Update 8: October 15, 2006
178 days; 16,876 miles (Car: 66,50, RV: 10,226); 25 states; 20 National Parks; 6,260 photos.
Boston: September 22-27, 2006
(Location 44 on the Map
After leaving Acadia National Park, we spent three nights in Saco, Maine so Susan could visit her cousin and get the next pre-natal checkup from her cousin’s doctor. From there, we drove to the Boston area. We learned a lot of lessons that day, including not allowing the GPS and mapping software to blindly dictate our route. We ended up on narrow, winding roads, eventually going down two dead end roads that required us to unhook the car and drive separately (Justin and me in the RV; Susan in the car). That taught us another lesson, as we eventually got separated and were traveling on different roads in different directions, with neither one of us sure of where we were supposed to be going. Because the area is thickly infested with trees, we couldn’t pick out any landmarks or get our bearings. When we tried to contact each other via cell phone, we found that cell service was sporadic in the area. Besides, Susan had almost completely lost the charge in her phone, so when we were able to make contact, we’d have to set up a time for our next contact so Susan could turn off her phone and conserve her remaining battery power. If we write a book about our trip, I’ll go into more detail about that day, but suffice it to say that it was the single most stressful day on the trip to date. Thankfully my friend Tom made the 2-hour drive from his house to the campground that night, picked us up, and took us all out to dinner.
The next day we met up with Tom again, and along with his 4-year-old daughter Katie, went kayaking on the Charles River. Tom paddled his one-person sea kayak while the rest of us floundered around in a tandem kayak, with Susan and me constantly smacking our paddles together and getting the kids wet. (I gave Tom's one-person kayak a whirl at one point, with mixed results). The water on that area of the river is very calm, so it made for a relaxing half-day excursion. By the end of our ride, Susan and I were even getting into a groove that made it look like we knew what we were doing.
One of the primary reasons for our visit here was to take a trip into Boston to see the sights. We took the train into the city (Justin's first train ride), and walked the Freedom Trail. The Freedom Trail is a 2-and-a-half mile path through the city that travels past sixteen historically significant landmarks. The path itself is marked by red bricks. We spent the entire day here walking the trail, and found that we should have allotted an extra day to be able to see some of the museums we had to forego in the interest of time. Some of the sights we saw included Boston Common, dating to 1634; two burial grounds dating to the Revolution; a couple of churches from the 1700s; plus the church that housed the lanterns that gave Paul Revere his signal to start his famous midnight ride. We also toured Paul Revere's house, which was built circa 1680, and to me was most notable for that fact that not a single surface is parallel or perpendicular to any other. I suppose you can't expect that a wooden structure that's well over 300 years old is going to necessarily stand up well to all of those Boston winters. At the end of the trail, we saw the USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides"), but we were there on the one day of the week when they don't give tours of the 200-year-old warship.
In addition to our tour of Boston and the Charles River, we took a couple of nice bike rides through the state park, enjoying the solitude and quiet of the post-tourist season, and appreciating the beginning of the changing of the leaves.
For photos from Boston, Click Here
New York City: October 1-6, 2006
(Location 45 on the Map
Next, we spent a few nights near Hyde Park, New York, in the area of some famous summer-home mansions, including those of the Vanderbilts and FDR. This also gave us access to the Catskill mountains, where we took a nice, but cold, hike to the top of Slide Mountain; the tallest in the area.
After that it was on to New Jersey, where we found a nice county park only 45 miles west of New York City. We had hotel reservations for two nights at a hotel in midtown Manhattan, and planned to take the train into the city. However, the train stations in our area did not allow overnight parking without a monthly permit, so we threw caution to the wind and drove into the city. With our Streets & Trips program leading the way (having been well-scrutinized prior to leaving), we easily made it into the city and to a parking garage where we left the car for the duration of our stay.
We did the normal tourist things that one would expect while toting around a 2-year-old: Times Square, Central Park, Upper East and West sides, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rockefeller Plaza. We watched some of the Today Show, walked past Letterman's digs, and saw Radio City Music Hall. We did a few things specifically geared to Justin's interests: the FDNY Fire Zone, where he got to drive a fire truck and wear a firefighter jacket; Toys R Us, where his blood-curdling screams at being surprised by the life-size, animated T Rex drew the attention of everyone in the store; and FAO Schwartz, where he ran back and forth on the keys of the oversized piano made famous in the Tom Hanks movie Big.
My friend John brought the train in from Long Island and treated us to a great early dinner at Carmine's, a nice Italian restaurant in the theater district that has a three-month wait for reservations. Afterwards, he made us take a short trip on the subway, which we had been deliberately avoiding. We visited Grand Central Terminal (aka Grand Central Station), a beautiful place to visit just for the architecture and décor. Finally, we took a trip to the observation deck near the top of the Empire State building. It was an incredible experience being up there at night, but Justin's lack of nap and intolerance of the wind conspired to make our trip up there more about keeping him happy than getting a chance to truly take in all of the sights.
For photos from New York, Click Here
Washington, DC: October 8-14, 2006
(Location 48 on the Map
From New Jersey, we traveled to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. While much of the area was beautiful, we were very disappointed to see how commercialized it was. Were we really expected to believe that the Amish had erected such places as a family amusement park and a mini-golf course? Or a store called Amish Stuff, Etc.? Still, we ventured out with hundreds of other tourists and stopped at a couple of local stores and a farmer’s market. Our biggest purchase was probably the locally-produced apple butter, which I've half-depleted already.
Lancaster made a nice stopover on our way to Lorton, Virginia. Lorton is about 20 miles south of Washington, DC, and served as a great jumping-off point for seeing the city. We took the train into the city on two different days, and over the course of those days saw just about everything you could see on a walking tour of the National Mall: the White House, the US Capitol, the House and Senate buildings, the Supreme Court building, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, the WWII Memorial, plus numerous other government offices and buildings. We didn’t limit ourselves to walking, though. We also went inside the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum and National Museum of Natural History. (After Justin’s scare at Toys R Us in New York, he was not happy about the dinosaur displays; I spent my time holding him and he spent his clinging to me and keeping a wary eye on the T Rex). We went to the Holocaust Memorial Museum, which is really something that you need to visit without a child in order to get tickets to the main exhibits. Most impressive of anything had to be the Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress. Words and photos can't convey the beauty of the ornate marble and stonework, the mosaic tiled floors, or the painted ceilings and alcoves. As someone said as we were leaving, “Congress really knows how to take care of its own”.
For photos from Washington, Click Here