick Tunnel from a scenery point of view.

        I grew up in Connecticut so Smuggler’s Notch is a bit of a haul. It’s on my bucket list.

        Unfortunately I moved to North Carolina in 2015 and haven’t had much opportunity to do some road trips when I’m up north.

        Good luck on your Sweden / Norway trip!

        • 0 avatar
          zayg

          Thank you! It should be fun.

          The section by the Deerfield River is extremely fun too. You might end up hitting potentially very dangerous speeds, but I have had the best drives of my life pushing my GTI to the limit on the windiest sections of that road.

          You should tear up those western NC roads some time for me.

        • 0 avatar
          Frank Galvin

          Zoar Road right off of Rte. 2 just past Charlemont. That is one of my go to places. The fly fishing on that stretch is phenomenonal.

  • avatar
    rickentropic

    Try the length of any highway mentioned in a Dylan song or by Charles Kuralt. No Pacific Coast Highway this year- Big Sur is effectively an island due to massive landslides. Check recent article in NY Times.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I live close enough to the Blue Ridge mountains that I could make a weekend trip out of it. But it’s not worth a weekend to me.

  • avatar
    ArBee

    Only last night I was talking to a lifelong buddy. I’ve known him since I was eleven, and now I’m sixty-five. He was talking about a ’65 Cadillac convertible that he’d found, very fine condition, and he wants to bid on it. That set my wheels of my mind turning. Neither one of us has ever been to Memphis. Why not a Graceland trip in a droptop Cad? One last blast before we’re too damned old. We’ll see…

  • avatar

    By the time I was 8 I’d crossed the country three times en famille, first in the ol’ Studebaker, and then in the ’57 Chevy wagon. The summer I was 12 was two months all over Europe in the Peugeot 404 wagon. Then, at 17, the first cross country trip where I was in charge, in the ’62 Falcon, and 5-6 more car trips cross country by the time I was 21. And then, post college graduation, Seattle to Boston by Peugeot bicycle.

    It’s four decades since the last cross country trip, although during the first two of those decades I did a number of bicycle trips both in the US and in France.

    My dream is six weeks or so around the country via the backroads in my Civic (stick).

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    “Far too often I hear urbanites who claim to have seen the country by flying from one urban center to another, ignoring the flyover country”

    There is nothing to see out there, just a bunch of ignorant dirt farmers too stupid to drive a Prius. Who wants to see that? Buncha Duck Dynasty fans who have the strange notion that the family should eat together at the table. Weirdos.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @JohnTaurus – those urbanites need to get into the country and get to know those country folk. That would be a small but important step to filling the chasm that exists.
      It is easy to hate someone you don’t know.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I agree, but it works both ways — too many people just think of the city as some place with crime and worthless hipsters, and make no effort to understand it. I’d happily do an exchange: a month for me living with folks in rural Kansas (just to pick a state I’ve never been to) and a month for the rural Kansas resident immersed in the City of Seattle.

  • avatar
    newenthusiast

    I’m originally from Pennsylvania, and parts of US 6 along the northern tier of counties are fun (dependent on where you are and how much traffic is on it), and on a cool, dry autumn day, offer great scenery. It’s NY State rough parallel, Rt 17, is the same by my memory. Portions of it can be fun, as long as conditions are right.

    When I lived in the DC metro area, I saw that the GW Memorial Parkway had potential, but it was always crowded and slow when I was on it. Maybe a late night drive would be fun (if a bit riskier…police, and deer?)

    When we moved to California, I made it a point to drive at least one portion of Rt 66. We stayed in Williams, AZ when we visited the Grand Canyon, and we drove the small portion there that makes up the town’s main street to get to where we were staying, but later we got off I-40 for gas near Seligman and took 66 all the way to Kingman before getting back on the interstate. We had two beat up Chevy’s (mine without air conditioning because it died in Oklahoma) loaded up with our stuff, but even with the heat and heavy vehicles, I would not trade that experience.

    But when I moved to SoCal, we decided to drive the Pacific Coast Highway, the portion that begins in Santa Monica all the way up to across the Golden Gate Bridge. At that point we split off and went on to my wife’s aunt’s house near Mill Valley.

    Its the single most amazing road I have ever driven, and I think my wife took close to 1000 pictures over the two days (we stopped overnight in Pismo Beach). At the time, my wife had a new E46 BMW 325i.

    I’d love to drive another road that offers such a combination of scenery and driving experience like the PCH. Mind you, I am not a ‘driving enthusiast’ per se like some of you, but that road needs to be taken so slow in some portions that all you need is a car you like to drive, not a speed demon.

    The one I really want to do is Blue Mountain Parkway someday. But I am reading this thread and putting the other roads I read about on my list. And I am recommending that if you haven’t driven the roads I mentioned, go try them out.

    • 0 avatar

      Blue Ridge Parkway.

      Damn beautiful between I-66 and where-ever the turnoff is to Charlottesville, but that’s as far as I’ve gone on it. I”ve bicycled most of the Pacific Coast Highway between Eugene OR and SF. Did most of the PCH from San Diego to Portland, OR (and maybe even north of there, I don’t remember) with my parents and sister the year I was 17.

      Have done a bit of bicycling on Colorado 40 in my adulthood–beautiful, and a driver’s road. I also remember it from when I was 8–part of our route from Seattle to Boston. Utah is my favorite state, but most of the roads I’ve driven in Utah are not drivers’ roads. The hiking is spectacular, though.

  • avatar
    zamoti

    Del Puerto Canyon Road just outside of Patterson CA. Did it once in the dark, would like to try to do it again during the day.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    A recent road not taken was Route 2 thru the Champlain Islands in Vermont. Enjoyed it so much, we go back every year. Quick trivia- Lake Champlain was considered the sixth Great Lake for a short time. Another great ride in that area is Rt 9 to Rt 22 going south out of Rouses Point in Upstate NY. Car type doesn’t matter for me, though an old full size Chrysler would fit the bill nicely.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Some of the most epic driver’s roads I’ve had the pleasure to take:

    Box Canyon Road – California

    Off of I-10 on the southern edge of Joshua Tree National Park, Box Canyon Road heads south and southwest through the open desert before going through Box Canyon, with rock walls closing in on either sides, but with wide sandy washes on each side. The road has the right amount of width, curves, passing areas, and lack of travel that begs to be devoured. It then heads to the shores of the Salton Sea. Take it during a more tepid time of the year, and any forced induction engine is going to love that below sea level O2 supply.

    Route 122-A to Route 122 – Holden to Petersham, Massachusetts

    I think that only Ohio and Connecticut could compete with Massachusetts for state trooper per square mile. This area has built up since I use to blast through here. Start in the center of Holden and head out on 122-A north out of the town toward Oakham and Rutland. 122-A turns back into 122. The road twists and turns, with speed limits going for 20 to 50 MPH. The pavement is well cared for and in the evening or early morning traffic is light. You definitely want to slow down as you hit the town centers, but the spaces between are lightly patrolled. Take it in the fall on an early morning before the leafers clog the roads.

    Route 47 – Oregon

    Popular with the crotch rocket set, this road is best suited for a car like a Miata, or Boxster, or other light, good handling car. If you can catch it at the right time and not get caught behind a local driving 5 MPH under the speed limit, you’re rewarded with a pretty technical drive. On the other hand passing areas are sparse, traffic can be heavy, and far too many people make life ending decisions.

  • avatar
    56BelAire

    Crossed Death Valley National Park off my bucket list in April this year. I was pleasantly surprised…..didn’t know it is the largest National Park. We toured for 2 days, the scenery and landscapes are spectacular and quite varied. Early morning and evening into sunset are wow worthy. We still didn’t see it all in 2 days.

    Side note – The editors here periodically ask what might help improve TTAC. On a story like this, if we were able link/attach our road trip photos easily, it would make this article much better……and generate more clicks and comments.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    Riding north on the Yellowhead highway, our merry band of cyclists took a right at Tete Jaune Cache and pedaled east to the Atlantic instead of north to Alaska.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I once many years ago found an abandoned portion of U.S. 67 that ran through north county in the St. Louis area. I vaguely recall dad driving us on that road when I was little. I noticed the road one year and decided to walk it, as there was no vehicle access, and it was only about a half-mile. This was 1974. A very pleasurable and nostalgic walk indeed! Well worth my time.

    The piece of road is still there, although fenced off.

    In 1976, my room mate at the time and I set out on a week long trip all over Missouri on “blue highways”. We even traveled along old U.S. 36 for a time, which was all but practically abandoned, except for a few farmers. The RR tracks ran right along side, as many of the original U.S. highways followed railroads. That was a fun trip I’ll never forget.

    Do this stuff while you are young, for when you get older, life often (but not always) gets in the way!

  • avatar
    AoLetsGo

    I have driven many of the roads in all 50 states and 6 Canadian provinces. I will leave out the obvious choices like PCH, Blue Ridge Parkway or any mountain/seaside roads and throw out a few obscure ones.
    U.S. 2 St. Ignace – Naubinway
    U.S. 62 El Paso – Carlsbad
    S.R. 16 Eastern Montana
    Highway 1 Key Largo – Key West (popular I know, but only do this on a hot, summer, starry night with the top down)

    A couple on the to do list are:
    S.R. 12 in northern Nebraska
    The TAT – Trans-American Trail, a 5,000 mile, dual sport, off pavement route

    • 0 avatar

      Ignace-Naubinway–you need to say what states these are in. Google maps is giving me naubinway in upper michigan to Ignace, in Ontario.

      I did bicycle from Seattle to Sault St. Marie about 95% on Rt. 2 and it did not go through any towns with these names.

      • 0 avatar
        AoLetsGo

        Michigan
        Only the section from the Big Mac bridge to Naubinway on the northern shore of Lake Michigan.
        If you biked through the UP on Rt. 2 not sure how you missed these towns. But then they are really small towns.

  • avatar
    Chan

    From the San Francisco Bay Area, I’ve made it to Crescent City, CA.

    My road not taken is to make it all the way into Oregon. I hope to do this within the next year.

    In terms of sports car driving, there are lots of great mountain roads here and I’ve driven most of them.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I do as many road rallies as I can every year, no point in wasting any of this precious, all too short life we’re given .
    .
    I always try to take the secondary or tertiary roads as they’re less crowded and usually more interesting .
    .
    I’d like to drive the Florida keys on a small Motocycle just because .
    .
    -Nate

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