Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gridlock - Highways I'd Rather Bypass

     Like most people, I enjoy driving a car. I've never been interested in having the fastest or shiniest or most expensive. My main concern is that it can get me from point A to point B without incident or a breakdown.
     But, I have to say when driving, there are several highways I could do without on my journeys around the countryside. They are I-95 north through New York City, I-495 or the Beltway around Washington, D.C. and I-76 the darling of GRIDLOCK, The Schuylkill Expressway into Philadelphia.

     When I see the red lights on the back of cars and the slowdown begins, I start to see red and get aggravated. There is no place to go. All you can do is stay in line with all the other lemmings pumping the gas pedal, tapping the brake. Repeat. I try to stay patient but that isn't one of my best attributes.
     We are all in it together as the outdated infrastructure and all the small feeders roads dump motorists onto the backed up highways. Vehicles clogging the lanes come to a dead stop what I like to call a CARonary vehicular attack. And then a lane jumper dodges left, cuts right and heads down the shoulder of the road.
     AHHHHHH! No road rage just frustration watching all of this. When we drove home from Connecticut on our last summer trip, it was a breeze until several miles from the George Washington Bridge in New York City. It took us over an hour and change to make it through. Good thing for Garmin keeping me on the straight and narrow and do I mean narrow as cars squeezed me from all angles but I remained on course. Hit the gas, jam on the brake hold my breath. Repeat.
    And my wife Deb and I are traveling off peak hours. I can't imagine what that road is like on a Friday at five p.m. when commuters and city dwellers are trying to get off the island for the weekend.
I like New York City but unfortunately so do millions of others and if I want to travel I have to play the game.
     Our family has preferred to travel south to enjoy the beach. We've been to Florida on the gulf and east coast, a couple times to the Outer Banks, but mostly Myrtle Beach, S.C.  I always try to talk myself into the fact that the drive will be better this time. I am a dreamer. We have finally given up driving during the daylight hours and instead leave shortly after midnight. On average it takes ten hours to get there, but in the event of a traffic backup hours can add on. It's not a problem driving down as everyone is excited to get on the road anticipating a great week ahead.
     But when you're dragging after playing hard for seven days, and we are forced to leave our rental unit in the morning with the thousands of others at the same time, the drive home can be a nag. Traveling is fine out of Myrtle and I'm in good spirits after a nice holiday with family, but in the back of my mind I know what is waiting for us when we get north of Quantico, Virginia. The backup is for miles and and miles on a Saturday nearing the point where Route 95 and the Beltway merge.
     The engineers and work crews have designed and built, redesigned, dug up and rebuilt the same roadway it seems like every summer. The road go from four lanes down to one and the jockeying for position in this mess is brutal even though no one gets very far. It's time to sit back take a deep breath, sigh and rub my aching head.

     My least favorite drive is the Schuylkill Expressway. From the point where Route 422 connects with Route 202 and then into I-76, it's one long backed up pile of cars and trucks slowly heading to the city. And what I don't get is that at times I'm doing 55 mph and in a blink of an eye I'm at a dead stop. Speed up slow down. Repeat. With only two lanes, every on and off ramp causes delays.
     So to balance the nasty roads that I have to navigate I drive over many country lanes. Deb and I will head out to Lancaster and travel some scenic backroads where the farmland goes on for miles. Take it easy, cruise along and relax. Enjoy the roads and the driving. Stop at some of the road side vegetable stands and eat lunch at a
barbecue joint. And then it happens, even here in God's country.
     HEY, What the heck is that big tractor doing driving only five miles per hour in front of me. You can't go anywhere not even when you've got nowhere to go.