Friday, October 19, 2012

Driving Through New York City (and New Jersey)

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(Map key: Point A - the cabin; Point B - Williamsburg Bridge; Point C - our hotel in Marmora, NJ; Point D - Cape May - Lewes Ferry; Point E - home-ish.)

For our return trip from Vermont - which we evenly split up into two days - I thought we'd incorporate a little bit of driving in New York City. And by that, I don't just mean driving by on I-95; I mean, driving in New York City.

That's from the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge, which took us from Brooklyn to the Lower East Side of Manhattan; we then made a (more or less) straight line across Manhattan to the Holland Tunnel, which took us into New Jersey. I thought it would be a fun experience, if nothing else.

So, I guess we didn't really do all that much non-expressway driving in New York City. From the end of the Williamsburg Bridge to the start of the Holland Tunnel is just over two miles. But how long did those two miles take? ... Bah! I forgot to time it. Maybe 15 minutes? 20? Not too bad, really.

This drive featured two main challenges. Challenge number one: pedestrian traffic.

This being New York, there were plenty of pedestrians. And did they wait for the "Walk" signal? Nope! Most followed the lights, but many still just walked straight across, crosswalk or no crosswalk, green light or no green light. I'd like to know how many pedestrians get hit by cars daily in New York City. Reckless pedestrians are perhaps the #1 danger if you're going to be driving in Manhattan. Jaywalking is often thought of as a "petty" crime, but if you're ever going to legitimately write someone up for jaywalking, New York City is the place to do it.

Challenge number two: getting into the Holland Tunnel.

This is what took most of our time. The tunnel carries two lanes of traffic westbound (and I assume the same eastbound). How many lanes of traffic have to merge down to the tunnel's two lanes? By my unofficial count, eight! And all of those lanes are loaded, too. That said, the merging process was fairly painless; everyone was generally cooperative in performing the "zipper merge". It just took a while.

A third challenge would have been finding a parking spot, but we knew better than to try and stop anywhere. Finding parking in a big city is perhaps my least favorite driving-related activity. If you're going to spend time in Manhattan, driving there isn't the way to go, obviously. Take the subway!

So, that's New York City. Being "nature lovers", we've never considered New York City to be a vacation destination; in fact, spending time in New York might be the the exact opposite of my ideal vacation. But for a half hour, sure, why not?

Might as well weave the rest of our drive back into this blog post, too, like our drive down the Garden State Parkway. Not as exciting as driving through Lower Manhattan, but still...lots of people. Lots and lots of people. The flow of traffic did keep moving; I was just in awe at how many people really live in the Tri-State area. It's hard to interpret what "19 million" actually means until you've seen it for yourself. Suffice to say, I like it here in North Carolina.

On that note, I thought the town of Marmora - where we spent the night - would be pretty much a "nothing town". I also thought that beach season would be over around here. Wrong on both counts! Despite Marmora's less than impressive footprint on maps, the town's grocery store was packed. Were those people all just beach goers, or locals? I'm honestly curious. Maybe I'll have to go back in the middle of winter and compare. And I have a reason to, because...

Obligatory dumb statistics - counties visited: Driving down the Garden State Parkway took care of every county in New Jersey I had yet to visit...except one. Gotta go back! Someday. In New York, I now have six counties remaining, including Nassau and Suffolk, which gives me a reason to drive through New York City at least one more time. Unless you take a boat, there's no other way to get to Long Island.

Finally, there was the Cape May - Lewes Ferry. We enjoyed it!

But is the ferry an efficient way (in terms of both time and money) to get to (or from) southern New Jersey? Not really. The ferry cost the three of us $46 one-way (that's the peak season pricing, apparently), and I'm sure it's cheaper to go around and take the Delaware Memorial Bridge. It's probably also faster, too, because you have to get to the ferry 30-60 minutes before departure, and then the ride itself takes 90 minutes on top of that. That's about 2½ hours total, only a modest savings - maybe an hour, according to Google - over the Delaware Memorial Bridge route. And that's if you're driving from ferry terminal to ferry terminal; chances are, your starting and ending points are not going to be Lewes and Cape May, specifically. (Maybe one or the other, sure, but probably not both.) That said, you do get to get out of the car and relax a little, and that counts for something, especially when you have kids.

Side note about ferries: Every reservations-requiring ferry we've ever taken, we've taken in the early morning (Swanquarter to Ocracoke, Skagway to Haines, Cape May to Lewes). Why? Well, it's just easier to plan ahead that way. It would have been kind of stressful to book, say, a 5 PM Cape May to Lewes ferry ride, knowing that if we hit traffic in New Jersey, we may not make it in time.

Trip over! Now, back to the routine.

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