On the Road to New York


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On the Road to New York

There is a funny thing that happens when you travel. The people are all the same. Sure they may talk with a slightly different accent, and they may dress just slightly differently, and may think just slightly differently. In the end they are basically the same thing, a human being.

I recently took a trip. I was going to a conference in Ithaca NY. Round trip is approximately 3000 miles. Driving time is 20 hours one way. I drove it all by myself in as little time as possible. I ended up taking 24 hours to do it. It is quite a rigorous challenge to do it all in one shot.

I can classify the terrain into basically three things that you see: plains, woods, and hills. Sometimes you would see an area that combined woods and hills, but that was usually in a mountainous area. Along the whole route you would switch back and forth between these three characteristics. ND and eastern MN are plains. Central and Western MN and Wisconsin are mostly heavy woods with some lakes. On the plains the highway was pretty straight. Once you got to the woody areas, curves like no ones business. In Wisconsin the trees were son think that they had to cut a swath out just for the interstate crossovers that the HP use to change directions. This patch that was cut out was about fifty meter long. There was a patch of asphalt that was thrown down between the two highways which were about 30 meters apart. The green tops of the evergreens contrasted with the light brown tree trunks which extended up at least 60 feet. There were some small patches of green grass that filled in between the trees and the concrete of the highway. Every fifth exchange a brown Highway Patrol car with a pale yellow stripe down the middle and a low profile light bar would be sitting waiting for the next speeder. Maybe this helps them to blend in? Oddly enough my radar detector never went off. Were they just there to present the threat of being stopped?
When I got out of Wisconsin Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania pretty much look like ND. When you get to Chicago however things take a very different turn.

Everything turns into an industrial style. Concrete everywhere, toll booths every 25 miles or so, no seemingly familiar sites other than a slightly wider patch of concrete called the interstate.

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When I was driving through Illinois, it was the middle of the night, both directions. The anticipation of making it to Chicago kept me thinking that every light that I saw was the beginning of the city. I thought that for at least one and a half hours before I even got there. Unfortunately I was unable to stop for very long, and it wasn’t in the city. I stopped at a truck stop and took a short nap. The thoroughfare to the south had been recommended by a trucker 400 miles back if I didn’t want to get stuck in traffic. Unfortunately it was also a toll way.

Now the trucker that I mentioned was just an example of how people don’t change. I stopped at a truck stop to get out of my car and buy something to drink so that I did not fall asleep. I bought an atlas, and simply asked if anyone has been through Chicago. I hardly had to wait and this friendly trucker gives me all the details that I need: where I need to go, the route I need to take, what turnoffs I need to look for. The same help that I would get anywhere in Fargo.

Now one of the pet peeves I have is toll booths. I don’t especially like them. But some states decide to use them. Basically anything east of Wisconsin uses them. Illinois has one every certain distance, so does Indiana. Ohio however does it quire differently. They have a tollbooth at every on-ramp and at every off-ramp. They have tickets that you are given to show where you got on at. You do not have to pay until you get off of the toll-way. I liked this much better since you weren’t constantly stopping to put change in the baskets. The ingenious thing about this was that they had little rest-stop/ truck-stops in the middle of the on or off ramps. They had restaurants, gas stations, restrooms, gift shops, even arcades. I used several of these to stop and take a nap. They were great, high view, well lit. I felt pretty safe.

Pennsylvania continued the trend, but was more expensive. This made me decide to not use the toll-way while I was in New York. There was a highway parallel with it anyway, so I used that. But the Interesting thing is that New York is much more hilly than I had imagined. The northwestern part of NY that I was in is out of the Appalachian Mountain range, but is quite challenging terrain. The Historical inhabitants of the area the

Algonquin Indian tribe have a reservation that was just to the south of my path. It was truly a beautiful sight. The heavily rolling hills or slightly rolling mountains, constantly had you going up or down a hill. Once you get into the back roads, the hills get even more accentuated, and the roads come nowhere close to being straight line. The forestry makes you understand why the British were fools for trying to come down from the north to try and split the country during the Revolutionary war. Just walking through some of the brush that I saw made me sweat. Truly this was once extremely rugged country. There seems to me to have been no worse terrain to attempt to start a new country, but it happened. There were water fall seemingly everywhere. Small little streams falling maybe thirty feet off of the dark grey rocks. Every third town was Seneca Falls, Little Heart Falls, Your Mothers’ Falls, Fill in The Blank Falls. It was kind of funny.

Ithaca is in what is called the Finger Lakes Region. It is so called because of the five elongated lakes that stretch out over about 600 square miles. They are separated, but all seem to come from a point of origination fanning out to what somewhat resembles a hand with the fingers spread. They are large lakes some that extend for fifty miles. It is beautiful country. The country is rustic if not crowded, but so close to metropolitan society. It is an odd combination.

Even when I got to my destination, there were so many states and nations represented, that it truly illuminated the sameness of us all. My two favorite people that I met were Max and Heinrich Thein. They are instrument manufacturers from Bremen Germany. They are quite interesting fellows. They both are stocky men, slightly shorter than average, about 3 inches taller than the other brother. They wore the most ornate glasses that I have ever seen. They were round lenses in a sort of monocle style with gold wire frames and many superfluous decorative swoops of wire. Much different from the stripped down versions that we have in our culture. They were very friendly and tried to help the prospective customers at their display, and teach people about some of the rare instruments that they make.

The return trip was pretty uneventful which was good since I again did it in one straight shot stopping infrequently to grab a soda or a nap. In the end it was the most
that I have ever had on a trip, even though I was not able to stop at all the things that I would have like to been. Cross county travel, it’s for everyone.


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