No matter the time of year, driving Parkway South evokes a feeling of elation and the burning desire to wear dark sunglasses while pumping obscenely loud music from the radio. Even if the ultimate destination isn't sandy, Parkway South still means driving "dts:" a true slice of Jersey Girl heaven.
For those of you following who are Jersey foreigners, the "Garden State Parkway" is referred to by natives simply as "The Parkway." It connects Cape May (exit 0) up to where North Jersey meets Chestnut Ridge, New York (exit 172). It hits all the shore points, and the exits are numbered according to at what mile it is located. A lot can be inferred from what exit you get off on the Parkway. When I meet someone from Jersey at Maryland, the instinctual question is always "What exit?" If it's anything under 82, I give an apologetic head nod. If they give me an exit off the Turnpike I feel even sorrier... they must be a Westerner.
There is only one bad thing about driving southbound on the Parkway. And no, Friday rush hour traffic isn't it (at least for a convertible driver - more traffic means more sun exposure.) The only bad thing about driving Parkway South is that inevitably, eventually, you must drive Parkway North. Away from the beach, further from heaven.
Some advice for the Parkway South amateur or naive at heart:
- The Parkway ranges from 4 lanes (damn South Jersey) to 10 lanes (thank you Central Jersey) total in both directions. Please never take the express route if you are trying to get to the beach. The expressway always only has two lanes. If there is an accident, you're screwed. If there is a cop, you're screwed. There is literally nowhere to go and my GPS indicates there is only one trivial minute of a difference in travel time from exit 105 to exit 131. Not worth the potential traffic. Unless it is 3 o'clock in the morning and you are certain you are only one of five drivers within a 5 mile radius, take the local.
- Moreover, the expressway is for BENNYs and people who don't frequent the shore enough to understand the expressway is for BENNYs. If you're a seasonal beach tagger, you take Local. Because you fit in and you know your sh*t. You're not racing to get home an hour and half away in New York, you follow traffic patterns and get home quickly in the left lane.
-Ah, the left lane. Only drive in the left lane if you are going at least twelve miles over the speed limit. It is not for the faint of heart, nor out-of-staters.
- If you see a cop pulled over, writing some D-bag BMW driver a ticket, DO NOT SLAM ON YOUR BRAKES. Just because you are going 71 in a 65 the cop will not, I repeat, will not, drop everything he is doing to veer out into the middle of the highway and pull you over. He is busy, and I have places to go. Carry on.
- Get an E-Z Pass. Again, I have places to go.
- Before crossing the Verazzano, never, never, never drive in either of the outermost lanes. The immense merging is a death zone waiting for Staten Islanders to skip five lanes (because they insisted on driving the Expressway) to get over to one of the three lanes that splits off at exit 127. Stay central and alert. Being on the outskirts of the merger is asking for someone to cut you off at 85 mph.
See you on the Parkway - I'll be the blonde in the red convertible in the (local) left lane with the black sunglasses and blaring music.