What I’ve learned from the PA Turnpike

In a span of two weeks, James and I drove the length of the Pennsylvania Turnpike between Breezewood and Pittsburgh 6 times. Yes, SIX. That is six times too many. Every mile of that infernal road is blazed into my soul after spending so much of the past couple weeks on it.

For those of you who haven’t had to make this trip, let me sum up for you why it is bad: Breezewood, Pennsylvania.

Now, ordinarily, a toll road merges seamlessly into a non-toll high way. This will inevitably cause a little back up, as cars have to stop and pay the toll, but it is manageable and expected. But in Pennsylvania, to avoid some sort of taxes or something (we did some angry research) someone put a tiny town of junky fast food joints and travel plazas in between the turnpike and the interstate. Oh, and it has like 5 million stoplights (or you know, 4) in that tiny quarter mile stretch of road. The result is that instead of the regular back up of cars going through a tollbooth, you have a massive bottleneck as an entire interstate worth of cars inches together into two lanes and then crawls its way through each stoplight. I wish that I could bottle up how frustrating it is and dump it on people that I dislike. Ok, so that is a little overkill, but you get the idea.

Still, we learn valuable truth in times of trial. Here are some of the things I have learned from our repeated trips along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Where there is no hope, there is at least music from the 90’s. People, it is pretty hard to be upset when you are rocking out to some awesome 90’s jams. For some reason, the radio waves along that turnpike consistently offered up some amazing music from the height of Bubblegum Pop. I’m not sure if these stations usually play the likes of early Brittany, classic Third Eye Blind, and some amazing BSB, or if we just hit throwback countdowns, but I will take either. Say what you will – that era had some outstandingly positive music. Just try to be gloomy while you listen to a Now CD from the late nineties. The economy was booming, glitter was considered acceptable makeup, and we were all blithely chowing down on every bite of gluten we could get our hands on.  As an added bonus, I know all the words to all the songs because I spent all of my middle school years devotedly listening to Rick D’s weekly top forty as I lay on the floor in my purple bedroom and read Sweet Valley books.

I can do anything if there are snacks. I am not someone who has to have my Starbucks latte every day, or even once a week. But when I go on a trip, I suddenly need a frothy overpriced beverage. It is this Pavlovian reaction where I leave on a trip and suddenly I am scanning the horizon for that creepy mermaid like an addict. Oh PA Turnpike, I will give you this: You have Starbucks at regular predictable intervals, nestled next to Auntie Anne’s pretzels, my other great love. Snacks make torture almost fun.

Marriage can’t always be bike rides and birthdays. Sometimes it is having one car break down the night before you leave on a trip, and then having the other car you borrowed from your brother malfunction just as you are entering the turnpike. Sometimes marriage isn’t holding hands and swooning, but rather using duct tape to hold the window up and then continuing on as you brace it with your hand. Sometimes it isn’t whispering sweet nothings, but rather yelling at each other over the rush of wind coming in through the gap between the tape and the window as you finish the four hour drive home. But it’s in these moments, these not fun, this will be expensive to fix, whose fault was it, I just want to be home moments, that you will be thankful for the character of the person you married.

The best way to spread Turnpike cheer is singing loud for all to hear. The ipod will die and you will eventually come to a dead zone of no good 90’s jams. But you can always sing, and I dare you to  try to sing yourself out of a bad mood and have it not work. During one especially frustrating Breezewood transfer, James and I developed this awesome game where one person picks a subject and a genre/artist, and the other has to perform. This game inevitably dissolves into Mumford and Sons constipation ballads and Celine Dion flushing drugs down the toilet before the cops show up. Yep, we are super mature. I apologize to everyone around us in traffic, as the aforementioned car troubles meant that the window was down, and the hubs and I are not exactly roackstars of music. He can match a melody, but I am pretty much akin to a cat in a garbage compactor. (Oh, and thank you Buddy the Elf for teaching us valuable truths that we can apply the whole year long. I have also taken to adding maple syrup to green beans and it is delicious. )

This weekend will be the first of the last three that we have not spent substantial time on that turnpike, and I can’t say that I will miss it at all. But at least it was a learning experience.

Happy weekend y’all.

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15 Responses to What I’ve learned from the PA Turnpike

  1. Izzie says:

    I can completely sympathize… up until, well, Tuesday my boyfriend and I lived in two different states. He in Jersey, me in Delaware. To go see him I had to drive 90 miles on the NJ Turnpike, and although there is no Breezetown bottleneck, about 30 miles of it are under construction and Jersey traffic is unlike any other traffic I’ve ever experienced (except NYC). Without fail I had to stop a a specific rest stop for my Venti Iced Coffee and a snack, I always had almonds and fruit packed for the inevitable traffic jams and energy slumps, and I would always, always find something awesome on the radio to sing along to. Also, I kept a mental list of all the different state licenses plates I saw along the way (I’m only missing Hawaii and Alaska). Good luck with any future Turnpike trips.

    • Hannah says:

      See, snacks really do make anything bearable!!! Of course, I am also that dork who gets super excited about packing her lunch for work and looks forward to it all morning, not so much because it is good, but because I packed it. : )

  2. Beth says:

    The only thing you’re missing is a comment on PA turnpike construction!!! I swear PA is under construction All. The. Time. No actual construction, or actual work being done, just lots and lots of cones and 55 MPH zones (that seem to appear with no warning). Oh, PA, get your stuff together already.
    Amen to reliable Starbucks/Auntie Anne’s along the way!

  3. Glenda Demmie says:

    You have brought back many memories of travel on the PA turnpike and I empathize with you. I grew up in PA and traveled the entire length of it from Ohio to NJ many, many times. We also have gone through Breezewood too many times to count and can understand your frustration. We now live out west, bur in October, we are planning a trip to the Pittsburgh area, to visit family and friends, and then attend a wedding in DC. We will probably go through Breezewood several times so, I am printing our your story to read at the time, and hopefully it will help us have some laughs.
    We will see you at the Ford wedding, I’m sure. You are a talented writer and photographer.

  4. Devon says:

    I live in western PA and have driven that stretch many times and I must agree, there are some great radio stations that play some quality roadtrip jams! :)

  5. Rachel says:

    So needed to read the “Marriage can’t always be bike rides and birthdays” as my birthday is tomorrow and we have one car totally undriveable and the other car we can only drive up to 15 miles away from our home. Totally thankful for the faith in the Lord my husband has during this time that I think is awful, but he sees as just a bump in the road.

  6. Susannah says:

    You missed the polka station! There is a spot on the turnpike, or at least there was when I was in college, where a polka station is the only one that isn’t staticky. What a delight.

  7. E. Henry says:

    Hahahahahaha! This was hilarious! Oh I know that nasty spot. Scott and I travel through Breezewood several times a year as we make our way to and from the Midwest. I think those stop lights in town are what drive us bonkers — have you noticed that they stay red for longer than lights in D.C.?! I do have to admit, though, I love the excuse to grab some fast food while we are there. :-)

  8. DCTdesigns says:

    Seriously all I have to say is Amen Sister! The Turnpike is madness few truly know. This is a fabulous post.

  9. Pingback: The Weekend ~ 8/30/13 ~Hodge Podge | DCTdesigns Creative Canvas

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