Open Road

New York -- Getting There -- May 28

It turned out that being that tired was actually a good thing, especially when going to the East Coast from the West Coast with very little in between.

And it helped that we got started at 4:30am. I have never seen so many dawns in one week...



Dawn
We were up and out and on the road by 4:45am, to make it to the airport by 5:45. We and the Passat had no trouble at all, and we got there when most of the people were already there. Checking in was really fast, we just said that the whole group was there, and they handed us our boarding passes. Getting through security was another thing. The whole line was completely full.

The security, bomb sniffing dog was out, and he got a go at everyone. All the kids went through the ID check on their own, which is mildly unusual. The id checker that Jet went to was very bemused that he didn't have an adult with him, and all the kids went through on their own and made it just fine, especially when they decided to do the minimal version, where you could leave your liquids and computers in your bags and your shoes on. That was nice, I'll admit, so we got to the gate well ahead of schedule. So I got coffee and a restroom break, and was still first in line for my boarding party.

Since United is another of those airline that charges for checked luggage, there was the usual nonsense of people bringing so much baggage onto the plane that all of the overhead was filled and they had to take it off and check it for free with the gate agents. Sadly, some of our people were the ones left out in the cold, so another half dozen of us had checked luggage, which wasn't really a problem, since we had two girls who'd decided to check their stuff to begin with.

The flight itself was fine. A little turbulent, so the seatbelt light kept coming and going, but we managed. I slept for most of it.

New York from the Sky
And then we flew over this...

I am still amazed, sometimes, that flight paths go right over or right next to certain cities. New York, obviously, allows this. San Diego is another one where the flight path often looks like the plane is dodging high rises. SeaTac doesn't, and Denver is so far away from DEN that it's a far off view if anything.

This was amazing. And there was a very very long time, while we were flying by city and more city and MORE city where it seemed really amazing to me just how dense it was around The Big Apple. The landing was good, by the water, and smooth as butter. We got out with all our stuff, and all headed for the baggage claim so that people who checked could get their stuff, too. The whole thing pretty much convinced John and I that we were going to gate check our bags if it was at all possible on the way home.

LGA and Mr. Swarn
LaGuardia is an older airport, as you can see in this picture, and it hasn't been as upgraded as others. It's still got the low ceilings, the layout of an older airport that grew organically instead of being entirely planned. Richard "Dick" Swarn met us once we got to our baggage claim. There was some trouble with the buses coming to pick us and our luggage up, they were both mini buses, so one could fit all of the luggage and the other could fit all the people. There was a good half an hour delay getting everything here, so Dick took us up to a food lounge and told us to get something while he straightened things out.

He didn't actually tell us to get our lunches, though some people were really smart and got their lunches anyway, as they were hungry. I was mildly foolish and got a donut and a big iced coffee, which I drank.

And then we ran through the packed traffic and heavy humid hot air of the airport, handed over our luggage to one bus, and got onto the other.

By the Harlem River
Boris, our driver made some interesting decisions on how to get us out of the city and out to New Jersey. One of them was that we went along the Harlem River, and got to see a lot of Harlem and the empty lots filled with junk near the river itself. The kids were all on about how dirty, wrecked, and ugly it was there.

The strange thing for me was that everywhere we turned were hints and names of things that, for me, had always been nothing more than story or myth. The turn off to Hoboken, a hint of the Hudson, the whole of Harlem had, up to now, been nothing but tales told of far off places. And so many of them. It was almost overwhelming.

We saw this park by the river, that was mostly a bit of grass, a few trees, concrete walkways and benches by the water. And there were people using the parks, definitely. But it seemed kind of sad in a way. I saw a Ferris Wheel towering over rubble, and at one point, when I looked back and further in, I saw a huge building covered with wildly colorful mosaics of tile! I don't know what it was, but it was beautiful and a jewel shining amid some very sad and tired looking apartment towers.

Yankee Stadium
In entire contrast was the shine of Yankee Stadium, at the end of the Harlem area. There were also new malls and shopping centers on that side of the river nearby, and what looked like a thriving new commercial area around it. But... Yankee Stadium!! *laughs* The reality of actually seeing it was so strange.

Our bus driver wasn't quite sure of the way to the hotel, and our tour had been advertised as having us stay at a New Jersey Hotel that was just 20 minutes away from the City. But we were more than an hour on that bus, going through commercial streets rather than highways, and the minibus didn't have the air conditioning to keep up with the 80's with 90 percent humidity and the bus being completely full of people. The driver kept trying to look at his phone for his GPS until John offered to look at it for him and give him directions.

That iced coffee haunted me the last five minutes of that trip, and I was extremely happy when we finally pulled into the Crowne Plaza hotel. Sadly, it was Domino's pizza for dinner, but we got the hotel pool to swim in, and that was good enough for me. The pool was good and cold and completely full of our kids, which was good, as they were able to get some activity in before bedtime. I got in a good shower before I took a few hours to wrestle with my little netbook and the hotel network and Flickr's assumptions about who is trying to upload pictures and how. I had a horrible time of it. I *finally* figured out how to upload some pictures onto Flickr, but it was 10 pm, and we had to be up at 7 for breakfast. So instead of trying to write up what had been a mildly disappointing day, I just went to sleep and was able to sleep like the dead due to the previous trip.

It was so nice to have absolutely NO problem with jet lag going East. It's really unusual for me, but with all the recent early mornings and having my fitbit already set to Eastern Time, it was just easy to know that I was tired at 10. I slept like a log.
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Much sympathy on the stressful parts of the day. I'm glad you eventually got a restful night's sleep.