I’ve always been a back roads kind of guy.
Most people I know hop on I-75 when they’re going to Dayton or even Piqua. Going to Huber Heights or Springfield? It’s I-75 to I-70.
Sure, on longer trips I take the interstate. But you’ll find me more often on Troy-Piqua Road or Route 202 or Route 41 when it’s a shorter trip.
Part of the reason for this is there are so many more interesting things to see when you stay off the interstate.
For instance, take Route 202. It starts in Troy and ends up in Dayton — not a very long road. It used to be called North Miami Pike and in Montgomery County is still called Old Troy Pike (not to be confused with Old Troy Pike in Champaign County, which is also known as Route 193). It happens to be the path George Rogers Clark took in 1782 to attack Native Americans in the Piqua area and beyond. Mad Anthony Wayne also took that route during his battles with Indians — hence, Wayne High School in Huber Heights.
You also run into all kinds of fascinating little places on the back roads. Not long ago, I was coming home from north of Columbus and ended up on Route 55. It starts in Urbana and takes you through all kinds of small towns. Here in Miami County we know all about Casstown and Christiansburg, but farther east you will go through Thackery and Terre Haute. I think Thackery existed because of the grain elevator there and I believe its claim to fame is it has a haunted cemetery (which seems like a logical place for ghosts to hang out). Terre Haute means “High Ground” in French and while there are a few hills around it is a pretty optimistic name. You don’t see that on the interstate.
Sometimes, you kind of have to wonder why some of these roads were built. Route 55, for instance, goes from Urbana to pretty much nowhere not far from Laura. Route 201 starts in a cornield (or sometimes soybean field) east of Casstown (where it branches off from Route 55) and crashes into Routes 202 and 4 in Dayton. It’s almost as if people started building some of these roads from both ends and just happened to run into each other.
But they are fun to drive. I think 21st century America gets too much in a hurry sometimes. My preferred method is to start out a few minutes earlier than necessary, see the sights and learn something. The view from Route 202 when the sun is setting in the west can be stunning. You run across all kinds of interesting things along the way on these roads — the Shepard Place event center outside of Christiansburg on Route 55; church camps such as the Springfield Church of God campgrounds on Route 40 and the Ludlow Falls Camp on Route 55 in Ludlow Falls; various little fire departments scattered among the villages and townships; Westville, the home of Harvey Haddix on Route 36; and lots and lots and lots of corn, soybeans and trees.
One thing that always has puzzled me on these off the beaten path trips: I’ve never been able to quite figure out why or how state roads are numbered the way they are. Interstate highways have odd numbers for north-south roads and even numbers for east-west roads. The same is true for U.S. routes such as Route 36 and 68, which basically are state routes that manage to keep going across state lines.
That doesn’t work in Ohio. Route 55, for instance, is mostly east-west. Route 66 is north-south. Some roads meander around so much that it’s hard to tell just what direction they were meant to go.
Plus some state routes have disappeared. How many of you remember Route 504 in Troy? It ran from Staunton to Route 41 and now is just part of Route 202. Lucky they didn’t have all these numbers way back in the beginning, they surely would have driven Anthony Wayne madder than he already was.
I might spend a few extra minutes on the road but I’ve been to Newport, Lena, Laura. Potsdam, Rosewood, Hustead, Thackery, Terre Haute and who knows how many other places. Considering how many non-interstate roads there are in Ohio, I still have a lot to see.
David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at email@example.com.