Forks in the road

Fork in the roadOn a Sunday morning not long ago I read with interest an article in the Florida Times-Union of a movement here in Jacksonville called Operation Save Our Sons. The organization is designed to help 10-to-18 year-old boys develop better decision-making skills while helping their young fathers improve their parenting skills. It’s operated by the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Jacksonville and was founded by Reverend John Guns, the church’s pastor. The thrust of the service is to encourage fathers and other men to whom these young lads look for guidance in selecting the right roads in life to be up to the task.

Speaking of roads, here are some interesting facts (that, hopefully, I have tricked you into reading about.  But, bear with me—I will come back to my point):

You may recall the medieval sentiment that “All roads lead to Rome.” One of those roads, the Appian Way (via Appia Antica), is probably the most famous road in the world. Its first leg was built by Appius Claudius Caecus, thus the name. It eventually ran for about 350 miles, connecting Rome to Brindisi and Apulia in southeast Italy. The Appian Way is known to be the longest stretch of straight road in all of Europe.

Another formidable roadway is the U.S. interstate system, aptly named for Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th president of the United States. Preceding his election to the presidency in 1952, Eisenhower had been a five-star general and served as Supreme Commander of the allied forces in Europe in World War II. The president’s interest in completing what would eventually be referred to as the greatest public works project in history was related to his years fighting the war in Europe. He admired Germany’s autobahn highway network and, thus, the enemy’s ability to move troops and equipment, and was fully aware of the poor condition of America’s road system at the time. Although support in Congress for the system was primarily civilian-based, it was also advocated by the Department of Defense and was eventually given the formal title of the “Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways.” (We can always look to the federal government to come up with a catchy title when needed). By 2010, this system had reached a total length of nearly 47,000 miles.

As it turns out, the Appian Way was also built with armies in mind. It was to be the main route of military troops and supplies between Rome and its outlying regions. However, the Appian Way at Apulia was the end of the road for Spartacus, the leader of a slave revolt. He and his followers were cornered and defeated there by the Romans, who then infamously crucified them along the Appian Way.

The point is Spartacus and his men would have been well-advised to take an off-ramp prior to reaching Apulia. But they knew not to do so, to their ultimate demise. And then, of course, there are those young fathers who have participated in Reverend Guns’s movement who, as a result, may be better able to encourage their progeny to seek an exit from a road similarly ill-chosen. In fact, if those youngsters lived in Germany, they might be best served by taking the very first off-ramp to Aufhart. Why Aufhart? As Rick Steves tells us (Rick is the renowned travel expert on PBS), in Germany, “All roads lead to Aufhart,” which is German for “exit.”

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