August 14, 2021
Six hours. 165 miles. The statistics on a drive from our New Jersey home to my Mom’s Long Island apartment.
First stop: Hub and I left home Saturday morning, foregoing our morning refreshment, the plan to stop at a service center on the Garden State Parkway for coffee. The rest stop’s parking lot was busy, folks wandered about, lots of activity on a day quickly becoming hot and steamy. We entered the building. I detoured to the ladies’ room, and then to the coffee counter, actually a Burger King, the only concession, only to find a line. A very long line. Lots of people milling around waiting to order drinks and breakfast sandwiches. We decided we could wait until the next stop for coffee.
Second stop: About 40 minutes later – no traffic (yet) but lots of cars on the road – I enter another service center and scan the room. Larger than the previous place, I noticed a couple of closed concessions – not enough help? Why else close on a busy summer weekend? – and then spied Starbucks, hidden behind a lengthy queue of maybe 50 people. No exaggeration.
Disappointed but unwilling to wait, we got back in the car, onto the highway again, and continued driving…and driving. We progressed at a slower and slower speed (an oxymoron?) as we approached the New York metro area. Outside the temperature rose. Inside the car we remained cool, but our tempers gradually escalated as we contemplated a long ride, no coffee, no snacks, cramped muscles, and a tense drive as traffic increased.
The minutes ticked off, then the hours.
Decisions must be made: Do we take the George Washington Bridge through the Bronx, or the winding Belt Parkway through Brooklyn? On which road will we encounter less traffic? Or will both be traffic terrors? We chose the George Washington Bridge and of course found ourselves in the midst of a summer weekend traffic jam.
Meanwhile our stomachs demanded attention. Our legs required stretching. Our eyes needed a change from pavement and lines of creeping cars.
Third stop: Thank goodness for the GPS and Yelp. The first restaurant off the highway, in a Bronx neighborhood hugging the East River and Long Island Sound, was permanently closed, probably a victim of covid, but down the road a second café welcomed us. We sat on the porch, shielded from the sun, and a mini-breeze from the Sound cooled us. Following a snack, we returned to the highway.
Finally on Long Island, but still in New York City – the borough of Queens – we exited bumper-to-bumper traffic for Northern Boulevard, offering less traffic but lots of lights, resulting in stop-and-go driving. But we made progress, slow but steady.
The final 23 miles of the trip lasted almost three – 3 – hours.
Six hours and 165 miles after leaving home, we reached our destination, and dragged weary bodies into Mom’s apartment and collapsed. But we made it!