Actually, before you read on, you might want to look at the lenght of this saga and be satisfied with the short version: I'm insane and flew across the country and drove back all in the space of 51 hours on about 6 decent and 3 lousy hours of sleep. Unless you count sleeping while driving. Just kidding. Oh yeah, and I made it alive. Okay, stop reading. This is only documented for my sister's benefit since I can only write her letters. Anyone else who cared had already asked me about it.
It turns out that it is WAY cheaper to fly to New York and take a bus to Philly than it is to fly to Philly. So I flew from Salt Lake to New York's JFK airport on JetBlue Airlines. Normally, I would have been able to fly for $89, but since I booked only a week out, it cost me $136. That is insanely cheap. But that's nothing if you consider their current promotion where you and a friend can fly round trip from SLC to JFK for $272. That's under $70 per person each way. When I last went to New York in 1996, I booked about a week in advance and the round trip was $700. The flight left at 11:40 p.m. and arrived at 5:35 a.m. eastern time. JetBlue is awesome: they have a TV in the back of every seat so everyone can watch what they want choosing from a bunch of DirecTV channels.
After I got there, I wasted an hour waiting for my checked luggage thanks to some mis-information about where our baggage was going. After I finally realized their mistake, I went to the air-train, which is a free elevated train that goes from terminal to terminal at JFK, and rode to terminal 4 where the bus stop is. The only baggage I brought was my big camping backpack so that I could ride the busses and subways to Manhattan to catch the bus to Philly. I didn't really want to pay $30 for a cab. I caught the Q3 that goes from JFK through Queens to the 179 Street subway station. Then I rode the F train from Queens across the river to Manhattan until the East Broadway station, then walked a couple of blocks through Chinatown to the Chinatown busses. NYC really has a cool public transit system.
If you haven't heard of the Chinatown busses, they're several small bus lines that run from Chinatown to Chinatown of nearby cities. They're very cheap, and run quite frequently. If you're ever touring NYC, you may want to take one to Philly or Boston and back while you're there. My ride from NYC to Philly was only $12, and would have been only $20 round trip. I made it plenty-early for the 9 a.m. bus, and would have easily caught the 8 a.m. bus had it not been for the luggage mix-up. As the bus crossed into New Jersey, I could see why everyone jokes about how ugly it is. What an industrial wasteland! That only lasted for 30 minutes or so. After we got out of that part of the state, it was actually very beautiful and green.
The bus got to Philly just after 11:00 and Honest Bob was waiting for me with the new van. We hurried back across the river into New Jersey to the MVC (New Jersey's version of the DMV) to get some temporary transit tags so I wouldn't have to use Bob's plates for the drive back. We finished at least 10 minutes before it closed (at noon on Saturdays). Good thing, because I would have been hanging out in NJ all weekend if I hadn't made it in time. We drove back to Bob's house in Glassboro, NJ (pretty close to Philly) to drop him off. Bob was really nice and went way out of his way to accommodate me and get me on my way. His moniker is well deserved.
I went to the local Shop-Rite to buy some Chef Boyardee food, Wheat-thins, granola bars, applesauce and anything else that looked good to eat on my trip. I got some lunch at Wawa's (think 7-11 with a built in Subway) for some lunch, then I was off. I brought loads of CDs and books-on-tape to keep me awake and sane for the long drive, so I started of with a book. It really made the time go by quickly.
Crossing the bridge into Pennsylvania cost $3.00 in tolls, then I took I-676 through the city until it ran into I-76. It turns out I-76 is a toll road. Did I mention how much I hate toll roads? No? Oh. I hate toll roads as much as huge dead bloated frogs behind my fridge!. (That's another story for another day). I always thought they just had a little station where you tossed in a couple of coins and you were on your way for the next hundred miles or so. Nope. They give you a little ticket, then you drive as far as you like, then when you get off the freeway, they take the ticket to figure how far you went and have you mortgage your home to pay for it. That means that they have to staff a toll both at every on/off ramp along the entire road and that you can't get off the not-so-freeway for gas/food/anything except at their rest-stops unless you want to pay extra tolls. So near the state line, the toll road ended and I payed $17.00 for crossing I-76. I drove another mile or so, and they had another toll booth charging $1.50 to leave the state. Idiots! Why not just combine the last two toll booths into one?
I cruised through Ohio pretty fast along what I thought was the I-80 freeway, but was really the Ohio turnpike. Nine dollars and a few hundred miles later, I was in Indiana. It was pretty dark by then, but I was so mad at the whole turnpike business that I decided to take back roads. I can't remember, but I think I took Indiana highway 40 west across most of Indiana all the way to South Bend, and I got back on I-80. Even though it took a bit longer, it was fun and helped keep me awake. Back on I-80, I only paid $1.65 or so for short stretch I did. At 11:30 p.m. Utah time I decided to call it a night. I pulled into a Flying-J in Gary, Indiana and parked for the night. I moved the seats around to make room and got out my pad and sleeping bag. I got about 5 hours of sleep, then woke up too cold and unable to sleep more. Lousy sleeping bag! I hit the road nice and early and drove into Illinois with the sun in my rear-view mirror.
If you must do toll booths, Illinois has the right idea. As I drove by the unmanned booth, I tossed thirty cents into a huge funnel. A second later, the bar went up and I was through. I don't remember much of Iowa. I crossed the Mississippi, but it wasn't very impressive that far north. I was making good time and crossed into Nebraska. Originally I had planned on driving through most of Nebraska then sleeping and finishing the rest on Monday. My short night of sleep got me going earlier than planned and motivated me to try to not repeat the experience. Nebraska was pretty nice as it had 75 MPH speed limits and newly repaved roads, not to mention, no tolls. A group of five of us cruised across most of the state at 90 MPH and luckily never saw a single patrol car. Since I got to the truck stop where I had planned to stay the night by 4:30 p.m., I decided to aim for Rock Springs, Wyoming instead, but to stop as soon as my eyelids got heavy. When I got to Wyoming, it started to rain. My book-on-tape got over so I switched to music.
By the time I was 10 miles from Rock Springs, my eyelids were very heavy. I cranked the music way up and sang along at the top of my lungs to keep myself awake. Good thing it was dark or anyone passing me would have thought I was drunk. I made it to Rock Springs around 11:00 p.m. and filled up with Gas. I got a Mountain Dew and ate some ravioli and wheat-thins for dinner. Since I never consume caffeine, the Mountain Dew soon had my eyes propped open with toothpicks and I had no problem driving the last 3 hours home. It was a very strange sensation to be that tired at 2:00 a.m. but still unable to fall asleep. As Karen can attest, I never have a problem falling asleep.
So there you have it. I did warn you that this was a waste of time to read, but you read on anyways. Don't go blaming me when you get fired for wasting time on the internet!