Yalies like to complain about New Haven. Sure, it’s got its shops, restaurants and an IKEA only 10 minutes away, but, well, that’s about it. Thankfully, two nearby metropolitan meccas — Boston and New York — offer lots of opportunities for amusement, diversion and excitement.
There’s just one catch: you have to find a way to get there.
No matter the reason for the trip, miles and miles of highway stand between Yale and cosmopolitan salvation. Beantown is a hefty 140 miles from the Have. The drive from our O.C. to N.Y.C. is a shorter, but still significant, 80 miles. But for Yalies with their own cars, the journey is easier and can even be enjoyable — filled with customs and strategies honed over hours and hours spent on the long and winding road.
Students hailing from Boston have made the trip from school to home countless times, and now have it down to a science: they know when to leave New Haven to avoid traffic, where to stop along the way for a break, and how to get away with speeding by those pesky cops.
Many drivers try to get to Boston as quickly as possible without making any stops — the consensus is that the trip takes anywhere between two and two and a half hours, depending on traffic and the number of reststops.
“I’ll eat something and take a leak beforehand so I don’t have to stop,” Benjamin Feit ’06, a Boston native who returns home often, said, sharing his personal time-saving strategy.
Feit is a sports columnist for the Yale Daily News.
Back when he was a freshman, Alistair Anagnostou ’05 made the trip from Boston to New Haven in an hour and 45 minutes. He said that he doesn’t go quite so fast these days, but advised that once you get past Worcester, there are no police officers so you can go as fast as you want.
Feit said he has learned over time where all of the cop cars are situated along the route so that he knows where to slow down to avoid a ticket.
He also related an experience which seems to be a unanimously anticipated event for Yalies traveling across state borders.
“When I can change my preset radio stations from New Haven ones to Boston ones, that’s a big moment,” Feit said.
For students traveling solo, this radio switch may be one of the most exciting events during the ride, but they said they enjoy the peaceful time alone passing through the scenery. Others, who travel with friends, make the trip to Boston into a mini-road trip, stopping along the way to get food and gas or to explore museums and other interesting places.
“I enjoy driving, as long as you have good company. It’s a chance to relax, catch up and talk. It’s not restricted,” Max Engel ’06, who has a car on-campus, said. “It’s also always nice to hang out with people from Yale when you’re not at Yale.”
While these driving dictums could apply to any trip from nearby Meriden to rural Vermont, Yalies are particularly attached to the home of their rival to the North.
Boston offers many different enticements for its visitors. Many go to visit friends or family in New England’s largest city. Others venture to Boston for specific events, such as sports games or music festivals. Meral Agish ’05 went up to Boston last year with a friend to see a Shins concert, Feit went up last winter for the celebratory Patriots parade, and countless Red Sox fans will no doubt now be making pilgrimages to Fenway.
“Boston is the perfect distance from Yale. It’s so easy to get a car and just drive for two hours,” said Boston native Juliette Vartikar ’06.
There is a surprising lack of public transportation options to Boston, especially in comparison with transit to New York. For students without access to a car, the train — which is expensive and can be a hassle to arrange and take — is really the only option. Though some students prefer the quiet study environment of the train, others lament the many difficulties the train poses. Vartikar wishes, and it is surely wishful thinking, that Yale provided more convenient transportation to Boston for students.
The highways leading to New York from Yale, however, are far less traveled by Yalies than the roads to Boston. Because of parking difficulties and the extremely affordable MTA train line to New York, many Yalies looking for a jaunt to the Big Apple use the easy and economic train instead of driving.
Despite Engel’s enthusiasm for the drive to Boston, he said he usually takes the train into New York.
“The train to New York is nice,” said Engel. “It’s a relaxing trip without the stress of driving.”
Nevertheless, there are certainly students — mostly native New Yorkers — who do make the drive into the city, and have developed their own rituals to accompany the relatively shorter hour and a half trip.
Sarah Coleman ’05, who travels to New York three to four times a semester, likes to leave Yale at midnight, when there is no traffic. It also allows her to hang out with her friends at Yale for the night and then leave for the city, she said.
Milton Justice, a theater studies lecturer who lives in New York, commutes into New Haven twice a week to teach his class. He makes the drive in a fast hour and 20 minutes, and said he likes to stop for gas in Connecticut (because it’s cheaper), the car wash on the Merritt Parkway (five dollars for five minutes) and, on rare occasions, the Macy’s in Connecticut (because its prices beat Bloomingdale’s).
Justice said he makes notes on a notepad — to-do lists, etc. — while he drives, sometimes scaring his passengers. He also indulges in safer, though less productive, activities, like listening to tapes or just relaxing.
He is not a fan of the train, however, and its usual benefits — like the ability to multi-task — hold little appeal for him. Clearly, Justice finds creative ways to make use of his time spent in the car, and besides that, he said he sees his drives as mini “political statements,” allowing him to maintain his autonomy from any regimented system of transportation.
“I just don’t like it,” Justice said. “I feel like people start to gear their lives around the train schedule. That just drives me nuts.”
Though most students may not share Justice’s passion for the open road to the same degree, they can relate to his enjoyment of the freedom provided by a car.
“If you have a good tape, a car, and a bunch of friends…” Eleanor Burgess ’07 said, trailing off.
Then most Yalies would say that is all you need.