Missed connections: Rediscovering the back roads of Alamance County

Sometimes, the best way to reconnect with days gone by is to travel those "back roads." / Photo illustration by Rylie Van Wingerden, Times-News correspondent

Commentary by Sam Lowe
Times-News correspondent


   This past summer, my friends and I discovered a new favorite activity: getting lost. On those warm nights when there was a dearth of summer adventure to be had, we had no choice but to make our own. We’d grab our phones and chargers, make sure there was an auxiliary cord in the car, and head out. I would take my car to the edge of city streets I’ve known since childhood and pick a country road with unfamiliar twists and turns; that was where the magic was.
Last summer was my first with a license, so the roads that cut through the county were entirely foreign once you took away a GPS (Global Positioning System). When faced with such a vast unknown, my inner wanderlust came bursting forth. I was dying to explore every road I could find, begging the long and winding yellow stripes to reveal whatever pots of gold lay at their ends.
My friends were more than happy to entertain my inner gypsy. There was always fun to be had when staring the unknown in the face with your best friends in the world. You see, these wanderings were a great metaphor for summertime in general: at the start, what stretches out before you seems vast and infinite, promising excitement around each and every bend. All too quickly, the road ends, leaving no choice but to take the turn that inevitably leads back to the real world. Or that pesky curfew reminds you that time has run out, forcing you back the way you came.
As the summer drove on, we kept driving, too. Our trips into the country became more frequent, approaching status as a nightly excursion. Somewhere along the line, the journeys began reminding us of our childhoods. They rekindled a passion for summer days and nights we had lost some time between elementary school and sophomore year.
The endless possibilities of a break from school were beaten back by expectations of résumé-building and the inevitability of yet another school year. In a way, our excursions became a secret rebellion against reality shared only among those initiated by the back roads.
It’s a peculiar beauty that these old highways offer to my generational companions. In a world where everything’s connected at its fastest by the speed of a fiber optic cable, and at its slowest by about 65 mph, the country roads where the speed limit only occasionally meanders up to 55 mph might as well be a time machine. They’re relics of a time when life moved just a hair slower and when your friends were a little bit farther away. What once was the fastest way to get around now seem superfluous, only necessary for those stragglers not yet annexed by the wave of interconnectivity.
We found beauty on those back roads, but luckily not all of it. There’s plenty more left to explore, the adventure might just be a little farther away now. In that, the roads provide yet another metaphor: as the summers go by, and as we get older, we’ll be taken by the steering wheel and led further and further away from what we’ve known for so long. It’s overwhelmingly exciting and just a little bit scary. I’m starting to feel the first wisps of warmth creeping in the air, and I can’t wait.

 Sam Lowe is a junior at Western Alamance High School and a Teens & Twenties writer.


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