Days 56-59 Leaving Boston, Providence, New York – Good Friends and Nice Relatives but Terrible Traffic

Wednesday October 1 (Muriel)

Our car was almost 1,000 miles overdue for its very major 90,000 service.  We rushed out without breakfast to take it to the closest Lexus dealer, a 10 minute drive away.  Even with the help of the GPS, we were so confused by the Boston area streets and poor signage that we missed a crucial turn.  We ended up on the turnpike by mistake.  Not only were we ripped off $1.50 for a one mile drive in the opposite direction of what we wanted, it took us half an hour to get to the dealer.  The big 90K service was a very time-consuming, expensive proposition.  We explained to the service manager that we would really appreciate if we could get our car back later that same day.  He promised to do all he could and to phone us in the late afternoon to let us know when we could get our car back.

We got a brand new Lexus sedan as a loaner.  It drove beautifully and still smelled of new leather.  But it did not have a GPS!  Allan was going to have to navigate the old fashioned way through the wilds of Boston and vicinity, aided only by road map, scribbled notes of what the employees of the dealer were kind enough to advise us, and Allan’s having a few recollections of the area from his college days.  Major streets in the Boston area meander around.  The intersections very often are not at right angles.  There are Y’s and circles, 4-way, 5-way, 6-way intersections, and sudden stretches of one-way street that are almost always the wrong way for your purposes.  There are very few raised directional signs except on freeways.  The traffic circles don’t label the streets for their exit spokes.  The turn arrows painted on the roadways must have all been last painted at least ten years ago.  It’s impossible to distinguish between a right-only and a right-or-straight-only until you are about a foot from it.  Street signs are often missing – or hidden behind foliage.  Vehicles are often double parked, occasionally triple parked.  The drivers are reasonably courteous when off the freeways, although they fairly often make weird maneuvers to contend with the weird conditions they encounter.

Enjoying the relaxed drive (hah), we found our way from the dealer in Watertown, past Harvard, and to University Park, a large mixed-use development next to MIT.  I sat in on Allan’s fascinating meeting with the Boston-area head of the development and learned a lot about city planning issues.

After the meeting, we walked in light rain to a restaurant in the development.  While we enjoyed our first food of the day, the rain became a downpour.  We found out how to get into the parking structure where we had parked the loaner car without going out of doors.  By the time we left the parking structure the rain was over, although there were deep puddles on the streets.  Allan did a masterful job of navigating us back to our friends’ home with only a few unplanned detours.

The service manager phoned to say we could pick up the car at 5:00.  I interrupted visiting with our hostess and doing laundry.  Allan again managed to navigate us back to the dealer, this time avoiding the unwanted detour onto the turnpike.  Our bank account much leaner, we returned to our friends’ home with help from the GPS.  We enjoyed going out to dinner, our friends doing the driving.  They think driving in Boston is much more pleasant than in L.A.  I guess it’s what you’re used to.

Thursday October 2 (Muriel)

We had a leisurely morning before setting off for Newport, Rhode Island.  This town is famous as the location of summer “cottages” of the super rich of the late 19th century.  The central area and wharves today are full of facilities for tourists.  Despite this being a Thursday afternoon in October, the place was swarming with tourists.  After a disappointing lunch in a restaurant that was crowded at 2 PM, we drove past the famous “cottages” on the hillside overlooking Narragansett Bay.  None were quite as huge as the Hearst Castle, but a few came close.  We decided we were more tired than interested in touring the palatial “cottages” and headed for a motel in West Warwick, RI, between Newport and Providence.

We spruced up and drove into Providence, where we met my cousin Barbara for dinner.  She and I are less than a year apart in age and lived across the street from each other in Chicago for a goodly chunk of our childhoods.  The only times I had seen her in recent years were a couple of times that I tagged along with Allan when he taught at an executive training session at Harvard.  While he taught, I took a train from Boston to Providence to have lunch with Barbara.  We enjoyed a long chat over dinner, catching up with over two year’s events.  Then we drove back to our hotel.

Friday October 3 (Muriel)

We drove west and south through Rhode Island and Connecticut into New York.  We went through the Bronx and over the George Washington Bridge to New Jersey around 5 PM on this Friday afternoon.  The traffic was not really as horrendous as we expected.  We settled in a hotel in Ridgefield Park, NJ and headed to Teaneck. Perhaps it was the traffic or maybe the oppressive feeling of being in really big cities, but we took virtually no pictures.  Allan did capture a Hudson River view as we crossed the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey.

Maitland and Doris Hardyman’s son Hugh and his wife Susan had just bought their first house and were settling in there with their toddler, Leia.  Maitland and Doris (of Port Townsend, WA) were visiting as well.  We enjoyed seeing our friends in their comfy new home in a very pleasant neighborhood.

Saturday October 4 (Muriel)

We drove over a totally confusing maze of freeways to Howard Beach, in Queens, where we met Allan’s cousin Nina and her husband John at a restaurant for lunch.  We met John for the first time and had our first visit with Nina in many years.  After a delightful visit, we headed back over the maze of freeways, aided of course by the Lady of the Dashboard.  To our surprise, the fairly long trips each took under an hour, although we spent $18 on bridge tolls for the round trip.

After brief down time at our hotel, we picked up some dessert at a local supermarket and wine at a liquor store.  Then we returned to Hugh and Susan’s home for dinner and another visit.

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