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August 6, 2022 – Back in June I visited The Big Apple, New York City. Part of the trip included my trying to kayak across New York Harbor, from a boat ramp by the Statue of Liberty over to Manhattan. It didn’t work out the way I planned, but I’ll get into that in my next post…
Meanwhile, the main reason for the trip was to see my brother and his wife perform – with some other people – at Carnegie Hall. They were part of a concert by the New England Symphonic Ensemble on Friday night, June 3. The program listed their group as among “participating choruses.” Then in the week after the concert my family and I visited other sites as well. But during that visit I didn’t have time to do any updates on this blog. Then, when I got back home, I had to get ready for another road trip, as told in Catching up from my trip to Dubuque. (For the Fourth of July weekend.) Since then I’ve been busy getting ready for my next trip, overseas, previewed in Getting ready for Rome – and “the Way of St. Francis.”
In other words, I’m just getting back to normal. And speaking of getting back to a rhythm…
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I made a lot of notes on Facebook driving up, ultimately through the western part of Virginia (via I-81), and up into Pennsylvania, before heading east to New Jersey. And a bit of foreshadowing: That’s the way I’ll drive back in all future road trips to NYC. Going home the other way – south through New Jersey, into Pennsylvania and then Delaware – the traffic and tolls were murder. (Metaphorically anyway.) Even trusty old rustic US 301 – going south from Wilmington and on over the Bay Bridge into Annapolis – is now a &^%$ toll road!
Not to mention I got a &^%$ fifty dollar parking ticket in Jersey City, for parking on a side street. (I stopped at a McDonald’s to get some breakfast before trying the “kayak across New York Harbor.”)
But back to the happy start of the trip. I left my home just south of the ATL late on the morning on Tuesday, May 31. (Last-minute packing and such, including the kayak.) I took back roads over to I-20 at Greensboro, then through Augusta and up I-77 toward Columbia. That day I made 270 miles, to Richburg South Carolina, 56 miles above Columbia. With the air-conditioning out in my car, and a kayak nestled up and over the front passenger seat. As always, traffic around Charlotte, NC stood like a hydra-headed monster for the next day…
Sure enough, and even though I started early, traffic came to a near-standstill near Pineville. So I got off I-77 and took more backroads over to Interstate 485 – the “Outer” way – and over to US 29. That’s mostly a four-lane highway without the traffic hassle of driving through Mooresville and Statesville. And speaking of no air conditioning, Ernest Hemingway wrote that Hunger Was a Good Discipline. I suppose heat – in the form of temperatures in the high 90s – could also be considered a good discipline. (It makes that first cold beer taste ever so good.)
On Wednesday, June 1, I made it to Lexington, Virginia. That was only 278 miles for the day, but the town looked so beckoning – nice and rustic – that I decided to stop there for the day. (Which is why I decided to take four days going up.) I stopped at the local Ruby Tuesday’s for a quick beer before checking out exercise opportunities. There I experienced some local drama. The wait staff, including the barmaid, were very disgruntled with management, and I was lucky to get that first draft beer before she closed out. (Or walked out) After that drama – and to clear my mind – I took a hike around the beautiful campus of Virginia Military Institute.
Later I went to the local Applebee’s, for two more draft beers and a cup of chicken tortilla soup.
My plan for Thursday, June 2, was to stop in Harrisburg, PA. I wanted to find a place to put in my kayak on the Susquehanna River. Unfortunately, there was no such place. Google Maps showed one possible site;* a park with a stream draining into the Susquehanna. But the only place to put in was above a dam and waterfall. All the rest of the stream-banks were too weed-choked and rock-strewn. Plus I saw enough congestion and bad traffic – just getting to the %^%@$ park – that I “proceeded on” to the Hershey PA exit on I-81.
There I found a nice Motel 6 and visited Arooga’s Grille House & Sports Bar at 7025 Allentown Blvd. (Technically Harrisburg, but I highly recommend it anyway.) I wrote later:
Long day putting around and through Harrisburg PA. No place to kayak, traffic sucked, and a travel tip. Gas up before you get to Pennsylvania. I paid $4.56 at the Sam’s Club, and was glad to get it. $4.79 a gallon wasn’t unusual.
Little did I know that gas prices were about to go higher still, once I got into New Jersey. On a more positive note, I followed up the two beers and sweet potato fries at Arooga’s with a rousing 70-minute hike through the Oak Park Trail. (Adjacent to Dauphin Middle school; I hiked a bit through their parking lot, as they were holding some kind of graduation-night event.)
Next morning I got up early and headed east on I-81 to where it split, becoming I-78 northwest of Jonestown PA. From there it was smooth driving, through the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, until I crossed into New Jersey. Where you are actually fined if you pump your own gas. (Between $50 and $250 for a first offense, and $500 for subsequent offenses. For more, see the notes.)
On Friday, June 3 – the day of the concert – I stopped at my first Wawa convenience story in a long time. (On I-280.) That was before crossing over the Hackensack River and into the traffic in Jersey City and on into North Bergen. There my brother Tom had rented an upstairs apartment just down the street from North Bergen High School.
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The rest of Friday, June 3, was a blur. The three of us got checked in and unpacked, then got “dressed up” for Carnegie. (A note: We needn’t have bothered. The native New Yorkers at the concert were dressed just like us slobs back home; shorts, shirt untucked, whatever.) Then we hiked up the hill, to the stop by the North Bergen High School, for the first of many trips on the 154 bus over to Manhattan. We met up with the other brother and his wife – Bill and Janet – the ones who were singing at Carnegie. We had a pre-concert dinner at this place on Broadway, the Applejack Diner, shown below. As for the concert itself, we had some unexpected drama…
But I’ll save that story for a future post!
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I took the upper photo, from my kayak, near the start of my try to paddle across New York Harbor. According to Wikipedia, it’s “one of the largest natural harbors in the world, and is frequently named the best natural harbor in the world.” Also called Upper New York Bay, it’s “connected to Lower New York Bay by the Verrazano Narrows,” and other bodies of water that actually constitute a “tidal strait.” Some foreshadowing, that “tidal strait” figures in the next post, on how that kayaking attempt worked out. For more on my other preparations for the trip, see Back to New York City – finally!
Re “Participating choruses.” The phrase in the program was “With participating choruses.” You can click on the near-upper-right “Calendar View” at Official Website | Carnegie Hall.) The chorus in question was The Trey Clegg Singers, Inc. My brother and his wife have sung with “Trey” for years.
Re: Getting back to rhythm. My first wife Karen (who died in 2006) used to say I wasn’t spontaneous enough, I was in too much of a rut. My response, “It’s not a rut, it’s a rhythm.” See also The Three Biggest Benefits of Good Habits – Top Three Guide, Why Habits are Important: 5 Benefits of Habits.
Re: “Google Maps showed one possible site,” to put in by the Susquehanna. It was New Cumberland Borough Park, on Yellow Beeches Creek, near the New Market suburb of Harrisburg.
Re: New Jersey’s ban on self-service gas pumping. See Why New Jersey and Oregon still don’t let you pump your own gas, and What’s the fine for pumping your own gas in N.J.? – nj.com. I knew beforehand about the ban, but didn’t know it’s long and complex history, over a century old. Initially full-service stations saw self-service as cutting into their thin profit margin. “Full-service gas stations played up safety hazards around self-service, arguing that untrained drivers would overfill their tanks and start a fire. But eventually self-service was seen to reduce costs and increase volumes of gasoline sold. One ironic note: “In New Jersey, the self-service ban, along with the state’s reputation for low gas prices, is part of its culture.” FYI: Gas prices in New Jersey were as high as in Pennsylvania, and 50 cents a gallon higher than back home in Georgia. (Another reason to call it “God’s Country.”)
For future reference (a new post) I noted some activities on Thursday, June 9, the day before we left for home. “After the walking tour of Soho, Little Italy and Chinatown – and hiking across the Manhattan Bridge and back – relaxing with a mint chip gelato, back in Little Italy. Cafe Roma.” Stay tuned…
The lower image is courtesy of the gallery in the Applejack Diner website.
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