Day Thirty-Eight...


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Published: August 5th 2015
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...was AMAZING!

Grab a cup of coffee, tea or your beverage of choice and settle in.

Like I said in yesterday's blog, today actually started at 11:30 last night with the packing. Got everything in the truck, ready to go, hugged Kathy good-bye and headed off at midnight. Yes, we actually got out of there ON TIME! But that wasn't the amazing part (well, it is in its own right, but not AMAZING). We were headed to New York City. When I set about planning our summer-long trip, NYC wasn't in the equation. About a week ago Mike piped up that he'd like to go into New York to see the Statue of Liberty and go up to the observation deck of the new World Trade Center. One day he mentioned this to his cousin Bob. Bob's reply was, "Okay, here's what you're gonna do." He proceeded to tell Mike what he and Mary had done when they went as part of an extended vacation a while ago. His advice was spot on. We avoided traffic, long lines and were able to go there and back in less than 24 hours.

It's about a 5 hour drive from Middleboro to Liberty State Park in Jersey City, New Jersey. Yes, New Jersey. In the middle of the night it took a little less time. We arrived around 4:30 and of course the park wasn’t open yet. We found a small pull-out near the entrance and parked. I could see the statue from the truck. We reclined the seats…well, sort of. Our golf clubs have been riding around on the folded down back seat since June. Having the back seat folded down restricts how far the front seats can recline. It felt like I was in an airplane seat. Anyway, we attempted to nap until the park opened. I set an alarm on my phone so I could go to the other side of the park and watch the sun come up and take pictures (another of Bob’s suggestions). At 5:20 I set off across the park toward Lady Liberty, leaving Mike still sleeping in the truck. It was a comfortable morning; no need for a jacket. Liberty State Park is enormous! Lots of grass and trees, a couple of playgrounds and paved walking/jogging/biking paths crisscrossing the acreage. As I walked, I listened to birds talk to each other and watched several small rabbits who were out for breakfast and several people were already out for their morning jog or bike ride.

I reached the brick promenade nearer to Ellis Island as the sky lightened. The sun had not yet made its way above the New York City skyline. I snapped a few pictures of the Statue of Liberty lit from below before the sun’s rays made the giant flood lights unnecessary. Shortly before 6:00 Mike texted to say the gate was open, wanting to know where I was. I gave him directions and met him out on the road that runs the length of the park. We drove to the far end, closer to Liberty Island. We walked to the promenade and watched the sun peek through the skyscrapers of Manhattan. The sky over New York was a bit hazy, but it was incredible watching the sun come up nonetheless. After a sufficient number of pictures, we walked back to the truck, drove to where we’d take a ferry to Liberty Island.

It was still much too early for the ferry so we walked to a memorial called Empty Sky. It’s a memorial dedicated to the residents of New Jersey who were lost in the September 11 attacks as well as the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. As you stand at the near end of the two stainless steel-clad concrete walls, your eyes are directed to where the Twin Towers once stood. Also at the near end are sections of a girder and I-beam from the Ground Zero site; one resting against the other. It’s a poignant memorial.

At the ticket office Mike spotted the National Parks logo in one corner of the placard listing ticket prices. Neither of us expected that so I went back to the truck to get our National Parks Pass so we wouldn’t have to purchase tickets (save money where we can). At the truck I pulled out the paper where the pass is kept and…no pass. The hang tag is there, but no card that goes in it. Ummm… Okay, maybe it’s under some of the other papers. Nope. Hmmm… I looked in a couple other places in the truck but couldn’t find it anywhere. I broke the bad news to Mike. Hopefully it’s somewhere in the trailer or in my purse (which was also in the trailer). Oh well, what can you do? We bought our tickets and followed the small crowd to the ferry line. After the police dog declared the boat safe, we boarded and found seats on the upper deck. It was a beautiful day, bright blue skies, sunshine and no chance of rain. At 8:30 on the dot we left the dock, heading to the first stop: Ellis Island. We chose to not tour the island, but I could imagine boats tied to either side of the U-shaped dock and the wonder of the immigrants as they disembarked and moved through the buildings.

The ferry circled Liberty Island as it made its way to the docks at the back. This offered opportunities to get pictures of the statue from several different angles. On the island you can tour the base and the crown, but tickets for these have to be purchased ahead of time; weeks in advance for the crown tour. The free self-paced audio tour is a good alternative. Guess what we chose…free is good! From the pedestal and crown you’ll get better views of New York and New Jersey, but not the statue in my opinion.

When you exit the ferry, trees and a café/souvenir shop obscure your view of the statue. I think they designed it that way to increase the WOW factor when you finally round the corner and see it. Before you reach that corner is the booth where you’ll pick up your audio tour device. It looks like a tv remote with a plastic lanyard so you can hang it around your neck, leaving your hands free to take millions of pictures to bore friends and family with later. The tour is available in a wide variety of spoken languages so you can bring your Danish exchange student here and he can listen to it in his native tongue if he wants. Once you have your audio device and you know what code to enter for your preferred language, off you go. The narrator directs you to the flagpole. The flagpole is “the corner” I was speaking of earlier. When you come to the point on the wide path where you finally get a clear view of the statue, its size really hits you. It’s enormous! And awe-inspiring. And you’re still just seeing it from behind. The audio tour guides you clockwise around the statue, directing your attention to other points of interest in addition to the statue itself. Our leisurely walk around the island took about an hour after which we wandered through the gift shop located at the base. Didn’t see anything we couldn’t live without. Back at the dock we boarded the ferry back to Liberty Park. We were the only two passengers!

Our day wasn’t over yet. Again, following Bob’s advice, we crossed the parking lot and boarded another ferry (this one was essentially a commuter ferry) to cross the Hudson River to New York. This ferry sounded and felt like it was about to fall apart. It shuddered its way across, bobbing, weaving and bouncing through the wakes of all the other boats headed here and there. Our first stop in the borough of Manhattan was the 9/11 Memorial. The two pools were amazing to see in person. What struck me most was, like the Vietnam Memorial, there was an air of reverence. No shouts, not even loud talking. People just naturally kept their demeanor respectful. There were several flowers and small American flags wedged in the letters of the names of loved ones. From there we moved on to the museum. Inside the museum, the path you follow takes you down into the depths of where the towers once stood. Along the way are artifacts, photos, and audio clips from later interviews with people describing their reaction to what happened on that day. The stairways and ramps lead you to the floor and what became known as the Last Column. To the left is where one tower stood, to the right the other. The footprint of each tower was a museum in itself. One seemed to focus on the events and destruction, the other on the construction of the buildings themselves. Both were quite interesting. In the center of the floor was a building of sorts. In it were displays of personal items found in the wreckage and photos of each and every person who lost their life. Also in this building was a video room. Outside the entrances (one on either side) were signs warning that this particular section wasn’t suitable for kids under 10 years of age. From what I could hear from outside as we passed by, it sounded like they were showing news footage. Neither Mike nor I went inside. On one wall opposite the building is the flag that hung outside a building near Ground Zero. Do you remember that giant flag? It was eventually taken down because it had become very dirty and tattered. Later it was taken around the country. On that tour, people in the towns the flag visited began restoring it using pieces from their own American flags. In the museum, below the flag are several information placards detailing the date and town and exactly where on the flag that particular town pieced in its repairs. It truly is a work of art. Also on display is the Survivors’ Staircase; the last visible remaining original structure above ground level. This is the outdoor staircase used by hundreds of people who were evacuated from an adjacent building. Most of the damage to the lower half of the staircase occurred during the cleanup operation and the removal of the adjacent escalators.

Every piece in the museum makes you pause and reflect.

There had to be an easier way to exit the museum, but Mike and I didn’t know what it was. We went back the way we came. I felt like a salmon swimming upstream. Back outside in the heat and bright sunshine we walked to the new One World Trade Center. Mike and I were impressed with how smoothly and quickly we were able to purchase our tickets and enter the building. There were separate lines for tickets and entrance and even though the lines seemed long, they moved quickly. Inside we were directed to another queue at a bank of elevators. Once inside the elevator, your tour began. SPOILER ALERT: IF YOU ARE PLANNING A TRIP TO NEW YORK AND WANT TO EXPERIENCE THE OBSERVATION DECK OF ONE WORLD TRADE CENTER YOURSELF INSTEAD OF READING MY RATHER LENGTHY DESCRIPTION, STOP READING NOW AND SKIP TO THE LAST PARAGRAPH.

The elevator walls were video screens that showed an age progression of the area from the 1600s or 1700s to the present. From vast grasslands to a bustling city full of skyscrapers. It took 60 seconds to climb the 105 floors to the observation level. The ride was so smooth it didn’t feel like we’d moved at all. From the elevators everyone had to make a stop in front of a digital green screen where photographers were there to take a picture of you with whomever you’re with. Your photographer then handed you a card with one of those QR Code things on it…you know, the pixelated square. Next we were ushered into a long narrow rectangular room, facing a 3D wall that resembled a city skyline with various sizes of rectangular blocks. The lights dimmed and video clips of the daily activity of the city and its residents splashed and overlapped across the wall. After having just visited the memorial and museum, the clips made me feel as though the city is showing how it came back to life after such a devastating blow. The video lasted just a few minutes, the lights came up, but we weren’t ushered out the door at the far end. Instead, the video wall began to rise revealing a nearly unobstructed view of the city beyond and below.

WOW

The wall lowered in preparation to drop the jaws of the next group of people as we made our way out of that room and into the actual observation area. Before we were allowed to wander on our own, we were directed to yet another cordoned off area. This time to listen to a sales…or rather, rental…pitch. This time, the purpose was to entice you to rent a video screen that, when pointed at the window, would label buildings and other points of interest you were seeing. Most of the people in our group declined the offer. I did happen to overhear the rental price which they conveniently and purposefully omitted from the presentation. They must have copied the pitch from time-share salesmen. The video screens rented for $15. No wonder there were only 3 or 4 takers. If they dropped the price by ten bucks, they’d probably rent them all. Once we were finally let loose we found our way to the glass. The view from there is breathtaking. It just happened that the first window we looked out looked down on one of the pools at the 9/11 Memorial. Quite a perspective seeing it from above. We walked along the walls of windows looking out over buildings and points of interest we didn’t know names of because we were too cheap to rent the video screen. The one thing that bothered me was the lack of seating away from the windows. There were several people using the barely-above-the-floor window ledges as a place to take a break and relax. This prevented me (and others) from being able to look out and take pictures through several viewpoints. Some people and their selfie sticks are very inconsiderate.

I took several pictures of what I thought was the Empire State Building. I was wrong. King Kong wasn’t there to help me identify it and, you know…that whole video screen thing. Anyway, got a couple shots of the actual Empire State Building as well as a couple bridges, one of which Mike and I both believe to be the Brooklyn Bridge...it looks old, therefore it must be the Brooklyn Bridge. I saw a large strip of green in among the steel, glass and concrete, but it was much too small to be Central Park. I’m surprised that you can’t see a park that big from 1,250 feet up. Maybe I just wasn’t looking in the right direction. We completed our circuit and found the elevators again and lined up to take the ride back down. I thought maybe the in-flight movie would be reverse time-lapse. Nope. The in-flight movie was a flyover of the city. If you’re prone to motion sickness, I would suggest you close your eyes for this one or watch the people watching the walls around you. It’s only a minute and most of the people around you will never see you again so go ahead…stare at them.

Remember the card with the QR code? Here’s where the next pitch is. As you make your way from the elevators to the exit, you have an opportunity to look at the digital image. Actually, it’s images. They show you a picture of you and the people in your party with the city skyline behind you in daylight as well as when the sun is low in the sky casting a reddish glow on the clouds above. You can purchase both of these prints as well as electronic copies of both for the low, low price of $40. Or, for half that price you can get less than half the goodies. Just one picture, no electronic copy. We looked at our picture. The edges of my hair took on a greenish hue, like I’d been swimming in a heavily chlorinated pool without washing my hair between swims. We passed.

Back out into the sunshine, across the road, around the corner, down the stairs to the ferry, across the water and back to the truck. Our day in New York was complete. Now we just had to find our way back to Middleboro. Glad we borrowed a GPS! Oh, and the National Parks Pass we couldn't find...it was hiding in Mike's wallet the whole time. At least we hadn't lost it.


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6th August 2015

Spectacular blog posting!!!!!!

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