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July 28th, 2009:

Michigan to Manhattan: A cross-country scorecard of what makes America great (Part 2).

stay in laneThis is the second of a two-part series recapping my move to New York. If you missed part 1, you can read it here.

Eastern Pennsylvania

After refueling at the Flying J, things in Pennsylvania went pretty smoothly. That is, they went smoothly until about hour seven of my journey, when I decided to turn off my audio book (Niall Ferguson’s The Ascent of Money) in the hopes to catching All Things Considered on the local NPR affiliate.

After about 10 minutes of searching, I finally found the local NPR station, WVIA. Turns out that not all NPR stations are created equal. After years of counting on finding reliably excellent programming on Michigan Radio (WUOM) at any hour of the day or night, I was horrified to find that Pennsylvania stations broadcast marginal music programs during prime drive-time hours.

I struggled to find an acceptable NPR station all the way through Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Observations/Score card: Eastern Pennsylvania

Things that make America Great: none.

Things that DON’T make America Great: Marginal NPR affiliates that give public broadcasting a bad name (you know who you are WVIA and WXPN).

The Garden State

By all accounts, New Jersey dramatically exceeded expectations.

I had never been to New Jersey before (save for Newark Airport), and kind of expected it to be a mix between drab 70s sprawl and an early industrial wasteland that never quite got cleaned up. Oh, and I expected there to be lots of train tracks and oil storage tanks.

But in reality, my trip down the Garden State’s parkways was remarkably scenic and enjoyable. The lush hills and sometimes dramatic vistas reminded me of Northern Michigan, but with wider (and better) roads, nicer cars and charming infrastructure projects dating from the New Deal.

All and all, driving through New Jersey was a pleasant experience. If only they had a decent NPR station…

Observations/Score card: New Jersey

Things that make America Great: beautiful highways and byways.

Things that DON’T make America Great: Unacceptable lack of decent NPR stations. Isn’t New Jersey home to some of the East Coast Liberal Elite? Where do they get their marching orders if not from Robert Siegel and Michele Norris?

New York City

First of all, they charge $8 to get into New York City. You know a place is going to be pricy when they have a cover charge just to take the tunnel into town.

Beyond that, navigating the streets of New York to my new apartment was much less stressful than I had imagined. However, New York’s draconian anti-cell phone laws required me to repeatedly drop my phone whenever the police came near.

Fortunately, the police seemed more concerned with driving around the city at high speeds with their sirens blaring than with pulling me over for using a cell phone, and I was able to make it to my new apartment accident and ticket free (though more than a few cabbies tried to crash into me).

Observations/Score card: New York City

Things that make America Great: Free-for-all streets where lanes are merely suggestions, 24-hour subways.

Things that DON’T make America Great: Cover charges, oppressive European-style anti cell phone laws.

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