Wednesday, May 27, 2009


On the way down to Destin this year, I found myself inspired by a road. By some of the things I saw and thought and didn't see. This post has kinda been in the back of my mind ever since.

US Route 331.

I don't know if it is possible to develop an emotional attachment to a span of pavement, but if it is, then I have. I love that road, and have driven every inch of it several times.

Coming out of Montgomery, as I-65 turns southwestward for Mobile, 331 heads almost due South towards the Emerald Coast of the Florida panhandle and her white sand beaches.

For 150 miles--nearly all of it two lanes--331 leads you through quiet countryside and quaint towns. None of which have populations of more than six or seven thousand. Towns such as Luverne, Opp, Florala, and Brantley. The latter has a sign proudly proclaiming it as the hometown of former NBA star Chuck Person.

They are hushed little towns where time may not have stopped, but it surely has slowed down. There's a simpleness there that I long for. There are town squares with time-worn buildings and empty storefronts, where I imagine that not too awful long ago you could go into the local drug store and find a real soda fountain. And just maybe, in one of them, you still can.

In between towns, there is more countryside. Houses, farms, and fields, interrupted only by the occasional gas station or roadside cafe. There are homemade signs for antique shops and a flea market, and a billboard inviting you to stop in at the It Don't Matter Family Restaurant. I always think about stopping, but haven't yet.

You will inevitably come upon a train of four or five or seven cars with out-of-state tags on their way to or from the beach. Having its southern terminus at Highway 98, a few miles east of Destin, 331 has been a popular route for beach-goers. But traffic has declined in recent years. For every open store there seems to be at least one other that's closed down. And at times, I'm overtaken by the sense of what I don't see and the feeling of what no longer is.

Several years back, there was talk of four-laning 331. But as other beach routes--supposedly quicker and passing through fewer towns--gained in popularity, that never came to fruition. And I for one, am kinda glad. I already get my fill of four-lanes and interstates. So I'll keep taking the road less traveled, literally.

Besides, little towns where people live and work and go to church, mow their grass and grow their gardens, raise their kids and put tacky lawn decorations in the yard--as the song says, ain't that America? Maybe not an America we hear much about anymore, but one that definitely still exists. You just have to slow down sometimes to see it.

"There's a place where mornings are an endless blue, and you feel Mother Nature walk along with you. Where simple people livin' side by side still wave to their neighbor when they're drivin' by..."


  1. Sometimes one does fall in love with routes, even if we travel those without seeing day after day. The day we don't we miss it.


    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
    And sorry I could not travel both
    And be one traveler, long I stood
    And looked down one as far as I could
    To where it bent in the undergrowth

    Then took the other as just as fair
    And having perhaps the better claim
    Because it was grassy and wanted wear
    Though as for that, the passing there
    Had worn them really about the same

    And both that morning equally lay
    In leaves no step had trodden black
    Oh, I kept the first for another day!
    Yet, knowing how way leads onto way
    I doubted if I should ever come back

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence
    Two roads diverged in a wood
    And I took the one less traveled by
    And that has made all the difference

    Robert Frost

  3. Unfortunately many of those smaller towns are slowly dying, as evidenced by the empty store fronts. Some of them survive, but for many the young 'uns grow up, go off to college, and never come back.

    Those are the towns where you could move to and live for 50 years, and the 'locals' would still refer to your house by the former owner's name. And never ask for directions from the locals, because they'll often include reference to landmarks that no longer exist.

    "Go down the road about 15 miles 'til you pass old man Parson's barn - what burned down 15 years ago - then make a left where the Baptist Church was - right up 'til the flood of '72 - and you can't miss it. It's right across the road from where the old Pinkerton estate used to be."

  4. You are so right! Off the beaten path is sometimes the best way to go....and my choice of travel as well. Most people are just wanting to get from point A to point B...the faster the better. I wish more people would slow down and enjoy the drive as much as the destination. I have stumbled upon so many great people, places & pictures by taking the road less traveled. Life goes by too fast as it is....keep enjoy the lonely roads Bone!

  5. I just drove down that road this past weekend... love it.

    My friend Rachel and I always laugh at ourselves because we love 30-A that runs through the beaches of South Walton- love that road.

  6. Gautami - I don't get to drive this road that often. But I'm always looking forward to the next time I do.

    Renee - That poem definitely crossed my mind several times while writing this. Here's one for you:

    Her bouquet cleaved his hardened shell
    And fondled his muscled heart
    He embibed her glistening spell
    Just before the other shoe... fell


    Capn John - You're right. So many of them just seem like a shell of what they used to be. I always try to picture how it must have once looked.

    Haha. Enjoyed your directions. So true.

    Missy's World - There are definitely times when I want to get some place faster. But whenever possible, I prefer to slow down a tad and enjoy the drive.

    Cami - This past weekend? I'm jealous!

    Glad I'm not the only one to develop an affection for a road :)

  7. Simply beautiful Bone simply beautiful

    I feel that way often; I want to touch the past and have it stick just a bit A simpler way of life that being from NY I never knew and never will. Though they say I'm still being NY when I can't chill when my house is being flooded etc

    And I wish the sign on 17 coming from NC said something else other than "north myrtle beach; birthplace of Vanna White" but I guess that will do

    This was a great departure. As much as I love the funny Bone, I miss these types of posts. Thanks--and uh "funny Bone" sounds uh weird but...

  8. What an amazing post, Bone. Wow. I've often felt attachment to stretches of pavement, so don't feel alone. It starts to come to a point where certain roads feel like you were meant to drive them. And maybe you were.

    While I love the entire post, that last paragraph is nothing short of amazing: that's some of your best writing right there. Truly beautiful.

  9. I miss the drive between Lancaster (where I used to live) and York (where my parents live). Your post really reminded me of it... not because it sounds similar particularly. Just because it was a drive I loved, especially in the summer. I didn't like it too much in bad weather - it was a little too off the beaten track at some points!

  10. I've been working on a piece about Nevada 447--to the Black Rock desert... And as for those towns, I live in one of them.

  11. Pia - Vanna White! Really? Do you give tours of her birthplace when people visit?

    Yeah, I kinda realized I'd been doing nearly all light and funny lately. It'd been awhile since I donned this hat. Thank you.

    TC - I'm glad I'm not alone. But then, you also hold conversations with inanimate objects as I recall ;-)

    Thank you. I didn't feel like I could ever quite get this post to turn out like I wanted, so compliments like that make me feel better about it.

    J Adamthwaite - Aww, I'm glad you were reminded of a pleasant memory. It's always a good feeling when people relate to something I write.

    Sage - Cool. I'll bet there's a hardware store and a drug store downtown, or at least used to be?

    Shelby - Why thank ya, Miss Shelby.

  12. Bone

    This is so well writen it almost makes me wish I still lived in a small town.

  13. I love taking the road less travelled...

    I've been so out of the blog loop since I got back from vacation weeks ago...what a pleasure to sit, read, and chuckle my way through your posts since the end of April. I had been in Bone withdrawal and didn't even know it! :~)

    I'm glad you had a great time at the did I. And I love your new 'do!

  14. The post made me wish had a road like that to follow once in awhile. Indeed Bone I may have to go find one.

  15. I don't know where Vanna's house is; if the poor people have to have a plaque stating "birthplace of...." Or if the sign is enough

    This post is one of my top five Bone posts ever

    They are hushed little towns where time may not have stopped, but it surely has slowed down. There's a simpleness there that I long for. There are town squares with time-worn buildings and empty storefronts, where I imagine that not too awful long ago you could go into the local drug store and find a real soda fountain. And just maybe, in one of them, you still can.

    That paragraph exactly states my feelings.

  16. I do, and I'm very proud of it! Don't even try and claim you've never talked to yourself or an inanimate object: I'm sure you'll be lying :-P

    Well, I think that must just be all in your head, because this is definitely one of your best posts. It's nothing short of amazing. You should be proud of it.

  17. This sounds amazing... I haven't been down this road, but I am also in love with it. Your writing is fantastic and I loved reading.

  18. i need to think about it but i don't think I have ever had a favorite road!

    (thanks for your sweet comment to me bone and i must tell you, everytime you mention your mom, I find myself liking her more and more!)

  19. Bone, this is just gorgeous!

  20. You take the reader on your journey, and the reader doesn't want the journey to end

  21. You make me want to visit... to witness 331 for myself... and to see it through your eyes.

    I find two-lane highways terrifying... the constant fear of head-on collisions.

    I'm also scared of small towns... too many horror movies.

    But you make it seems so beautiful, and I hope to remember this post when I'm traveling those types of roads...

  22. Yeah-we actually have two hardware stores and a drug store and a two coffee shops (smoking and non!) But it's a little larger town--7000 and a county seat.

  23. This post describes why I love roadtrips to sparse destinations. It seems the smaller the city, the more alive it really is!

    The Road less traveled has always been one of my favorite poems.

  24. I waited for you at the top of the Empire State Building. Where were you?

  25. Thanks for that truly funny comment :)
    I like Mindy's husband in real life--Mark Harmon

  26. Man. That reminds me of childhood for some reason. I have no childhood association with a particular road, but that whole set-up reminded me of being a kid on my bicycle. Maybe it was the descriptions of small towns, because I immediately thought of riding my bike with my friends down to the creek and feeling like summer would last forever. Sigh.

  27. You can definately have an attachment to a stretch of pavement. This post is so beautifully written, I want to drive that road, see what you've seen.
    Alabama's on my list anyway, now I know where to go!