The National Scenic Byways Program (NSBP) is a wonderful resource for anyone considering a road trip almost anywhere in America, and for almost any distance. We might shake our heads when it's time to renew our licenses, or when a highway construction project is taking too long. But with byways, the Department of Transportation has a winner!
Nevertheless, know that you aren't alone if you're having problems with the name. What is a byway, anyway? Dictionaries define the term as "a little-traveled side road," which surely does not fit the 150-plus stellar routes on the National Scenic Byways list.
But the term does fit many of the state, Indian tribal land, and federal land-management agency byways from which the "nationals" were drawn. You've probably driven past byway signs on rural roads, some rusted with age, but still proudly proclaiming a route as important to our eyes, our history, or our opportunity for recreation.
The best of these local routes can be nominated for "national scenic" status. If found worthy after lengthy investigation, they're accepted.
It's easy to get confused with the hierarchy of terminology. However, you'll see through your windshield exactly why these national routes made the grade.
NSBP literature helps with the terminology: "Our definition of ‘scenic' reaches beyond breathtaking vistas. All of America's Byways are ‘scenic,' representing the depth and breadth of scenery in America -- natural and man-made panoramas; electrifying neon landscapes; ancient and modern history coming alive; native arts and culture … ." You get the picture – almost without fail, they're great to see.
Your first visit to the Byways.org might likewise make you wonder because there's so much to it. Take note of the good-hearted box on the right titled "Byways on a Budget." Tap there, and you're off to an attractive page of "Affordable Adventures" on byways across the nation, plus there are 10 photos that can be sent as postcards. They're a great way for you or your child to invite a friend to join you for a byway trek.
Kids also might get a kick out of reporting their byway adventure on the Web site, which can be done by following the "Share Your Story" link on the home page. Don't worry – e-mail addresses are not visible, and everyone signing up as part of this group of byway reporters must assume an alias that will appear with their stories.
Come join the fun. There's an entire country out there to see.