Day By Day

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Our Northbound Odyssey

You may have heard of the horrendous traffic tieup in Pennsylvania this past Thursday. [NYT writeup here] Thousands of motorists were stranded on Rte I-78 in the middle of a snow storm, some of them for as much as eighteen hours. Well, "She Who Must Not Be Named" and I followed the story closely because we had some business to attend to in Pennsylvania on Friday and would have to travel north of I-78 to do so.

We plotted our course carefully -- up through Pennsylvania Dutch country by way of York, Lancaster and Reading, then north along State Rte #61 into the mountains. That way we would cross I-78 at a heavily traveled point that was likely to be cleared and after that..., well the road crews would have had a full day to clear things up. We anticipated no trouble. After conducting our business we planned to drive up to our mountain retreat to spend the night before heading back to Charm City.

Things didn't work out quite as we planned.

As we headed north we heard from the radio that large stretches of I-78 and I-81 and the turnpike were closed to traffic and motorists were urged to seek an alternate route. It turned out that, for many, many drivers, the alternate route was the one we were taking. Traffic was heavy on Rtes 30 and 222. East of Lancaster everything slowed to a crawl. About an hour later, as we neared Denver we saw the reason why. Thousands of cars were trying to squeeze onto the ramp leading to the turnpike and were blocking both lanes. It was a huge mess. That sort of thing may be common in Massachusetts, but we rarely see it in Pennsylvania. I took some pictures of the countryside while we sat, and sat, and sat.

Eventually we got past the tieup and resumed our northbound journey. Everything was fine until we got up to I-78 at the Cabela's crossing. The highway, of course, was closed and our fine young men and women in uniform were there to enforce the closure. It's probably better duty than Iraq -- at least nobody's shooting at you, but it sure is c-c-c-cold!

I-78 -- cold and bare and lonely, but well-protected.

Something we hadn't counted on -- the emergency on the interstate had drawn all the road crews out of the surrounding countryside. That means that the secondary roads had been completely unplowed and were hard going. This is what it was like in late afternoon on State Rte 61 near Port Clinton.

Eventually we managed to get to our first destination and were able to take care of business. We picked up our mail, lots of it, and headed home.

Stopping by the P. O. parking lot on a snowy evening [sincere apologies to Eudora Welty and Robert Frost].

Then things got hairy. The State road leading up toward our place was closed to traffic. So, too, was the township road. That wouldn't a problem for the snowmobilers up where we live, but for us..., well, it was a problem..., a big one.

We called one of our neighbors up in the high country. She said that the drive was unplowed and impassible and would be a problem even for our Land Rover. There had been no mail delivery for a week. From what she could tell the power was still on everywhere and so far as she could see everything looked fine up at our place.

We thought about it for a while and decided to retreat. We were both hungry, so we drove down to Reading and had dinner. Then, refreshed, we made the long drive back to the Inner Harbor.

To quote a famous musclehead politician, "I'll be back" [and so will "She"] -- but not for a few days at least.

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