Years ago, when I was firmly entrenched in my Stephen King phase, I read a fascinating short story in his Skeleton Crew collection about a woman who was obsessed with finding the shortest route to a destination. As her shortcuts begin to defy time, space and reality, she pulls a Benjamin Button and is a young girl at the end of the story.
Like everyone else, I’ve become dependent on GPS, especially for long trips. I have a relatively new car with a GPS built in and there are rumors that it can be voice-activated but I’ve tried twice and apparently I don’t speak clearly enough. (Fun fact: it also doesn’t recognize hell as a destination.)
Every time I use the GPS, I turn it into a game and try to beat the estimated time of arrival. My biggest challenge has been driving from our home to a place we rent once a week each summer in Cape May, New Jersey. We’ve been going to Cape May for seven years and the first time it took us seven hours to travel about 150 miles. Our children were 4 and 2 at the time, so we had to make a lot of stops, and had to contend with a crush of people all starting their rentals at the same time. Cape May is at the southern-most tip of New Jersey, and most of the roads close to it are single-lane roads with low speed limits.
There was nothing we could do about the timing of the rental, the roads or when we went. It’s pretty standard for weekly leases to go Saturday–Saturday in South Jersey, and withour kids in school, we’re stuck with going on vacation during the high season. With my husband’s schedule, we always during one of the busiest weeks of the summer. We love Cape May: it’s quiet and kid-friendly. I tinker with the timing and the route every year, and eventually whittled it down for the past two years to four hours, one rest stop included. The last 30 miles of the trip usually takes an hour.
But this morning, friends, the trip only took THREE HOURS. We left at 7:30 am. It took us 90 minutes to the bridge to New Jersey and another 90 to reach Cape May. There was five minutes’ worth of stop-and-go traffic crossing the bridge into Cape May, and that was it. En route, we took two restroom stops and were behind some slow tractor trailers. I think the biggest difference was the weather: it was cold and windy today, with spotty showers. I just couldn’t get over it. I felt as euphoric as Mrs. Todd from the Stephen King story.