So it is just after midnight, and I’m moving east on the Connecticut Turnpike, I95. I’ve been driving since before noon, having left Petersburg, Virginia at late morning. I wanted to get through Richmond after rush hour, past the DC beltway before the afternoon rush (timeless), and out over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge for a peaceful drive through the Maryland farm lands. That put me in Newcastle, Delaware at about 6 PM, but as I again headed for I95 near Wilmington, the traffic was not bad. Rush hour was over, around Philadelphia, going north, and the highway was hassle-free.
To digress; as I passed the Chester,PA Harrah’s Casino, I noticed a guy approaching the ramp for the highway on a HOT Kawasaki motorcycle. I was doing about sixty, but soon I spied him in the rearview, screaming up the road. He passed me like Roadrunner passed the Coyote…..Bwaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh! A minute later he slowed slightly to veer off toward the airport when it happened. Maybe he had won big at Harrah’s, and was tearing up the pavement in sheer exhilaration, but a WAD OF BILLS flew out of his pocket, hit the tarmack, splashed up into his backdraft and fanned out into the landscape. As I went by, a couple of HUNDREDS leapt over the right side of my windshield. I COULDN’T STOP! And the few cars in the lanes behind me hadn’t seen the paper bounty as it scattered toward the guard rails. This guy never realized his loss and I stared as he slowed for a cruiser, then re-accelerated out of my sight as I went up the bridge ramp past Philadelphia International.
Oh,woe..the mis-(missed) fortune!
Anyway, it is after midnight. I picked up the first real truck traffic on the NY Thruway, as it comes south and crosses the Tappan Zee Bridge (FIVE BUCKS TOLL for my little Saturn!), and it increased ex-potentially as I escaped the Bronx and entered New England. From the line, and to West Haven, I was literally surrounded by semi’s, threatening my rear bumper, pulling out and around with a whisker of room between surfaces, slowing and moving in unfathomable right lane convoys, flying past in the passing lane at 20 MPH over the limit. Then construction near New Haven closed all but one lane. The jockeying and intimidation really shook me as I hoped for some recognition in this bunch of BROTHER-TRUCKERS!
For the past few years, when making the transition between New England and the sultry south, I’ve avoided the usual route that took me from the Garden State Parkway to Delaware. It was off onto US Route One at Edison, New Jersey, and onto Route 130, to Interstate 295, and over the Delaware Memorial Bridge.
We who drive pay gas taxes to keep the roads in good condition. That this revenue ends up in the general fund, and the roads are left wanting is not of our doing. But we all suffer the broken promises, as well as the broken suspensions and worn-out tires as a result. Crossing bridges is kind of necessary when one approaches the Delaware, the Susquahannah, the Hudson and myriad other rivers that obstruct our smooth journeys
I HATE TOLLS! Why, I ask you, should we pay tribute to the state for crossing these structures? Tax monies have been collected for their upkeep, and the Federal Highway Fund kicks in for them as well.
Okay, so I try to avoid crossing a bridge in the direction in which the toll booth is raking it in. Heading south, I now take the Garden State (tolls here have increased dramatically in these poor economic times) to US 1, but now I stay on US 1 through Princeton, and pick up Interstate 95, around Philadelphia, past the airport to Interstate 495, and into Delaware. This route is the ONLY one where a toll is not collected for crossing the Delaware. And I didn’t have to do it standing up in the front of a boat, ala General Washington. In a car it may seem insignificant, but the tolls required of an RV can really sting.
I recently travelled in my Saturn S1 to New England from D.C. ….Baltimore Tunnel: $2.00; crossing the Susquahannah: $5.00; the Delaware toll road: $5.00; the Garden State Parkway: $2.50 (The Jersey Turnpike would have been $7.50 for this stretch), the the Tappan Zee Bridge: $5.00. That’s $19.50 to travel with crazed drivers and tractor-trailer rigs with more crazed drivers, a total of 250 miles or less.
By skirting D.C. on the beltway, through Annapolis on US 50 to US 301, and north on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge; zoom along through lovely Maryland farmland, to meet Route US 40 in Delaware. Then joining US 13, proceed through New Castle to Interstate 495. This joins Interstate 95, which traverses Philly to Trenton, and on to Princeton, NJ. Then grab US 1, and follow it to Edison, and the Garden State Parkway. YOU JUST SAVED MONEY! It was no longer; it was more enjoyable, there was less trucking and (unexplainably) fewer crazed drivers. There was the north-bound toll on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, but the savings are still dramatic and the scenery is worth it!
This week, just to see what might be different, I went north in the RV, into New Jersey by going up and over the Delaware Memorial Bridge (no toll northbound), and proceeded on Interstate 295 toward Camden and Trenton on the east side of the river.
The roadway is GREATLY IMPROVED. Until you get past Route 38 (Morrisville exit). Then, the road ceases to be navigable. It is a series of unconnected pot holes and broken pavement. Really dangerous stuff! I got off at US 130, the Brunswick exit. Route 130 is HORRIBLE! New Jerseyites cruise blithely over this sea of destruction, never realizing that there are actually places in the USA where you don’t sacrifice your wheels (literally) to commute to the next stop in Hell. I’m swearing off NJ totally!
My next jaunt south will be via Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, on the Interstates. More mileage will be repaid in better gas mileage, and less concern for the chassis beneath me!
For the past three years I have travelled to New Hampshire to visit with my daughter in Hillsboro. Before that, I visited her in the upper valley of the Connecticut River. It is always a joy to arrive in New Hampshire because the highways are so good! Yesterday I was on Route 9/202 heading toward Concord to attend the Obama acceptance-speech party. There has been construction on that stretch of road for weeks, but as they carry out the paving process, you can see what a superior job this state does to insure a smooth driving surface.
In Massachusetts for instance, the “bed” of the road (that which underlies all the asphalt above) is only HALF the thickness of the Granite State’s. And as is evident today, as you travel the side of the road awaiting the new covering, the pavement is more than a skim-coat that other states try to convince their motorists will suffice. The obvious result is a level or well-banked roadway that lasts through many winters without the typical frost-heaves encountered elsewhere. This road is THICK!
Okay, there are plenty of smaller country roads here that are not in such pristine condition. There is some uneven pavement and stretches of not-well-repaired road. But compare the whole to the BEST of New Jersey and New York…..Yipes! I swear an oath every time i travel across their thoroughfares-masquerading-as- highways, that I will forever avoid subjecting my suspension system to them in the future. But look at a map! It’s not easy getting out of New England going south, without bumping into this barrier of potential break-downs. And cheap gas lives in New Jersey!
With fuel in the stratosphere, I really don’t want to go too far afield of a straight line. Then there are the *&%Z#! tolls! I currently travel in a 21 foot Class C motorhome. There are station wagons longer, and Hummers taller and heavier than some RVs. But when I pull up to the tollbooth at the east end of the Tappan Zee Bridge, the collector proclaims“TWELVE TWENTY-FIVE!” I then look around to select the portion of this bumpy ride I just bought.
The cities of southern New Hampshire cannot claim the distinction I have coveyed upon the state’s roads in general. Salem, that northern suburb of Metheun, MA has the worst stretch of road in the northeast….they’re calling it Route 28. I’m calling it the Oregon Trail without the wagons or the scenery. Go slow, friends; your springs, shocks and tires will thank you!