Sunday, July 15, 2012

Our Pennsylvania Trip

My bride and I have returned from our vacation in Pennsylvania.  I had planned when the vacation started to post outstanding pictures and great pictures here and on my Facebook page when I returned.  As I am often wont to do, when I reached for my camera, I discovered I had left it on the kitchen counter.  Well, at least I didn't have to spend a lot of time framing outstanding and great shots.

Oh, in case you're wondering and leaping into other regions of this vast Internet, there is no Gator in Maine Facebook page.

We were disappointed this year, for the first time, in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country.  Many of the places we liked to visit were no longer.  There are a couple of huge shopping outlet centers just outside Lancaster.  I didn't do any counting, but in one of them, the largest, it appeared that at least half the stores were vacant.  In fact, stores in a couple other outlet centers and a couple of Mall type centers also had many vacant stores.

There's one good thing about the commercial part:  I don't have to declare anything on my Use Tax this year.

We did enjoy the presentation of the Sight and Sound Millennium Theater's original production of Jonah, the story of the biblical Jonah and the whale.  But, unfortunately, we didn't feel the production was up to the standards set by many other productions we've seen there in the past.  We did take the Behind the Scenes tour for the first time.  That was truly interesting and anyone who happens to go to that theater should include the tour.

I did have some fun observing the drive.  For example, on the New Hampshire toll road, a very old, vintage 1960s or perhaps earlier, car passed us going as fast as I've ever seen a car go on that roadway.  "I think he's trying to get home before he breaks down," observed my wife.  As we crossed into Massachusetts, we passed the car off to the side with its hood up and the driver standing there wondering what to do next.

Connecticut driving is always interesting, especially through Hartford and on to the NY state line on I-84.  Most of it has a posted speed limit of 55.  Obeying that could lead to death.  We, admittedly, were speeding and our car was still the slowest on the roadway.  Others were passing us at speeds at least 75 mph or higher.  Don't ask how I know they were going at least that fast.  I laughed at two signs I saw directly opposite each other on the highway.  The first said, "Keep right except to pass."  The other proclaimed, "Exit left."

We have a Garmin GPS device to help us along the way.  It and I don't always agree on what's best.  It wanted us to take primarily toll roads all the way to PA; we prefer as many toll free roads as possible.  The most fun was leaving Lancaster on Rte. 30 and Rte. 222.  We went opposite from where the device wanted us as we turned right out of the motel.  It wanted us to turn left to eventually take the NJ toll roads and I-95 back to Maine.

It spent the first half hour of our trip recalculating trying to get us turned around and back on its course.  It finally accepted that we weren't turning around when we went right passed its desire for us to take I-76 (the PA Turnpike) back to I-95 off 222 and recalculated to use 222 to I-78.  We sent it back into palpitations, though, when we got to I-287 to head north.  Garmin, naturally, wanted us to continue on 78 to I-95.  Once it accepted that change, it was O.K. for the remainder of the way home, which we knew anyway without it.

There were no problems on the trip, except for passing Haverhill on I-495 in MA.  An accident slowed travel down to an inch an hour (perhaps just a slight exaggeration).  We never did see the accident but a fire truck and police unit forced their way up the middle of the highway to get to it.  By the time we got there, it had been cleaned up and only a freshly laid plot of Speedy Dry was there and traffic speed picked up immediately to normal.

And one final observation.  Toll booths.  We have EZ-Pass.  In York, we dutifully slowed down to the 10 MPH so gained a minute or so on those paying tolls.  At the time we passed early in the morning, there were no lines.  Then we got to that road speed toll both in New Hampshire.  That was nice passing the toll at 65 MPH.  The Mass Pike has "Fast Lanes."  Interesting name.  The only thing "fast" about them is they're 15 MPH compared to Maine's 10. 

Except for the Tappan Zee Bridge, which was at 35 MPH, the other toll roads we used had the road speed pass through lanes for EZ-Pass. 

The New Hampshire one, though, got me to wondering.  Why couldn't the Maine Turnpike Authority simply erect some of those Jersey barriers, tear down 4 booths in the middle, and allow the high speed tolling?  That would still leave the 'Pike with four or five cash lanes outside the barriers, just like NH.  I guess my solution would be too simple.  Knowing the mindset of the MTA, I do understand it would take a 5-million dollar study over three years and a 25-million dollar bond issue to accomplish the task using the space already in existence.  But then, I'm not an engineer and don't understand these things.

And that was my disappointing trip to Pennsylvania.