An ode to the county road

Published 12:27 pm Friday, March 25, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By MEG HERNDON | Staff Writer

Growing up, I was very lucky to have an incredibly short commute to most of the places I needed to go.

I tend to measure driving distances in the number of songs it takes me to get somewhere. So, my schools, my job, places to go on the weekend, they were all within one to three songs from my house.

For those that find this way of measuring distance confusing and would rather I give you a standard (yet boring) metric, my high school, college and job were all within a mile of my house.

It wasn’t until I started working at Shelby County Newspapers Inc. that I was forced to take off my rose-colored glasses, see how spoiled I was and realistically look at commutes and driving. My three-minute commute had turned into a 40 minute one, and I wanted nothing more than to complain about it to anyone that had ears.

Much to my (then) dismay, this 40-minute commute allowed me to become very familiar with county roads.

When I first started driving to work, I much preferred the interstate half of my drive over the county road half.

Consistently getting stuck behind someone going 20 under the speed limit or a garbage truck was an easy way to ruin my mood for the rest of the day.

Occasionally, someone might pull out in front of me as if they’re filming a new movie for the Fast and Furious franchise only to then slow down to the speed of a snail, and I took it entirely too personally, and still do if we’re being honest.

However, as I adjusted I began to see the hidden beauty of the mundane county road.

At the risk of sounding cliché, once I began seeing the drive as part of the journey and not a means to an end, it all became much more enjoyable.

I finally have time to listen to a new album when it comes out. As in, actually listen to it and enjoy it instead of listening to it as housework background noise.

Within a week I can get through an audiobook, sometimes even two, and I have time to catch up on my favorite podcasts or find new ones.

I also have time to slow down and appreciate Alabama for its scenery. It is very beautiful to drive home on a February day when the sun is setting at 4:30 or 5 p.m., and watch the sun come down over the trees.

Nothing beats a windows-down county road drive on a sunny 72° fall or spring day.

It is somewhat therapeutic in nature – zoning out or zoning in on the drive. It can be hypnotizing to just go with the flow of the road. You don’t have to worry too much about merging or getting over or missing an exit. You just have to focus on the road and go until you come out on the other side.

County roads can sometimes feel entirely too long or entirely too short, and it’s not always as perfectly romanticized as I would like to pretend it is. Rather than being the bane of my existence or the highlight of my day, oftentimes it simply just exists.

A lot of my hatred of county roads came from the fact that they inhibited my ability to get somewhere faster. But, as I have gotten used to them, they have allowed me to not let things matter so much, to just take life as it comes and be in the moment instead of 20 or 40 minutes from now.

My drive to and from work is now around 20 songs. And while I do still like to whine about it, because I am human and there is nothing more cathartic than ranting about insignificant daily occurrences, I have come to see the charm in it.