The road was red on the tiny screen of my phone. The directions said “rerouting.” We followed blindly, exiting 95 to avoid a congested highway stretch just before the southern entrance to the George Washington Bridge.
Off Route 95 and onto Route 46 then right on North Avenue, one small road led to another equally small road but not a through street. Other cars merged in front of us and suddenly our detour was as congested (well, almost) as the GW Bridge. And we realized that we weren’t the only cars being rerouted by Siri!
Getting off the well traveled route around New York City always makes me a little nervous. I think of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities and the fateful wrong turn the main character, Sherman McCoy, makes.
Slowly we made our way to the traffic light and back onto 95 where all lanes crawled across the bridge, and our view was marred (or enhanced) by the fog.
Are we better off with Google Maps? Showing us traffic and detours, updating our routes with ETAs? Or we were better off in the old days with just maps and AAA TripTiks to show us the way?
While traveling in Paris many years ago, my American friends introduced me to the Moscow Rule. Not to be confused with the Moscow Rules, this rule has to do with shopping and souvenirs and is fairly simple. If you see something, buy it, because you may never see it again.
My friends told me that this rule originates from people standing in line in Moscow. If you lived in Moscow under Communist rule and saw people standing in line, you joined them, because whatever they were waiting for you most likely needed or would need and you may not have the opportunity to buy it another time.
Although I try to remember this rule when I travel, the times I forget are the times I regret. Like the time I didn’t buy the metal toy truck in Cape Town because I knew we’d see several more during our trip (we didn’t).
Or when I didn’t buy a drum and then had to resort to the airport gift shop. Or when I passed up a pretty necklace at a price I saw quadrupled in future stores.
Sometimes it’s easy to remember, like buying Lindt chocolates in Zurich, wool scarves with the family clan in Edinburgh, or maple syrup in Vermont. I find it more difficult to remember when I see something different. Is it something I truly want? Is the price a good one? Will I see it again?
To prevent those post traveling blues, remember the Moscow Rule: if you see something unique, something you’re unlikely to find online or anywhere else, snatch it up, because you may never see it again. Most likely, you won’t regret the purchase, and the memories it holds will bring smiles for a lifetime.
With luck and the help of an app, we discovered a town just off I-95 in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, with a plethora of gluten-free options.
It was late, some time after 11 p.m., and we’d been driving for hours, leaving the Chapel Hill area after 2. The need to refuel got us off the highway and into a Howard Johnson’s for the night. But when the next morning’s continental breakfast only consisted of powdered sugar donuts and cereal with whole milk, we did a little research. Using the Find Me Gluten Free app on her phone, my daughter discovered a gluten-free bakery just 3 miles away. Eagerly anticipating the gluten-free crepes listed on its menu, we took the detour, parked, and walked to Wildflour Bakery/Cafe.
Closed. It was Monday. Now what? We were all hungry, and the town’s main street was quiet. Half a block away, we noticed a bagel shop, and as we grew closer, we noticed a sign posted in the window. Gluten-free bagels!
Inside, the Maidenhead Bagel Company, the gluten diners were happy, ordering sesame, plain, and pumpkin (!) bagels all made with wheat flour. And the gluten-free diner was happy. She ordered a bagel egg sandwich (the first one she’d ever had!) made on an Udi’s bagel.
On our next trip south, we’ll plan on passing through the town of Lawrenceville to check out the cafe we missed. And next time, we’ll make sure it’s not a Monday!