I took the back roads home from work last night, successfully avoiding the Labor Day weekend traffic on local Interstates.
The commute begins on Route 28, a six-lane boulevard where I start in Rockville. The road is filled with cars and flanked by shops, restaurants, apartments and office parks. Cars turn left and right at each traffic light as I proceed straight ahead; a smile grows on my lips as the traffic volume shrinks.
Left lane must turn left. Right lane ends in 1000 feet.
Now highway 28 is a grey and yellow ribbon draped across estates, horse farms and acres of corn fields. Gentle rolling hills and a slowly setting sun add peace to the ride. Two traffic lights punctuate the scene, each in the center of a quaint town where small, centuries-old buildings nudge their toes against the curb.
Ever heard the John Denver song “Take Me Home Country Roads”? Despite the lyric reference to West Virginia, this is the road he used to drive on that provided inspiration for the song.
Next stop: Point of Rocks, a town known for its train station by city dwellers and for Potomac River spring floods by the locals.
North on 15, then three-fourths of the way around a new traffic circle (geez, why did they put that there?) to head west on straight-as-an-arrow, tree-lined route 464 toward Brunswick. No estates, just houses; “real “people live on this road.
Now north on 17, setting sun paints the sky mustard color behind South Mountain to my left and farms paint my right side view a calm green. A few miles later, the pace is even slower on cobblestone streets in the center of Burkittsville, site of the Blair Witch Project movie.
Ten minutes later I catch the steeples of Middletown, the main skyline feature of my adopted home. I call it my town, but I really live a few more miles ahead, on a developed street surrounded by rural farms and a creek bank full of trees. My neighbors include deer and rabbit as well as people.
As I enter the driveway, my barking dogs almost drown out the sound of my ringing cell phone. My field of vision is first filled with a cluttered garage, then with bills and junk mail.
Only one thing keeps me from getting back in the car and driving west.