Friday, June 4, 2021

Andy Young: On the road again, visiting everyone but the neighbors

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

Maine is the nation’s northeastern terminus. It’s also the only one of the 50 states with a one-syllable name, and it’s got more actual coastline than any other inhabitable state. (Okay; Florida and Louisiana both have somewhat more, but who wants to live in a glorified swamp, not to mention ones that are hotbeds of yellow fever, malaria, and similar scourges?) 

And if that’s not unique enough, Maine is the only one of America’s 50 states that borders on one (and only one) other state. And since at this writing Canada is still off-limits to Americans without a vital need to be there, if Mainers want to cross a border, it’s got to be New Hampshire’s.

Thanks to a 15-month “time-out” necessitated by the ongoing (though thankfully subsiding) COVID-19 pandemic, my out-of-state travel since last February has been limited to a single seven-hour mini-excursion last July with my two sons to climb southern Vermont’s Mount Ascutney with their cousin/my niece. But since both the drive down and the return trip were made non-stop, I didn’t get to actually put my feet down onto our lone neighboring state’s soil.

Limiting travel for myself and my family was an important decision I made based on reliable information. When it comes to deciding on my actions during a worldwide pandemic, I’ll heed the advice of distinguished epidemiologists for the same reason I follow my financial advisor’s counsel on monetary matters, my lawyer’s instructions on legal affairs, and my mechanic’s suggestions when it comes to my car.  

But now that the crisis is seemingly on the wane, I’m long since fully vaccinated, and there’s no longer a need to quarantine after returning from out of state, ending my already far-too-lengthy travel sabbatical to attend a long-scheduled family memorial service in New Jersey was an easy decision. That’s why last weekend I drove approximately 800 total miles on a circuitous route to (and back from) the central portion of the Garden State, with stops en route in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, but at first glance the rest of the world (or at least the portion of it I saw) seemed pretty much unchanged. Significant portions of I-495, I-290, I-84, and I-95 were under construction, but that’s been the perpetual state of affairs on those roads since I got my driver’s license four and a half decades ago. Passing over the George Washington Bridge from New York to New Jersey is still a piece of cake at 7 a.m. on a sunny Sunday in late May, but re-crossing it later the same day is an exercise in frustration. My 387-mile trip home, one which MapQuest said should have required a mere six hours and 29 minutes, took two hours longer than that, and a significant amount of my squandered time was spent crawling toward the Hudson River crossing of least resistance, generally flanked by two massive 18-wheelers that blocked out whatever remaining sunlight there was.

But despite the lengthy and occasionally stressful drive, it was great seeing old friends and visiting old haunts, which is why I’m headed for Rhode Island this weekend to see my uncle. I’ll have to go through Boston, but even if traffic’s bad, I’ll bet I can get back in under eight and a half hours.

I’m truly grateful to finally have the freedom to cross the state line without quarantining upon my return. And when I come back from this trip I will, in my most recent travels, have physically set foot in New York, New Jersey, and every New England state – except Maine’s only actual neighbor! <

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