You hear it all the time. Unemployment is high. Jobs are hard to get. There’s no work to be had. You can’t find a job anywhere. Want to work? Well, I’ve got the job for you. If you can get on with a road crew you will have plenty of work on our nation’s highways. Did you know that there is no state in the union, not a one, without major highway construction going on right now? I know this first hand, having just gotten back from an extended driving trip back and forth across the country.
From California to Pennsylvania, from Michigan to Utah, there wasn’t one state we drove through in the last month that didn’t have some kind of construction work happening on the interstates. We saw more orange cones (and they’re bigger now, no more of those little dunce cap things) than we saw wheat and corn fields, and we saw plenty of those. “Road Work Next 10 Miles” signs shot up all along our routes. Early morning, late afternoon, rain or shine, it was road work everywhere.
We hit the worst one in Utah going through a national park. We were told at the ranger’s gate as we entered that there was a bit of road work going on, that there might be as much as a half an hour delay because of it. Well, once we got half way through, WHAM! We were stopped dead for more than an hour. The lineup of cars snaked all the way down the mountain pass. Nothing to do except turn off the engine and sit.
The highway work never dampened our spirits, however. The trip was one of our best adventures across the country. I mean, how we could complain when we discovered two of the all time best frozen custard stands in the nation, visited Jimmy Stewart’s hometown, had some unforgettable meals in local restaurants from coast to coast, experienced Niagara Falls up close and personal, made friends with a real cowboy, rediscovered small town America, stayed at a 100-year-old ranch in Wyoming, had ice cream in Columbus, Ind., at a faithfully restored 1900 ice cream parlor complete with real marble soda fountains – the last of its kind in the country.
The reason for the trip was to attend the bar mitzvah of one of our nephews, Maxwell Marcus, in Harrisburg, Pa. Jane and I were honored to be part of the ceremony and so proud listening to him reciting from the Torah in Hebrew. The coming of age of a boy to a man is an important step in a young man’s life of course, but beyond that, it’s a celebration of Jewish tradition. It’s also the celebration of family, or should be. The pride that the family feels in watching their little boy becoming a man is one of those once-in-a-lifetime special things.
We arrived on a Thursday afternoon and spent the following four days with family, leaving on the next Tuesday for Niagara Falls.
We stayed on the Canadian side of the falls, and yes, Canada had road work on their highways too. The difference was that their road work signs were in both English and French, eh. If you have never seen Niagara Falls you have missed something truly awesome. Like the Grand Canyon, it needs to be seen in person to be really appreciated. No words, photos, or movies can capture the grandeur of the falls the way it does when you are actually standing near it, watching it, listening to it, and feeling the mist.
We did all the typical tourist things you’re supposed to do, like taking the world famous Maid of the Mist boat ride, which sails right into Horseshoe Falls and gets you soaking wet (everyone was given a raincoat). We also saw the falls from behind in another tour. The lights that shine on the waterfalls at night change hues constantly and gave the place an eerie kind of glow. Our room had a knockout view of the falls, which turned out to be one of the best hotel stays of the trip.
We were lucky to have had a few outstanding accommodations on this adventure, and the mini-suite at Marriot Fallsview at Niagara Falls was one. St. Louis was another, Salt Lake City was another, and our cabin at the Vee Bar Ranch was another. Yeah, we had our share of not-so-hot motel stopovers too, but it’s all part of life on the road. Just like having to deal with the road work. Did I mention there was quite a lot of road work on this trip?