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take-the-scenic-routeWhen a GPS offers me its “least use of highways” route, I’ll consider it if the route also happens to be the shortest one, or if I know the highways are jammed, or if I’m feeling too cheap to pay the tolls, or if the highways in question give me the willies. At least in recent memory, an urge to enjoy the scenic route hasn’t figured prominently among my reasons.

If like me you require an incentive to go the scenic way, Toyota and the National Audubon Society have crafted one. Their Exit The Highway promotion, launched a couple weeks ago, gives motorists a chance to enjoy nature on America’s scenic roads and a chance to win a 2012 Toyota Prius V.


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To enter the Prius drawing, which runs through September 4, you need to register (aka provide an email address) and “pledge” to exit the highway at some point during your summer travels. You’ll receive extra entries for the drawing – happening “on or about” September 10 –  if you share photos on social media of your favorite nature pit stops.


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The promotion stipulates that your odds of winning the car depend on the number of entries received, but I’m willing to say now that you’re far more likely to enjoy any given scenic route than win the car.

In that spirit, Toyota and Audubon have provided itineraries for several U.S. cities that indicate what natural points of interest you’ll discover off various highway exits. Many of the provided routes highlight conservation projects borne of Toyota-Audubon’s TogetherGreen initiative. For instance, a Chicago itinerary suggests a visit to Bartel Grassland, where one such project helped eliminate invasive weeds and replenish wetland plants. Once at Bartel, you’re encouraged to go birding, look for butterflies, or sketch plants. Similar natural pursuits await off the exits on the other itineraries.

“Take an hour, change your routine, and spend a little time with friends and family outdoors,” National Audubon Society president and CEO David Yarnold says of the exit the highway concept, adding that “you may discover something that will touch your heart or teach you something new, and you’ll find out who’s working to save it. And then you’ll be back for more.”

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