Stop and Smell the Roses

Fall 2001 CSANews Issue 40  |  Posted date : Apr 01, 2007.Back to list

The view was breathtaking! Below us lay a luxurious forest, rolling fields, a sparkling river, and so many colours that an artist's palette pales in comparison. In a nearby clearing, a herd of deer quietly grazed, oblivious to the traffic whizzing past above them. We stepped out of our vehicle and stood entranced for several minutes. Nature never stops amazing us.

We might have missed this magnificent picture if we hadn't stopped where the sign said "Scenic View Ahead." How many of these signs have you ignored along the highways of Canada and America? Sometimes we're in a genuine hurry and must reach our destination by a certain hour, but more often than not, we have become creatures of habit. We are on the road and we must keep moving!

Health experts warn us repeatedly not to sit in one position for hours. This is dangerous for both our hearts and our circulation. Our concentration waivers. Our attention level drops and our stress levels rise. Yet here we are, with several weeks or months of holidays ahead of us, and we still think that we have to arrive at a certain destination at a certain time, or else! The only breaks along the road are for gasoline, the bathroom and perhaps a quick bite at a roadside coffee shop. With these stops, we only actually walk and stretch for five minutes or less.

The argument is, " But there is nothing worthwhile to see," or "I have travelled that highway 20 times. It's boring." However, at the gateway to every province and state one can find tourist bureaus listing hundreds of sights and places of interest. These rest areas also provide a good break and most of the tourist information representatives love to talk with visitors. Undoubtedly you'll find that many places of interest are not really off the beaten path at all! If you still abide by the Boy Scout's motto of, "Be Prepared," before setting out, visit your local library. Most have Internet access to research your route or, at the very least, they probably stock all kinds of tourist publications. Truthfully, road signs often whet our curiosity and lure us in when we least expect it! Last year we found a fascinating Mennonite village this way.

Why must we leave at a certain hour, eat at a certain fast-food stop, stay at the same motel and arrive at the exact same hour? We persuade ourselves that it is the best thing to do. We ignore the stiffness and tiredness, the warning aches and pains and sometimes the discomfort of our spouse or passenger. Perhaps when we were 25 years old and on a business trip this was a necessity, but now, hopefully, many days of freedom and relaxation stretch ahead of us.

Most of our highways in North America are engineering marvels, wide, four-lane, straight and boring. They encourage us to drive at fast speeds, in fact many have a minimum of 40 or 50 miles per hour. They are built straight across country, usually through virgin land, and each hill and tree looks the same as the next. They are practical, but lead to exhaustion. Often there are twice as many transport trucks as cars on these ribbons of pavement. Instead of driving straight through, perhaps it's time to investigate that secondary highway that parallels your route ­ the one that passes through scenic countryside. Have you ever wandered off the highway a little farther and visited a little seaside fishing village? We did once, and found the best oyster stew ever. We had to wait while they shucked the oysters that had just come in off the boat and believe me, it doesn't get any fresher or tastier than that!

Have you ever visited the bayous of Louisiana, found a lake full of pink spoonbills and a swamp of alligators, or driven through the forest of Redwoods in late afternoon with the light filtering through the trees like nature's giant cathedral? How about stopping at Hot Springs and enjoying the bubbling waters and a massage? Have you wandered along a side road for a few miles to visit a quaint little village?

People travel to other countries and spend thousands of dollars on tours. Certainly there are exciting places to visit and interesting things to see. But the roads from Toronto or Montreal to Florida, Winnipeg to Texas, Vancouver to California can be just as exhilarating.

With just a little planning, you can visit theatres and music halls, and find cities such as Branson filled with fun and entertainment. Travelling off-season often provides us with better hotel deals. We have friends who enjoy casinos and look for new ones to visit as a stopover break. For the shopping enthusiast, there are outlet malls and quaint little local craft shops. Golfers can find a variety of exciting courses to challenge their skills.

One year, we studied a number of pamphlets and visited many little towns on the route south to see their courthouses. Each was an important piece of America with an interesting history and individual architecture. We have stopped to see caves, waterfalls and historical sites. One time, we ended up in the middle of a small-town America parade!

Insurance statistics tell us that many older people become seriously ill shortly after long, exhausting trips. Some of this may be due to external stresses, but much of it is likely because of the way we travel.
       
Many of us eat fast food, don't drink enough fluids, don't get enough rest (up at dawn, travel until dark) and don't get enough exercise. Travelling becomes a marathon of endurance. Yet life is short, and the number of years we have to see the wonders of this beautiful world are limited. Nature is a beautiful gift, offering an overwhelming variety of unusual birds and wildflowers. Many of the cities along our routes contain wonders that bring people from other countries and continents. Let's take advantage of our time. Try making some changes this fall! I guarantee you won't arrive so tired, you will enjoy yourself and you will have memories that will last for as long as you do.

And pass the word on to your friends.
Stop and smell the roses!