09-02-2022 Lums Pond DE to Jersey City NJ

Would it surprise anyone to know that I felt tears behind my eyes when I first saw this view of the New York Skyline?

It has been almost two weeks since I last wrote for the blog.  I know some of my favorite bloggers manage to write posts weeks, even months after they have traveled, but that doesn’t work well for me.  Especially with two weeks filled with as much activity as the last two have been.

I am currently watching the sun rise over 1100 acres of unspoiled Vermont mountain hardwood forests and meadows.  We are coming to the end of four magnificent days recuperating from the frenetic activity of New York City here at my friend Jeanne and her husband Alan’s home. It has been a more than perfect way to decompress.  But once again, that is another story.

For the time being, you might like to hear how we managed to get from bucolic Lums Pond to the western bank of the Hudson River in Jersey City.  It was much easier than I expected.

We left early, with plans to arrive at the rally campground no later than 2PM, in time for the orientation meeting.  I had no idea what traffic might be like and no idea how we would manage to negotiate the complex maze of bridges, tunnels, and turnpikes.

Google Girl sent us on a simple route.  By this time, when we saw a turnpike route we said, “Who cares what it costs?!  Take the Turnpike!”.  Just a few miles after leaving the campground we entered the New Jersey Turnpike.  Traffic flowed smoothly, and the cost would be revealed at each toll plaza.  No matter.

Our main goal was to get the MoHo cleaned up.  I read the previous day about the Blue Beacon Truck Wash about halfway north to our destination.  It sounded wonderful, and after calling them it sounded even more wonderful.  “No problem”, she said, “Just get in line and we will be glad to wash your rig. Shouldn’t be much of a wait that time of day. No need to unhook, we can wash the tow car as well”.  

Blue Beacon Truck Wash has a very good reputation, at least according to the reviews.  My trucker daughter and her husband later told us they love them. After our experience, so do we!  We rolled into the truck plaza, weaving our way around literally hundreds of parked semis, and got in line behind 3 other trucks.  Once into the bay, six guys with wands and brushes descended on our rigs and washed, rinsed, and sprayed with Rain-X.  All for a price for each service, of course.  $77.00 total plus a ten-dollar tip.  When we left the wash, our rigs were shiny as new, even the kayaks on top of the Tracker were cleaned.  It was an amazing experience that I am sure we will seek out again if we need it.  

In the past, we have paid more than $150. for a mobile RV wash contracted for by Adventure Caravans on previous trips.  What a treat this was for much less money.

With a blindingly shiny MoHo, we continued north on the New Jersey Turnpike.  There was a bit of confusion over whether we were a truck or a car when we reached a dividing point for the turnpike lanes.  We decided we weren’t a truck and stayed to the left as we entered New York State.  Passing a New York State policeman was encouraging, and we continued when he didn’t come chasing after us.  Still, it seemed a bit weird.  Even vans were in the adjacent truck lanes, and after a few miles, we took an on-and-off exit to get into the truck lanes.  It was a bit more crowded, but a lot less worrying.

Our Google Girl route took us toward the Holland Tunnel, but when we reached that exit, it happened too fast and Mo missed the turn.  Crap!  Now what.  We didn’t know what we were doing, so we followed Google Girl’s directions to Liberty Park Marina and RV Park.  Crossing some huge bridges and entering crowded Jersey City streets was a bit challenging, but in no time we were at the park entrance.  Sometimes missed turns can be a godsend, since we found out later that we weren’t allowed to use the Holland Tunnel in any kind of vehicle carrying propane.  Lucky goof!!

We were one of the last rally rigs to arrive, but we were in plenty of time to settle in before the orientation meeting.  The Adventure Caravans New York City Rally had 31 people attending with 18 rigs.  There were only 3 singles enrolled, with the rest being couples from across the country.  Many were from the midwest, with a few from Florida, and only one other couple from the west coast.  Although we have been on 2 previous AVC rallies, there was no one we knew on this trip other than the owner of the company, Tina Poole, and her wife Claudia. 

Tina and Claudia wanted to join the rally as TailGunners because they had never been to New York.  It was fun to see them again since we had spent time with both of them at our previous rallies.  

The RV park wasn’t in the least bit fancy.  Most of the sites were in full sun in what was simply a gravel parking lot.  We had electric and water but the dump station was at the rear of the park in an area that was a bit difficult to access, especially for the big rigs.  There was a decent shower area and a large laundry that worked fine for me, but not always for everyone. Because we have a smaller rig, we were assigned a spot directly adjacent to the park maintenance building, and the only place in the park that had a line of trees to shelter us a bit from the hot sun.  Lucky break.

The only thing going for Liberty Park RV Park is the location.  Right at the marina, it is walking distance to a ferry to New York City, and a short hop to the ferries that access the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.  We had been warned that there was no actual “grass” for the dog to walk, but discovered a decent trail along the waterfront that served for our ten days of Mattie walks.  Most of the time, we had that walk area to ourselves, and the far reaches of the huge parking lot were empty enough that Mattie could run off-leash.  She learned not to chase the Canada geese that also frequented that remote edge of the lot.

There was a restaurant across from the park that most of the attendees had been to the previous night.  Stories about a two-hour wait and ordinary food made us happy we hadn’t bothered.  On that first night, after the meeting and settling in, we had our own supper at home and prepared for the next week and a half of rapid-fire entertainment.  I don’t think we had a clue about the intensity of what we were about to experience.  It was enough for us, that after our scary start with a breakdown on our first day out, unexpected problems with overheating the rig, thunderstorms, google girl kerfuffles, and a LOT of driving, we were at last at our destination.  Ten days of letting someone else do all the worrying felt wonderful.

09-09-2022 Thoughts on New York City

I used to read more blogs than I do now.  Somehow the old “blogging RV community” has shifted and changed.  A lot.  But that is another story.  The first reason for choosing to read a blog is that the person writing is a friend. Usually someone I have met in person and developed a relationship with.  A bit vaguer second criterion is that the person writes more than “we went here, we did this.” My writing can slip into this as well, especially when we are going and seeing and doing at the pace we have been for the last week.  Maybe that is why writing can be so daunting at times like these. 

My daughter Melody said this morning that she can’t wait to hear what I think of New York City. I have only seen the City from the perspective of a tourist.  One that is ferried around in a giant shiny bus, with a driver that negotiates the crazy traffic, tunnels, and tiny lanes with incredible expertise.  I have visited most sites with a guide and a map and a timetable.  It probably isn’t the best way to immerse in a great city.  Mo and I walked the streets and trains of Washington DC, Bangkok, Thailand, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and many others on our own. Daughter Deanna and I walked the streets of Florence and hiked the steep trails of the Amalfi coast on our own, and daughter Melody and I braved Vienna, Budapest, and Prague without the benefit of a bus or a guide. But New York City is another beast entirely.  After more than a week as a tourist, I still know that tackling this city on my own would be daunting.

What strikes me the most, however, and what I love most is the diversity.  I love sitting in a restaurant and hearing at least three languages that I don’t recognize.  I love the complex tapestry of all types of people wearing all types of clothes.  Gorgeous black women flaunting their beauty, long black dreds and skimpy dresses barely covering strong bodies.  Indian women in saris weaving among the Wall Street types in suits and ties.  Middle Eastern men cooking hot halal food on the corners from street carts.  I learned that “Halal” is for Muslims and “kosher” is for Jewish people.

I do love that live theater is everywhere, all through the city, not just on “Broadway” even though they say ‘On Broadway”.  Our show was on 52nd street and was wild with the energy of the crowd who loved the star of the show and showed it with six standing ovations.  I loved seeing so many gorgeous young girls and adorable young men in all sorts of clothes,  gay couples holding hands openly as they walked the streets. 

I loved the incredible diversity of restaurants, from tiny hole-in-the-wall pizza counters to restaurants so expensive I couldn’t even afford to look at the menu, all on the same street. 

I know that if I had the time I would love the culture of magnificent art and history museums, and tiny little spots telling stories of the history of the area.  I would love to spend more time in the parks, not just Central Park, but Bryant Park and so many others.  Yesterday as we passed Bryant Park, I saw a woman maybe my age, a bit dowdy in ordinary clothes sitting at a tiny table engaged in a focused conversation with a very black man with dreds and tattoos.  They appeared to be the best of friends.  Where I live in Grants Pass people of color other than Hispanic are so rare that it is impossible to sit with them at a table, much less become friends.

I love that all this energy, diversity, and culture in Manhattan is located in just 22.8 square miles, 13.4 miles long, and 2.3 miles wide. I drive more than 25 miles to get to Costco, and my most used grocery store in my town of Grants Pass is 3 miles away.  I try to picture the complexity and population of the width of Manhattan with the distance to the grocery store in Grants Pass.  That is an image that sticks with me about what New York City is like and how I feel about it.

While waiting in line for the loo at the theater during intermission, I talked with a young man who has lived in the City for five years.  I asked him what he thought of living here.  Of course, he loves it.  He is a theater geek.  I think for people who love theater, who envision getting a role on Broadway or off Broadway or anywhere in the City, living here is a priority.  For musicians who study here, for anyone into “the arts” of any form, these people love the energy and vitality of this city.  For people in Finance and in Advertising, it is the mecca, the center of their world.  They fill the tiny apartments that rent for an average of 4,000 a month for 450 square feet and feel lucky to live here.  

There are many great cities in the world and New York City is definitely one of them.  I wouldn’t choose to live here, but I understand why some people would absolutely love it.  Not only people who were raised here never learned to drive, and know nothing else.  But also people who came here from the hinterlands to bury themselves in the high-energy, vital, crazy environment that is New York City and love it.

My friend Jeanne was raised nearby in New Jersey, and left the minute she was old enough to drive. I left the LA area for many of the same reasons when I was just 16.  It is all about what fits your soul the best.  I can imagine that my youngest, who asked this question, who loves theater and music and art, but also loves to be alone in uncrowded spaces might like it here a lot.  For a bit.  Who knows, but my guess is that she will never have to make that decision.  

My view from the RV door at our crowded site in New Jersey as I write at 4 am

There will be more blogs in the coming days.  Many of them with “we did this”  “we did that”  and a lot of photos.  Hopefully, I will eventually get a signal that allows me the luxury of uploading photos and adding them to a blog post that doesn’t take three days to get actually uploaded and posted.  But in the meantime, I needed to get these thoughts written down while they were still fresh.