As a road warrier, I’m used to long drives. Honestly, I don’t even blink when I drive 6-7 hours anymore. The one exception to that is the drive back from New Jersey to New Hampshire. The timing of the drive is critical, and so is the weather. This afternoon neither worked in my favor.
From New Jersey, there are basically two viable options over the Hudson River; the Tappan Zee Bridge or George Washington Bridge. When you drive over the GW you assume the worst, no matter what time of day it is. Heavy traffic and a rough and bumpy road surface are a given 90% of the time. Usually crossing the GW means placing all your chips on I-95 all the way to New Haven. That’s a scary bet.
The Tappan Zee is less predictable, but generally lighter than the GW. I’ve always found it to be an interesting and enjoyable bridge to cross, largely because of the width of the Hudson at this point, and the beautiful cliffs that line the shores, particularly at Hook Mountain State Park. The challenges come after you cross the Hudson. You either roll the dice on the Sawmill Parkway or on the Merritt Parkway. Parkways sound lovely, but they’re narrow, unforgiving roads built at a time when cars were driving 35-40 MPH. Quaint. Of the two parkways the Merritt is more appealing, with rest areas, a tunnel and importantly, no traffic lights. The Sawmill has multiple traffic lights along the parkway, which puts the park in parkway.
From the parkways you’ve eventually got to get through or around Hartford before you finally catch a cruise control breather on I-84 from Manchester, Connecticut to the Mass Pike. This moment of bliss is usually interrupted by the realities of the Pike. Channeling thousands of drivers from from parts west with thousands of drivers from parts south can lead to epic traffic on the turnpike. Summer and holiday traffic is especially delightful along this stretch of Americana.
Life at highway speed isn’t all its cracked up to be, but its still better than bumper-to-bumper speed. The math has never worked taking the train or a plane to New Jersey. So we all enter the grinder and hope for the best.