Roads Less Traveled

Forsaking the Freeways

By Bob Bailey

One of my first of many business trips to Idaho came just after a huge storm hit the Burley and Rupert area in the early 1980s, extending all the way to Twin Falls. I found it remarkable that I-84 wasn’t plowed, because the state government didn’t have the money to plow it. The interstate was lined with thousands of pheasants, which had come to the edge of the pavement and for some reason had simply died. I love to watch pheasants and to hunt them, and to me this was a tragic loss of wildlife. When I came through the area the next month, the bodies of the birds were gone but the snow was compacted into a thick layer of ice, with two ruts in the outside lane that you followed as if you were on a train track. Around Hazelton, my vehicle popped out of the ruts, did a complete 360-degree spin at 55 mph, and then dropped back into the ruts like nothing had happened. It would have been cool to watch, but I’m glad the state’s inability to take care of her highways that year was an anomaly.

I’m not sure when the idea clicked in my head to stop using the freeways and follow alternate routes if possible to get to where I needed to go. The car and credit card belonged to the company, but I didn’t abuse that privilege, and as long as the work was done satisfactorily, everyone was happy. I guess the sweet smell of adventure led me to the side roads, and it probably had something to do with living in Los Angeles and driving freeways every day. Maybe I was just rebelling—after all, I am a product of the 1960s. In any case, I learned that to leave the interstate system was to discover the real Idaho. Most Idaho freeways are located in less-than-scenic areas of the state, which I like to think was done on purpose to save the good stuff for the locals.

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