Lost In New York

I’ve been away in New York this week, at the IBM Palisades Executive Conference Center. Four days of team meetings with my immediate project team. Four of us are located in Austin, but senior management were in New York, so everyone traveled to New York via New Jersey.

Traveling from Newark airport to Palisades isn’t exactly difficult, but it’s surprisingly easy to end up in Manhattan accidentally. There are two main traps I’ll need to remember if I go there again.

The first trap is that the New Jersey Turnpike splits into two on the way north, and the two halves have entirely different sets of exits and available destinations. Computer-generated routes don’t mention this. The “local” route was the one we wanted; the “express” route has a different set of exits, turns and signposts which bore no resemblance to the ones in the directions.

The second trap is that at some point, you want to transition from the New Jersey Turnpike to the Palisades Interstate Parkway. Doing so apparently involves driving towards the George Washington Bridge, being funneled towards the toll plaza, then cutting across five lanes of traffic to a small left exit labeled Fort Lee. If you fail to make it, or don’t see the left exit, you’re screwed—there’s no way to turn around without going across the bridge to Manhattan, turning left twice, and coming all the way back. To add to the irritation, they’ll charge you $6 for the pleasure of going across the bridge to Manhattan, even though you have zero desire to do so. This trap wasn’t mentioned in any of the directions either, and explains how our route from Newark to Palisades came to include the Bronx.

We opted to take 9N and go back across the river at the next bridge, rather than try again to negotiate the maze of roads near the Washington bridge in the dark. Fortunately I’d had the foresight to bring the GPS, so we were making progress, and not in any real danger of getting totally lost. Our route was sub-optimal and slow, but we’d get there.

Once we could see the Tappan Zee bridge, there was the minor problem of getting onto it. You’d think it would be well signposted from most nearby road junctions, but you’d think wrong. We stopped at one of the few open gas stations to ask for more specific directions than “drive up and down the coast until you see a way on”. The guy behind the counter said “I’m afraid I’m not from around here, I have no idea.”

There was a pause. I turned around and looked at the other gas station employee, standing by the door. “I’m not from around here either,” he said apologetically. “This is a brand new station, they brought us in from somewhere else.”

So on the whole, a farce which has done nothing to improve my general feelings about New York.