Friday, July 27

 

I am so glad to be done with West Haven

It came to me today, as I finished up my 4-week stint in West Haven, that at 112 miles each way I’ve driven something like 4,500 miles on this assignment.  Well maybe around 4,300, given the three times I took the ferry home.  Considering that the average person drives about 12,000 miles a year, what this means is that I’ve done over four months’ of average-person driving in just four weeks.  And this is not counting all the non-work-related driving I’ve done during this time.  Granted, I’ve been compensated very nicely for my travels, but it’s still a ridiculous amount of driving.  Even the upcoming four weeks in Danbury (at “only” 100 miles each way) will be a relief.

Traffic wasn’t an issue today.  The morning was easy as usual, and I was able to finish up by noon.  This got me home in only a little over two hours, probably a record for West Haven, as except for a slight delay at the Throgs Neck Bridge tolls I had no traffic issues at all.

Gym: I was home early enough that I made a late-afternoon visit and did some bench pressing.  6 x 135, 6 x 165, 4 x 185, 2 x 205, 3 x 6 x 225, 8 x 185, 10 x 135.  No records, but a decent session.

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Published in: on July 30, 2012 at 1:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, July 25 – Thursday, July 26

Still waiting for an explanation

In some days Wednesday was looking like a clone of Tuesday.  On both days I finished up my work in West Haven right around 2pm and therefore was on the roads well before the start of rush hour.  The clone analogy only got me so far, unfortunately, as while the return trip on Wednesday took 2 hours 15 minutes, it was just shy of three hours on Thursday.  There was slow traffic on several stretches of I-95 in Connecticut, once again in the Bronx near the Pelham Parkway area, and worst of all a nearly 20-minute wait at the toll booths on the Throgs Neck Bridge.  It was almost 3:45 by the time I got across the bridge and I knew that the Long Island Expressway would be a disaster area by that point.  So I stayed on the (crawling) Cross Island Parkway a bit further and took the Northern State Parkway.  It had its sluggish parts, especially right after the junction with the Meadowbrook, though to my surprise getting onto the Expressway via the Sunken Meadow/Sagtikos wasn’t too bad.   I ended up getting home just before five, way too late given my early departure.

Thursday wasn’t too bad, mainly because I was done for the day around 1 pm.  The trip home was much better than it had been on Wednesday but not as good as Tuesday’s.  Something around 2:25, which I suppose isn’t bad for a trip of 112 miles.  Another decent thing is that both mornings were just fine, under two hours each day.

I also found out my schedule for the next few months.  Next week I’ll be going to Port Chester, the last town in New York along I-95 before you get to Connecticut.  It’ll be about ten miles shorter than when I was going to Stamford and close to 50 miles less than this horrendous trip to West Haven.  After one week I’ll be going to Danbury for four weeks.  It’s 100 miles each way, slightly less than West Haven, but the main route there (I-684) is significantly less trafficked than I-95 and therefore the ride should be better.  After the four weeks in Danbury it’ll be back to Port Chester for another three weeks.  And then – tah dah! – I’ll be spending at least two months right on Long Island, much closer to home.

Published in: on July 28, 2012 at 6:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, July 23 – Tuesday, July 24

To start the final week, two easy days

Monday started my fourth and final week of working at a customer’s location in West Haven.  Perhaps it’s partly because the four week stint was interrupted by my week in Philadelphia, but it feels like I’ve been going there for an eternity.  Certainly for much longer than my previous four weeks in Stamford.  While in part this is because my work in West Haven has been more intense than what I was doing in Stamford, mostly it’s because the drive is just so long.  112 miles each way is definitely no picnic.

Fortunately, both of these days went very well.  On Monday morning I did something unusual and took the Clearview Expressway to the Throgs Neck Bridge, the ramp from the Cross Island being closed for construction, but this didn’t change my overall time.  As usual, I made it door-to-door in under two hours.  Although I wasn’t able to get out early, staying until the normal 3pm stopping time, the drive home was blessedly delay-free and I made it home in under two and a half hours.  Traffic flowed just fine on I-95 and across the Throgs Neck, the Cross Island was sluggish but moving, and the only slowdowns of concern on the Long Island Expressway were for about a mile approaching Exit 38 and then from exits 55 to 57.

Tuesday was even easier.  The morning’s drive time was about the same, no need to use the Clearview this time, and because I got off work at 2pm I had a return trip of about 2 hours 15 minutes.  Oddly enough there was some slow traffic in the Stamford-Greenwich area, for no reason that I could discern,  but other than that I rarely had to be concerned with traffic at all.

Published in: on July 25, 2012 at 2:45 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, July 21 – Sunday, July 22

Two decent days at the gym.  It was bench pressing on Saturday: 6 x 135, 6 x 165, 4 x 185, 2 x 205, 3 x 6 x 225, 8 x 185.  On  Sunday, I did leg work.  Life Fitness seated leg press: 4 x 10 x 395.  Seated leg curls: 3 x 8 x 185.  Life Fitness horizontal leg press: 3 x 8 x 195.  What I’m hoping is that after next week, my final week in West Haven, my daily schedule will be less exhausting and I’ll be able to make it to the gym at least a couple of evenings during the week.  Going solely on weekends isn’t quite enough.

Published in: on July 25, 2012 at 2:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Thursday, July 19 – Friday, July 20

Unmitigated disaster

Friday is one of those days that was so catastrophically horrible that it pains me to write about it even though it’s two days later.  Now Thursday, that was fine.  I had an easy ride into West Haven as usual, with the 112-mile trip taking under two hours even with a stop for gas.  As it was yet another late departure from the customer’s workplace, and because I had some things to do back home, I somewhat reluctantly decided to shell out $54 for the ferry.  Which almost didn’t happen, even though I got to the Bridgeport dock a little before 4 pm, over 30 minutes before the next departure, I got one of the last car spots.  In fact mine was the very last car off the ship in Port Jefferson.  As usual, I spent the trip on the open top deck, because today was much cooler than the previous several days it was almost cold once we got underway.

Friday began easily enough with the typical quick trip to West Haven.  Yes, I know that’s relative, most people would consider an almost 2-hour trip to their workplace anything but quick!  All during the day I was hoping that I’d be able to get out a bit early and avoid the worst of the Friday afternoon traffic.  Indeed, around noon it was looking very much as if I’d be done in around an hour.  Cool.  But then, oh so predictably, other things came up, and despite working as fast as I could I wasn’t able to leave until three.

Maybe it was the fairly heavy rain, maybe it was because it was Friday, but westbound/southbound traffic on I-95 through much of Connecticut was crawling, seldom exceeding 25 mph.  By 4:30 I had made it only as far as Darien, still at least ten miles from the New York line and 20+ miles from the Throgs Neck Bridge.  Why I thought this would be a smart idea I do not know, it might’ve been just a sudden case of masochism, but I got off the highway and – yes! – went into a Panera, which I knew to be right in downtown Darien.  I waited about an hour, until 5:30, having a (very good, I must add) salad with roasted chicken and avocado, not to mention nearly bankrupting the joint with endless free refills of Diet Pepsi.

Today’s Panera Bread Strategy worked no better than it had the other day.  When I got back on I-95 it was still a near-crawl, though it improved somewhat right at the New York line and the junction with I-287.  About the only good thing is that the Throgs Neck Bridge was fine.  As I drove on the slow-but-moving Cross Island Parkway I saw to my extreme dismay that the electronic sign was reporting delays on the Long Island Expressway all the way to Exit 61.  That would be almost my entire 30+ mile journey on the Expressway.

I got on the Northern State Parkway, which after an initial few miles of reasonable traffic flow slowed down to a crawl until almost the Suffolk County line.  I rejoined the Expressway at Exit 53 using the Sunken Meadow/Sagtikos Parkway, figuring by this time – it was almost 7:30 – that the delays were no longer stretching as far as Exit 61.  While I was correct in this assumption, it was nearly eight by the time I got home.  That was five hours after I had left West Haven, four hours of driving time if I don’t count the Panera stop.  About the only good things are (1) it was a Friday, and (2) I would be getting almost $75 in travel-time pay.

Published in: on July 23, 2012 at 1:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Tuesday, July 17 – Wednesday, July 18

Yeah, that Panera Bread Strategy worked really well

Tuesday was yet another day of taking the ferry from Bridgeport to Port Jefferson rather than dealing with traffic after work.  This was because I didn’t get out until almost 3:30, which of course meant that I’d be facing the worst of rush hour traffic on the Long Island Expressway.  The 4:30 ferry was a nice trip as usual, though given the day’s very hot weather there was too much heat haze to allow for decent views.  At least the wind on the top outdoor deck made it seem much cooler than it really was.

Wednesday was yet another late departure from West Haven, this time around 3:20.  Even though I’ll get a partial reimbursement in a few weeks I didn’t really want to pay yet another $54 on the ferry.  As an alternative I tried the Panera Bread Strategy that worked well last week, in other words spending about an hour at a Panera in Queens in the hope that Expressway traffic would clear.  I arrived about 4:45, traffic on I-95 and across the Throgs Neck Bridge having moved well, and stayed until 5:40.  There were some ferocious thunderstorms and torrential rains while I waited, and I figured it was better to deal with them indoors than on the road.  Many other people must have had the same idea, even if not in that particular Panera, as once I got on the Expressway there were still quite a few slow stretches.  It was almost seven before I got home.  At least I got to see a spectacularly vivid rainbow not long after my arrival.

I didn’t mention either morning because both were very easy, under two hours each day with no traffic to speak of.

Published in: on July 21, 2012 at 3:18 am  Leave a Comment  

Monday, July 16

Yes, 30 minutes makes all the difference

I’m not really in a mood to write much, but a quick observation is all that’s really necessary.  Today I finished up my work assignment in West Haven around 2:30 instead of the normal 3:00.  What this meant is that my trip home took just under two and a half hours, and that is with a delay of ten minutes caused by a crash on the Expressway near Exit 49.  Had I left at 3:00, the drive would have been at least three hours  – in other words, 40 minutes longer than what it actually was – because I would have encountered far more traffic.  Unbelievable.  The morning was the usual sub-two-hour trip.

Published in: on July 18, 2012 at 1:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Saturday, July 14 – Sunday, July 15

It’s been a few weeks since that left elbow pain that used to bother me at the gym has been an issue.  Until Saturday, that is, when it forced a premature end to my bench press session.  I had decided beforehand to do a 10 x 3 routine at 225, an old favorite that I haven’t done in a year or more.  As I went through the warmups, 6 x 135, 6 x 165, 4 x 185, 2 x 205, my elbow was starting to hurt but wasn’t too bad.  But then when I began the working sets at 225 it got much worse and I ended up calling it quits after four sets (for a total of 12 reps at 225).  There is good pain and there is bad pain, and this was in the latter category.  Not being able to do the full 10 x 3 was a disappointment, but as the old saying goes, better safe than sorry.

On Sunday, I started out with Hammer Strength MTS high rows, 4 x 8 x 100/100.  While the pulling motion of this exercise wasn’t as hard on my elbow as the pushing motion of bench pressing, there still was some minor pain, and though it wasn’t much my cautionary approach from Saturday still prevailed.  As an alternative, I decided to do some leg work, which I’ve been neglecting for months.  Life Fitness seated leg press: 4 x 10 x 395.  Seated leg curls: 4 x 8 x 170.  Life Fitness horizontal leg press: 3 x 6 x 230.  It was a fairly hot day and the gym’s air conditioning was indifferent at best. One thing I’d forgotten is just how draining leg work can be, especially when it’s hot!

Published in: on July 18, 2012 at 1:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Wednesday, July 11 – Friday, July 14

After the horrors, an expensive solution and a cheap solution

Wednesday had to have been one of the very worst days of my driving to West Haven.  Not the morning, which took under two hours for the 110-mile trip, but the afternoon, which was gruesome beyond imagination.  I was hoping to finish up my work early enough to leave by 2 or 2:30, but that didn’t happen and I wasn’t on the road until 3:15.  While eastbound/northbound traffic on I-95 in Connecticut was getting bad in spots, I had no trouble in my direction and was over the Throgs Neck Bridge by about 4:25.  Which, of course, translated into disaster.

While it didn’t take me long to get to the Long Island Expressway, once I got there it was completely packed.  It took me almost 15 minutes to cover the few miles to Exit 38 and the Northern State Parkway.  At that point I tried the Northern State, which was very slow in spots but all in all probably moved better than the Expressway.  The downfall of the Northern State alternative is that it doesn’t go as far east as I am.  I got off on the Sagtikos Parkway to connect to the Expressway, which took a seeming eternity as many other people had the same idea.  Once I got on the Expressway, at Exit 53, it was stop-and-go until past Exit 61, which is close to my destination.  It was well after 6 by the time I got home, with the 40 or so miles from the Throgs Neck having taken me over 100 minutes..  Needless to say, I was in absolutely no shape – physically or mentally – to even think about going to the gym.

I was very glum through much of the day on Thursday even though I had my usual easy morning trip to West Haven.  When I was going to Stamford in June I found that long but tolerable, unfortunately the 30-odd miles from Stamford to West Haven are the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.  Like Wednesday, I was trying hard to finish my work and get an early departure, and like Wednesday that didn’t happen. One big change from the prior day is that while on Wednesday I was reasonably energetic at the end of the workday, on Thursday I was completely exhausted, not to mention mentally demoralized.  The very thought of a 3-hour or longer drive through stop-and-go traffic filled me with dread, as if I were going to walk barefoot cross 100 feet of broken glass.   Given my exhaustion the drive would be a safety hazard.

My solution?  I took to the high seas.  Yep, I drove the short distance to Bridgeport and took the ferry over to Port Jefferson.  It was too late for the 3:30 sailing but I didn’t mind waiting for the next one at 4:30.  Hey, it was better than winding up in the funny farm, which was what dealing with rush hour traffic would surely accomplish.  The ferry itself is a most enjoyable ride, taking about an hour and ten minutes.  Most passengers rode in the main lounge, with tables and nice seats, while I of course spent the journey on the open top deck enjoying the wind and the view.  It really is a terrific view, and far more relaxing than fighting traffic.  What’s funny is even though I had to wait for almost an hour to get the 4:30 sailing, I got home before 6, which almost certainly is sooner than I would have made it had I driven the whole way.  Despite the easier trip, I was still too worn out for the gym.  I suspect that weekday gym trips are going to have to wait until I’m done with West Haven after next week.  I’ll then be going to White Plains, which should be much easier.

Of course there’s a downside to everything, and the downside to the ferry is that it costs an excruciating $54 each way for a car and driver.  Paying that much to save my sanity was worth it, however.  Next week I’ll check to see if I can get at least a partial reimbursement.  My employer is pretty generous about paying from travel time, had I driven home and spent 3+ hours I would have made close to $40, so that should enable me to get back some of the ferry cost.

Friday was another easy day in the morning, and all during the workday I was counting on an early departure to beat the traffic.  Well guess what, there were all sorts of last-minute snags and I didn’t get out until 3:05.  As radio traffic reports were talking about serious delays on I-95 in the Bronx and Westchester, thanks to a crash on the Cross-Bronx Expressway, I decided to try the Merritt Parkway to the Hutchinson River Parkway and the Whitestone Bridge.  Things moved okay on the Merritt, although the connector from I-95 in Milford was moving slowly, unfortunately the Hutchinson River Parkway was a crawl for much of its 15-mile length.  There were no obvious reasons for the glacial traffic on this usually decent roadway, all I could think of is that many other people had the same idea as me and were  using it as an alternative to I-95.  About the only consolation is that there were no delays at all at the Whitestone Bridge tolls, not even in the cash lanes.  Not that it mattered too much, as by the time I made it across the bridge it was 4:45, and I knew that driving on the Long Island Expressway would be a fate worse than death.

So I didn’t try driving right away.  I took Northern Boulevard to Little Neck Parkway and stopped at a Panera Bread that’s just off the Expressway at the Queens-Nassau line.  For ten bucks I got an Italian Deli sandwich and a Diet Pepsi (unlimited free refills!) and spent an hour going on Facebook with my phone.  At just before 6, I left the Panera and ventured onto the Expressway, figuring that most of the rush hour traffic would have cleared out.  And I was right.  Except for a minor slowdown approaching Exit 38 and an even lesser one at Exit 56 it was pretty much clear sailing the whole distance.  That never would have happened an hour earlier.  Even with my hour’s stop I made it home well before 7.  My total driving time, which I use as the basis for my reimbursements, was about 2:45 even with all the heavy traffic on the Hutchinson River Parkway.  What a relief!

Published in: on July 15, 2012 at 4:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Monday, July 9 – Tuesday, July 10

Why running low on gas is a bad idea even if you don’t actually run out of gas

It was back to West Haven on Monday, after my week-long excursion to Philadelphia.  It was good to get back into a more normal routine, and the fact that the driving wasn’t at all bad really helped.  In the morning I made the 110-mile trip in a little under two hours.  There were no traffic tie-ups and no delays at the Throgs Neck Bridge.  Now, afternoons are worse, but I lucked out today because I was able to leave around 1:30 and therefore missed most of the traffic.  It was about 2:10, in other words ten to fifteen minutes more than in the morning.

Tuesday … let’s just say that it was a day I’d like to expunge from my memory.  A line-painting project on the Expressway near Exit 52 delayed me about 15 minutes in the morning.  As I understand it, roadwork in the westbound direction is supposed to be finished by 5:00 am, but it was just being cleared as I came through almost  a half-hour after that time.  I’m hoping it was just a miscommunication.  Even so, I made it to the West Haven work location just a few minutes after my normal 7 am start time.  One thing I noticed is that drivers in Connecticut don’t seem to be much into rubbernecking.  As I passed through Bridgeport on I-95 there was an overturned truck in the westbound/southbound lanes that was causing quite a tie-up in that direction.  Yet to my surprise there was no rubbernecking delay on my side even though the mishap was clearly visible.  Amazing.

I wasn’t able to get out of West Haven until a few minutes after three in the afternoon.  As a result, I knew that I’d be facing rush hour traffic when I got onto the Long Island Expressway.  What I didn’t know was just how bad it would be.  At least the trip started out well, as I made it to and over the Throgs Neck Bridge in an hour.  That’s about how long it takes in the morning.  As I got onto the busy-but-moving Cross Island Parkway, however, I noticed that my car’s low-fuel warning light was on and the fuel gauge was almost at empty.  There was no way I’d be able to make it home without refueling, and I decided to get off the Cross Island at Northern Boulevard.  Traffic on that road was moving fine and I got gas at a BP station located right on the Queens-Nassau boundary.  Back onto Northern Boulevard for a short stretch, and then I turned right onto Lakeville Road to get back to the Expressway … a trip of maybe two miles that took over 15 minutes.  Traffic just crawled on Lakeville, thanks to three or four endlessly long red lights. Now, keep in mind that Lakeville Road is a very busy thoroughfare,  connecting downtown Great Neck to the Expressway, and the aforementioned red lights were at intersections with quiet residential streets.  You’d expect that traffic on Lakeville would have much longer green-light phases than traffic (which scarcely existed) on the residential streets, and you’d be wrong.  All three or four lights definitely favored these barely traveled side streets at the expense of the far greater volume of traffic on Lakeville.  I suspect the reasons are political and economic.  This stretch of Lakeville runs through a very rich area, and the bigshots living on these residential streets undoubtedly use their influence (and $$$) to get the Nassau County politicians to give them favorable treatment at the traffic lights.

By the time I finally got onto the Expressway, at Exit 33, it was after 4:30.  What that meant, of course, that Expressway traffic was shut down tighter than a drum.  It took 15 minutes to cover just the three or four miles to the junction with the Northern State Parkway at Exit 38.  I encountered long stop-and-go delays near exits 40 and 49, and worst of all between exits 53 and 61.  It was nearly 6 pm by the time I got home, making the total trip an agonizing three hours.  Had I not had to stop for gas, I probably would have shaved a half-hour off that time.  That’s a lesson learned the hard way.

By the way, even though on Monday I had ample time to go to the gym, I was lazy and decided to wait a day.  As you might imagine, after Tuesday’s hideous return trip I was in no shape for the gym physically or, especially, mentally.

Published in: on July 12, 2012 at 12:39 am  Leave a Comment