Day 1: New Jersey, headed west…

On “D-Day” we were up at 4, but took a little longer than planned to get out of the driveway. Daylight had already broken, and crossing the Verrazano Bridge, we could see the city clearly. The quiet majesty of the stone-and-steel towers glimmered in the early morning light, before receding into the distance. We were on our way…

Traffic is light and we made it to New Jersey in less than two hours! We won’t be stopping anywhere here though (apart from a quick rest-stop for gas, etc., along I-80). The idea is to get as far as we can as fast as we can, because today is a “heavy” drive day–perhaps the heaviest of the whole trip! And on top of that, I am already very tired from the last few days of racing around to tie up all the loose ends before leaving for our six-week expedition. Now we are finally in the Jeep, the music is playing and the road is wide open.

Traveling westward, across New Jersey and toward Pennsylvania we trace the path of the country’s expansion as populations moved from the coastal area toward the interior. During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the biggest barrier was physical — the Appalachian Mountains, and one idea to get around the mountains, was to create a canal that would link Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes with the Atlantic Coast. The plan was to connect the port of New York City via the Hudson river to upstate New York, all the way to Buffalo, on the northeast coast of Lake Erie.

The story of the canal is interesting to us, because the place we will be spending the night tonight, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio, is on the site of another old canal that linked up to the Erie canal during the period when the country relied on the system of waterways to move goods to market. The Erie canal was the first, and they began building it in 1817. Thousands of British, German, and Irish immigrants labored on the project, digging the canal with shovels and horse power (the heavy earth moving equipment we are familiar with today hadn’t been invented yet). They were paid between 80 cents and one dollar a day, which was often three times what they could earn in their home countries. When the canal was finished, the increased trade created new opportunities, prompting migration and the development of farms throughout the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest.

So even though we are not yet close to the start of Route 66, we are beginning to follow the story of the American Dream…

> NEXT: PENNSYLVANIA IS A BIG STATE…


Back to New York | Complete Trip Log | Start at the Beginning

Leave a Reply