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Friday, August 5, 2005


Day 16: Jersey Shore to the NYC burbs

Avalon, N.J., to Franklin Lakes, N.J.: 165 miles, 3 hours

Addendum 8-18-05: Stuff that happened on Day 17, but Day 16 needed punching up

Drove to Hoboken, took the tube to New York to hang out with Peter. It’s a hell of a trip that makes going to Manhattan for a drink look like no trouble at all.

Peter had shown me the Friends exterior at Grove and Bedford before, but I knew Emily would appreciate it more.

Grove and Bedford

Heading toward New York’s George Washington Bridge, N.J. Route 208 crosses over Ewing Avenue near the local high school. Taking that exit, stopping at the bottom of the ramp, and putting the car into neutral yields an eerie surprise: The car rolls back up the ramp. The risk inherent in this activity, of course, is that someone exiting the highway should rear-end you at high speed.

When I discovered the mystery spot, around age 17, I made full use and abuse of my new driver’s license by testing out the weirdness of the haunted exit ramp. Somewhere around the seventh or eighth time, a Franklin Lakes traffic patrol car caught me in the act. Putting safety first, the officer pulled his car straight up the exit ramp, head to head with mine. Had anyone taken that exit during our time together, my car would have been sandwiched between theirs and the cop’s.

Anyway. Cop puts his high beams through my windshield, struts over, and shines his four-D-cell Mag Lite in my face. “Licenseregistrationinsurance please.” I hand over the papers, and he eyes my license.

“Esch, Daniel. Hm. What do they call you? Danny?”

“I go by Dan.”

“Danny, what are you doing here?”

“Well,” I grinned stupidly, like this was the first time, “I heard about this thing where you stop at the bottom of the ramp …”

“Danny, let me ask you something. You go to school?”

“Uh, yeah.”


“Up the road — at the high school.”

“You a junior there?”


“You take physics?”

“Uh … yeah?”

“Tell me something, Danny.”


“Do things roll up hills?”

Not wanting to thwart the cop’s position of authority, I resisted the urge to invite him into the back seat for a demonstration. “No, sir, they don’t.” After a warning and an awkward reverse by the patrol car, I was free to go.

Some 17 years later, I finally returned to the spot in my own car, risking the $75 careless driving ticket for the sake of a few seconds of thrills. Luckily, there were no cops. It still works, pushing the Civic some 40 feet up the ramp. And it’s cool as hell.