Help me complete this Top-10 list. I’ll start with the first 5.
Summer is here. One day, aliyah l’regel will be real, but for now, as we dream, Jews rehearse by preparing for this mass ascension to the mountains. Through traffic, frustrated children, and wishes that you had leather car seats so that spilled yogurt won’t linger until the Final Redemption, here are some of the landmarks and special moments as you make your way to summer paradise.
The chassidish-owned Valero gas station is a must-stop landmark for any mountain-goer. Who cares that you have three-quarters of a tank? It’s special to walk into a gas station with racks of Jewish periodicals, where cholent and kugel replace those questionable hot dog rollers that just strengthen your commitment to kashrus. You roam the aisles as you mentally try to calculate how much money they make just from selling cholent, while your children are overcome with emotion as they wonder if this is what all gas stations will look like when Mashiach comes — only then they won’t run out of cholent after 3 p.m. on Friday.
Beating the Traffic
Whether it’s before your trip or en route, no drive to the mountains is complete without a conversation with your resident traffic-beater. Don’t listen to Waze. Trust me. Take the old 17 and get off by the red farm and circle through McDonald’s parking lot — might be ma’aris ayin but it’s much faster. You’re leaving Thursday night!? Beat the traffic and leave Friday morning at 6:26 a.m. — it’s after people leave for work, but before they leave for the weekend. While this guy is explaining to you the intricacies of country traffic patterns, most families are already unpacking their stuff at the bungalow.
The Car Roof
Barreling down the highway with a shtender and Power Wheels strapped to the top of your car? You don’t need to tell me where you’re going — I’ll see you in the Catskills. Nothing highlights the mesirus nefesh people go through to get to the mountains like a car with the entire aisle four of Bed Bath and Beyond strapped to its roof. You know there are stores in the mountains, right? Just please, on behalf of everyone else driving, make sure to double check that those ropes are tightly secured. No one wants to have a fender bender with your barbeque grill.
Mommy, Mommy, there’s another frum couple right next to us! Can we wave? We’re gonna wave! Nothing is more exciting and potentially more mischievous than spotting another frum family on their way to the mountains in the lane beside you. Sure, it starts with friendly waves, but one of the smart aleck children is going to ever so slightly stick his tongue out to see if the car next door is really paying attention. For both parents’ sake, I suggest speeding up or risk an hour of window-knocking and play-by-play announcements of what the car next to you is doing.
No one takes this term more literally than Jews on the way to the mountains. Whether it’s a Minchah, a Maariv, or even a late Shacharis, nothing says “on our way to the Catskills” like saying Ashrei to the whooshing of highway traffic. Whether it’s on the famed Sloatsburg rest stop or a generic area for sightseeing, Jews love praying next to highways. Non-Jews unaccustomed to this scene must assume that a group of 30 men just had the burning desire to go bird-watching. But what are they mumbling? That’s between us, G-d, and sometimes, the highway police.
Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 716. Special thanks to Dovid “Federer” Schulman and Duvi “Nadal” Stahler)
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