Why Navigating Through Jersey Gives Me a Headache

A book of maps is opened, with a set of glasses on top.

Traveling down the New Jersey Turnpike is like completing a puzzle that you just can’t solve, despite full concentration. I don’t think there has been a trip yet where I was able to arrive safely at my destination without any complications, when the New Jersey Turnpike is in any way involved.

What is it About Jersey?

Any given ride on the Turnpike involves multiple possible exits, or the presence of split roads. These possibilities seem to always present themselves at the very last minute. WHY? I needed to make a choice, like, yesterday.

I’m usually looking up at the very last second (as of late this has worsened, as my head bops up and down in the attempt to choose the correct outcome, looking down at my GPS), making the needed calculations in trying to decide which sign to follow.a woman's hand holds the steering wheel as she drives. The front window shows the view ahead, some trees.

There’s rarely advance notice. No preparation.

The word ‘yikes’ often escapes my lips, even when alone. The frustration is completely say-out-loud worthy.

Let’s talk signs.

How can these signs be read, when you’re speeding past at highway-appropriate speed? How can three exit options be read? How can the plan be processed?

Follow said sign to route 9, 15, or 26. These then split in two. South or North. A or B.

Why so many? Give me one exit. I’ll then decide to make a left or a right. You know, once I’m off the highway. Thanks.multiple highways intersect with many cars on the road, much like the Turnpike

Getting Smart. Trying to Outsmart the Confusion.

I’ve gotten smart, or so I thought. I’ve incorporated Waze into the mix. For those of you not yet hip with the times, Waze is an app that tells you exactly how to arrive at your destination.

That’s the purpose, at least.

In actuality, usage of this app seems to only complicate matters further. For me.

When I proceed with Waze, careful calculations must be made. I must first glance at the top of the Waze screen, to ensure the direction taken is correct.

Right versus left turn coming up.

How many feet left before a turn.

Where is there traffic building up.

After that it’s about following a map, getting the second by second analysis of which lines I’m actually on. And since there are 10-20 lines intersecting each other all at once, swirling around at any given time, that’s no easy feat. I must instinctively decide based on seven different forms of stimuli, simultaneously hitting my neurons. Not to mention one of those stimuli being the actual road.

Oh yeah, I’m still driving. Yikes.


Here’s more.

Why does every exit split into further choices?

I’m usually in the process of high-fiving myself in recognition self-achievement, when I realize in horror that I’m confronted by yet another choice of roads, hence my newly coined term, the ‘NJ Turnpike Preemptive Celebration’. This new possibility always presents itself a mere milliseconds after I’ve successfully picked out the previous exit.

Are you following my complicated tirade? Because if so, and you’ve ever done it, you will absolutely be nodding in agreement by now. You get it. And if not, come and try it out for yourself.

I dare you to confront the NJ Turnpike without getting lost at least once during your ride.

The Worst is Yet to Come..

shadows of a driver and his passenger, in the front seat of a car, driving on the road.It’s when your little car icon on Waze manages to veer off that little blue line you’re ‘supposed’ to be on. That’s when I usually lose it. This instant defines the moment of defeat in my road-navigating adventure. I’ve used up every cell of my brain up until that very moment to make what I think are correct decisions, and usually prepare myself for pats on my own back, when I see that dreaded word..


This word equals instant loss of all body tone as I acknowledge defeat.

What Happens Next?

Go ahead, say out loud what happens next, even before you read any further (because it happens to us all. Even to my husband, who always laughs when I repeat these events in frustration, and he usually turns to my boys and says, ‘Mommy doesn’t know how to use a map.’ close up of a pair of hands holding up a mapReally? One day I’ll secretly record his own Turnpike navigation and replay it to him, and our boys, as I yell out in victory, “A-ha!” the moment he makes his own, inevitable, ‘Turnpike-related’ mistake).

My wrong choice almost always spells out a highway driver’s worst nightmare, a sentence committing me to drive an extra 10 miles out of my way, always involving a toll bridge and always leading me to the other side of the river and into NYC, putting me $12 into the hole and affording me an extra 15 minutes of drive-time to lament my Turnpike frustrations.

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