If you were asked, I’m sure you have an idea of what you would say is the greatest highway in the United States. Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong. That is, unless your answer is the New Jersey Turnpike.
No, it’s not the best road to test your car’s limits or to see slices of America from the heart, but it is residence. You may disagree, but this is my post, so you’ll have to save it for comments.
I grew up in northern New Jersey, about five minutes from the northernmost entrance to the NJ Turnpike. Taking this road meant you were going somewhere. No matter where your destination ismmemories would be made. And, if you were lucky enough – as I was on several occasions – the trip itself would also provide those memories.
The toll highway was a gateway to places beyond my hometown. In my mind, it represented freedom. Get in your car with some buddies, grab Arizona iced tea and snacks, and in a few hours you can be anywhere else.
It’s a road I’ve traveled hundreds of times in my life. Whether it’s trips to Florida as a kid in the back of my mom’s van, driving the shore (yes, that’s a real New Jersey phrase) with friends to enjoy the beautiful Jersey Shore promenade, from hurtling down the road in my Z4 on my way to my girlfriend’s apartment in Washington, DC for a weekend getaway. Each trip has meant something to me in a truly intangible way.
The New Jersey Turnpike often reminds me of the phrase, “Go west, young man.” JAlthough this is decidedly a north-south highway, the meaning of the phrase still rings true: It’s about going to a new place, seeing something new, and becoming something new through it.
A fun little bonus at the Turnpike? It’s the main road in the opening of one of my favorite TV shows, another New Jersey institution, The Sopranos.
In fact, every time my friends or I pass the iconic “DRIVE SAFELY” sign that appears in the show’s opening credits, we take a picture and send it to each other.
For many, the New Jersey Turnpike is truly a gateway to the rest of the country, even though it only covers part of one of the smallest states in the country. I’m not alone in this feeling either.
As Simon and Garfunkel wrote, “Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, they all came looking for America.” We are all here looking for something, whether it is the countryside, a place to eat or gasoline or ourselves.
All that being said, I completely understand if you still don’t. to have New Jersey’s Turnpike. I’m sure you have your own home route that means as much to you as it does to me, and that’s okay. The truth is, we all have our own NJ Turnpikes, and hopefully you can take another trip in yours soon.