August 29, 2005

Start: New York City
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Mileage: 146 miles
Route taken:
Holland Tunnel to Route 9 south to Garden State Parkway, exit at Atlantic City.


        There are easy miles and there are hard miles. Today was nothing but hard miles.

        The trip began on a dour note, since I really didn’t want to leave New York City. I did manage to drop by Ray’s Pizza for a couple of slices before I left, and while I was eating them there was a little sadness that I was departing the city.

        When I reached the Holland Tunnel it was about 11 a.m. and even with taking a two-lane highway, figured I could be in Atlantic City by 4 or 5 p.m..

        The smell of New Jersey hit me before I had even exited the Holland Tunnel. It is the smell of death. It is a rotting, vile, chemical-induced odor that could come from any one of the plants that litter both sides of the highway.

        The dirt is upon you instantly. Trucks kick it pieces of gravel that pelt your face. When a semi on the other side of the road passes, it brings with it a blast of dirt that washes over you with the back draft of the truck.

        The roads earn the distinction of being the worst I have ever encountered. Potholes, bumps, grooves, were all hazards I had to avoid.

        It was 70 miles that seemed like 700 and I got little relief until I reached Toms River.

        Then the roads improved, the scenery got greener, the smell changed to pine trees and mist from the lake and the drive became much more pleasant.        

        The Garden State Parkway is a tree-lined toll road for most of the way and I was forced to get on it after the delays of the congested two-lane highway.

        It was a benign road, but did have a bit of danger, as the deer warnings were everywhere. I noticed three grazing off to my right, no more than 30 yards from me and it caused me to go even slower than I already was.

        Atlantic City has been billed as this seedy, slimy, depressing place where degenerative gamblers go to slide even further.

        I did not see that. It reminded me of a waterfront downtown Las Vegas. It was not completely sanitized, but not grimy either.

        The hotels were tall and glitzy, just like Vegas, and inside they had all the trappings gamblers enjoy. There were expensive shops and restaurants that provided a momentary obstacle until the casino.

        The casino I went to actually seemed friendlier than the ones I have been at in Vegas. The dealers talked to you, the people were happy and the place was bright, but not blinding.

        I played a little Texas Hold Em and sat next to a kid named Dave. He is a college student and a good guy. He had been playing cards that night since about 5 p.m. and told me he had to go to work at 6 a.m. He didn’t leave until 1 a.m. and was planning on going to Delaware to buy cheap cigarettes.

        It would be an all nighter for Dave and I was tired just thinking about his next 24 hours.