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December 03, 2007

The 350 Mile Dash

Ok. It was really my own fault. I checked Continental online to be sure my flight from Burlington, Vermont to Newark was still on time, more worried than usual because I knew there was a winter storm warning for later in the day and “mixed precipitation” forecast for the NY metropolitan area. The screen showed the planned departure and arrival time as scheduled.

Checked an hour later and saw the same thing. Was about to check at 8:45just before leaving for the airport when I noticed a line under the flight status box I hadn’t noticed previously: Flight Cancelled. Don’t know how I could have missed it. To add insult to injury, I also hadn’t seen the text message announcing the cancellation which they’d sent at 7AM; don’t wear my phone until I get dressed. My connecting flight to Tel Aviv is scheduled for 3:50 and shows ontime.

Call Continental (waste ten minutes on hold) to see if I can get a later flight to Newark and the later flight to Israel. No, they say, we’ve canceled all flights out of Burlington today. Cowards: there were only a few flakes in the air at this time.

I jump in my car and head out hoping that Mary will be able to get me onto either a US Air flight to LaGuardia or a Jet Blue to JFK. No luck; people who looked more carefully at the online status or checked their text messages have now filled these flights. So no choice but to try to drive the 350 miles to Newark in time to get the flight. GPS says I should get there at 2:45 but doesn’t know that I’ll have to stop for gas and that there is mixed precipitation in NY. Hope that “get there two hours early for International” doesn’t really matter although I know there is more security than usual for Israel-bound flights.

There’s light snow through Northern New England but it’s below 20 so it just blows off the road. A little judicious speeding (which I don’t do anymore) starts to take minutes off the ETA on the GPS; I slow down in time not to get nabbed by any of the surprising number of police out in both Vermont and NH. Getting stopped would be the end of the line.

Try to change to a later flight in case but they’re all full from both JFK and Newark. Mary feeds me flight status every hour and my flight is the only one on the East Coast which is NOT delayed.

Just south of Springfield, Mass I get WCBS 880 News from New York on AM radio with traffic reports every ten minutes. Not pretty; ice covered roads; accidents all over the place. I684 seems particularly bad so I skip a right turn in Hartford (this is a long cut but normally less traffic). The GPS wants me to take the Connecticut Turnpike from New Haven. I take Rt. 15, the Wilbur Cross. The radio says both roads have “slowdowns” and I guess the slowdowns on Sunday will be worse on the Turnpike which has both more malls and also truck traffic replenishing them.

I’m feeling better; ETA now 2:20PM and I even stop speeding. Suddenly about ten miles from the New York border traffic is completely stopped; people out of their cars trying to see the cause but it’s at least over the next hill. Traffic reports still talk just about slowdowns.

Other people are backing down the shoulder and getting off at an exit about 500 yards back. Trouble is I’m in the left lane. But the car on my right decides to back down and the driver behind her lets me cut across the space and onto the shoulder. People are learning on the fly how to merge to the left backwards; tricky.

Now that I’m off I know South is better than North on the road that crosses the parkway (grew up near here in New Rochelle). The GPS at first tells me to take a u-turn, of course, but finally relents and starts guidance towards I95. The back roads are snowy and people are being appropriately cautious.

Now there’s a half mile backup to make the turn onto Rt. 1 which you’ve go to do to get to 95. My ETA is 2:40 and climbing along with my blood pressure.

GPS shows a maze of local streets that bypass the backup. I’m through them! Couple of lights on Rt. 1 and I’m on 95.

Things start to go amazingly well. Neither the Jets or the Giants are at the Meadowlands this Sunday (rare even during the NFL season since they share the park) so I don’t have to contend with game traffic. The Cross Bronx Expressway is as tame as I’ve ever seen it,. The radio is right about “no problems at the Hudson Crossings”.

Five miles north of the airport the spray from the car in front of me suddenly freezes opaque on the windshield. But it’s 27 out and windshield spray (which is now close to empty) can melt it. I’m in the parking garage at 2:50. The Skytrain is running. I’m in the terminal. The lines are short. No one says I’m too late to check in. Phew!

Of course, the flight WAS 45 minutes late, just not reported. And another hour and a half to get extricated from an icy spot on the tarmac where all the tugs were slipping and get deiced. But I was relaxed by then. Got here in time for a shower before my first appointment.

More about the substance of the trip here.

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