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Dispatches from the Driving Front – East 26th Street, Erie, PA

It was lunchtime, and we left the interstate looking for a place to sit and walk the dog. We didn’t mean to take a tour of the Erie region, but our search for a little local color in our food took us farther from the main road than we had been in some time.

We first took a few meandering detours through middle class suburban neighborhoods still populated with small, quaint brick homes that had somehow survived demolition by McMansion developers. The homes turned into businesses as we drove, and when we got to East 26th Street in Erie, PA, we took a left, hoping the congested traffic hinted at nearby restaurants.

Our search was just beginning, however. I continued to look for food, but I had navigated us to this road because I knew it was really US 20, which would meet up with the interstate again. My motives were pure – food and efficiency, but as we crawled down the congested old

road – The Post Road as we called in Boston – I felt as if my vacation had truly begun.

I love the Post Road. We’ve traveled bits and pieces of it in Massachusetts, New York, PA, and Ohio, and the recovering vagabond in me loves how each piece is an imperfect postcard memory of that spot. It’s still main street for a lot of towns, even though the nearby monolithic, monotonous interstate seems to have steered traffic and dollars away of them. We continued as far as Girard, and I couldn’t help but notice how many areas seemed to be forgotten. From the interstate, the people and places along Route 20 are invisible, and it’s too bad.

We finally found a quiet diner with friendly waitresses and homemade barbecue sauce for sale by the quart (we bought some). For me, it was worth the drive. It was only lunch, but I liked the local color. It sated my stomach, but it fed my soul a little and whetted my appetite for more. It’s an appetite I like to indulge.

“I’d love to drive this road from end to end,” I said to my husband as we inched back to the interstate.

“I think I’d go crazy if I had to drive this speed all the way to Oregon,” he replied without looking at me.

“But maybe someday,” I began as my marketing plan began to form. “Maybe if we had a long vacation and rented a convertible and made the drive the vacation.”

“Ugh, maybe,” he responded. I may need to convene a focus group to get this plan by the board, but something tells me it would be worth it for all of us.