[ Photo ]
Nathan Perry sits atop his car on Routes 5 & 20 in Ontario County. He took that route on his trips to college in Boston.
(photo by Annette Lein)
When a byway is better
Off the beaten highway, these drivers seek out routes that avoid routine
By staff writer PATTI SINGER

From the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Sunday, 21 May 2000 [excerpt].

In an era when everyone seems to be in such a hurry, the notion of taking your time seems so, well, 1950s. Rather than push the upper reaches of the speed limit while being hypnotized by the click-click-click of their wheels on the concrete, these drivers will relax at slower speeds and be mesmerized by the sights along side roads.

An estimated 34 million Americans will take a trip of at least 100 miles this Memorial Day Weekend. That doesn't count the millions of other drivers who will set out this summer. Most of them will jam the highways, eager to get to their destination.

But the adventurous ones just may find that taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.

"There is actually something to see," insists Nathan Perry, 21 [actually 23--nwp], freshly graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston. Most [a few] of his trips between Rochester and Massachusetts for the past three years have been along Route 20, which way back when was the road leading west from Boston.

While he finds highway driving boring, he never tires of the undulating terrain near Skaneateles or catching a whiff of woodsmoke as he passes through little villages and hamlets. "You can see the towns, instead of the backs of the towns," says the Rochester native [actually born in Bryn Mawr, PA].

Maybe it's just another nod to nostalgia, but the sense of discovering a new world seems timeless and endless. Books, Web sites, travel clubs and even stories from friends capture the romance of the old roads.

If you're not careful, those roads can become an obsession.

Perry headed off the beaten path as soon as he got his license. Now, about the only time he takes a highway is when he's feeling rushed or when it's night. "There's no point taking the scenic route if you can't see the scenery."

He hosts a Web site, Empire State Roads, that's devoted to highways in various counties, "secret" state roads that are not designated as tourist routes and the meaning behind various Department of Transportation road markers.

"I thought it would give me a reason to write this stuff down, because someone else would look at it," he says.

He also has a dream: Take his degree in film scoring, team up with an engineer and develop a soundtrack for a global positioning system. "It would play music that goes with the scenery wherever you are."

Perry, who drives a 1988 Nova with 160,000 [124,000] miles, admits he takes his passion to an extreme. "If I have all day, I'll take the most outrageous way I can think of." Among his favorite local routes is along [US] 20A in Warsaw, Wyoming County. "Going east, it climbs up the side of a hill that's very steep. The railroad comes over it at a ridiculous angle. There's a sign that says trucks have to turn around. I feel special; I can go down there but they have to turn around."

Warsaw photos courtesy of Doug Kerr.
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