I’ve been moaning about traffic in and around Hartford lately. I have one more traffic / New England driver related rant coming – just giving you fair warning, but this is not it. Today, I have a bad news / good news thing.
Traffic got so bad on my afternoon commute that I bailed off the highway. Not totally, I’ve mentioned before that I live and work on opposite sides of the Connecticut River – try to never do that – so, I need a bridge. But, getting to that bridge has gone from being a 6-8-minute drill to being a 20-45-or-more-minute nightmare, due to construction.
After spending 55 minutes last Monday, sitting in traffic with a bunch of frustrated, head-shaking, horn-blowing, gesture-making, people-brought-to-the-brink-of-evil, I gave up. I decided that after working in Glastonbury, CT for 12 years, it was time to find a back way to that bridge. I knew two things: the starting point and the best endpoint. There’s an on-ramp a couple of towns to the northeast from where I work, that takes me straight to the road that crosses the bridge I want.
Exploring a map, yes, a map, because GPS isn’t sophisticated enough to find a good back route, I found a straightforward 3-street-zig-zag route from a street near my office to an intersection about a block from my on-ramp.
The next day, I tested my escape route, and I couldn’t help but think of the Ricky van Shelton song: Backroads.
Thinking about that song unleashed a small flood of great memories, both new and old. My dad introduced me to country music in the early 60s, just as Rock and Roll was gaining momentum. I was torn. I wanted to be cool and I liked rock music, but I actually liked country music. Rock eventually won the battle, but every now and then, country music found a way onto my radio. In the early 80s, it wasn’t uncommon for a crossover hit like The Oak Ridge Boys – Elvira or Roseanne Cash’s – Seven Year Ache to be featured on pop radio. At other times, I’d have a better chance of finding southern rock on a country station than a rock station.
By the mid- 80s, I was in a renaissance period. I listened to a classical music show on NPR in the morning and I switched to a rock station when it was over. On weekends, I often tuned to a country station. Before the 80s ended, Country 92.5 was my first choice and Country cassettes were filling the space under the seats of my pickup. Oh yeah, and I was introducing our daughter Faith to country music, including Roseanne Cash and Ricky Van Shelton.
Truth be told, my 80s pickup was better suited to Aaron Tippin’s: Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong with the Radio, but it wasn’t released until I had a new truck.
Cruising along my new-found backroads, I realized that my dad would either be proud of me, or he would be laughing. Probably laughing. My dad preferred back roads. He always argued that they were faster, because they were more direct. He was wrong, if you’re going from Pennsylvania to Iowa, a trip he made several times, but he was often right if you were going to the church three towns over. Oh wait, that wasn’t my dad’s trip, that’s my wife’s – she prefers backroads too. She makes the same argument. She’s probably laughing a little as she edits this post.
I wasn’t exactly cruising those backroads. I was going 35 mph between stop signs, but I – was – moving! The people on the highway were sitting still. My old commute, the one before the multi-year construction project started, the one I will never see again, took 25-30 minutes. My new commute takes a fairly consistent 35 minutes. I’ll trade a 5-minute-likely-10-minute-possible increase in travel time for the knowledge that I will always be moving.
A few weeks ago, this same construction project forced me onto some backroads while on my way into Hartford. Ironically, I was on my way to meet our daughter for dinner and a concert – Rosanne Cash.