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!