Riding the Backroads. Escaping the Fog of Routine

If you’re like me you often take the fastest way home from work. For me that’s Interstate 75 and Highway 53. But every once in a while I like to take the backroads, the old blue highways, for meditative and medicinal purposes.
Leaving Dalton, Georgia I headed out Dug Gap Battle Road. It cuts through a fracture in the Rocky Face Ridge and was the scene of a battle 150 years ago. Confederate soldiers in the American Civil War were hunkered up there at the top waiting for Sherman’s attack as he began his campaign on Atlanta. The southern soldiers were outnumbered at times by 10-1 but had prepared a surprise for the Yankees. They had loosened boulders at the top of the ridge and set them raining down when the northern army attacked. The confederates repulsed the attack twice before having to skedaddle. The site is commemorated by a visitor’s center and a sign saying: Watch out for falling rocks. (Okay, I’m just joking about the sign.)
The road is mountainous with curves, switchbacks and great views down into the valleys. I remember practicing on it two years ago when I resumed motorcycle riding after a 20 year hiatus. (Getting married and having kids has interrupted if not ruined many a biker’s career.) This time I was amazed at how easy it was for me. Two trips across country will shake the rookie out of you, but I could still remember the fear I had a few years earlier negotiating the sharp bends. After crossing gaps through a few small mountains and ridges, the road twists through pastoral valleys of farmlands, ranches and forested hills.
I passed abandoned chimneys, leaning barns and outbuildings with rusting tin roofs the color of lead, pale green and clay. A sign pointed down a side road toward The Last Days Cowboy Church. A wild pheasant waddled and then flapped across the road in front of me. In the air there was a scent of a fire burning and I could see oyster colored smoke on the horizon. Lavender pink and mauve colored red bud trees played hide and seek in the woodlands. There were loads of double wide trailers with decks attached to them, shotgun cottages with sofas, barbecue grills and dwindling rucks of wood on the porches. Log cabins, a few mansions and a lone Victorian house way off the road also dotted the landscape.
It was a good two lane road, with only a bit of gravel and stones from driveways and curved clumps of mud from tractors pulling out of fields. Big Red, my 2004 Harley Road King, handled it all beautifully. I settled into a meditative and thankful mood.
I find that sometimes just taking a different way home can shake me out of the “everydayness” of my life. It’s too easy for the fog of routine to descend upon me and days run into each other like falling dominoes. Backroads offer surprises, diversions, signs for boiled peanuts, brown eggs and diabetic socks.
It’s a chance to shift gears, slow down, reflect, lean into life’s curves, and for me time to breathe deeply and give thanks for the simple beauty of the world. It helps remind me that it’s not the destination that’s important, it’s the journey. I hope you too can escape the fog of routine and travel the backroads in peace and safety. Just keep an eye out for those falling rocks.

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