“”Second Star to the Right, and Straight on till Morning.” That, Peter had told Wendy, was the way to Neverland.” (From “Peter Pan”, by J. M. Barrie)
We have sought Neverland at the tiller of a sailboat. We have searched from the handlebars of a bicycle. Our feet tread the 1,000 year old path of Pilgrims in Spain. Beginning in May, 2015 we have sought it along the roads of North America. Our choices are to either travel the Interstate system or choose the “Blue Star Highways” of America.
The Interstates are beasts of concrete and steel, creature of post World War 2 prosperity and expansion in America. They are a monument to the ability of mankind to wrestle nature’s boundaries and obstructions into submission. They are byways without passion or soul, roads known only by a number and a direction. The Interstate is blunt force that catapults the traveler from one place to another as a bow shoots an arrow.
The Blue Star highways are highways in name only. Now less traveled, they were born in the distant past and were later dedicated to the memory of US soldiers fallen in World War 2. Their courses are typically determined by nature, some portions by the pre-Columbian residents, and other sections by early European explorers. They make a path in compromise with the natural lay of the land. There are only gentle modifications to grade and course. Unlike the Interstate, which blasts through a hill in order to maintain direction and grade, The Blue Stars meander on and around the rise and fall of the land, like a ribbon uncoiling from its spool.
The Blue Stars are living roads that have a personality, they have a soul. I grew to know these roads well during my bicycle ride across America in 2010. Then I was captive to their course, and emotions. As I peddled, a road would smile seductively with her long slow descending curves. At times I was embraced by the safety of a wide flat shoulder but with caprice her mood would change. The shoulder would become a sliver of pavement, the road forcing me uncomfortably close to the onslaught of the wheels of thundering lumber trucks. Her gentle slope would suddenly turn skyward to challenge my legs and my lungs. She could be calm with the smoothness of new laid asphalt or she would thunder anger through my thin tires, shaking me bodily as I rolled over broken and rough damaged pavement. A change in the wind speed, direction, or temperature would either brush my cheek as a kiss, or smack me in the face with force.
The Interstate is a wasteland. In some parts of the country a place which is available to serve travelers with food and fuel is appropriately named an Oasis. People are only permitted within its boundaries if encased in or astride upon a motor vehicle. The Interstate separates us from the environment and creates its own. There are no sounds, no smells, and the sights are relegated to the distance in favor of declarations of speed, distance, and destination.
As one meanders through town and village following upon a “Blue Star” there are dogs to chase you, and children to waive at. Schools, churches, and stores extend their parking lots to you. Cemeteries present the memories of those who have passed before us. The roadsides are picketed as far as the eye can see with the mailboxes of the homes which bordered her lanes… one can not only read the names of the residents, but actually exchange greetings. Bridges nearly touch the water. Slowing, one can peer over the low railings to see the wildlife that the rivers sustain. These roads serve up sights, smells, and sounds as a banquet for the senses.
“Neverland” is not found on the Interstate. For us the “second star on the right” is a Blue Star.
Peace! Pete Schloss
Originally posted May 25, 2015