Back on Memorial Day weekend of 2013, my wife and I logged a remarkably scenic 880 mile road trip on our motorcycle. I had so many emotions about our first long ride on the bike.  It was gorgeous, glorious…. and gut-wrenching.

One thing we frequently saw while traveling almost entirely back roads from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C., then to Richmond and back:  There are so many small family stores, restaurants, and attractions in our country that are struggling, dying, or already gone!  Some of these places have supported multiple generations of families, helping them to grow, thrive, and build up the communities around them… and they’ve been lost to the meat grinder of more, bigger, and faster.

sunset motorcycle harley davidson blurry road

Why do I love to travel on back roads?

While in Richmond, I was trying to explain to my parents why I so dramatically preferred taking back roads. At the time, I was struggling to put it into words. As we were riding home, I came to realize why I preferred it so much (aside from the scenery & minimal traffic) – we have the opportunity to truly experience America.

Go ahead and make fun if you like, but it’s really true. What you are seeing is not the cookie cutter McDonalds version of America that you experience when driving 75mph down the interstate. What you see is the real America – at least, a slice of it – while cruising at 40-60mph along back roads, byways and the original interstate system – Routes 30, 40, 50, 250, 66 etc etc.

People own property, live, and work along these roads.

Instead of skipping around the outskirts of town, these roads cut right through the heart of them. You get a feel for the place. Back roads play host to a lot of the cheesy Americana stuff you might have experienced while travelling in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. You get to see and experience things, and meet people, that you otherwise never would.

Eastern Tiger swallowtail butterfly purple loosestrife flowers Rockville bridge Harrisburg
A tiger swallowtail butterfly near the Rockville Bridge outside Harrisburg PA

The Origin of Take Back Roads

All of this spawned an idea. I was reflecting on the whole experience, talking with Amanda about it while we rode home. Travelling on the back roads has dramatically altered my thought process on how I travel – and how I live my daily life.  While I used to look at the trip to and from my destination as a dreary hurdle to slog through during vacation, something that I wanted to be over as quickly as possible… the journey itself is now as much a part of the entire experience as the vacation I’m heading to.

fall colors orange leaves

This train of thought ended up with the idea to start a blog. A place for people to share experiences, pictures, suggestions, and thoughts.  A place for us to encourage each other to get off the highway and explore the byways and back roads.  I feel like many Americans just aren’t doing this anymore when they travel – the journey is no longer a part of the vacation. It’s a wasted day both ends of your trip:  “let’s just get there (and home) as quickly as possible, cramming some in cheap fast food, maybe sleeping at some boring chain hotel and getting back on the road” … instead of exploring roadside stops and local family restaurants and businesses along the way.

Unfortunately, this altered mindset is also visible in the towns and places you pass through:  you see a number of restaurants and businesses that are closed down, boarded up, or are for sale. Family-run operations are going out of business because people just aren’t passing through often enough for them to make a living.

tree dilapidated building brick no windows

Avoid the Highway and Support Small Business

This is a big goal that I have in mind – a way to get the word out to see what we can do to support smaller, more local businesses instead of these massive chains that are killing off American originality. Don’t get me wrong – I occasionally eat or shop at chain places myself.  This is not simply some anti-corporation crusade – large businesses support millions of American families.  This is about bringing attention back to the individuals and families that are pouring their hearts and minds into bringing something unique to life in their community and our country.

In addition, this is not a bikers-only kind of blog – this site is for EVERYONE.  I want to spread the word about the amazing experiences I am having seeing our country for what it truly is in hopes that A) you get out there and check it out yourself, and B) we can all find more amazing places to go see and experience! And, of course, to help keep the places that make America TRULY great up and running.  Happy travelling!

white harley davidson motorcycle broad back road tranquil countryside

Motorcycle Tranquility…


  1. […] I definitely saved the best one for last.  Taking extended road trips to relatively distant destinations using mostly back roads is one of my favorite things to do, traveling or otherwise.  More than just a way of avoiding aggravation or experiencing relaxation, taking long back road adventures is a phenomenal way to truly experience this country.  The things you will see, and hopefully the people you will meet, will provide you with an in-depth feel for who we are as a nation, along with a greater appreciation for the history of how we got there.  In fact, the foundation of this website, and the ideas that have been built up around it, originated on a the final leg of a nearly 900 mile road trip back in 2013. […]

  2. […] Occasionally, it can be as easy as switching your Google Map directions to “Avoid Highways.”  But if you want the full experience of getting off the highway and exploring the countless back roads this country has to offer, there are a few pointers and suggestions I’ve learned since first starting Take Back Roads. […]

  3. Hi, I’m Ricardo, I must say I really like this whole idea of taking back roads to see the real soul of America. Please tell me which are some of your best trips across the USA you have taken? have you travelled from the northeast towards California?. love to hear your wonderful stories.

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