Why detours are the best part of taking a road trip.
Summer travel is a tradition that folks of all ages have enjoyed for decades. Nothing beats packing a duffle, filling up on gas station snacks, and pointing the wheel in a new direction. However, as we rely more on travel apps to get us to our destinations, we’re changing the way we go on road trips. (Do you even have a map in your glove compartment right now? )
These apps allow us to see what’s ahead of us, like construction and congestion. They even tell us how long our journey will be without pit stops. While these notifications are helpful, we still believe there’s magic in the unplanned and unexpected when it comes to Two Lane travel — enter THE DETOUR.
This season, let’s shift our thinking into believing that detours aren’t wasted time, but an opportunity for experiences to become the stories that we’ll talk about for years to come.
To help you warm up to this idea, we’ve put together an inspirational list of people, places, and experiences we’ve discovered along the way that are waiting on you when you take the long way around.
Scroll down to see what adventures await when you take a detour.
DISCOVER AN ABANDONED PLACE WITH A STORY
Sure, this decaying home looks frightening, but look deeper. Look beyond the damaged roof and sunken porch and you can begin to imagine who this home served and what it looked like in its prime. This photo was captured by our fellow Two Lane traveler, Francesca Catalini. While out roaming the backroads, she pulls over to photograph the forgotten structures that dot the Kansas prairies. She shares the shot with the community, they tell her its story, and then she posts both on her Instagram. What began as a hobby has now evolved into a full-blown preservation project to save the history of of the small towns int he Heartland.
When taking a detour, stay curious like Francesca about more than just where the road will lead. Always make time to break for buildings or views that capture your attention.
Learn more about Abandoned Kansas.
VISIT A NO POWER MOUNTAIN TOWN
We can handle no running water or electricity for a weekend camping trip, however, there are many primitive towns that exist happily without either one year round! While most of America generates power via natural gas, oil, and fossil fuels, small mountain towns like Polebridge, Montana run on only a few generators. Located about 20 miles from Canada, Polebridge is a town of fewer than 50 people who are tough, self-sufficient, and totally cool with mail arriving only twice a month. They happily offer huckleberry bear claws to welcome travelers passing through on their way to Glacier National Park just down the way.
Open your mind to a new way of living when the detour takes you to a place that challenges your idea of living.
Learn more about Polebridge, Montana
SPEND THE NIGHT IN AN UNLIKELY PLACE
Forest Gully Farms in Santa Fe, Tennessee
When it comes to sleeping arrangements on the road, it’s either in our seats between driving shifts or crammed into one hotel room to save on gas money. No more squeaky pull-out sofas or stale bagels from the continental breakfast for you! Road trips are about being open to new experiences — so give unique places like Forest Gully Farms a try. This tasty hideaway in Tennessee is a 29-acre organic, self-reliant permaculture farm and homestead where you sleep in underground hobbit houses. Your reservation also includes private access to 15-acres of u-pick produce like eggs fresh out of the coop, beans, berries, and greens.
Detours have a way of reconnecting us to the simple pleasures of life in unexpected ways. Never turn down the chance to try a new way of doing something – like sleeping in a hobbit house, fire tower, or even a repurposed train car parked in the hills when the opportunity comes.
Learn more about Forest Gully Farms
GO TREASURE HUNTING ON MAIN STREET
Main Streets are a physical representation of a community’s past. Allow yourself to appreciate every detail — the architecture, the way neighbors talk to one another, how quiet or loud it is when you roll into the small towns of America. Lanesboro, Minnesota, is an example of a town of fewer than 800, that seems to be frozen in time. You won’t hear buzzing neon, see a single traffic light, or pass a pair of golden arches. In fact, you’re most likely to find yourself sharing the road with a horse and buggy on your way to breakfast. Every inch of Lanesboro is photogenic from its position along the historic Root River to its quaint town square filled with local goods.
Small towns are connected to each other by miles of back roads and detours. You’ll never discover them for yourself if you don’t hop off the highway and let your curiosity safely guide you to them.
Learn more about Lanesboro, Minnesota
TEST YOUR NERVES ON A HAUNTED BACK ROAD
America’s most haunted back roads
You drew the short straw and now have to drive the night shift — a bad time to recount that story about the phantom hitchhiker who appears in driver’s rearview mirrors and sometimes, the backseat! There are many miles of road littered with local lore. Next time you’re in a new town, ask your waitress, the cashier at the gas station, or the bartender if there’s anything mysterious to check out before you hit the road. (We’ve found five frightening haunted roads in our Two Lane travels so far).
Going somewhere new takes courage, but driving down a haunted road takes even more. Detours are meant to be a healthy adventure. Be curious but be smart out there.
Learn more about haunted back roads
PARTICIPATE IN A LOCAL TRADITION
The Floyd Country Store: Floyd, Virginia
A great habit to get into when traveling is to ask, “Where do the locals go?” Floyd Country Store in Floyd, Virginia is a great example. This small town haunt has folks arriving from all over to see what the buzz is about. For the past 35 years, the community members of Floyd have been hosting “pickin’ parties” inside the century-old country store among the peanut brittle and penny candy. Generations of all ages make the pilgrimage to hear and play traditional Appalachian music that’s rooted in this town of fewer than 500. Park your car on S. Locust Street and start walking towards the green and white striped awning until you hear the sounds of banjos and fiddles.
Floyd is an incredible example of how a community has embraced its history and invited Two Lane travelers to join in. A detour is never a loss when it means making an old tradition a new one for you and your roadies.
Learn more about Floyd Country Store
TAKE A BIG BITE OUT OF COMMUNITY HISTORY
Mike Wolfe’s General Store Tour: Tennessee
One of the best parts of a road trip is the food. We’re talking greasy gas station hot dogs, chips, and sour candy by the fist full. When you’ve reached the bottom of the cashew bag, it’s time to find that next gas station to replenish your stash. For many folks, like Mike Wolfe, who live miles away from convenience stores, the closest source for snacks, toiletries, or a thick-cut bologna sandwich is the local general store. Back before cars, people had to walk or ride a horse to the town’s general store for supplies. These businesses were responsible for providing food and goods to their neighbors during WWII and the Great Depression and many still do today!
Detours have a way of revealing truths to us. It’s generation owned establishments, like these general stores, that give us a greater appreciation for a simpler life before technology spoiled us.
Learn more about Mike’s General Store Tour
Feeling inspired to embrace the unexpected? FOLLOW Mike Wolfe’s All American Adventure brand @ontwolanes for even MORE places a detour can take you as you make your own journey down the Two Lanes.
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11 thoughts on “Detour Ahead!”
You can take a Detour to St. Jacob, Illinois. My Husband, Duane and I have all kinds of Interesting projects and Old Antiques You and Frank would be interested in. Stop In and Take a look around. 312 Washington St. in St. Jacob, IL 62281. Love to See you both. Always Enjoy Showing our Place and Sheds to Special People who have similar Interests. Stay Safe. we love your program.
I love the idea of getting lost and finding places like these via the back roads. Especially the haunted back roads or abandoned buildings mentioned. These old towns that are still around are also great to stop off for the night and hang with some locals. Awesome article.
I particularly like the picture of “abandoned Kansas”.
I love all these old dilapidated places and enjoy travelling along any two lane road the presents itself.
When I drive into a neat looking place and I often make it a point to stop and have a snack
Sometimes I sit in a quaint old café or I might get some takeaway and munch on it as I walk around.
I find this very relaxing, and find it asd that so many are disappearing.
I love the work you do outside of your picking enterprise – we could do with more people like you ipn this planet.
Love ya mate.
Please say G’day to your mate Frank for me too please.
From a keen fan of the show,
We love the old general stores, backroads and living in the country. Thanks for sharing your adventures. We love America Pickers. We hope to take the two lanes to explore these great United States after my hubby retires.
Keep on keeping on!
Gary & Susan Puckett
When can we see the inside of the van. How do they pack the stuff and transport it without breaking stuff?
I’m in Birmingham, Alabama and before returning home to Louisville, Kentucky my friend and I plan to stop and tour the Helen Keller house. Side trips are great fun.
heading to USA this may well take some back roads and stop in wee towns
Hey Mike, my name is Robert BREWER, An avid watcher of your show Pickers for many years. I was born and raised in Collinwood TN. which is like a half mile from the Natchez Trace. I have a thousand and 1 stories it seems to tell about living near the trace. My knowledge of the trace is a result of living near this scenic route for over 67 years. I now live in Lawrenceburg tn. but I drive down the trace 1 or more times a week. Some of the stories go back to when my mother would walk with us kids to hide easter eggs. down the trace over 60 years ago. again thanks to you and Frank and those Good looking women that help bring a great show to us. Amen!
Hey Mike, I love getting lost and discovering places like these through the dirt roads. Particularly the spooky dirt roads or deserted structures referenced. These old towns that are still around are likewise incredible to visit for the evening and hang with certain local people. Marvelous article.
This is also my favorite part.