Friday, March 19, 2010

You caahn't get there from here

Road Closed.  Seek Alternate Route.
("good luck with that," the roadside signs should flash)

And so the rains came.  For days.
Monday was the scariest, because the roads hadn't yet been closed, but certainly should have been.  These thickly settled Massachusetts towns rest along narrow 2 lane roads that meander past streams and brooks, reservoirs, and yes mill-driving rivers that on most days one just drives over without much thought other than worrying over the color of the duckweed or fooling yourself that one of these weekends you'll try renting a canoe. 

Then comes a day when you are driving through it, with no alternative in sight -- 100 cars in both directions, as far as the eye can see. 

I've been through a few of these by now -- some much worse than others, worse than this week's even.  But not until this week did one make me think about quitting my job.

This is the map around which we center our lives of quiet desperation.  The rings are 93, 95, and 495.  The long east/west road at the center is the Mass Turnpike.  Above that Rt 2.  Or, as we like to say, Bleepin' Root Two.  A necessary evil.  Four lanes of state roads full of stop lights, Jersey barriers, a Stephen King-worthy State Pen, and the kind of rotary that makes the rest of the country throw up their hands.  (It's a simple explanation, really: the road is 300 years old.  And we were British at the time.)

Rt 2 got the ARRA money!  And what an exciting summer it was with one road constantly down for paving, and tunnels being installed for migrating animals.  The area I have shaded above contains the even smaller back roads that daily commuters use to avoid as much of Rt 2 as they possibly can.  When it all works, the traffic moves steadily.  Not very quickly, and with the occasional school bus stop.  But it moves.

And so the rains came.  And so the waters rose, in the Assabet, the Sudbury, the Nashua, the Concord.  Behold the sinkholes, potholes, guardrails with nothing to guard, train tracks that can not support trains, lost shoulders, pastures,  You can see how they powered the Industrial Revolution.

(Nice Mill footage at 4 and 5 minutes)

With the roads awash in that yellow-shaded area of the map, all traffic that usually fans out along those wooded river roads was now on Rt 2.  All morning.  Every morning.

7am-9am; 5pm-7pm.  Standing... Woodstock...Great James River Raft Race traffic.  
I can think a lot of things with time like that on my hands. Mostly it was "this is not worth it."  And I thought the 90 minute standing bus ride on the 111 to Chelsea (which one Good Friday famously crashed through a telephone pole and into a building, but that is not the story I am telling)  I thought that commute was worth it.  So I am not just being a big baby.  I am just assessing the ROI.

Now it is Friday night.  I see that roads will still be facacta through the weekend.  Then, presumably, we are back to normal.  Until I get to complain about my commute on Patriot's Day.


  1. Trust me, I have this ROI debate with myself on a daily basis... rain or not rain. But year, the road closures make it so much more difficult.

    So, um, good luck with that.

    Also - I wanted to say that I read this one line as, "rest of the country throw up IN their hands". Might actually be true either way and funny nonetheless!

  2. Thickly settled! Gah! Just writing to say I love to read your stuff, and, per this week's effort, I am going to work on being more consistently grateful for my seven-minute commute and less pissy about the inanities of academia. xo Dr. A.

  3. Hopefully you will not have too many of these horrendous commutes.

    Man do I feel your pain. With the exception of some wonderful years livng close to Boston(JP, Somerville, Belmont and Everett) - I have spent the better part of 24 years commuting from the South Shore. Some great times have been spent on the xpressway with a few thousand commuters in the snow and rain... most recently in 2008 when it took me close to EIGHT HOURS to get from Boston to Taunton. I actuallt used to save some personal days just to call in when it was snowing. That being said - I am happy to report that I now take the commuter rail and although the train can often run late because of just a dusting of snow.... I am happy to let the conductor do the driving - while I nap or read a book on my ereader.

    Happy Travels!


  4. I grew up 2 miles west of that rotary and its accompanying (at no extra cost!) state penitentiary... I love its gnarly Massachusetts goodness. But then I no longer have to slog through it via 2A/119 every morning, as I now live in the wide open grids of the midwest...

  5. It will get better. We made it through the winter and then the floods, and soon enough school will be out and the commute will be so much easier. But it is still a stinkin lousy way to spend a couple of hours a day.


  6. This was an extraordinary week, so don't lose heart! My route to work criss crosses the shawsheen river in several places, so I was saying the same thing all week. Remember, in like a lion, out like a lamb!


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