“Go backwards? No good at all. Go sideways? Impossible! Go forwards? Only thing to do, on we go!”― J.R.R. Tolkien
I love country roads. To leave the highways and byways and meander through the countryside on hidden paths is one of my favorite things to do. When you leave the main roads, sharp bends and unpaved surfaces force you to slow down. And in slowing down, you get to look around and appreciate the tiny villages and rolling farmlands you pass through. Often times you will round a bend or top a rise and discover a hidden vista that takes your breath away.
We live a half a mile outside Monroe, population 600. Highway 99W is literally Monroe’s main street, which means a lot of through traffic, but somehow the town still manages to maintain its country vibe. There are many things I love about our town.
I love that it has a microbrewery, winery, dive bar, and pizza place – all crammed into a half a mile along our main street, and all serving amazing food and drink! I love that it has a beautiful library, unique local stores (we even have our own Christmas tree store - I know it’s totally random), and tiny little pop-up seasonal shops that appear in barns and she sheds in the countryside round about. Finding these gems is like uncovering hidden treasure. It’s almost as if they want to challenge your commitment as you follow winding back roads trying to spot makeshift, hand painted signs. But it is well worth the effort, and we always come away with unique finds at bargain basement prices.
In the summer roadside farm stands sell eggs and surplus vegetables on the honor system, while berry farms allow you to pick your own fruit. There is nothing that tastes quite like plump, juicy, sun warmed fruit, picked straight from the bush or vine. In the fall pumpkin patches offer hayrides, apple cider donuts, and corn mazes to explore. In the winter, we always head to our local Christmas tree farm to cut our own tree and celebrate with a steaming cup of peppermint hot chocolate.
One of the privileges of living in a farming community means that we have access to a weekly farmers market year-round. We love strolling around the market filling our bags with seasonal produce, creamy rounds of herbed goats’ cheese (our favorite), jars of homemade jam, fresh cut flowers, and organic meat.
And speaking of meat, our local Dairy Mart sells the best locally sourced Rib Eye steaks. It also sells local dairy produce including the richest, creamiest ice cream which is literally to die for!
It is so easy to take our way of life for granted. To forget that those who live in cities will never get to experience the many blessings of a country life. If it has been a while since you left the beaten track and have taken the long way home, or just set out on a weekend to meander, then take the time to do it now. Who knows what adventures and new discoveries await on those unexplored country roads.