I spent the past two days visiting my old friends Alexander, Vince, Molly, Joyce, and Woodrow. After a week of Camp Grammie on the Cape, I was tasked with driving down to Philly to drop Cecilia off for a jam-packed week at Camp Grandmother.
Some parents want to pass on sports allegiances, or favorite movies, authors, bands or a family recipe. I have ideas on all of those, but if I pass on nothing else, my kids will know all the tips, tricks and strategies for surviving a summer drive up and down the Northeast Corridor. Just like my father did with me. By now, this drive is encoded in my DNA.
Cecilia is a third-generation Turnpike child and we have carefully been building up her endurance to long car rides since she was three months old. A morning drive to Philly is just an appetizer. She openly wondered why we didn’t just keep driving to DC to also visit her cousins. That’s my girl!
So no cuddly couch time yesterday, or snarky Full House recaps. It was all business and a blur of mile markers, but with a captive audience, maybe you’ll also find some value in a few of the 9 arbitrary tips I drilled her on yesterday.
- Always start your drive in darkness
Suck it up and go early or late or doom yourself to sitting in a traffic jam somewhere. I like the morning better in the summer to try to avoid most overnight road construction.
- Never fill up the tank in CT or NY
It used to be no-brainer to fill up in NJ, but recent tax hikes have made it mostly a wash with MA.
- Use the Henry Hudson to approach the GW from the north
Jumping off 95 after you enter NY and winding your way up to the bridge ultimately via the Henry Hudson is the best approach. I’ve rarely ever hit traffic until I’m on the bridge.
- The Merritt will help you going north, at a cost
No video game will ever match the realism of the Merritt Parkway. It will help you avoid the morass of lower 95 in CT, but it will take a week off your life.
- The Cross Bronx is worth the risk – if you get there early
You will save time and miles, but probably not your suspension by staying on 95 right through the Cross Bronx, but if you get there after 8 am (on a weekend) you’ll probably hit traffic.
- Diners are where it’s at
Do yourself a favor, use the bathroom if you have to, but drive the extra minute or so, avoid the value meals and eat a a decent diner. We typically stop in CT and can recommend Georgie’s, The Shoreline or The Cromwell Diner.
- Unless Frank Pepe’s is open
Then again if it’s past breakfast, or even after 11 am, and you don’t at least consider stopping at Frank Pepe’s in New Haven, we might not be able to be friends
- Upper NJ smells
Look, there are many, many beautiful parts of Jersey, but the first handful of exits on the turnpike are not one of them. Potty humor is completely acceptable with or without kids in the car.
- 1010 WINS or 880 for traffic around NYC
Trust Waze or your app of choice, but it never hurts to check traffic on the 1’s for breaking news around NYC. As a bonus it will allow you to explain AM radio to your kids.
After getting Cecilia in the car and firing up the first Harry Potter book on CD, we drove hard for Connecticut and made it to Georgie’s (see rule 6 above) just as the doors were opening.
Do kids order anything besides chocolate chip pancakes if available?
Eventually we did make it down to Grandmother and Papa’s and she was still smiling, but happy to be out of the car.
Clover was also happy to see us. Or maybe it was the flocks of birds raiding the feeders outside the windows.
Pal Joey’s subs for lunch. Another road trip tradition when we reach our destination.
Don’t think just because she’s away at Camp Grandmother that piano or math practice isn’t still happening every day!
We had to be careful not to lose Cecilia is Papa’s garden. I need to move down here just for the gardening.
We finished a long day by Skyping with her little sister. Who, in her big sister’s absence, had a wild day of her own. Maybe Michelle will share their crazy carnival story.
That was it. Any day that finishes with a homemade blueberry pie and didn’t include a time I wanted to tear out my hair on 95 is a good day in my book.