Friday, May 18, 2012

The Most Unpleasant Car Trip

I was going to title this post The Car Trip from Hell, but figured that might be a bit too harsh. It only seems that it was that bad.

We are driving to Vermont for my daughter-in-law’s graduation. She will receive her Ph.D. and will be the first doctor in our family.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon at Temple University’s School of Law graduation. My niece received her Juris Doctor and is now a lawyer. When we ask advice she can now dispense it and end with, “That will be $150 please.”

We have driven to Vermont many times over the past fifteen-plus years. My son attended the University of Vermont in Burlington and never left the land of mountains, snow, skiing, beauty and long, cold winters. I love Vermont but hate the cold.

I am currently sitting in the car. Hub is driving. We are on I-91 and for the first time in hours driving more than 50 miles an hour. It is a beautiful, sunny day and the scenery is fabulous.

I drove the first tortuous four hours. Hub had business to do – a 1-½ hour conference call plus additional phone calls. We now have Bluetooth which makes car calls an easy activity. He could talk, reference documents on his computer and access the Internet with his wireless card. Isn’t modern life grand!

I, therefore, drove while he worked. The problem with traveling north to Vermont when you live south of New York City is getting beyond the Big Apple metropolitan area, which begins south of Washington, D.C. and ends close to the Canadian border. The hallmarks of the area’s roadways are traffic, construction, congestion, crazy drivers, an infinite number of traffic lights, broken roadways and did I mention the traffic and construction?

It is not unusual to hit traffic driving around or through New York City. I drove for four solid hours in stop-and-go bedlam. Construction and one accident caused some delays. But the biggest reason for the slow-moving, endless lines of vehicles was too many cars on the road.

Many of our leaders in their wisdom do not believe we need to spend money on infrastructure – an important element being roads. One way to reduce traffic is for fewer people to drive. The Republicans managed to achieve this objective by creating a Great Recession that curtailed everyone’s driving.

But now the economy is improving (sorry, Republicans, I know the truth hurts) and more people are driving again. There are also a lot of trucks on the road. Everywhere. Big, big BFTs (big F… trucks). Also a lot of smaller commercial vehicles. All hogging the roads.

But trucks on the road are a good thing (hub said I should add this). It means there is a lot of positive economic activity going on. And all that construction means jobs.

There was traffic and construction on the New Jersey Turnpike (that part of the trip we did last night). There was traffic and construction on the bridges around New York City and on I-95. I-95, for those lucky enough never to have experienced that road, is often one long parking lot.

We crawled through Connecticut on the turnpike. It got better when we exited onto I-91, or so we thought. False hopes. It was only a few minutes before we hit traffic again.

Finally the road opened up north of Hartford CT. We would be OK…

And then we approached Springfield, Mass and more traffic. Where did all these cars come from? Where were they going? Why were they all in front of us?

Finally driving north of Springfield we heaved a great sigh of relief. The major population areas were behind us. It should be smooth driving.

Except it wasn’t. We crossed the border into Vermont and found…

Construction. And traffic.

We just could not get a break.                                                   

A pleasant trip with stops for a bite to eat and a detour to a tourist attraction or two became a test of our patience and ability to survive modern day transportation headaches.

But the good news is that we are already moving forward. We are finally in the scenic state of Vermont. There is less traffic and our stress levels are slowly receding. We just made a quick stop for gas and a snack. Small local stores in this state boast helpful staff, reasonable prices and often unique and interesting merchandise.

We will soon be caught up in the excitement of graduation and seeing our almost ten-month-old granddaughter and other family members. It was definitely worth the hassle.

I just hope the drive home is better.