Thursday, October 11, 2007

How to Find Rhode Island Using Mapquest (Part 1)


I got lost. Somewhere in Connecticut (Connectapit). We decided to save a few bucks and time and spend our Columbus Day holiday discovering a new wonderland called Rhode Island. Last year we started the tradition with a Lobster and Chocolate weekend in Maine. Last year we also had three days vacation. This year, Waterbunny's new employer didn't recognize Chris Columbus as deserving his own day of honor. We had two days to make it work. Maine is 8 hours away, Rhode Island is 4 hours away and boasts their lobster is as good as Maine lobster.

Our mission: lobster comparison

My favorite web service, Mapquest, provided a nice map, adequate directions, and a 4-hour timeline to get from Eastern Pennsylvania to Missquamincutttttt, Rhode Island. At this point it might be a good idea to point out that the Internet is an excellent tool for locating mediocre places and barely adequate directions. That is why priceline.com is very scary to me . What exactly are you getting for 99 a night? Don't expect that sweet, beautiful actress behind the counter. Her name will most likely be Ahmed and she will have short, black hair, olive complexion, and speak with a funny accent. She will look exceptionally male. Her brother runs the 7-11 next door.

Still, if we can cut the travel time in half, get a cheap room, and eat succulent lobster at Maine prices we are "in like Flynn". Ah, what tempest dreams we mortals have.

I preferred to take a more Eastern then Southern route but mapquest pointed us to the Tappanze bridge and Route 95 North. and as we already know, mapquest is never wrong. We had smooth sailing on Interstate 80 East and Interstate 287 North and East to the bridge, hit a slight backup before the bridge (why can't people drive on an Interstate without bumping each other in the behind?), and then had smooth sailing again- until we reached Connectapit- then everything ground to a complete halt. The traffic advisory sign said, "Warning, Traffic Delay Next 25 Miles". The road ahead was a sea of red tail lights. We weren't driving to Rhode Island anymore, we were marching, one, two, three, four, ahead ten feet you mapquest whore.

"Waterbunny, we need an alternate route." She looks at the map for several minutes.

"We could try the Merritt Parkway. That parallels 95 and might not be as crowded."

I negotiate the car to the next exit and Waterbunny gives excellent directions through Greenwich Connecticut and onto the Merritt parkway- or parkinglot way, as I am fond to call it now. We drove 3 miles in 45 minutes. We were able to observe a few things about Connectapit while cruising at an average of 4 miles per hour. The parkway is beautifully landscaped. They have rabbits. Golf courses too. Oh, that shot was a little fat. Nice putt, Sir. Rap music in Connectapit sounds like everywhere else. Excuse me, Sir, could you play that song again? There is lovely metal artwork on the overpasses, but they are rusted and need to be restored. This state doesn't seem to be in a hurry to repair their crumbling bridges like every other state. Guess they didn't see the news about the collapse in Minnesota.

"Captain, if we get off the next exit, we will have to backtrack to get to 95."

"Make it so, Number 2"

So we drove back towards Greenwich and 95, but found Route 1 instead. It was full of cars, trucks, shopping centers, intersections, and traffic lights as far as the eye could see, yet was clearly faster than the Interstate and Parkway. We had been in this state for 1-1/2 hours and had travelled about 25 miles. We were weary and hungry when we found a classic-looking Diner. This Diner had a big sign that boasted they were the "Best of the Best", and Lord knows big signs in Connectapit are worth trusting. We found a booth, ordered some Diner food, and I began scouring the maps. With the exception of Route 1, Interstate 95, and the Merritt Parkway, all back roads in this state go South to North. The only way to get to Rhode Island was to follow the merry red lights of the cars and trucks in front of us.

After the worst of the worst dinner, we popped back onto 95 and braved the traffic, finally reaching the reason for the backup- another fender bender - that backed up an major Interstate for 25 miles. How is that possible? Well, I have it on good authority that in this confused and confounding State of Connectapit, fender benders require that the police, benders and bendees, and tow truck operators stand around for a couple hours in order to figure things out. No dragging the darned cars off the road- who cares who bent who's fender- just get the junk off the road and keep the traffic flowing. Sorry, no. Standing around is the policy.

Finally free of the jam-up, we raced forward to the next traffic sign that said, "Warning, Traffic Delay, Mile marker 42-47, Accident". Oh my God. Not again.

"Waterbunny?" There was a desperate edge in my voice.

"I'm sorry, but there are no alternate routes I can be certain will be faster." Waterbunny was right, we would have to have a steely resolve and see this through.

Finally, we broke free of the clogged arteries and got our speed up to an acceptable rate. After sixty more miles, we found our exit, provided to us by mapquest-thank-you-very-much, and drove across the State line into the quaint town of Westerly, Rhode Island.

Then we got lost.

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