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Just Write: Slow down, look around; not-so-beaten path may be more interesting

Wednesday, March 19, 2014, 2:48 p.m.
 

When you're driving, it's always difficult to take in the scenery.

I realized that Saturday as I was driving to State College.

Having done the drive several times, I opted for Route 22 — quicker by a few minutes than paying to use the Turnpike, according to Google Maps.

And the free road surely has more to look at than much of the Turnpike, anyway.

We're so accustomed to using major highways and airplanes to get us as quickly to our destinations as possible, that we've collectively turned our backs on small towns, quirky businesses and a number of attractions.

Somewhere along Route 22, I discovered a rundown former gas station — one of many, actually. But this one stood out for how prominent it was along the highway. I looked at the old business as I passed, but wondered for several minutes what life was like in the prime of that little gas station.

I pictured older cars — the ones we see in archived photos or film — with families or businessmen driving in to fill up.

While old structures remain empty, businesses along the somewhat busy stretch of highway reminded me that things change. Take, for instance, the drive-thru Sheetz near Blairsville. The modern day convenience store lets drivers pull into a drive-thru similar to a fast-food restaurant, select items from a screen, pay at a window, receive their orders and get on the road.

Closer to Altoona, I peered onto a nearby mountainside to see railroad tracks leading toward engineering marvel Horseshoe Curve — a National Historic Landmark.

The drive between Pittsburgh and State College isn't the only intriguing stretch of highway.

I once — mistakenly — took Route 30 home from Harrisburg after realizing I clicked the Google Maps button to turn off major highways. I didn't mind as I enjoyed the ride looking at many of the landmarks WQED producer Rick Sebak documented in his film “A Ride Along the Lincoln Highway.”

As I drive these once-necessary stretches of roadway, I think how great it would be to spend more time than a few seconds passing by fascinating locations. I'm just always in a hurry.

Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rcherry@tribweb.com.

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