A Good Road to Drive Fast

I drove down to NYC yesterday to have dinner with some of my ScienceBlogs colleagues, and put faces to names. Seven or eight years ago, I probably would've driven back that night, but I'm old and settled, so I shelled out for a hotel room the size of our spare bedroom (maybe 9' square), and drove back this morning.

Not to get all Stan Murch on you, but what I did was I got on the West Side Highway, and took that up to the Henry Hudson Parkway, to the Saw Mill Parkway, and then the Taconic State Parkway, which got me all the way back to Albany. It's an old reflex-- the Taconic was the standard route to and from The City when I was at Williams and when I'd go back to visit from DC, and it's a nicer drive than the Thruway. The lower stretch is really narrow and twisty, but it doesn't have any big trucks, and in the light traffic at 7:30 on a random Wednesday morning, it's actually a good deal of fun to drive it at high speed, with good tunes blasting on the radio. It's sort of like being in a car commercial, if they made commercials for seven-year-old Fords.

(More rambling below the fold...)

It's one of those odd roads, though, that doesn't go through anything. First of all, it's in the narrow strip of New York state between the Hudson River and the Connecticut or Massachusetts border, an area that even lifelong New Yorkers are a little foggy about. And on top of that, the Taconic Parkway is set off a bit from what urban areas there are, and the sides of the road are lined with trees. You could be pretty much anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, for all you can tell from the road.

It's also oddly free of landmarks that allow you to gauge your progress, unless you've driven it enough to memorize the order of the exits, which I haven't (I can just about do that for I-88 across the middle of the state, but that's another story). The exits don't have numbers (and many of them are at grade, which is always exciting), so there's no way to judge by that, which leaves one gas station in the median a bit south of Poughkeepsie (which was closed due to construction, thwarting my plan to buy more bottled water there), a roadside diner in Austerlitz, and a hillside meadow decorated with very odd art-- a giant Olmec-style head, some abstract statuary, and a creepy-looking statue of a seated figure with antlers that looks like it wandered north from a Manly Wade Wellman story. That's also in Austerlitz, just before the final exit on the Taconic, which means you go for sixty or seventy miles with no clear idea of how far you've come, or how far you have left to go. It's a weird experience.

I had to fight hard to suppress a reflex to get off the Taconic in Chatam, and go through the familiar sequence of back roads to take me to Williamstown. There wouldn't've been much point, as it would've added an hour or two to the process of getting home to Kate, our house, the Best Emmy Ever, and my summer students (and the lunchtime basketball game, at which I couldn't hit a damn thing-- that'll teach me to play after driving up from New York). I made the turn onto the Thruway instead, and was back in my office by 10:00.

It was a fun evening (pictures may or may not surface at some later time), and an enjoyable drive, but it left me pretty drained. Hence the light posting today, and the current impressionistic tribute to the Taconic State Parkway. There'll be more normal content tomorrow-- lots of interesting stuff has been posted while I was away from the computer.

If you're looking to head up north from The City, though, I do recommend the Taconic.


More like this

So, this was my weekend: Saturday: Drive to my parents' with Kate and SteelyKid for Easter. Sunday: Drive back to Niskayuna with Kate, leaving SteelyKid with Grandma and Grandpa Monday: Teach my 9:15 class, then drive to Ithaca to give a physics colloquium at Cornell, then drive back to my parents…
Despite generating a surprising number of comments with last week's burning question (thanks to Kate for the suggestion), we didn't actually go see X-Men III until yesterday afternoon. Short verdict: Not quite as bad as I was led to believe. The longer version is either on Kate's LiveJournal, or…
Let me state up front that this is not a topic I know anything about, but I have always had a curiosity for it, so let me just throw some thoughts out into the Internets and see if commenters or other bloggers can enlighten me or point me to the most informative sources on the topic. This is…
(I bet this will get me all sorts of incredibly useful search engine traffic...) Some time back, I asked for car-buying advice, and got a wealth of it in comments. Yesterday, Kate and I did a little car shopping, and visited a handful of local dealers to look at various cars. As with the last time…

So sorry to miss you, Chad, but I've got the same issues with trying to fit in as much as possible and get back to home stuff - I had 24 hr in Manhattan and had dinner w/our fine Ms. Sharpe, beers with my sister, a first trip back to the WTC site since '01, a research progress mtg with collaborators, and tour and intros in the Seed offices. Post 9/11 cutbacks in plane service left me little choice but to miss the dinner. Yeah, we're getting old(er), but what I'd do to still look as good as you, though!

There'll be plenty of next times, and I may even get up to Union before the year is out. Glad you arrived home safely - looking forward to meeting you.

Yay! A Dortmunderian!

I have to disagree with you about the lower stretch of the Taconic. We are marooned on the eastern marches of the Big Apple Empire, a coté de la Kew Gardens Interchange, so we get to pick 1 of 3 routes north t'roo da Bronks to the inlaws in Puffkipsee - and the Taconic is the one I hate - hate hate to take.

The problem is not simply the twistyness - I grew up in Sullivan County and went to Cornell, so twisty switchbacky badly maintained two lane county roads are familiar to me. For example, Route 79 between Scenic Whitney Point and John D.'s gebuhrtsdorf, or Rte. 97 between Hancock and Narrowsburg, or NY 9D/US 6 between Beacon and Peekskill - or the NY42-Peekamoose Rd to the Ashokan from Woodbourne - all roads I drive with farvegnügischkeit.

I do not drive the Taconic so light heartedly. The proliferation of subdivisions in the twisty-ditzy corridor from La Grange to south of the Croton reservoir has brought chazerei who drive like maniac imbeciles in SUVs. Every single time I've taken the Taconic, there has been some horrific accident on one side or the other of the road, precipitated by speeding ass-riding lunatics driving with grossly offensive manners. Also, in heavy rain, or light rain, or if a dainty sprinkle of schnee dusts the Tack with a delicate frosting of sugar, the curves graded for 45mph in dry conditions are fit for 30mph, yet the aforementioned exurbanites hurtle heedlessly on, animated by Pon Farr-esque haste.

If the lanes were two feet wider, and the thing regraded, I would happily take the Taconic, as long as I could oilslick the late model BMW 775 hugging my ass at Rte 301 into a tree.

By A New York Cit… (not verified) on 28 Jul 2006 #permalink