U.S Route 1 paints a meandering trail across the Eastern Seaboard from Key West, Florida to Maine. Yet much like the fabled Route 66, Route 1 hides treasures overlooked and unseen by younger travelers like myself, who are usually flying home on the nation’s Interstate system.
Today was a different day. Today the race home had gotten dull and I had finally had enough. I zipped off of I-95 on to the old U.S. 1, taking a gamble on a sign marked simply “lighthouse.”
As I reached the summit—17 stories above the Atlantic and exactly 13hrs and 46 iPhone minutes from home—I was shocked by what I saw.
The view was spectacular, yes; but more astonishing was the duo of senior travelers who had beaten me to the top. Both in their mid-70s, they had made the arduous climb up 213 winding metal stairs and were gazing across the sun-soaked inlet. Far below, tiny sails bellowed in the wind and waves broke over the jetties.
As I struggled to catch my breath, we marveled at the view.
Marlon and Emma McCormick had known about Ponce de Leon Lighthouse long before I had. In 1958, Marlon’s parents had veered off of then new Interstate-95 en route to the old brick giant—a treasure they could see from Route 1 on their honeymoon in 1940. Marlon took Emma there on their honeymoon in 1963, and they’ve cared to visit as often as they could ever since.
Even at 75, the steps didn’t seem to phase them.
As I descended the never-ending staircase, I left the McCormick’s at the top.
I turned the key to my Mustang and set off.
When I left the interstate, I wanted to explore. I wanted to go somewhere nobody I knew had been before. And as I rolled back to U.S. Route 1, I realized: if you want to explore, if you want to go where none of your friends have gone before, follow the seniors home—they already know the way.
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