My family moved to LeRoy, New York, in 1961. Driving into town, my eye caught a sign that read, “Welcome to LeRoy, Hometown of Jello.” Expectations ran high as we drove through the quaint downtown, but we were out of the town as quickly as we had entered. These were the days when Jello was a BIG deal, so I was a bit confused at the small size of the place that had actually engendered this famous dessert. It was the beginning of my love affair with the heart of America. A lot of the reason Spencer and I drive on local roads, eschewing super highways except in extreme cases of time constraints, is that it affords us the opportunity to visit with America. A place like LeRoy is so charming with the river running through the middle of the town, a main street that flaunts its most lovely homes, and a downtown of 19th century architecture. I am pleased to report that there seems to be a return to downtown pride in many small towns of America, and grants are available for improvements to return commerce to once-bustling shops. As we slow down to the local speed limit in one of these places, we often turn off the radio or CD we are listening to and really check out where we are: storefronts restored, people out and about, gardening, kids with their folks, ethnicities in signs and businesses. Sometimes we’ll drive around a block or two to see it better; sometimes we stop to check out a thrift store or just chat with folks. America has a lot to offer the casual observer.

And then there are the signs that greet the driver. My favorite one this trip met us as we approached Great Falls, Montana: Rattlesnake Vaccinations for Your Dog!!! In those few words we received both news on a local concern and a bit of the ecology of the area.

My advice to the harried musician who is weary of travel? Get off of those interstates! It can save your love of America and enhance your lifestyle.