May 15, 2021, Hartford- The governments are scaling back their mandates, but businesses are protecting themselves and their employees. So, I am still finding, in the swath of the Southwest, Midwest and Northeast that I have visited and enjoyed, over these four days.
It has not affected traffic, all that much. Going around Indianapolis and Columbus, I saw about as much traffic as I remember, in those fair cities. I noticed scant fear of strangers, so long as those strangers adhered to posted rules. My longest stop of the day was at the Bedford (PA) Service Center, along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. There, I picked up some road food, rather than go into town and visit Bedford Diner, as I really needed to get to the night’s lodging, before dawn tomorrow. Good-natured banter with a truck driver, whilst waiting for the food to be readied, made this break refreshing, and the food was energizing.
That was crucial. I did not have the luxury of stopping by and visiting with friends in southeast PA, as I so often do, on these jaunts. My destination was here, in Connecticut’s capital, some five hours from Bedford. Most of that, of course, was crossing the Keystone State. The scenery is ever enticing in Pennsylvania, with dense green forest and shimmering valleys. The Turnpike, though, is not enticing. Though the toll collection system, mercifully, is digitized, as it so often elsewhere in the country, the state of the roads is as much in flux as it ever was. Construction equipment is still everywhere, even as there were few, if any, workers present on this Saturday.
The icing on the cake came, in crossing New Jersey. The roads were not at all bad, and I-78 Express, towards the Big Apple, was finally finished, and smooth as glass. I stopped at a filling station in Basking Ridge, between Bedminster and Newark, was permitted to both fill up my own vehicle (rare in New Jersey) and use the restroom, even though the place was closing. The only other blip came at the toll booth for Garden State Parkway. There, I saw no ticket slot, in the dark, and walked over to the guy behind me in the vehicle line, telling him I was confused about where the ticket slot was. He grinned, and fortunately was understanding, handing me the ticket which he had found waiting, even without pushing the usual button.
After gratefully paying my ticket at the toll collection booth, five miles further, it was on through a small swath of New York City: The George Washington Bridge-which resembles a small village, anymore; the squeeze point of I-87 and the Cross-County (Westchester) and Hutchinson River (Connecticut) Parkways. Notable in this was the pair of racing teens, who deftly zigged and zagged through traffic, along the segment of Thruway we used to get out of the city. There was another guy, seemingly a bit hopped up, who flashed his lights behind me, several times, then also zigged and zagged out from behind me, and on into the night.
These sideshows, as potentially deadly as they might have been, seemed to me, edging towards this long day’s conclusion, to be just part of the mix. I still feel nothing but love and connection to the people I am meeting-more so than in times past. The shared struggle is likely a good contributor to that.
So, when I finally walked in the door of Travel Inn, a huge building that is still largely locked tightly, due to COVID-based restrictions, I felt like I had walked into home sweet home. Just about any place at all can feel like that, after 16 hours on the road.