Warning, this will be a photo-heavy blog sharing some pictures I took throughout the three weeks on the road along with commentary.
Bigger cities are all so different and it always astounds and pleases me. On this trip I passed through Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, New York, Washington D.C., and Atlanta. Each are light years different than Denver. The energy, culture, food, and overall feel makes it enjoyable to explore and people watch.
A couple years ago I explored most of lower Manhattan when I was in New York for work, before COVID. This time around I opted to stay in and explore Brooklyn. Along with a couple friends, we walked almost nine miles throughout the borough on one day. Pick a block and walk down it, keep turning and moving as the city looks interesting. We ultimately walked through Brooklyn’s Central Park and then found some pizza and a beer to cool down given the brutal heat.
Even at home walking around Denver, I look for street art. I prefer to walk down alleys to look for minor graffiti that might be clever and stickers galore. Friends that walk with me always end up confused watching me take pictures of the weirdest things and marveling at what weird perception I have. I don’t have the time (patience?) to sort them all and filter out all of them, but here are a few samples of some of what I saw.
Back in the day, I went to college to study architecture. I had already completed two years of CAD in high school, had a computer, my own (pirated) copy of AutoCAD, and even a plotter pen because the university wouldn’t let me use theirs. While I only completed two years before disagreeing with the program in too many substantial ways and dropping out, I still enjoy it generally speaking. Cities of course give the most opportunity to spot interesting buildings, both historic and new.
Living in Colorado I get my share of nature; it’s on-demand out here. Despite that, we don’t have beaches, and the trees and rives are different elsewhere. With too much of my life spent behind a keyboard, any time around nature like this is relaxing and a moment of Zen. If you too spend too much time at the computer I implore you to go out and find a bit of nature, no matter how small.
Some readers may be familiar with Kansas and the drive through it. Uneventful, boring, and sleep-inducing are nice terms for it. Stretches of I-70 are so straight, long, and boring that it is considered one of the nation’s most deadliest highways. In addition to windmills you get to read billboards; lots of them. To make the drive more enjoyable I was in a group chat with some friends and shared some of the signs along the way. One astute friend that lives in Kansas noted that driving from West to East the signs were “in order of importance to people who live here“.
Despite driving over 5,000 miles I somehow managed not to get pulled over once. While I fractured the occasional speeding law I was a bit more conservative in my old age and probably got a bit lucky. I was also fortunate that my speed limit was never enforced by aircraft. I always imagine it to be a F-22 Raptor but I have been assured it is not.
Tolls & The Law
In Colorado there aren’t too many toll roads. The only one in Denver I can think of is E-470, part of a quarter loop on the outskirts, where the rest (C-470) is not tolled. We have our share of toll lanes on the major highways, basically a privilege for those who can afford it, despite the lanes being paid for by all tax payers. I knew there would be more as I headed East and kept track of them. The biggest disappointment was seeing how many highways along the East coast were tolled, but still required those with an EZ Pass to slow down to 10 m.p.h. to be tolled. Out here, you go full speed and don’t slow or stop for the toll sensors.
New Jersey won for the most tolls on my route, coming to $43.05. New York was second with $20.34 and Virginia the least with $0.70. It’s confusing to me why they wouldn’t round that up to $0.75 for ease of payment. Having to maintain the correct change probably costs the state more than if they simply rounded up five cents.
In my older age, I am a surprisingly law abiding citizen compared to my younger self. Other than occasional traffic or parking law being fractured, I believe in following laws that make sense and protect the public (i.e. social contract). Every so often there is a law that I think is ridiculous. Even worse, poorly implemented and absurd to those not from a specific area. Enter New Jersey and the law saying you cannot pump your own gas.
I had to get gas once in New Jersey, and while I knew about the law, I had no idea at the time if it was still a thing. I had Colorado plates and there were no signs about it posted. I pulled up and a random guy walks up fast on my vehicle in a way that in some cities I would assume with bad intentions. I told him to back up and he wouldn’t until I repeated it several times in increasing volume and intensity. He didn’t speak English so the language barrier stopped me from explaining why he seemed more like a threat than a gas assistant. Long story short, I ended up pumping my own gas. #LawBreaker
As for the toll-heavy New Jersey / New York area, I stopped to pay in cash every opportunity I could. I don’t recall going through any plate-reader lanes and did not go through any dedicated E-ZPass lanes. Yet a week after I arrived home there was a toll bill sent to me saying I owed $36.34. A $10.17 charge each way for the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge going in and out of New York, and $16.00 for the Goethals Bridge. If you aren’t sure if that is a tax for your stay in New York, or a general asshole tax of New Jersey, it was New Jersey that dinged me for Goethals.
Looks like PA may be the worst of them. Two and a half months after I drove through the state, I received a Toll By Plate charge from PA Turnpike for $67.40. It listed the entry date as 5/27, the bill posted on 7/6, and their invoice date was 7/29. It lists a single entry as “Entry: Pittsburgh Exit: Valley Forge”, so just one long toll? Wow.
It has been quite a while since I have done a road trip, even longer outside the West to Mid-West. Driving on the East coast offers more scenery as far as buildings, people, and society but it still didn’t seem as interesting as I remember it from my younger days. The tail end of my trip through Kansas was a second reminder this trip alone that the scenery can be beautiful, yet boring at times. Colorado is not without a sense of irony at times since you see this sign driving in from any direction, including the less than colorful ones.
[7/5/2022 Update: I received a toll bill from NJ over a month after I left the state with an additional $13.70 charge. Updated totals.]