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Our roads well traveled lead to natural beauty

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By Steve Doyle

If you have looked at the Neighbors section today, you have seen one person’s guidebook map for a way to enjoy fall in Shelby County.

For natives and longtime residents, such a route can be drawn and redrawn, and the outcome is always simple and satisfying. There is no definitive navigation for the beauty we all enjoy.

But we wanted to give you an idea, so research had to be done. And for this trip, I took along my 8-year-old, a budding intellectual about anything to do with geography, climatology and culture.

During our tour, the questions flowed freely, and after a while, there was one that gave me pause: “Dad, how do you know all these roads?”

My automatic response was frank, simple and accurate: “Because I’ve driven them.”

But it wasn’t that simple, I thought. How did I know so many of these nooks and crannies of our little county?

After all, because of the way my life unfolded, I had spent only three years or so living here from the time I got my driver’s license until I moved away in college. I would’ve had to have driven almost 24-7 to tour every twist and turn.

But I didn’t have to be the driver to learn these roads.

I was blessed because my parents were tireless in transporting my brothers and me from place to place. We didn’t stay home to watch TV, play video games and update our Facebook status. Our family was infused with “get up and go.”

There was the constant shuttling to sports events, school events, the homes of family and friends, the 8-mile drive to church and side trips to pick up people to ride along to all of those.

From where I lived, you couldn’t get to Henry County High School for basketball tournaments without taking a few back roads.

You didn’t take the conventional routes to Finchville to play basketball at the old school, and you tried to avoid going through Shelbyville to get to Bagdad for softball.

So you explored along the way.

As you grew older and more mobile and your friend base expanded, you tried to find all sorts of alternate routes. Definition: Any road without a line and that your Dad didn’t drive routinely. That would seem as if it were a shortcut, even if there were more minutes and miles.

And if you were taking home a date, well, the darker, narrower and more winding the road, the better, right? Time was not then so much of a factor.

I admit some of that organic geography I absorbed had become rusty. Roads that used to be just roads have real names now, and they may not match the ones we knew.

Many that didn’t have centerlines now do. Many that could only handle one vehicle at a time now can handle 1.5. But don’t put Olive Branch or Jeptha Knob on those lists.

There are many houses and developments, businesses and even public facilities in the places of cornfields and hayfields.

And so many things that were rote then are different now, which provide another wonderful lesson I have embraced in my reorientation to Kentucky.

When you’re a teen and in a hurry or distracted by those riding with you – forget cell phones – you don’t take time to notice the beauty. So many gorgeous rolling views that you never noticed before are apparent now.

You didn’t realize how far you could see from some turns in the road, because life’s blinders had you focused dead ahead.

You didn’t see the rushing beauty of a creek or the elegance of a curve or the artistic arc of trees, many of which you can’t even identify.

In fact, your early view of art was more of the comics pages than of Ansel Adams.

Thankfully that now has been reversed.

Even in the starkness of winter, your older eyes see a beauty that no pencil or paintbrush can convey. They absorb the grandeur of God’s canvas, and there is no greater artistry to be seen.

The drive on Sunday took a couple of hours, but it was an education for both of us that could not be generated in a classroom. I only wish I’d studied better in botany classes.

But at least I knew the way.