The Garden State Parkway: The Long Road Home
We have all heard the saying, “All roads lead to Rome.” Well, maybe we all haven’t heard that. Because really, who uses sayings like that anymore? People like my grandfather do. But he doesn’t matter because he’s a senile hardcore Republican who believes I’m a communist because I think universal health care just might work. When he goes in for his cataract surgery and finds out I stopped paying his insurance premiums, then we’ll see who wants universal health care, won’t we? Am I right? But I digress.
Anyway, the saying is derived from a time when the Roman Empire was so vast, that it was believed every road in the world eventually led to Rome. Well, not every road actually did, and ancient people were dumb. But that’s where the saying came from. I mention the Roman Empire’s expert road construction to build a comparison. We in New Jersey draw several parallels to the Roman Empire. First off, Jersey arguably has more Italians per capita than Rome. Secondly, Rome is the birthplace of pizza, whereas Jersey has perfected it. Thirdly, the guido- blowout-haircut is eerily similar to a Roman officer’s helmet.
Lastly, New Jersey has a kind of inverse of the “all roads to Rome” saying. Here, it’s more like “One Road Leads to Everywhere Else.” And that road, my friends, is dear old Route 444; The Garden State Parkway. Stretching from exit 172 in Montvale, at the NJ/NY border, all the way down to exit 0 at Cape May, the 172.4 mile highway is the central artery of New Jersey travel. Roughly 250 million cars use the parkway every year. And with junctions to every major highway in the state (like Rt.80, Rt. 72, the turnpike, Rt. 17, 78 and so on…), as well as exits to towns that I’m pretty sure only exist as a name on the Parkway sign (I.E. Swainton).
So with exits to practically everywhere in New Jersey, the Garden State Parkway is the concrete and asphalt version of the North Star. No matter how ass-backwards-lost you are in Jersey, if you can find the Parkway, you’re never really lost. Granted, the road will slowly eat away at your bank account thirty-five, fifty cents, or a dollar at a time. But these tolls are what pay for such roadway improvements as the 15-lane Driscoll Bridge. Why is this Important? Because it’s the world’s widest bridge. Not the state, not the country, but the world. Illinois had the World’s Tallest Building with the Sears Tower in Chicago for a while, but were one upped by the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, then Dubai crushed everyone’s dreams with the really, really, ridiculously, unnecessarily tall Burj KhaLifa (Dubai Building.) But no Malaysian or Arab has yet to pry the widest bridge title from Jersey and its parkway. You’re welcome, America. Thanks to New Jersey we’re still number one with something. It’s not education, or healthcare, or employment, but it’s something.
So next time you’re stuck in bumper to bumper traffic between the Oranges trying to make it to Seaside, sit back, breathe deep, and really appreciate the scope of the road. The road that really does lead everywhere.
By Dan Ferrara