Business Route 234 Manassas (magic awaits on either end) By John Watts

When I finally got the hang of commuting to and from my new place of work in Manassas, Virginia, one thing became very apparent:  Sudley Road is endowed with lots of shopping centers.

And in those shopping centers are LOTS of chains.  Admittedly, there are some chains that bind; but fortunately, many, MANY more chains that delight and satiate.  In fact a plethora of chain restaurants dot both side of the highway.

You want it? There is a good chance that Business Route 234 probably has it.  You don’t even have to be discriminating: you can just be bleary eyed and just surrender to the convenience (chances are your waistline won’t thank you).

Best of all, they have those “out of the way” chains like Chili’s and Checkers, and even Roy Rogers (my favorite),that feel more like tourist inspirations and less like convenient ruts.

And if you want familiarity you’ve got plenty of options too as the reassuring logos of Outback, Logan’s, and Red Lobster loom quickly into view.

Subs?  It’s a 6 inch battle for freshness, speed, taste, and price.  Hamburgers?  Thrift Shops?  Treasures await.  Starbucks?  How about every mile or so.

And if its dollar value you want, Sudley Road has every Dollar named store under the sun it seems: Dollar Value, Dollar City, Dollar Tree,5 below.  Or if you want to stroll down the Party category; there is Party City, Party Depot, Party Hardy, well maybe not but you get the picture.

Craft shops?  How does “Michaels” “Hobby Lobby” or A.C. Moore strike your artistic fancy?  How many items do you want to compare prices with?

Book shops?  In this day and age of mortar and brick book stores vanishing as quickly as dinosaur’s, this literate strip not only has a fully loaded Barnes & Noble, it also has the massively stacked inventories of McKay Used Books and Music store too.

In fact you could meld all the store names together into a fast rap, something like Billy Joel’s “We didn’t Start the Fire” or better yet, REM’s “This is the End of the World as We Know It.”

Which brings up a good point.  If it really were the End of the World (as we know it) and we had a few weeks to prepare; then Business Route 234 would give you the best fighting chance.  For truly if you are in need of something on an errand, there is a darn good sporting chance that Sudley Road has it.

Is this enough consumer information for you for one article?  Shall I end now?

So far I have told you only of Sudley Road and its middle class menagerie of merchandise.  But I haven’t finished just yet.

For if that was all I was to report about my commute, while a part of you might be regaled and maybe even a tad bit envious of me, another, more bohemian side of you might be rebelling and saying “so what?” A chain is a chain is a chain.

But while this might be very true of the Mother road that is Business Route 235 which Interstate route 66 dumps me off on—there is more.  Much more.

I am talking about the crowning cultural bookmarks on either end.  Just have a little faith; for on either side of this massive stretch of monotonous traffic lights, service roads, and vast parking lots, lies the perfect antidote to strip shopping gone haywire.  You just have to drive a bit further.

Manassas Battlefield close to the Route 66 (and Cracker Barrel too Yum yum!) and 6 miles away on the other end: Old Town Manassas.

To me this makes all the difference.  In effect: !Exclamation points punctuate on both ends!

This knowledge of what awaits with such permanence on either end, makes it easy for me to withstand a hundred 7-11s and Starbucks in the middle.  Heck, I’m a mortal man with needs too right?  Java and gas fill-ups alone require a lot of my attention.

So chill out and enjoy a sandwich at wherever you decide as long as you don’t have an anxiety attack deciding: Jersey’s Mikes, Quizno’s (they still exist here?), Jimmy John’s, Subway, or Firehouse.  Just make your decision and live with it.

Because you can hike for hours in the gentling contoured meadows of Manassas Battlefield.  You can cross the train tracks in Old Town Manassas and soak in the uniqueness of every gift shop around each corner. Your feet are now FREE of necessity and the typical commuting encumbrances.

I know I usually rave about LOOPS when I discuss roads and trails on trips.  But I have become very fond of this long straight stretch which ends with history lessons on either end.  Whether the road goes further past the old town and battlefield is irrelevant to me because I have my anchors.  I have my refreshment and relief from the rootlessness of 21st century life.  For in this case, the ENDS truly do justify the means (translation: shopping centers).

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About John Watts

I like to write transcendental community based essays and stories along with photo journalism pieces.
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