dining on the patio in Newark, DE

New Jersey

I’ve been musing with a few people about where Strudel and I should go next, after our time in Vermont runs out. Cathy was keen to make a case for New Jersey. But I think that state is a bit schizophrenic.  

Highways

So far as its highways are concerned, for example, it’s a disgrace to the nation. It’s evidently not keen on all the trees and grass verges that other states plant. Instead, it seems to be engaged in a relationship with concrete that’s got rather too close for comfort.  

In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that Newark has a town twinning arrangement with Montreal in Canada. That’s another place that’s apparently in love with concrete. I know that I Want to Know What Love Is is a song by Foreigner, but this particular foreigner rather doubts that the answer is aggregate and cement.  

Idyll?

After a while, I had begun to think that trees were extinct there. But then I turned off the direct route to Vermont to follow Linda’s instructions instead, and found that, in fact, New Jersey is quite beautiful. So maybe Cathy’s description of a rural idyll that produces tomatoes and peaches of a quality unmatched anywhere else is true. But apparently New Jersey’s highway planners don’t want anyone to know that.  

Perhaps this explains the extraordinary creation that is the New Jersey Turnpike. I first heard of it from the Simon and Garfunkel song, America. That song is over 50 years old now; presumably the thing looked rather better then. Nowadays it’s little more than a desert of concrete and asphalt.  

Romans

One consolation, of course, is that time-traveling Romans would surely recognize it as one of their own. Provided that they were also confused about which continent they were on. Which would surely be highly likely. I know the Romans were well organized, but time traveling can have that effect on anyone.  

The point is that the thing is ramrod-straight; curves are apparently not permitted. No concessions have been granted for topography: any flora in the way has simply been mown down. No doubt this makes for much speedier marching for the New Jersey legions, but it doesn’t do a lot to hold the attention of the modern currus coegi.  

(That’s supposedly “car driver” in Latin. Though how anyone knows that, when there were no cars in ancient Rome — and, therefore, no-one to drive them — is a matter that’s sure to be exercising many a brain for years to come. Of course, it’s still not quite as ridiculous as lawyers who say syllabi, but that’s a hobby-horse I’ve ridden before.)  

Boredom

Boredom on the New Jersey Turnpike is alleviated only by the confusion caused by the fact that it consists essentially of two interstates side by side, except that one goes north on both sides, while both sides of the other go south. Actually, I feel the whole thing has gone south.  

Of course, one man’s boredom is a disembodied voice-of-an-app’s ecstasy. It gets Elaine almost as excited as traffic signals. She was adamant that I should use the lanes to the left of the median. I’ve no idea why, though. Both sides seem to go the same way; it’s really just a matter of whether you like bridge supports on both sides or just one. Maybe Elaine just has a thing for symmetry.  

In any event, the bridges themselves are little better. We passed, for example, under two lamentable efforts designed only for foot traffic. On each of them someone had decided to hang a United States flag. But these seemed less like symbols of patriotism and more like tell-tale signs that some forgetful laundry had left some old washing out to dry.  

Note to Brandi

Maybe New Jersey really is so wonderful that the natives don’t want anyone else to know about it. So they have designed their highway network to get people out of the place as quickly as possible.  

In which case, Cathy has apparently broken cover. Or is she engaging in some kind of doublethink, where the intention is to sell New Jersey so well that I won’t go near it again?  

Because it might, alternatively, be the case that New Jersey has some dark secret that it’s trying to keep from the rest of the world. In which case, I think Brandi already has an inkling of what it might be. When I was explaining to her that, during the drive up to Vermont, I was planning to stop overnight in Newark, she was genuinely horrified. She was particularly concerned that I might get lost. Evidently, she has no faith in Elaine.  

Not a great advertisement for the sisterhood, I thought. But Brandi needn’t have worried. While I was certainly staying in Newark, it turned out to be Newark, Delaware.