Empty New York streets.REUTERS/Mike Segar

For the reason that center of March, I might been staying near my house in New Jersey because the COVID-19 pandemic intensified and governments started shutting down states — together with mine — and cities, notably the middle of the outbreak within the US: New York.

However final week, I ended up driving about 200 miles, roundtrip, twice: from the New Jersey suburbs to the east finish of Lengthy Island.Commercial

The journey includes, principally, two highways, two rivers, and two tunnels, with the island of Manhattan historically representing probably the most difficult impediment.

I am an professional at driving in NYC, my expertise honed over a number of many years of battling it out with all comers on the vehicular imply streets. I am speaking about sharking yellow cabs, darting cyclists, the odd motorbiker, fleets of luxurious SUVs, pelotons of supply vehicles, no scarcity of flatbeds and Earth movers, and naturally 1000’s of pedestrians who, it being New York, stroll wherever they need, at any time when they need.

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio and I braved the journey from New Jersey to the east finish of Lengthy Island.Matthew DeBord/Insider


One will need to have a thoughts open to chaos when driving within the Huge Apple. And one’s soul should be tempered with persistence, for there are all the time delays, delays, and nonetheless extra delays to cope with. Congestion has breached a surreal barrier over the previous decade, sophisticated by Uber and Lyft. Frequent have been the hours once I’ve poked alongside a tenth of a block at a time whereas piloting a $100,000-plus automobile that has a prime pace of 200 miles per hour. Thank heavens for satellite tv for pc radio. And even then, merely one stalled bus within the Lincoln tunnel can imply the distinction between dinner at eight and leftovers at midnight.

The pandemic has radically altered this panorama, nonetheless. I had heard the rumors. Out in Los Angeles, the place I lived and died — figuratively — in site visitors for 10 years, the air had been restored to an alpine taste and the freeways had been vacant. Nearer to house, Manhattan was now a legit 15-minute jaunt from my home, and Manhattan, ever-clogged and gridlocked Gotham, was now not a barrier however moderately a blink-and-you’ll miss it whistle-stop.
I saddled up my Alfa Romeo Stelvio SUV to see for myself.Commercial

Los Angeles, minus site visitors.David McNew/Getty Pictures

A swift merge onto my fundamental artery to NYC, New Jersey Route 3, despatched me flying by way of the Meadowlands and previous MetLife Stadium earlier than plunging into the darkish conduit of the Lincoln Tunnel, for an underground transit of the Hudson River in … 5 minutes?!?!

I emerged to an enormous development mission that I do know like one among my kids, so lengthy has it slowed my proper flip onto Ninth Avenue (since 2014). Whoosh! Nothing. Throughout 34th Avenue and thru Midtown in … 10 minutes?!?! Then into the Midtown Tunnel, even emptier than the Lincoln, and up the rise to the Queens feeder to the Lengthy Island Expressway.Commercial

Ah, the LIE! Web site of quite a few, earlier existential crises, if not wholesale meltdowns of my leathery motorist’s psyche. I’ve cursed my creator far too typically to enumerate on this godless thoroughfare. My closing reward would require some type of rationalization for my unholy declarations as I slogged over the searing asphalt, ready, ready, ready for issues to “open up.”

However final week … a blissful, uninterrupted cruise. Even once I gamed this roadway, making my run at one, two, three within the morning, by no means did I encounter such a profound lack of agonized vehicular camaraderie.

Germany’s autobahn.Sean Gallup/Getty Pictures


In reality, I noticed firsthand what an American autobahn could be like. The well-known German highways have a really helpful pace restrict of 80 mph — stress on “really helpful.” Out on the LIE, that suggestion appeared to have crossed the Atlantic. Myself, I am professionally obliged to watch the posted pace restrict, so I hold the Stelvio on the lawful aspect of the equation.

However throughout me, velocity.

Even a reasonably cheap fashionable automobile can assist 80 mph, and sometimes extra. Drivers had been savoring their energy and freedom everywhere. New York State freeway patrollers had a couple of of them parked on the shoulder, bathed in flashing lights. However the defiant ones had been steadfastly defiant. At one level, I heard a BMW M3 arising from behind earlier than I noticed it blast by my port flank. Velocity was north of 100, possibly north of 110. It was each flagrant and spectacular, libertine in its boldness.Commercial

I lack confidence in motorists who not often prime 50 mph in my traffic-choked tri-state to handle a newfound want for pace, however I did not witness any wreckage on my journeys. I’ve typically puzzled if the LIE may take the most effective that Detroit, Japan, Germany, Italy, and South Korea need to throw at it. And I am right here to report that the LIE would not thoughts a bit of pedal to the steel. The LIE may type of need it, dream about it, nurture it when it arrives.

The previous world.Related Press

Did I discover any of this eerie, bizarre, troubling, post-apocalyptic, Omega Mannish? Nope, I merely took it for what it was: the American character, solid on the romance of the open highway, now lastly, really, getting one. I recalled some lingo from Jack Kerouac’s chronicle of a much less congested USA, On the Highway: “No sooner had been we out of city than Eddie began to ball that jack ninety miles an hour out of sheer exuberance.”Commercial

Ninety. How quaintly 1950s.

I am undecided if the pandemic will change America in methods we won’t foresee. However one factor’s for certain: the momentary elimination of site visitors proves one thing — that though our highways had been ostensibly constructed for consolation, given the correct situation, they’re actually able to embracing pace.

I made it out and again in a single piece. The Stelvio was magnificent. Individuals should not drive this quick for too lengthy or its liable to warp their brains. Consider me, I’ve seen it. I have been on the market. I am right here to inform the damaging story.Commercial

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