Monday, March 23, 1992...
Awoke at 5:50, started the car at 6:29, cleared New York City at 6:56 AM, and spent just about all the time in-between driving. That gives me until 9:20 Wednesday night, Pacific time, to reach San Francisco ahead of the 1931 record pace of 2 days, 17 hours, 24 minutes). Set a new personal distance record of 1,091.6 miles, averaging 65.1 MPH for the day -- yet that distance record may not survive tomorrow, when I aim for Salt Lake City.
When I pulled out of my driveway, the roads were paved but wet. I didn't have any trouble with the weather, although in New Jersey and Pennsylvania at least five jackknifed trucks hadn't been so lucky, Just as I approached the George Washington Bridge, a mocking ad for the MetroNorth railroad came on the radio: "The days of owning the open road are over. There is no more open road." Ha. Also heard that after last week's storm, the New York Department of Sanitation inadvertently covered some Brooklyn streets with broken glass instead of rock salt!
I-80 emerges from Interstate 95 about four miles from the George Washington Bridge, pointing itself due west for its almost 3,000-mile run. The first fifty miles of I-80 in New Jersey have four lanes in each direction -- a lovely luxury, especially when compared to the shabby condition of the road in Pennsylvania. While the traveler pays a $1.00 toll to cross into Pennsylvania and none to enter New Jersey, it's obvious that Pennsylvania hasn't thrown the money back into road maintenance. I-80 is only two lanes wide for all 300 excruciating miles of Pennsylvania.
In practice, though, the first 75 miles was only about 1-1/2 lanes wide -- the plows hadn't cleared either shoulder or the outside half of the left lane, so that anyone seeking to pass had to keep both hands on the wheel to adjust to abrupt shifts between concrete, sand and snow surfaces under the wheels. Moreover, about half the sand seems to have wound up on the windshields of every car on the road: my own was a pigsty within minutes, and no amount of wiping while getting gas could clear it all.
Pennsylvania does have the interesting towns, though: White Haven and Freeland (at one exit!), Mile Run, and Jersey Shore (located, of course, at least 150 miles from any part of New Jersey). The Blue Top Family Restaurant at Exit 12 had an all-too-familiar sky-blue roof, revealing yet another abandoned Stuckey's. A few miles later, the truck stop in Emlenton, PA advertised itself as the "home of America's worst apple pie."
Shortly after Clarion, I picked up a shadow: a young woman driving a red Toyota with a University of Michigan sticker in the rear window. We swapped positions at 70-75 mph for over 250 miles until she turned north at Toledo, probably en route to Ann Arbor. By Ohio, the road was first-class once again, built to modern Interstate standards with wide medians and lanes; the next 600 miles of roadway were virtually interchangeable, except for some of the urbanized stretches. I had lots of time to left my thoughts wander...
And as I turned into the Super 8 in Newton, Iowa, I realized with some bemusement that since today's gas, food, tolls and motel room had cost more than $100, this trip would actually cost me more than if I'd flown to San Francisco and rented a car. Had hoped to reach Des Moines, but when I felt myself tiring after 16 hours on the road, I decided to pull in ASAP. I really don't need to wrap myself around a pole...
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