It also is several traffic lights and, during tourist season (about three days short of year-round), enough traffic to make a Washington, D.C. commuter cry while trying to navigate the path directly through town. Most times, it’s quicker to go over the mountain.
The subject came up recently when a friend laughingly reminded me that during vacation together in Maine, I often got up before any of the other three people in our party and drove 15 miles to Moody’s Diner for a dozen fresh donuts. It seemed a long way, my friend commented.
It was an easy drive, I replied. The route took me along a twisty two-lane country road, past some beautiful posies I stopped to photograph on one such trip, across the road from a ramshackle barn just large enough to shelter an apparently defunct antique Suzuki Samurai – the latter, a cute but capable Jeep-like vehicle from the days before we knew how to spell S-U-V.
Along the way, I found an old cemetery – always a great history book of any area – and a public trail into an otherwise primeval forest.
It was a short 15 miles for some very fine donuts, the latter which the others of my party, notably with valiant effort, helped me dispose.
When I lived in Sunnyvale, CA, we would pack up our new babies on a Sunday afternoon and drive 18 miles to the Eastgate Mall, a three-story retail mecca larger than some towns in which I have lived. It was so huge a pilot landed – not crashed – his airplane on the roof.
The next place I lived was on Adak Island, about halfway out the Aleutian Chain, four hours by a four-engine turboprop passenger plane from Anchorage. My wife and I were playing pinochle with friends one evening when we discovered a nearly game-ending shortage of refreshments.
The grocery store was less than a mile away, but as we were discussing who would bundle up to venture the late night Alaskan weather, Jim declared, “We don’t really need to go all that way just for some chips.’ One of the ladies sweetly suggested he shut up and deal, and we got back to the game.
Later by several years, I was sitting in a cabin beside a nearly deserted and ice bound pond, quietly contemplating the way a full moon shone through a stand of birches, when I discovered the last can of snuff was empty. It wasn’t that I was addicted to the stuff; I’d been known to go whole hours without a pinch of ground up tobacco under my lip, but that empty can kept calling to me.
After a few minutes of contemplation, I pulled on a parka, fired up the Dodge, and drove 13 miles to the 7-11 for a can of snuff. (A few years later, I quit using the stuff, entirely. No more trips to 7-11 – but that, as they say, is a dog for another bone.) On that night, I arrived home a couple hours later – with another column about driving solo on mountain roads in the moonlight.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but it rarely leads past the woods trails, antique SUVs – or the best donuts.
Sometimes, as the song says, “The longest way ’round is the sweetest way home.”
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