Monday last, after much preparation, packing, worrying over finals, and completing the rites and rituals that mark the end of one’s first year in college, I departed for North Carolina with two of my best friends from school, Brenna and Nora. My car held practically the entirety of my material possessions and the CD deck was armed with a slew of six excellent road trip mixes made by yours truly. We three women were young, independent, brave, and going to conquer the 750 miles that lay between us and my mother’s sweet tea like the collegiate go-getters we were.
And, on the whole, we did just that. There were relatively few incidents around New York City, the first worrisome area we bridged over. And prior to New York, Connecticut and the slice of Mass we flew through held no surprises.
But as anyone who has ever driven the East Coast will tell you, New England is nothing compared to the deplorable eternity one must endure while on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I know plenty of lovely and dear people from Jersey. I’m convinced, if nothing more for my own faith in humanity, that the rest of the Garden State is mostly unlike the rotten quest that is getting through the turnpike. It’s unfailingly crowded, and, though I am as a privileged white American girl with my own car complaining about the well-kept mass transit road system with no real credibility to my argument, the turnpike embodies why some might call The Great State of New Jersey the Armpit of America.
When we three ladies could bear our full bladders and empty bellies no longer, we pulled off into the multi-faceted Mary Pitcher rest stop. Abundant in fast food chains half-restaurants, sunglasses stands, and two-liter cups of coke available for 99 cents, as well as they who are fond of such healthful food choices, this hallowed rest for weary drivers greeted us three with used condoms on the asphalt and the delightful aroma of the over-greased fries. When we braved the realm outside the Firebolt (aka my minivan) we were most graciously welcomed by a woman suckling on an ice cream cone, staring blankly at our car from outside her own. Without explanation, I triple checked the lock and we then proceeded inside.
After a trip to the ladies room which, I might add, offered a weight scale that dually told you how much body fat you had AND a fortune for your future (two principles that apparently are indicative of the other), the three of us selected the least bathed in oil place we could find.
The name escapes me now, but the image of the place is ingrained in my sub-cranium. Adorning the walls of this trying-to-be-a-real-restaurant-while-in-a-Jersey-rest-stop were literally dozens of televisions portraying old clips from American Bandstand. The wall space not used to display discolored and obnoxiously loud archaic clips was bedazzled with autographs by third-rate rockstars and copied of album covers. It was the quintessence of tacky, and at any rate I felt as though we had stepped into a badly lit set of a Cohen brothers production. At any moment ACTOR’S NAME was going to appear with an axe and hack through my dreadful potato soup while we three stared blankly at the numerous TV screens, none of which had quite the same coloration.
Needless to say, we downed our overpriced and undercooked meals as quickly as possible… when not glazing over watching Ace of Base’s 1989 rendition of “Don’t Turn Around.”
Back once more in the Firebolt we went, braving the last stretch of the 170 miles it takes to get from one end of the Garden State to the other. But rest assured, ye lads and lassies, the nightmare of zombies pouring out from the denim-jacket-clad-walls to the tune of bad eighties techno has yet to leave me.
current jam: "over it over again" she & him
best thing in my life right now: my new camera!! it films in HD and my newest vlog, a book review, is uploading as a type!
days until departure: 16 days, 4 hours (WHAT.)