You’ve no doubt heard the saying “Life’s a journey, not a destination.” The first person to utter those words was probably some guy responding to his wife’s suggestion that he stop and ask for directions because they were lost! But past that, there’s a lot of truth in that old saw (especially if you’re lucky enough to be a car guy). We’re our happiest when we’re doing something involving our cars, be it wrenching on them, showing them, or driving them.

For us, we get the most pleasure from driving them, which makes the worst thing about getting someplace the fact that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Anytime we put some real distance on the odometer, we’re usually heading for a specific destination. Thanks to the great interstate system that makes our country’s maps look like someone dropped a plate of spaghetti, we can jump on the expressway a couple of miles from our driveway and get off a couple miles from our final destination, never seeing a lot of really great country. Because we’re usually in a hurry to get there (wherever “there” is), we never give much thought to what’s in between.

Last year we were lucky enough to drive a Viper from our Lakeland, Florida, office up to Atlanta to do a horsepower comparo against a ’67 Hemi Belvedere (“Head To Head,” December, 1999). Running from the southern tip of Florida right up to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Interstate 75 is, more-or-less, a straight shot through the nation. Because we had to be in Atlanta the morning after we got the keys to the snake, we hopped on I-75 and hit Auto Pilot for the next eight hours, not seeing anything but truck stops and concrete “Jersey barriers” the whole way.

We were done on the dyno Friday afternoon and didn’t have to be back in the office until Monday morning, so we decided to take the opportunity to go the long way home, never getting near an expressway for over 800 miles. It was glorious!

This may sound like a tourist infomercial, but driving through the small towns that are barely dots on a map is more enjoyable than just about anything we’ve done in years. We shunned the national franchise restaurants in favor of mom-and-pop diners. Some were good, some weren’t, but when’s the last time you actually got to say “I’ll have the Blue Plate Special?” Better still, when’s the last time you walked out of a restaurant and the strangers at the counter, who all know each other, said “Good bye, drive safe” as you headed for the door?

Remember when the drug store still had a lunch counter? We found one on Saturday evening, but small towns have a tendency to roll up the sidewalks at 5 o’clock, and it was closed for the day—we were crushed.