Saturday, December 15, 2007

I Can't Drive 95

Being a very busy interstate, 95 is a highway that takes off a lot of caps, but is not an ideal place to keep stopping to pick them up one-by-one. With almost constant heavy traffic, sometimes narrow shoulders, and lots of state police patrols, there are all sorts of things that can go wrong if you keep pulling over there -- especially on a Saturday afternoon, as was the case today. (Although I typically go out on Sunday mornings when traffic is light, the weather is expected to be bad tomorrow.) Therefore, on many sections of 95, the best approach is to park on a surface street and walk it, which is how I ended up in this place today:

This was taken from between the NB and SB lanes. To get here, I had to cross a creek on stepping stones, hopscotch-style. I did manage to plant my right foot a little deeper in the water than I intended. Not a big deal, but it reminded me of a much worse situation that I once found myself in, involving capping and water, so I'll take this opportunity to tell that story now:

This took place during the winter of 2004-05, when I was in North Jersey. If you're familiar with that area, you probably know the section of I-80 near Parsippany, where the concrete sections have shifted over the years and caused a few pretty serious bumps. Driving by, I noticed a couple good caps stuck in the bushes, one of which was a desirable 16" Camry. I probably could have just stopped on 80 and grabbed them, but I know that in a place like that, there are likely to be a few more caps that aren't visible from the road. I wanted to be able to walk up there and take a leisurely stroll through the bushes.

In that particular area, Route 46 runs parallel and very close to I-80. 46 is a smaller highway with lots of commercial buildings. So, I figured, I would take an exit to 46, double back until I was in about the right spot, park safely in a lot, climb a chain-link fence (if there were an Olympic Games for hubcap dealers, the USDOT Interstate Fence Climb would be a major part of the competition), crash through the woods and come out on the side of I-80, where I could proceed to get the caps. So I got as far as climbing over the fence, when I realized I was facing a little more water than I expected. There was a drainage gully along I-80 that was something of a swamp, filled with reedy plants and nasty, oily water. With all those plants in the water, it really didn't look deep at all. I was wearing my rubber boots and I figured I could just stomp through it.


No, let me repeat that with the proper emphasis.


I got about 3 steps into the muck before I realized this was a very bad idea. My right foot was sinking fast, so I shifted my weight to my left foot, which sunk even faster. Within seconds, cold, gunky water was rushing in over the top of my boots. I grabbed a tree limb that was fortunately overhead and took the weight off my legs, which were sunk almost to the knees in this slop. I managed to ooze my way back to dry land, where I found that everything that had been underwater was coated with black oil. My boots were still full of water, or whatever it was. Not to be deterred after having come this far, I walked around until I found a fallen log across the swamp, which I was able to use to cross without touching the water. When I got to the highway I found the Camry as well as a Jetta, a Grand Marquis and a Cutlass Ciera. The drive home was disgusting -- every time I hit the brake, my slop-filled boot went, "glorp". I was wondering if my toenails would have dissolved by the time I got home, from whatever chemicals were in that stuff. It took 2 rounds through the washer to get my boot linings and jeans clean. I think I threw my socks away.

But on the other hand, that was a nice 16" Camry.

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