Beginning Tuesday morning through last night I drove from Southern New Hampshire to Rocky Hill, Connecticut, up to Danbury, over to Dover Plains, New York, up to Albany, up to Burlington, Vermont and back down to Southern New Hampshire.  That’s a roughly 700 mile perimeter triangle on a map that is bigger in area that some of the states I drove through.  I’ve found that the people are mostly the same no matter where I go, but there are some differences in the three legs of that triangle.  The drive from Southern NH through Massachusetts and Connecticut is one world. The other two legs from Dover Plains to Burlington and back offer a very different world.

I was at a bar in Danbury talking to a guy who was waiting out the traffic with dinner and a couple of drinks before he got back in his car to crawl home.  I know a guy in Massachusetts who does the same thing.  The traffic in both places will murder you 1/10th of a mile at a time.  There’s a helplessness that comes with relentless traffic that can eat you alive. That guy in Danbury was shell-shocked by a combination of forces working against him.

Sprawling development has changed Danbury from the place I knew 25 years ago.  Perhaps nothing disgusted me more than seeing condos perched on the top of a hill, offering lovely views for the people who lived there but ruining the view for everyone that had to look at what they did to that hill.  Wedging more homes into open space means more and more people jamming onto those roads.  But the people are great, if worn down by the grind of traffic, urban sprawl, and Connecticut’s bureaucracy. There’s seemingly a sign everywhere telling you what you can and can’t do (Take my sunglasses off when I drive into a tunnel? Who knew?).

New York is two states, metro New York and everywhere else. Dover Plains is not Metro NY, and neither is anyplace else along the stretch from there to the Canadian border, save for some Capital District commuter misery. North of Saratoga you can breath again. And other than the ferry drama mentioned in yesterday’s post those two longer legs were uneventful bliss. No condos carved into hilltops, no commuters on the verge of boiling over. Bliss.

If you’ve ever stood by the side of a road you know how unnatural it is. It’s a horrific blur of noise, fumes and speed, all meant to rapidly transport goods and people from one place to another as quickly as possible. It’s inherently inefficient, destroys vast swaths of land, disrupts communities and ultimately destroys itself and chunks of the planet. The flip side of that story is that the world becomes smaller. I love the highway system when I’m zipping around 2/3 of that triangle, and hate it when I’m crawling along on the other 1/3. It’s a complicated debate, but I hope we get it right in the end. Let’s not let the 1/3 leg become the norm