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Find somewhere off the beaten path - Todd DeFoe

There's two ways to reach any destination n the main roads and somewhere off the beaten path.

There are countless back roads and country highways crisscrossing the nation. And finding one to take on the next vacation will add a certain flair interstates can't n charm. Major highways generally don't offer these types of opportunities, instead bypassing many small communities in favor of faster travel.

Someone once said: "It's the journey, not the destination." And without a doubt, it's how n and where n you travel that is often the most remembered part of any trip.

There's something to be said about seeing America from her back roads, passing through the nation's small towns and stopping to take in the sights. From your car window, you can see sprawling farms, rolling hills and historic towns that tell stories and welcome visitors to explore just a little longer and a little deeper.

I carry a road atlas in my car; its cover is torn, its pages worn from constant use. On every road trip, I will open the atlas at least once and look for small roads in the area, hoping that at least one will take me to where I want to go.

"I always try to find a different route to where ever I am going," Heather Donahoe of Clarksville, Tenn., said. "It's much more fun to head out on small roads in the country and try to find your way. Maybe you'll get lost along the way, but it's no big deal. You'll find where you're going eventually."

But for Heather, she doesn't need a trip as an excuse to take a drive. She finds it an excellent way to relax, and while doing so, she learns all about the communities around where she lives.

"Sometimes, I'll just go for a drive," she explains. "It's very therapeutic. I think it's one of the best ways to relax and relieve your stress for a little while."

Usually, in deciding to take a driving trip, we'll look at a map and say to ourselves: "Self, what is the quickest way there?" And often, our busy schedules necessitate arriving at our destination as quickly as possible, and usually driving isn't an option, especially on long-distance trips. But when schedules permit, take a little longer; find some small town that barely makes the map, do a little research and stop for lunch. Take 10 minutes to look around downtown, stop in a local store and buy a souvenir.

This is the best way to learn what America truly is like, the America that isn't on television every night and the America that isn't in a constant state of hurry. Often, folks consider big cities and metropolitan areas as havens for culture and tourist sights. But, all of the small towns in America offer just as much to see as the biggest cities do; it's just people tend to drive past them on their way to the big cities.

Just think about what you are missing.

As Jimmy Buffett once sang: "On another road in another time, like a novel from the five and dime, take another road another time."

Todd DeFeo is the education reporter for the Daily Herald. His column appears on Wednesdays. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161or via e-mail at tdefeo@henryherald.com .