Thursday, February 10, 2005

Now I know which exit.

I took a five state odessy yesterday. Virginia, through West Virginia, through Maryland, through Pennsylvania, finally ending in New Jersey. I came back the same day.

When I got close to my final destination, I was early. I decided to stop for gas and a coffee refill. I picked a random exit off of I-78 and expected to see an area typical of a highway exit. Fast food, car dealerships, restaurants, gas stations and miscellaneous businesses. What I saw really surprised me.

It was like wilderness. Not 100 feet from the ramp, the forest started. There were a scattering of houses mixed in the trees and some quaint settings that were actually quite nice. There was even a sheep farm, which I would expect to see in WV, not NJ. I had to drive a mile to get to the gas station, where I received full service on my vehicle. Fill up, window wash and tire pressure check, just like the old days. I went inside for a cup of coffee and the clerk was cleaning up the coffee area and pored the cup of coffee for me. Decent coffeee at that. I was pleasantly surprised and got a very good first impression of NJ. Then it went down hill.

MapQuest took me through the heart of Newark. Here I am, a big goofy white guy wearing a suit in a giant pick up truck, in the middle of a ghetto with prostitutes hollering at me. I was somewhere in the vicinity of the art center, which apparently is a very rough section of town. I was pretty sure I wouldn't make it out alive. Every person I passed was of a race other than white and glared at my offensive presence.

Then I got to the Kearny area. It was very nice. A long straight boulevard with shops, people walking, kids going to school and remarkably clean. But, there was no place to park. Here I am in the land of cars and highways, just surviving the ghettos and I couldn't find a parking spot. I kept driving and felt certain I would hit another ghetto at any moment and risk my life again.

My business finished, I found a safer way out of town. I took the Garden State Parkway, which has an amazingly large cemetery that stretches out on both sides of the road and has a little deli-food mart on one corner, right up against the tomb stones and mausoleums. One each side of the cemetery, there was a two lane road with row houses across the street. I'm not sure I'd want to be there in life or in death. Both prospects are disconcerting.

Traffic was much lighter than I thought. There were plenty of cars and we were following very closely, but traffic was moving very well.

The strangest part of the trip was leaving NJ. I flew right into NJ along I-78, but on the way out, I had to stop and pay a toll. It was very Hotel California-ish. You can get in, but you can't get out. At least not without paying 75 cents.

All in all, I thought NJ was a nice place and wouldn't mind going back.

Other strange sites:

A female flasher on I-81 north of Harrisburg. She wasn't very well endowed though.
A donkey farm in PA along I-78 in which each donkey had a private barn that looked like a giant "dog-gloo" you can get from the evil WalMart.
A convoy of six tanker trucks carrying different chemicals. Lord knows what would happen in a pile up.
A male of middle eastern decent with a dot on his forhead. I've seen women like this, but never a man. I don't remember what it means or whether it is religious or cultural. I just know I never saw a man with one.
A funeral procession with some idiot driving beside each car and honking. I think he was telling each of them that thier lights were on. Kind of funny, but tasteless.
Real, live prostitutes. Other than Tiajuana strippers, I'd never seen a prostitute.
A rain, snow line. I didn't realize it was really a line. It was raining and as I went up over a mountain, it very abrubtly turned to snow.

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