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Vacation observations

December 29, 2010
By PETER CROWLEY, Enterprise Managing Editor

As we have done roughly every other Christmas, my wife and kids and I made the long haul to Indiana, where my dad was born and raised, to celebrate the holiday with family.

Now I don't expect you to care much about my vacation, but when you travel around America, if you keep your eyes open, you see things that you wouldn't see back home, and they can be relevant to life back here.

Here are some things I noticed, for what they're worth:

-New York is the only state we drove through that has people, rather than machines, handing out toll tickets on I-90. In Ohio, machines spit out the tickets and employees collect the money. In Indiana, machines do both jobs, and that left me with a heavy pocketful of shiny dollar coins since the machines don't give change in bills. This isn't new; these states had machines doing these jobs when I passed though two years ago, too. Of all the work that needs doing in our modern world, giving out toll tickets seems like something a machine can do easily, something that doesn't require a human with a pension and an awesome health care plan. I can't think of a better symbol of New York being run as a union job-protection program.

-Speaking of tolls, the amazing amount of them I-90 motorists have to pay made me appreciate the ease of travel up here in the North Country. I thought I liked the idea of user fees rather than taxes funding a service like a big highway, but after paying $7.60 each way on the 90-mile trip between Chicago and South Bend, Ind. - $4.50 in Chicago and $3.10 in Indiana - I couldn't help but wonder whether this is a racket rather than a nonprofit government operation. But putting fear of unfairness aside, it's also a reminder that it costs a lot of money to maintain our nation's interstate system, which we all take for granted. If we had to pay the true cost of a road or bridge every time we drove on one, how much would it cost? Would it be cheaper than taking a train or bus?

-Rush-hour traffic really does stink. It, too, reminded me of a reason I like it up here, where I can get from Point A to Point B with relatively few variables. While returning from seeing my sister in Chicago to my cousin's home in the suburbs, we couldn't have hit rush hour more perfectly. A 25-mile trip that had taken little more than 30 minutes earlier that day took two hours, and we spent almost all of it crawling along at 10 to 20 mph. It was good exercise for my patience, but that's the only good thing I can say about it.

How about you? I know other locals traveled to visit family for Christmas. If you did and have some interesting tidbits of Americana to share, I encourage you to do so in a letter to the editor.

Overall, even though I had enjoyed my relaxing time with family, I'm glad to be home.


Contact Peter Crowley at 518-891-2600 ext. 22 or



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