Side trips can ease monotony of the road

Road trips are great fun on several levels, one of which is stumbling upon a destination you might not normally have visited. During a recent cross-country drive from Seattle to Philadelphia, we were seeking a break from the relentless interstate.

We discovered intriguing Warren, Ohio, in the northeast part of the state, not far from the intersection of I-76 and I-80. The town boasts sights related to space exploration, rock-and-roll, and vintage cars. Normally, we wouldn’t have considered Warren a weekend destination from Philly, but as a side trip during a long journey, it was perfect.

A 6-year-old Neil Armstrong took his first airplane ride in Warren. Bitten by the aviation bug, just 33 years later he was kicking up lunar dust as the first man on the moon. The airfield from which he took off in a Ford Tri-Motor is long gone; to paraphrase Joni Mitchell, “they paved paradise and put up a McDonald’s parking lot.” But First Flight park commemorates the historical site with a replica lunar module occupying pride-of-place in a corner of that lot.

In keeping with the fast-food-and- fame theme, just three miles southeast from the lunar landscape is David Grohl Alley, marked by a Burger King at the corner. There, the world’s largest pair of drumsticks (each 23 feet long) commemorate Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Grohl, the former drummer for Nirvana, who is now the front man of the Foo Fighters. The town where he got his start remembers him on this small street decorated with dozens of rock-themed murals, in addition to the jumbo drumsticks.

After this shot of space memorabilia and riff on rock-and-roll, seek out something more elegant at the National Packard Museum. The car with the midcentury advertising jingle “Ask the man who owns one” was started in 1899 by the Packard brothers in Warren. Thirty vehicles are on display, including a 1956 Packard Caribbean convertible, which looks as sweet as it sounds.

After a few hours in Warren, we were refreshed and invigorated by our serendipitous side trip, ready to continue on our way. The next time you’re driving a long distance, check along the route you’ll be traveling for detours worth exploring. After all, road trips are more than a means to get from one place to another; they are also journeys of discovery.

Michael Milne is the author of the “Roadster Guide to America’s Classic Car Museums & Attractions.”

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from Department of Space Colonization