austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

It was always my ambition to see Piccadilly

I woke up on time. bunny_hugger woke up ahead of time, because she was in the study, where the wireless printer is, and as happens every time she sleeps there, my mother forgot and printed out something, which wakes bunny_hugger, and then my mother apparently remembered and didn't go in to get the printout (which would require climbing over the fold-out bed), leaving bunny_hugger in the state of not knowing whether to bring out the page or pretend to have not been woken up by things.

However, that's as much as we did on time. We ran a few minutes late getting things packed into my car and started going, and fell a little farther behind due to stopping to fill up and get a suitable breakfast-type snack from Wawa (their cheese, grapes, and soda crackers platter). It wasn't driving up through New Jersey that was the problem; it was that rather foolishly we'd accepted the Google Maps (or whoever) suggestion that we go by I-95 most of the way up, which took us to the George Washington Bridge, which had a roughly fourteen-day delay on it.

It wasn't just the one delay; it was a series of delays, of course, including one where what seemed just to be a potato-or-onion truck (we're pretty sure it was onions) that appeared to just be slow, ahead of us, turned out to have had a minor accident with another car so that it was actually stopped. As a result, by comfortably past the lunch hour we were barely through New York City.

We pulled off at not quite having got into Connecticut to eat, and discovered we'd managed to reach Rye Playland. We were enthusiastic about eating there, but couldn't find a place to park which didn't charge amusement park parking lot prices, so we instead ducked back into the town and found a small diner proclaiming itself to be under new management. It was also about two steps more elegant than the sort of diner we expected it to be, with a cloth and a paper tablecloth and that thing where they serve water from what look like empty milk bottles instead of pitchers with, you know, identifiable handles and spouts. Also the bathroom was about fourteen miles down past the kitchen. Which may sound unappetizing, but it was a really charming diner and they made a fine veggie wrap (for me) or grilled cheese (for bunny_hugger), in an atmosphere inviting enough we overcame our natural shyness and engaged in normal human-style small talk with the staff.

After picking up cookies at the adjacent convenience store and tiny gas station we drove back around the Rye Playland parking lot, getting a glimpse of a roller coaster at least, and made our way back to I-95 and ... Connecticut.

There are many things one forgets about driving in Connecticut, and I forgot an important one: do not attempt to drive in Connecticut. The state has never in its history finished a road-building project. It's all construction zones and stop-and-go traffic. There are soldiers from King Philip's War still on the road trying to get home. Oh, there were little moments where it teased us with the prospect of maybe clearing up a little bit, but then we'd have to slow down because we were less than 60 miles away from Hartford and so were getting spillover city traffic.

This isn't to say we didn't have amusing pastimes. For example, we kept passing signs for various Connecticut community colleges which, thanks to the aunt I have who sends me job listings from the Connecticut community college system, have all rejected me. Also we crossed, and re-crossed, and re-re-crossed, and re-re-re-re-crossed US Route 1, which in southern New England roughly follows the southern branch of the Boston Post Road, about eighteen times every mile.

Another pastime was trying to figure out, once we entered Connecticut on I-95, whether the exit numbers were sequential or mileage-based. You may think this a tiny point, and you would be correct. But you would also think this might be easily answerable by looking at a mile marker and an exit sign. You would be incorrect. The first exit going east was Number 1, and at about mile marker 1. The next was at marker 2. The next was in the third mile. And so on, and on --- we got to watching closely to see if there would ever be a stretch of more than a mile without an exit, and we were starting to think we'd never tell before we turned off I-95 and onto I-91.

At the risk of spoiling: yes, we finally passed a whole mile without an exit, and thus learned that the exit numbers are sequential rather than mileage-based. But it took us twenty miles to establish this. Clearly, somebody's nephew was in the on-ramp business.

Roughly three weeks after entering Connecticut we were almost ready to leave it, and we stopped at what turned out to be the final rest area before Massachusetts to rest, stretch, swap driving positions, and stare at the vending machines. The signs in the plaza were generally about how we couldn't expect help from the staff, if there was staff, because they weren't responsible for anything; however, the bulletin board did include a chart of times to various cities and so we established that we actually had twelve hours left of our eight-hour drive to go. Good to know.

We had other entertainments than watching Connecticut's signage problems and my neurotic tracking of all the schools which have scorned me and shall someday pay. We'd both brought sources of music or at least pre-recorded sound items, including on my part a Doctor Who audio book --- actually, the sound track to the four-part serial ``The Krotons'' --- which had just been obtained by the library so that I believe I was the first borrower, and the Best Of The Firesign Theater CDs that I got for Christmas and hadn't found time to listen to. bunny_hugger had not heard the Firesign Theater before, and I'm not actually sure whether this was the best possible introduction, but she seemed reasonably amused by them.

The Massachusetts Turnpike was our first toll road since the New Jersey Turnpike, or the George Washington Bridge, but we were on that only a few miles and $0.90 worth of traffic before back to free Interstates and our discovery that while Massachusetts is a long, skinny state, it was apparently bitten by a radioactive puffer fish while still a colony so that it expands to over ten times its natural size when you try driving north through it. It turns out this little river-hugging arc it follows in the far eastern part of the state is just what we had to drive through and is bigger than it looks on a map.

So when we staggered in to New Hampshire and the first service plaza there, we phoned moxie_man to explain that after sixteen hours of driving we were actually farther away than we were when we started, and he understood, and we could return to the road.

It turns out New Hampshire, while a tall, skinny state, is along the slice cut by I-95 approximately twenty feet wide. Parts of the service plaza were actually in Maine. This is clearly done for morale purposes; after spending six years trapped in the Connecticut traffic and three months finding Massachusetts just keeps adding little bits more northern territory after you'd think it was done, a quick succession of state borders must have been designed so that drivers could feel assured that, yes, it is possible to traverse states.

And of course we just had to penetrate Maine. How long could that take? Well, as we continued along the Interstate and saw how every single exit was for US Route 1 again (``Look, kids, Big Ben ... Parliament''), and the sun got around to setting, and the fog rolled in, and ... boy, there's a lot of Maine to drive through. Based on the progress we were making I wasn't sure Maine's roads aren't actually treadmills running the opposite direction of traffic flow, because the hours just kept rolling on and we weren't seeing much sign of cities, or commercial development, or really anything but fog.

Finally came a critical moment of decision: should we eat at the next service plaza, or pull off the highway and see if something might be open at 9 pm on a Thursday? We decided to try for ``something around Portland'', which would take us another half-hour, on the theory that a city that big would surely have something and if it didn't, well, we wouldn't be far from the next service plaza then.

This would be a well-timed stop, as when we pulled off my car was just about out of gas. With the help of my iPad we were able to locate not just a nest of strip malls with a lot of restaurants listed, but also a gas station nearly immediately off the road. There was a slightly odd moment when bunny_hugger asked me something or other about a thing with my gas cap which I couldn't answer, not because of my charming academic obliviousness, but because I really don't know a thing about my gas cap. This was the first time I've had to fill up my gas tank outside New Jersey; I've never been forced to fill up the tank myself. And as bunny_hugger took charge of the gas, I still hadn't filled the tank myself.

The restaurant we aimed for was a pizza place, and I, following our position on my iPad, managed to guide us way past it and force us to turn around because I hadn't figured how the map symbols matched the reality. On the second try around, we found the pizza restaurant, Ricetta's, a pretty nice place with brick ovens and which turned out to be part of a small local chain. But we put together a pizza with toppings to bunny_hugger's direction, and it was exactly right like that. We stepped back out into the muggy night, making bunny_hugger's glasses immediately fog over. It was like that: my whole car was covered in condensate, as if it were an incompetent Thermos. Hilarious? Sure.

But you'd think there must be more to the state of Maine than darkness, fog, and a long, nearly empty road that you hope is leading to somewhere that some people might be, and you'd be mistaken. However, after about another hour of driving --- coming to a total of just under eleven hours on the road, for a drive Google Maps estimated at eight and change, even allowing that we took multiple rest and meal breaks --- we arrived, safe and exhausted at the home of moxie_man and panacea1.

Trivia: The Upper, Old Boston Post Road reached New Haven, Connecticut, by way of Worcester, Springfield, and Hartford. There were at least two other major routes. Source: The Old Post Road, Stuart H Holbrook.

Currently Reading: Driftglass, Samuel R Delaney.

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