Saturday, August 6, 2022


One of many dotting the area
An often used phrase in the Northern Great Plains says, "There are two seasons, winter and road construction." Along with orange barrels and cones are the familiar detour signs. I am coming to believe that orange is overtaking green as the color of summer.

According to the following are definitions of the word "detour": 1. a roundabout or circuitous way or course, especially one used temporarily when the main route is closed 2. a deviation from a direct, usually shorter route or course of action." 

For the most part I have found detours to be frustrating. When driving I want to arrive at the destination as quickly as possible. With the relatively high price of gasoline, efficiency is also a key factor. The advent of navigation via phone applications has aided me on numerous occasions. This past week I used online navigation even with some familiarity of the area. A 
change of plans brought a change of route finding. Gravel roads were to be a part of the change. Navigation indicated that I was to go straight for eight miles. After one mile, a large sign alerted me, "Bridge Closed." I had driven across, as well as biked across this beautiful, old bridge in previous years. Forging ahead and cresting the hill I noticed barriers on both sides of the bridge. Both barriers had been pushed to one side 
leaving an inviting lane of passage. Being in a hurry I contemplated driving across. Caution reigned and I turned around on the narrow road with steep ditches. Had I been on a bike I would have more fully explored my options. The bridge deck looked solid. Back to the intersection where the initial sign was located I disregarded the spoken navigation (I was told to turn onto a dead end road) and charted my own route. The rural, gravel intersection did not have any detour signs!

Directional arrows
This situation along with a few others which happened this week provided ample contemplation. When highway engineers design roads, is their default developing the most direct route? When the Interstate Highway System began in 1956, these four lane, limited access ribbons of thick concrete were meant to be straight and efficient. Portions were also designed to be used as runways for the lumbering military bombers of that era. I am thankful to highway engineers. When driving I appreciate straight and efficient! Yet the question bounces around in my mind, "Why do highway engineers control where I go?"

The pondering continues for me. Who determines that a detour exists? Who controls the narrative of what is normative? Who determines efficiency? What is temporary and what is permanent? Are these decisions left to lawmakers, celebrities, influencers, opinion polls, medical professionals, clergy, economists, engineers, etc.? Is determining the correct and efficient course for life a collective decision, an individual decision, or a combination? I am grateful for the experiences and insights of others as useful guides. Sharing experiences and stories adds shape, color, and vibrancy to the fabric of life. Why is it that when I veer from the set course I am on a detour? I am plotting my own course. It may not be straight and efficient, but it is mine to experience. Am I less than normal when I go exploring on my own? Is staying within the lanes of "normative", taking the route of least resistance, forfeiting personal growth? Are autonomous driving vehicles the logical extension of humans mindlessly following one another?

Similar vehicles in a straight line

I will continue to use online navigation to visualize routes and options. I will also inquire of others in order to hear their experiences and glean from their insights. I will no longer be frustrated by what others decide is a detour. I will live fully to explore and appreciate the journey ahead!

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