Friday, August 26, 2010

*Long day… Long Post.

We woke up, geared up, packed up, cleaned up… and left. All before the wee hours of 6am. Finding our bus easily and with time to spare, Greg was sent on a very important mission… Operation: Caffeine Fix. Ten minutes later, Starbucks was located and mission accomplished. Soon, the bus engines growled to life and four hours later, we were arriving in New York.

Morning Coffee on the bus

Morning Coffee on the bus. Taking the bus so we don't have to park our bikes in New York.

What a great city. People are super friendly, very little construction, quaint little buildings, and no traffic at all. Oh woops, I was thinking of Indiana. New York is definitely one of the most amazing cities the United States has to offer, and with so much rich history to go along with it. Tall buildings reaching to the heavens, more skin tones than a box of oats, more cultures than a doctor’s office, sufficient Starbucks to caffeinate all the people in China, an accent that makes you forget the letter ‘r’ even exists, and enough color yellow to brighten up a small planet.

"And they were all yellow..."

"And they were all yellow..."

No one will ever call this city boring and we were able to pack as much of this lively city into 1 day (and part of tomorrow). Our first stop: Ground Zero.

For some who visit, this is may be just a hole in the ground. For others, it is much much more. It symbolizes the sons/daughters, fathers/mothers, friends and family that were lost. It is a site for remembrance and also of rebirth with our ability to overcome. It was hard for Jerry to see anything but the men that gave their lives running into the buildings to get others out. The 343 firefighters that perished while giving their all to save the lives of people they never knew. A quote on a Fire Station wall put it best: “All gave some, some gave all”.

Ground Zero.  Working hard.

Ground Zero. Working hard.

(Jerry was proud of the respect this city gives the firefighters who died and survived this catastrophic event. With Jerry’s retirement coming quickly, he is angry about his own city’s government that shows such little respect for the fire department, feeling that his men and women would do the same. He hopes it doesn’t take another disaster for this to change.)

On that note, moving on to… Battery Park and the Statue of Liberty! We walked South on Broadway through the Financial District and admired all the big expensive buildings and the wealthy people that fill them. We walked by the New York Stock Exchange and even had to stop for a quick snapshot of the famous steel bull… we didn’t stay long because Greg really doesn’t like tourists (hypocrite) doing typical tourist poses around a famous monument, so we moved on. But we really did enjoy the harmonizing group next to it singing ‘That’s the sound of the gang, working on the chain…’

Battery Park is nice and has a great view of Ellis Island and Liberty Island (Statue of Liberty). We took our first step in the direction to buy ferry tickets when our jaws dropped and we saw more people waiting in line than at the White House on inauguration day for Obama. “Well, looks like we’ll save that for later” – “Agreed.”

We made the smart decision and probably saved us 3 or 4 hours of waiting in lines. So instead, our next stop is… Grand Central Station!

It is definitely cooler in movies or when large random crowds of people start a flash dance in a central station (like this one in Antwerp –> click here), yet, it was still worth seeing and taking a few pictures.

Grand Central Station. No Flashdance today...

Grand Central Station. No Flashdance today...

Afterwards, we met up with the lovely Jennie (Greg’s American friend he met in Granada, Spain while couchsurfing in 2008, and remained friends ever since). She was a wonderful tour guide and also taught us all the secrets on how to deal with street vendors, ticket sellers, how to find public restrooms and of course, where to eat affordable, delicious food.

Jennie!

Jennie!

We walked around Time Square and got hassled every 30 feet because of Greg and his camera around his neck. The problem with Greg, is that he looks like a tourist even when he is in his own home state, so he had no chance here.

After walking around, Jennie showed us a Deli where we barely could finish one pizza slice, they were huge. Not being able to move very quickly, we decided our next stop should be Central Park and Jennie gladly walked us there before she headed off to work. Entering into Central Park, we didn’t make it far and stayed in the following position for at least 45 minutes:

Snoring in Central Park

Snoring in Central Park

This was the best park nap ever and was really needed. Thank you Central Park for your nice patches of soft green grass. To thank the park, Jerry did his part by cleaning up garbage in the area just so he could say he did his part. Ha. Moving on, we walked about a mile through the greenery and headed in the direction of… The Brooklyn Bridge!

We took a detour for yet another coffee break, bathroom break, and information update on the Brooklyn Bridge and before we knew it, the sun was checking out for the night. We arrived at the bridge right after sunset and enjoyed listening to the multitude of languages, the bikes ringing their bells or blowing their whistles, and watching people pose for the perfect picture (head back, one leg up, wide grin showing no teeth, and a glare that could scare of a lion). It was dark and couldn’t capture many photos but here is a picture from the bridge looking back at South Manhattan:

A few building in New York from Brooklyn Bridge

A few buildings in New York from Brooklyn Bridge

Our sleeping arrangements were still up in the air for tonight, and we almost took a bus back to Brandon’s place, but Jennie said her friend could let us crash there but we’d have to wait until they got off of work. They are servers at the Trump building in Soho… so it was going to be a late one. Knowing we had time, we walked around the government buildings and took the long way to her work but still had time to spare.

It was around this time that we learned our new favorite way of helping people out.  A few things first:  1) We don’t like having to rely on volunteer opportunities or people coming to us that need help.  It is a hit and miss and we want to be more proactive about it. 2) There are a large amounts of homeless people and we can’t just give out money to each one, and we think donating to a homeless cause is perhaps a little lazy on our part.  3) We know you won’t get the best results with everyone doing this, but tonight we found out how thankful they can be when you bring food to them instead of change. We were asked for money as we went into a store and we told him we might have something on the way out. Instead, we brought him a baggie of food and seeing his face light up in sincere joy was the best gift he could have given us. We shook his hand, exchanged ‘God Bless’, and left to find a place to relax for awhile.

We were unable to find a café open at this hour, so we stopped in a bar and were easily entertained by the variety of people that filled it. We sat and planned our trip all-the-while listening to a loud conversation with 4 individuals that seem to be living the ‘swing’ life-style while everyone is already married. Quite entertaining for us because it’s not something we are accustomed to.

We heard our friends would get off around 12, but it turned out to be a little after 1am and we met Jennie at the hotel. She was full of smiles and life, and we were sleepy-eyed and groggy (we are party animals as you can tell). Jennie changed the plans and was gracious enough to allow us to crash at her place (we hope your roommates didn’t mind Jennie!). We quickly set up some beds, hopped in, and fell asleep before the sheets had time to warm to our bodies.

Tomorrow, Lady Liberty!

……………………………….

New York Parking:

Before:

New York Style Parking

New York Style Parking

After:

A few hours later...

A few hours later...