CORNWALL, N.Y. - I spent the summer on the road, mostly driving between my home in Northern Virginia and my oldest daughter's home in this Hudson Valley town. It was 600 miles round trip - a journey taken eight times by my count, costing an estimated $1,400 in gasoline and diesel fuel.
And there was EZ Pass - a must for anyone desiring rapid movement through the toll booths of the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast. The tab for that one, as applied to the three months of travel to and from here, was $105.
And there's time, with each 300-mile-leg of the journey lasting five to seven hours, depending on traffic, the horsepower of the vehicle at my command, and my willingness to test the patience of law-enforcement officials in several states.
Speeding is an ever-present temptation on long drives. But it is a fool's gamble, one that can end in death or injury. This summer, I've witnessed both - lives instantly and tragically ended or altered. I slowed down. Seven hours one way proved the norm for me.
The insanity of my summer's commute is evident in its costs. But such is the price of an addiction that I have, as a matter of necessity, turned into a job.
I love driving. I love the very idea, the cheekiness of getting into a car or truck, pointing it in a given direction and setting off. I am fascinated by the freedom of auto-mobility. But I no longer accept it as a given.
Freedom of movement, it turns out, is indeed burdened by responsibility. That burden is getting heavier.
High gasoline prices are a symptom, perhaps the most visible cost of personal propulsion. Those emergency vehicles collecting fallen motorists, passengers and sometimes pedestrians from the road constitute another. And the hundreds of miles of roads I traveled this summer, cutting swaths through mountains and valleys and traversing waterways, collectively add another cost.
How many more roads can we, should we build? What would be the point?
My joy in visiting my daughter at her beautiful home here is heightened by the relatively rural setting of its surroundings. I want that natural beauty to endure. Thus, here is where I want the roads to stop their growth, take a detour. Here is where I want sprawl to end.
But that is a selfish desire, perhaps untenable. Everybody wants open space. But everybody wants a road leading to it.
Our desire to have both undermines our best intentions. Consider, for example, what recently occurred in the great state of California.
California's legislators passed a "smart growth" bill designed to encourage the creation of denser housing developments throughout the state.
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