Photo: From the Empire State Building Observation Deck.
We drove to the Catskills, following the back roads, on a beautiful sunny day.
Something we rarely see in at home in BC are hillsides clad exclusively in deciduous trees. With no evergreens to interrupt the overall texture, the hillsides in the Catskills looked like a bunch of different pastel coloured pillows that had been loosely bunched together beneath a brilliant blue sky. You’ll have to take my word for it because I never took a picture, thinking that I would catch the hills more favorably imbued with a morning or evening light. It never happened.
We stopped for lunch at the town of Catskill, and then drove to another small town further into Catskill Park called Phoenicia. We were the only campers at Sleepy Hollow Campground on the Esopus River, a couple of kilometers from the town. We rode our bikes into Phoenicia and then sat in the sun by the river after returning to camp.
Then the weather changed and within five minutes we were driven inside. After turning on the weather channel, we found that the forecast was for heavy rain and continuing inclement weather due to another tropical storm. For once, the forecast was accurate.
We awoke in the morning to torrential rains pounding on the roof. It was weird because, even though it was raining heavily, the temperature was still about 80 degrees Fahrenheit, so it felt more like we were in Mexico or Hawaii. We decided to move on because we didn’t want to sit by a campsite in the valley bottom, by the river, during the repeated warnings from the National Weather Advisory for another tornado watch, as well as flash floods.
I called the campsite that we’d been told about previously, in Jersey City, across from Manhattan. The campground was booked but the woman there told us she could put us in the overflow, with no services. We booked it for two days hence, and then pulled up camp and headed south, with the idea of positioning ourselves within an hour-and-a-half or so from the Jersey RV Park.
We stopped for lunch near Matamoras at one of those little all-metal roadside diners, and then carried on into a corner of Pennsylvania. We were now in the Poconos, hooked up for the night at Shady Acres Campground near Mt. Bethel. The rain was still coming down heavily as I wrote this but the tornado warning was due to expire in an hour or so. Iwas willing to bet that if I tuned into the media tomorrow, no tornadoes would have materialized.
Photo: The roadside diner near Matamoras, New York.
The news media drives me crazy. A person just can’t believe anything that the mainstream media broadcasts or reports on anymore. The television newscasts last night were three-quarters full of dire storm warnings, detailing all the horrible things that could happen to us, if, if, if… Basically, the media makes a newscast out of what might happen, hoping something will.
Today, after about the fiftieth storm warning reported by the radio stations as we continued driving south, into the storm, I brought up the subject of how all the media in North America are now owned by a few mega corporations that use their news outlets as vehicles to create fear.
Janice got one of those “Oh no” looks.
I went on about how the powers-that-be want us to go about our day-to-day lives looking over our shoulders, concerned by the threat of terrorism, or global warming, or tornado warnings, or flash flood alerts. They have the general population’s subconscious so busy being afraid that, in most cases, people don’t notice how their lives are passing them by while they work away, in most cases for less and less disposable income, only to tithe their taxes to the governments that are in the pockets of those same corporations that own the media…
Janice changed the subject.
We spent our downtime at Shady Acres doing laundry, writing the blog and adding up September’s expenses. It’s hard to believe that as of today we’ve been on the road for four months – already one third through our adventure. The good news is that we were $500.00 under budget for September. The bad news is that we were $1500.00 over budget for August.
We’re only an hour and a half, or so from the Big Apple, via cutting through New Jersey. By this time tomorrow we’re hoping to be lost somewhere in the middle of Manhattan.
It was just after noon on Friday when we rolled into the Liberty Harbour Marina and RV Park in Jersey City, New Jersey, right across the Hudson River from Manhattan. We had seen some swollen rivers and creeks along the way but nothing like the disastrous warnings the media had been crying wolf about the night before.
Janice was relieved that her trepidations about dragging the trailer along the I-78 into the city were mostly unfounded. As long as one keeps the speed up to 65 or 70 miles per hour, along with the rest of the traffic, the seven lanes of traffic moveas smoothly as can be expected.
The Liberty Harbour campsite is the ideal location from which RVers can visit Manhattan. The Statue of Liberty is visible to the south and Manhattan looms large right across the Hudson River. A free ferry runs between the park and Manhattan, but only on weekdays. We had some lunch while we waited for the rain to abate and then set out on foot to the subway station about a half mile from our campsite.
Photo: Our first New York City subway ride.
Twenty minutes later we got off the PATH, (subway) in the centre of Manhattan. We didn’t realize until later that we were right at the foot of the Empire State Building. From our vantage point on the street, the buildings all around us towered skyward so steeply that we couldn’t see their tops, so that we couldn’t tell one from the other. It had stopped raining though. Perfect timing for us.
Photo: Our first view of Manhattan when we exited the subway.
It took us a few bewildering minutes to get the map oriented before we walked a block to where one of the tour bus stops was located. We paid $172.00 for two three-day passes that would allow us: to jump on and off the buses when and where we wanted; a free ferry ride to Ellis Island or a scenic harbour cruise; a trip to the top of either the Empire State Building or the Rockefeller Center as well as some discount coupons.
It turned out to be the right thing to do because the first loop around downtown took about an hour and, not only did it give us our bearings, but we learned a lot from a really good narration provided by the tour bus guide. Every single block in downtown has something of historical, artistic or architectural significance, or some famous person has lived, or is living there.
I’ll bet you didn’t know that Katherine Hepburn and Kurt Vonnegut Jr. lived side by side, for years, in the same building. We toured Soho, Greenwich Village, the Downtown East and West Sides, Chinatown and Ground Zero.
We passed by the the Village Vanguard where all the jazz heavyweights have played. It’s still operating under the same family. The Blue Note is also still going and, if you go after 12:30am, the admission is just $8. I haven’t listened to jazz in years. During and after high school I listened to either R&B or jazz pretty well exclusively, but my focus changed after hearing Jeff Beck, Cream, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Frank Zappa.
The tour buses drop you off wherever you want and run every ten minutes so we did some exploring of Times Square, The Rockefeller Center, The Waldorf Astoria and Madison Square Gardens before ducking into a great little Irish bar that was packed with Rangers Fans waiting for the game against Ottawa to begin. We had a couple of glasses of wine and figured we’d head closer to home for dinner, leaving the Empire State Building until the next day. We were hoping the view might be better if the skies cleared.
Photo: Times Square.
Just as we left the Irish bar, about 7:00pm, the clouds parted and a beautiful evening light broke through to cast a luminous golden hue on the city. We turned the corner to the Empire State Building and were quickly whisked to the Observation Deck on the 84th floor, where we got spectacular views of the city – you’ll see from the photos below that a rainbow even appeared for us – awesome.
We found out the next day how lucky we were because, once the sun is out, the lineups to get up to the Observation Deck go halfway around the block and it usually takes an hour or two for people to get up.
Photo: The bar where we had a drink before going up the Empire State Building.
Photo: A view from The Empire State Building.
Photo: Another view from Empire State Building.
Photo: Another angle form the Empire State Building.
Photo: The last view from the Empire State Building.
As we exited the Empire State Building, Janice noticed a Papaya Dog concession on the corner. Anthony Bordaine made a big deal of a loaded Papaya Dog when he was half-loaded, as is his habit, on his show No Reservations. Janice ordered a two dollar dog and the guy tried to shortchange her on her twenty dollar bill. She probably wouldn’t have noticed except she was going to tip him. When she looked at her bills he’d only given her change for a five. She pointed it out to him and, all-innocent-like, he apologized. Janice never tipped him.
Photo: The Papaya Dog concession where the guy tried to short-change Janice.
Photo: The Empire State Building right after we had descended from the Observation Deck on the 86th floor. By the way, The Rockefeller Center Observation deck is on the 72nd floor.
We hopped on the Subway back to Jersey City and then stopped at Eduardo’s Steak House for dinner. We had noticed it on our walk to the subway earlier. Janice had rack of lamb while I had flat iron steak. It was all really good and helped replace the millions of calories we’d burned humping aroundManhattan. By the way, we felt very safe on the subway. Both a young black guy and a young Latino guy offered their seats to Janice on separate occasions.
The next day was sunny and brisk. Perfect. We jumped back on the subway and took the tour bus again, with the idea of getting off at Battery Park and taking the ferry to Ellis Island. The tour guide was not as good this time around but the picture-taking was better due to the sunshine. We found ourselves filling in some of our fellow passengers on what we’d learned the day before from the better tour guide.
Photo: The Flat Iron Building.
Photo: The Woolworth’s Building.
Photo: Rockefeller Square.
Photo: Aboard the tour bus in Manhattan.
Photo: The Chrysler Building.
We got another great guide on the next tour bus. The guides are all a little different and, even though we were on the same route as the day previous, this guy pointed out different things about the same features. He was a proud and street wise New Yorker and identified a lot of stuff that tourists should either avoid, or go for: avoid red Lobster, Olive Garden and so on aroundTimes Square- get away and go for something local, as we did when we stopped for a couple slices of delicious and inexpensive pizza.
After wolfing a couple of pizza slices from a little hole-in-the-wall outlet, we walked the six or eight blocks to Central Park, then continued for miles, stopping to take in Strawberry Fields, (John Lennon’s memorial) where many people were still paying their respects and laying flowers. We also saw some incredible break dancers and a fiftyish African American monster jazz drummer playing plastic buckets and other junk, for tips. There are lots of other performances and exhibitions going on throughout the park but we only saw a couple hundred of the 880 acres it comprises.
We hopped back onto the Uptown tour bus and toured the Upper East Side, Harlem, Spanish Harlem and the Upper West Side. Even Harlem has become tourist friendly. We saw families of all ethnicities playing in a park that no one would have gone near in the seventies, for fear of getting mugged, or worse.
We had planned on touring the Metropolitan Museum of Art but, once again, the lineups were enormous, so we looked over the lobby before jumping back onto the bus. Traffic was so backed up though that we decided to walk back to downtown via 5th Avenue. It was a long way but, despite the crush of people, we saw a lot of stuff that one can only get on foot.
Photo: An enormous non-denominational church on the Upper East Side, built by the Rockefellers, that hosts all kinds of major events.
Photo: The Apollo Theatre.
Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Back at our subway connection we looked for the closest bar to have a refresher. Janice talked to a dispatcher for a courier company while I talked to an architect that had just finished a couple of hours at the office on a Saturday – very informative because, as he agreed, there’s no other place in the world as diversified and with as many examples of different and important architecture as New York City.
Photo: The Statue of Liberty from Battery Park.
We returned to Jersey City just as it was getting dark, and found a happening little restaurant, Marc’s and Pepe’s, just a few blocks from our campsite. We had a good bottle of wine with some gourmet burgers – to replace the trillions of calories we’d burned walking around Manhattan. Most people were aghast when we told them about the territory we’d covered on foot.
Photo: Janice relaxes at Marc’s and Pepe’s after a long day afoot.
When we got up in the morning it had clouded over. We took a walk over to the Jersey Shore and realized that we could have gotten a nice shot of Manhattan at night but, too late.
The forecast was for wet weather again and we didn’t have the budget to keep up to NYC so we decided, somewhat reluctantly, to hit the road. We now have two places we’d like to revisit: Newfoundland in the summer and NYC in the spring or fall. New Yorkreally requires at least a week and a much bigger budget. There was a lot we missed, like walking the Brooklyn Bridge, Yankee Stadium (preferably for a ball game), Staten Island or Ellis Island Ferry, more restaurants, taxis, the theatre, etc, etc.
Photo: Manhattan from Jersey City- a profile you don’t usually see.
Photo: A building on the Jersey Shore, across from Manhattan.
We took the heavily tolled Garden City Parkway, and found our way to Paradise Lakes Campground in New Jersey where we spent an uneventful night.
In the morning we awoke to rain again. During the hour it took to drive through Delaware we unexpectedly came across the behemoth warehouse for Amazon.Com. Continuing into Maryland we drove across a miles-long bridge that spanned Chesapeake Bay.
We pulled into the well-appointed Duncan Family Campground around 3:00 and, after going for a walk, did some research on how to spend the next day in Washington, DC. From here we’re well positioned to take The Metro into the Capital.