When You’re Sitting in Traffic on the Interstate

You think about things.

Interstate Route 78 headed east to NYC. Usually you’d be zipping along, doing sixty-five.

The giant lighted sign said INCIDENT AHEAD! Stop-go-stop -stop! You try to not feel frustrated. You’re not getting anywhere fast. You’re stuck. Trying to get to the Holland Tunnel.

“The drive west along I-78 across New Jersey is one of the most exceptional highway geology tours of North America” geologycafe.com (I was driving East on 78 but the rocks looked the same on either side.)

Years ago I read about the Geology along Interstate 80 in an essay in The New Yorker , north of my route. I thought of that piece when I saw these rocks.

There are signs warning “Falling Rock”.

John McPhee, author of In Suspect Terrain one of four volumes now combined in Pulitzer Prize winning book Annals of the Former World writes Human time, regarded in the perspective of geologic time, is much too thin to be observed: the mark invisible at the end of a ruler.”

The interstate leaves the Newark Basin and enters the Highlands of the Reading Prong. The next fifteen miles includes some of the most complex geology in the region. The road crosses sections of folded and faulted Precambrian rock, early Paleozoic sedimentary rocks, and additional outlier patches of Newark Basin rocks. Near exit 7 the interstate climbs Musconetong Mountain then drops” From the Geologycafe.com

You can’t pull over, stop your car and get out of to take a photo on an interstate but you can roll down your window when you’re stopped. a

nd think about just how old these rocks are.

In the winter it will be covered in ice

8 thoughts on “When You’re Sitting in Traffic on the Interstate

  1. You know I’ve passed those rocks on the interstate I don’t know how many times. I never thought about it. I will from now on!

  2. There is a very interesting book of “The Roadside Geology of Pennsylvania” which is designed so that you can read, then look while driving along. After all, road cuts are one of the few places where you can see the strata. I have bought and given away 3-4 of them and no longer have one of my own. But it is out of print and costs a fortune if you can even find it. I also used on in Utah and Arizona where the rocks aren’t covered with greenery. I re-read John McPhee’s books (all of the set on the US) every 5 years or so.

  3. I took two years of Geology in college. Really liked it. We laugh about the Basalt Schist which always comes to my mind for some reason. There is the Sideling Hill rest stop along the PA Turnpike. If you drive along 68 south of the turnpike you can see the striation where Sideling Hill was cut away to make way for the highway. There is a visitor center there. It can be reached from either side of the highway. It is hard to keep my eyes on the road when I see features like the ones in your photo.

  4. Stop-and-go traffic is miserable – but at least you had a nice view to make the time a bit more palatable. There are similar rock formations in the southern area of Missouri and northern area of Arkansas; I marvel at them each time I make the trip to my parent’s home.

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