17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

"Mommy's crying because she can't find the Turnpike"

I am currently nearing the end of an East Coast adventure with my two toddlers (3 years and 17 months). I grew up in DC and my husband and I lived in NYC for nearly 7 years, so now that we live in the Bay Area I need my fix of "home". I decided to take my two kids (alone, I might add) on a trip from DC up to NYC up to Vermont/New Hampshire (to be with Marian) and then back down to NYC...and then back down to DC over the course of 3 weeks. Whew.

The trip has been incredibly smooth, owing to my confidence, anal over-planning and super adaptable kids - they're great travlers. It really has been fantastic.

However, yesterday on the drive from NYC to DC...things didn't go so well.

I was driving over the Verannzano bridge out of Staten Island (as I have done many times before), the kids were happily snacking and watching DVD's when I saw my exit for the New Jersey Turnpike. I could pick North or South. Clearly I wanted to go south because I was headed for DC. And yet for some reason, I picked North. NORTH. Why on earth would I go north? As soon as I made the fatal turn I started screaming and banging my steering wheel yelling "No...NOOOOOOOO!!!!!" But it was too late and I was stuck on the Jersey Turnpike headed north...towards Newark. Oh no. Have any of you ever driven around, through, into Newark? Its a huge airport and industrial area- not a good place to be if you have no reason to be there.

I kept going thinking there would be a place to get off, turn around, beam me up Scotty. No such luck. I finally found an exit that didn't dump me off in the airport and took it. Now I was on some other highway, 78? 278? Can't remember, but there were no signs for the Turnpike or 95. I started crying because I was really and truly lost. I didn't know my way around NJ at all. I was yelling at Heavenly Father that He needed to help me or else - not exactly the right spirit to be asking for inspiration but I was feeling desparate.

The more I drove the more unglued I became. The stress of 2 weeks traveling alone with my little children combined with the fact that I was LOST made me cry harder and harder. In the backseat my son (age 3) kept saying "Don't worry mom. We find the Turnpike". There was a little voice in my head that told me I needed to pull it together because my kids were going to get worried. But I kept crying - it was an awful feeling being lost.

I pulled off at some random exit and arrived at Crack Den Hell Slum Land, USA. I am not exaggerating, this was truly the bleakest and sketchiest place I have ever seen (and I've spent time in parts of the Bronx and Harlem - they've got nothin' on this place). CDHSL didn't even have a name - everywhere I looked were big signs that read "Now Entering Redevelopment District". WHAT???? Not even a name for the town, just that things are being redeveloped.

I cried harder.

I pulled up alongside a true gangsta, prayed that we wouldn't be mugged or killed, rolled down my window and said in a weary, teary voice, "New Jersey Turnpike. South". He gave me some basic directions and send me on my way. I was just grateful to be exiting CDHSL alive.

One and a half hours after making my initial mistake, there it was - NEW JERSEY TURNPIKE SOUTH. I crossed 4 lanes of traffic and made the exit. And then started to cry again. I was a complete jelly-like mess. My 3 year old asked "Mommy, why you crying? It's OK. We find the Turnpike!".

Last night when I was on the phone with my husband I passed him along to my 3 year old for a chat. And this is the first thing my son said to dh when he got on the phone:

"Hi. It's me. Ummmm....Mommy cry...in the car...'cause she no find the Turnpike".

I fear that my son will not remember the great restaurants and playgrounds we visited in NYC, the foot of gorgeous snow we played with in Vermont, shopping all up and down the East Coast, grandparents, friends, aunts and uncles, long walks through the city. He will ONLY remember that mommy lost her @!$%&%@ somewhere in New Jersey looking for the Turnpike.

But hey, how many three year olds know what a Turnpike is? Right?


  • Ahh. The NJ Turnpike. I spent countless hours going back and forth from NYC to central NJ with DD in her car seat in the back. Every week, for months, we would make the trip. I can truly empathize about Newark and the lack of traffic signs and getting lost there. We have done it many times.

    Your son's comments remind me of my DD in our travels to and from NJ. She knew every landmark. "Oh, here's the big red bridge. We're going on the Williamsburg Bridge!" "Oh, yeah! The Holland Tunnel!" "Ahh, the Koscuiszko Bridge! We're almost home!"

    My most hated road in the tri-state area, though, BAR NONE, is the BQE. Oh, how I despised that road. We sat for the greatest amounts of time of that so called expressway. I couldn't believe it when I found out that the total distance from one end of Queens to the other end of Brooklyn was only 10 some miles. I always cut through downtown via the Holland Tunnel, because I couldn't stand to drive through Brooklyn on that awful narrow road.

    I'm glad you finally found your way south! Did you at least get to wave at Ikea a couple of times? Hope your trip back to Cali goes well!
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 3/02/2006 09:07:00 AM  

  • Since reading this, I've been humming Simon and Garfunkel.

    "Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike--
    They've all come to look for America."

    I'm always going to have a love hate thing for the NJ Turnpike.
    posted by Blogger Michelle at 3/02/2006 09:24:00 AM  

  • Michelle,

    Is it any coincidence that that verse to "America" starts with the line "Kathy, I'm lost . . ."

    Hey - so are some of the drivers on the turnpike whose cars you're counting! :)
    posted by Blogger Kaimi at 3/02/2006 11:11:00 AM  

  • Michelle, I actually started crying when I passed the Ikea because that meant I was on the proper Turnpike!

    And yes, I'm back in DC now and VERY grateful to be finished with that driving portion of my trip.

    I fear that I've scarred my poor son for life...
    posted by Blogger chloe at 3/02/2006 11:15:00 AM  

  • But, your first mistake (other than in the spelling of it) was taking the Verazzano Narrows Bridge at all! For starters, who wants to pay eight bucks to get from Brooklyn to Jersey when you can do it for free across the Brooklyn Bridge and through the Holland Tunnel and then the Pulaski Skyway to avoid the Turnpike toll down to the airport.

    That route also avoids that horrid Staten Island Expressway, which is always a mess.

    Michelle, you are unkind to the BQE. Sure it's a mess, and slow, and full of potholes. But driving it builds character. And, once in a while you get lucky and the traffic is light and then you can open things up and go fast. (One early Sunday morning I made it from near the Brooklyn end of the Battery Tunnel to Little Neck, eastern Queens at the border of Nassau County, in 25 minutes. The BQE may be unsafe at any speed, like Nader's Corvair, but it was certainly unsafe at 80 mph. Sometimes you just get lucky.
    posted by Blogger Mark B. at 3/02/2006 01:44:00 PM  

  • "I pulled off at some random exit and arrived at Crack Den Hell Slum Land, USA. I am not exaggerating, this was truly the bleakest and sketchiest place I have ever seen."

    I've been to CDHSL! I work in a nice community just a few miles from Newark, but I live about 35 miles away in western NJ and don't know the area well. I blundered into Crack Slum one evening on the way home from work. Thank God I had my cell phone with me, so I could call my spouse and have him Mapquest me a way home.

    After that incident, my family decided to get me a GPS system. It calculates a route for you automatically, and if you miss a turn, it AUTOMATICALLY recalculates another route, and another, until you stop making wrong turns and actually arrive at my destination.

    If you travel a lot, BUY one of those things. They are great!
    posted by Blogger VeritasLiberat at 3/02/2006 02:18:00 PM  

  • Mark B-

    "Michelle, you are unkind to the BQE. Sure it's a mess, and slow, and full of potholes. But driving it builds character."

    Ummmm...for those of us that live/lived in Queens for many years, I think we'll find our character building in other ways that don't include navigating the ever changing BQE!
    posted by Blogger chloe at 3/02/2006 06:03:00 PM  

  • I hate, hate, HATE the NJ turnpike. One time, the traffic was so bad, I actually got out, skipped around the car, did a little dance, and got back in. We hadn't moved.

    I, too, have been lost more than once looking for that *&%$ turnpike. One time I did not end up in Crack Den Slum from Hell, but rather in random Field of Trash. I thought I had down a hyperjump through some time warp. A field with nothing in it but trash? In New Jersey? We bumbled along a road that eventually led us to the Turnpike, but in all my years traveling that cursed road, I still could not tell you where that field was. I swear we were abducted by aliens and dropped back into some alternate universe.

    I even nursed one time on the Turnpike. I tried to push my son until we got off, but he was wailing so hard I had to pull over, of course not by any rest stop. I nursed him as fast as I could, hoping that the semis woosheing by wouldn't smack us.

    I've cried and sworn in front of my child, too, when I'm lost. DC always brings out the best in me when I'm driving.
    posted by Blogger Heather O. at 3/03/2006 09:44:00 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    posted by Blogger jane at 3/03/2006 09:55:00 AM  

  • I am so sorry. Your kids are such troopers. I am sure that they will remember all the fun they had on the East Coast and you taught them a great lesson - how to deal with a bad situation even though you showed your emotions...you did get them to the Turnpike afterall.

    Here's to seeing you on the West Coast in a few days.
    posted by Blogger Elise at 3/03/2006 10:12:00 AM  

  • I identify with this post on SO many levels. Last summer I got lost on the NJ Turnpike twice in one week...with my husband navigating with a map....and being talked through it with my dad on a cell phone. I can't believe you did it alone.

    About the CDHSL, I had a similar experience flying into Baltimore for business a few years back. I got on the wrong freeway coming out of the airport. I kept trying to get off and turn around but it would just spit me off onto another highway with no chance to turn around. I kept crossing state lines, back and forth. I finally pulled off deep into one of those neighborhoods around midnight, looking for a gas station to ask directions.

    The gas station had a bunch of "friends" in matching bandanas hanging around. I was the only white girl and everyone was staring at me in my big shiny gold rental car. I went in to ask for directions and buy a map. The whole store was empty except for a guy behind bullet proof glass at one end with all the gum, maps and stuff back there with him. I asked him for a map. No luck. He just made me choose one at random, refusing to even telling me what state I was in and laughing at me. I later found out I was in a really bad part of Baltimore. I bought a random map that had nothing to do with where I was.

    In the parking lot, I got a strong feeling to get in my car and just DRIVE AWAY. So I did. As I passed the boarded up crack houses and roaming street gangs (gunshots in the background, I am not kidding) I prayed SO hard.

    Then I just started getting feelings. Turn left. Keep going. Turn right. Right again. Heavenly Father navigated me driectly to the freeway and directly to my hotel. It was amazing and probably the scariest night of my pre-children life.
    posted by Blogger The Daring One at 3/03/2006 11:14:00 AM  

  • Having spent considerable time driving in both the NJ/NYC and MD/DC area I would say both are so different and equally frustrating.

    I found DC so frustrating b/c there are so many cross cultures of people all from different previous driving experiences. This is where I was challenged with refraining from generalizing a certain race as BAD DRIVERS. Also, I heard a rumor that the guy who "designed" the roads in the city was crazy...I'll say.

    As for Baltimore, you HAVE to be careful there. I performed in their inner city schools for about 6 months and some neighborhoods sadly reminded me of CDHSL. Love your story daring one.

    I have not had a bad experience on the BQE yet. Lucky me I guess. I often choose Midtown tunnel to get into the city instead of the M or B bridge though....

    As for the NJ highways...who knows where I have been. I just remember once being in an express lane and watching my exit pass me by-bad feeling.

    As for GPS I love it except for a period of time when I did not know it, but it was programmed to ONLY take me on local roads, so it would take me FOREVER to find an address b/c it was backroads that were practically one lane and taking such a LOOOOOOOOOOONG TIME. DH finally fixed it though. :)
    posted by Blogger Kage at 3/03/2006 11:45:00 AM  

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