The Great Connecticut Road Trip

My daughter is enrolled in the law school at the University of Connecticut for the fall semester. The school in located in Hartford which is allegedly a six hour drive from our house. Last Thursday we drove there to scope out the school and the nearby rental properties.

The easiest way to get there is to get on I-95 for 300 or so miles to New Haven then drive 50 miles to Hartford on I-91. I hate I-95 in Maryland so we used US 50 and US 301 through the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware. This alternative route is much prettier, has less traffic, and avoids two tolls. Or so we thought. As we crossed into Delaware we encountered a brand new Hwy 301. Unlike the old highway it was limited access, had a 65-mile-per-hour speed limit, and had very little traffic. It also had a brand new $4 toll. Oh well.

We rejoined 95 past the Delaware toll plaza and crawled through concrete spaghetti to the Delaware Memorial Bridge and into New Jersey. We then took the Turnpike toward New York City. Just outside of Woodbridge NJ we took a break at a rest stop. Wanting to avoid 95 through much of New York and lower Connecticut, I turned on the Google and submitted to its routing wisdom. Strangely the Google routed us off the Turnpike, over the Gowanus Bridge, then up US 1 and 9. Not really knowing why we were routed in such an odd direction we slavishly followed the instructions.

After an hour of stressful Jersey urban traffic the Google put us back on 95 and we crossed the George Washington Bridge. After a half hour of crawling the Google sent us up through Westchester County and eventually across Connecticut on I 84. All the while we were stuck in traffic jams. After nine stressful and perplexing hours we made it to Hartford.

I later discovered that my Google Maps app was set to “No Tolls”. This explains the bizarre routing.

After checking in to our hotel we needed some thing relaxing to do. As luck would have it, our hotel was a short walk from Dunkin Donuts Stadium, home of the Hartford Yard Goats AA minor league baseball team. It was a beautiful park and the seats were cheap. We sat behind home plate for $17 per person. The game was a blowout, 11-1 in favor of the visiting Somerset Patriots. The beer selection was decent and the junk food hit the spot.

Our appreciation for major league baseball players was greatly increased by our AA outing. Players in the big leagues make difficult plays look routine. We did see one fielding play, the final out, that was exceptional though. The Patriots second baseman caught a line drive to his left side with a deft sideways leap.

The next day we drove to the UConn Law campus in Hartford’s West End neighborhood. The five buildings all were done in collegiate gothic style. They, and the absolutely perfect grounds, made for a gorgeous campus. Easily in the top ten percent of campuses I have seen (and I’ve seen over 50).

After walking around a bit (all the buildings were closed), we started driving around looking at neighborhoods and rental buildings. There are some mighty nice homes nearby. Curiously, the nice places gave way to once-nice homes that had been neglected seemingly at random from one block to the next. The main commercial road nearest campus seemed to cater to the poor and inebriated. After driving around aimlessly, we took a tour of one apartment building. It was priced right but the neighborhood was sketchy.

We drove around some more and checked out West Hartford, the adjacent suburb to the west. This was much less gritty and reminded me of Bethesda, Maryland.

After a dinner at a downtown Italian restaurant, we crashed at the hotel.

Saturday we toured two more apartments. One was in a cluster of old buildings near campus. The other was a brand new place in West Hartford. For about $400 per month you get seriously nicer housing with a five to ten minute car commute.

It was too early to sign a lease but we at least accomplished getting the lay of the land and the housing market. Afterwards we headed to Guilford Connecticut near Long Island Sound. We had lunch in a deli on the town green. Ah New England! After lunch we drove to Jacobs Beach a few miles away. The beach is relatively small but uncrowded. A nice place to chill after so much driving.

We headed back to Hartford on back roads. It was an hour of immersion in postcard New England. I had forgotten how beautiful this part of the country is. It must be amazing in the fall.

Back in Hartford we ate dinner al fresco at a downtown Mexican restaurant. The food was quite good. The margaritas were too.

The next morning we headed back to DC. This time we re-set the Google to “Tolls” and had a much shorter trip. I-91 to a cars only highway that became the Merritt Parkway. Just before New York we stopped to partake in New England communion at the Dunks at a rest stop.

The Google routed us to the GW Bridge where we encountered the usual traffic snarl. After a 20 minute delay we were back on 95 speed southward. Occasional delays notwithstanding we made good time to Delaware. The temperature was in the 90s so we decided to avoid the beach traffic on 301 and took I 95 instead. One massive back up and 100 mind numbing mile later we arrived at home.

In case you are wondering, a yard goat is the slang term for the engine used to push rail cars around in a rail yard. Even though my grandfather was an engineer and my father and uncles worked a bit in the yards, I had to look it up.

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