Onward to the Big Apple from Washington, DC we ventured. With stops in Newark, Delaware and River Plaza, New Jersey to revisit childhood neighborhoods, we made the trip to the Lincoln Tunnel with little trouble. Good thing we had more than a handful of quarters and plenty of cash in small bills, since the bridge, tunnel and parkway tolls were quite pricey (and many were cash only with no attendants!). Ok, we can do this, right?
Down the spiral into the tunnel we went, keeping up speed and staying in our lane between the buses and trucks. We shot out into the sunlight on the other side and tried to get our bearings, heading to 3rd Avenue and 45th street. Good thing Jackie was an expert navigator with her Maps application, because you really need to know your way around one-way streets and traffic jams. By the way, in Manhattan the right lane is really only for parked delivery trucks, the far left is the same and the space in-between is sort of up for grabs. Maybe you double park, maybe three taxis angle in from the left and right, maybe you get to drive through.
Streetside in front of our Wyndham Midtown 45 was a huge truck loading the day’s laundry. Naturally it meant we had to squeeze just in front, along a wall of garbage almost at the crosswalk. Quick! Unload the suitcases and round up the women and children! Well it wasn’t quite that bad, but Jackie was left with the bags and Doug went in search of a parking garage.
However, our room on the 19th floor was amazing by New York standards. Kitchen set-up and a great view up and down 45th street between Grand Central Station and the United Nations building. How cool! We unpacked and grabbed some beer from or DC brew tour and checked out the owner’s terrace on the 33rd floor. Fabulous. Now this was living.
So what did we manage in two quick days in Manhattan? Quite a bit, actually. I guess it was like speed-tourism. One big help was our decision to buy two New York Passes, which we highly recommend. The pass gives you discounted admission to nearly every spot you want to visit, plus you can do the hop-on hop-off Big Bus tours, water taxis and ferries.
First night in town we walked over to Rockefeller Plaza and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. On the way back we walked through the cavernous Grand Central Terminal and checked out the Marketplace for some bagels and Danish for breakfast.
Next day we were up and out to Times Square where we got our Big Bus tour tickets and validated our 2-day New York Pass. New Yorkers say it’s only a few blocks walk, but it can be tricky as you navigate the taxis, scaffolding, curbside garbage and other folks rapidly moving around you. Oh, and if you look up at the skyscrapers while walking… well, it can be quite disorienting.
We took the downtown loop bus, sitting in the open air top level and listening with earbuds to our guide explain the cool buildings and history along the way. Getting off at Battery Park we were able to catch a ferry to the Statue of Liberty, then Ellis Island and back to the park.
Next stop was One World Trade Center, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and the soaring Santiago Calatrava designed Oculus Transportation Hub. We were both very, very moved by the exhibits and memorial. Such a sad event that brought back memories of watching the tragedy unfold just 15 years ago.
We finished the day with a ride up to Top of the Rock at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Amazing views of the skyline all around us.
Day 2 started with a backstage tour of Radio City Music Hall, where we got to check out the stage hydraulics, Rockette dance hall, costume shop, exclusive Roxy Lounge and a photo op with a wonderfully sweet Rockette.
Hustled over to Times Square and caught the uptown loop atop the bus, then got off at the Natural History Museum. Great evolution and dinosaur exhibits were the highlight.
Heading back out to catch the bus uptown we got drenched in a downpour, but once it cleared we jumped up top to see Harlem, Grants Tomb, a stop at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and a drive along both sides of Central Park on our way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Wow, the Egyptian artifacts and temple reconstruction, Greek and Roman sculptures and Medieval armor displays were highlights for us here. A cavernous space with way more than you can absorb in a short visit.
We finished the day with drinks on the 33rd floor terrace and then a trip to the top of the Empire State Building. Another spectacular view of the city, this time with the lights aglow. Wow, what an ending to a great visit.
Next morning we needed to get the car out of the parking deck and retrace our steps, or roads and tunnels, out of the city. This part of the trip will involve a stop in Hunterdon County to see the Park System HQ building where we lived in the upstairs apartment. Then to High Bridge to see our first house. Our old apartment had been converted to offices and the solar greenhouse I had designed and staffed had been removed due to lack of maintenance. Walking the grounds, I got a bit choked up seeing the trails and gardens I had planned out 40 years ago were still there, along with the historic gazebo we relocated to the site.
In nearby High Bridge, Jackie and I were sad to see that our first house was in disrepair. It seemed that little had been done in the years since we sold it – sad commentary on a cute place with lots of potential.
Two days of driving and we were back home in Kennesaw, ready to plan our next adventure.
Is there a lesson in our visit to the past? What will you find when you go back to your roots? In my case it was a mix: a return of memories of growing up, family moments and friends long forgotten. Some things you work so hard on endure, but others are fleeting and can slip away with time. Best not to think too hard about it. We had fun.
Be sure to check out the “Places Gallery” for some of the many pictures I took and revisit the previous blog for a recent update.
Next adventure is a trip to Key West in the Winnebago. Stay tuned!