On Taking a Detour

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Jun 27, 2015

“Sometimes the most scenic roads in life are the detours we didn’t mean to take.”
Angela N. Blount

It was one of those days when we were driving home on I-81. For most of the day we would be driving through the beautiful Shenandoah Valley. Our starting point was in Knoxville, Tennessee and we had been driving several hours when we decided to find a place where we could stop for lunch.

For anyone who takes a driving trip you know there are always a lot of restaurants where two interstate highways intersect. Even though we depend mostly on GPS for guidance, at times I still like to use a map. With the help of both, I knew we were approaching the intersection of I-77 and I-81. The road signs also told us we had many options to satisfy our hunger. 

We decided to turn off at the exit that seemed to have the best food choices. Unfortunately, just as we were ready to slow down, we discovered we had inadvertently missed the turn we intended to take and we were traveling north on I-77. We definitely did not want to head northwest to West Virginia. We thought for a moment about turning around in the median but knew that was not a wise choice. So we settled in for the next exit.

We had no idea how many miles we would have to travel until we could get off the highway, turn around and resume our plans for lunch. Soon, we saw a sign which told us we would have to travel about six miles before the next exit. 

At last we got there, turned off a small ramp and arrived at a stop sign. Just as we pulled up to it we knew we had two choices. We could turn left and get right back on the freeway and within ‚Äč10 minutes be sitting at a table enjoying lunch. And from there we could resume our trip home. Or, we could turn right and take the Twin Valley Creek road and see where it led us. What should we do … turn left or turn right … right or left … get back on the path home or take the detour? We were ready for lunch but we were also ready for a spontaneous adventure. We took the detour.

I wish I could share with you everything we saw on that detour as we wound our way through the mountains of southwestern Virginia. Log cabins. Farms. Streams. Split-rail fences. Winding roads through the valley. Winding roads up and down the mountain. Narrow roads. One lane bridges over small streams. Farmers baling hay. Barns. Abandoned cabins. Blooming peonies and irises and roses. Big trees that must have heard the sound of muskets during the Civil War. Stone walls. A village with a handful of houses. Satellite dishes. Fenced in gardens to keep out the wildlife. 

And then, up over a mountain on Robinson Tract Road, a narrow road which zigzagged just as much on the way down. Most of the roads were hardly wide enough for one car but that didn’t matter since we encountered very little traffic. 

On and on we went savoring each bend in the road and each new sight. Around every corner was a new experience we would never forget. We breathed in the air knowing we had done the right thing.

Two hours later we came to Pulaski, Virginia and from there we were five minutes from I-81. We had just experienced a two-hour intentional detour and we loved every minute of it. 

Detours can occur because we are required to take them. Detours can also take place because we choose to take them. But no matter why we are on a detour, it is our attitude toward it that changes everything. As Mandy Hall said, “Sometimes it takes a wrong turn to get you to the right place.”    

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of  
University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville, Pa. 
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