When we first thought up this journey, never would we have considered that the entirety of it is a round the world journey. This segment brings us across the continental 48 states of the US. While we had to shut the window most of the flight due as it was bright, did open it in time to view the majesty of the wetlands of Long Island.
One thing we forgot to do was to set the parameters of the GPS, which brought us from JFK right into the heart of the lower east Manhattan to cross the Holland tunnel. On a weekday evening, that meant trouble…in the form of gridlock for 2 hours.
An early morning flight out of San Francisco, we took 5 hour 40 minutes to cross over the continental United States!
|Finally arriving, the seating on the left side of the aircraft paid off||as we approached over long island, circled over Hudson bay and then over Staten island and Sheepshead bay in the approach towards JFK airport.
This meant we had Manhattan on the left of the plane, the silhouette of which is visible over the tips of the plane wing during the descent.
Upon touchdown, the rental car is again off the terminal and we took the air-train to Federal circle to
|pick up our car for the next 10 days.|
|Now the GPS was not particularly smart and made us drive through Manhattan! It was over Williamsburg bridge and into downtown on the way to the Holland Tunnel. Even at 8pm it was still jammed up! It took us well over 2½ hours to drive to our hotel.||No more driving through NYC ever again!||Getting into the Holland Tunnel at last! Good thing we don’t have to pay.|
After a 2-day period of being in the office, Mel finally had some quality time to spend with Suan. And what did she want to do? Shop!
Of the many malls, Suan chose the one located at Tinton falls, about 50 miles away. So it had to be an early drive via the Garden State Parkway for us to arrive before 10am (opening time). No need to state the obvious, but as in Japan the shopping was relentless with only a short lunch break.
But one thing good is that we manage to steal a little time driving to Sandy Hook. Actually an unplanned stop, we learned something new – the US actually wanted to defend its coasts. Was there really a threat of a seaborne invasion? From whom??
Today was just a drive to Jersey shore premium outlet mall. A full day of shopping for Suan to pick up bargains. As we drove back we detoured to Sandy Hook via Sea Bright.
|It was an morning drive via the Garden State parkway to Tinton falls. The mall opens at 10am and we had time to go to the local Wal-Mart to stock up Suan’s water supplies etc. Then it was off to a marathon shopping till almost 6pm in the evening, stopping only for a brief lunch at the food court.
However we did not stop there. Instead of simply driving back to the hotel, we headed off towards Monmouth beach and Sea Bright, along the coast using highway 36. We ended up in Sandy Hook, a large sand barrier that “guards” the entry to the lower New York bay.
|We were heading to the tip of Sandy Hook, where we can take in the views of the Brooklyn skyline in the distance.
There is a platform that is built near Fort Hancock, to provide this viewing pleasure. Alternately you can walk on the beach and enjoy
|the breeze as you admire the views.||← If we zoom a lot, it is possible to see Brooklyn in some detail.|
|Here in the tip of Sandy Hook is Fort Hancock,||where nine batteries are located. These artillery units are based there as part of the US Army’s coastal defense of the New York bay. Today, it is abandoned (since 1974) and placed under the care of the National Parks of New York. Many of the guns are still maintained on the grounds,||though they are rusted through.|
|Planes can be seen flying over, as they make the approach to either Newark of JFK. There are beaches all the way, and on a weekend such as today, are packed with folks spending the day here for sea sports or simply enjoying the sun.
And so it was time to drive back to Summit. It would take us nearly 2 hours to get back.
While Mel had driven around Pennsylvania in 2012 and sampled Amish culture, it was not the same without Suan – because it takes a lot of courage to dine alone or to visit the sites without a companion. We salute solo travellers!
This time our drive yielded a lot more than Mel’s solo drive. The warm summer and being in Lancaster on a Sunday probably helped. Thus we were able to see more of the Amish folks on the road in their finest, “driving” around in their horse-drawn buggies.
Exploring Amish culture and way of life was our focus but we got distracted at the antique malls! You don’t need to take the Strasburg train to enjoy it as we found out!
|We started with a 100+ mile drive to the Amish village||that lies on Lincoln highway between Lancaster and the town of Paradise. It is a 15 acre property replete with a house and farm buildings. It is surrounded by lands that include a one-room school and a covered bridge over a small stream.
The guided tour of the house focused on who the Amish are and their traditions – clothing, way of life, upbringing. One thing we learned is that they do not have dietary restrictions and can freely choose their own life partners.
|Better to drive your own then take their bus tour…|
|Single men wear black hats while single women wear a white shear over their dress. As expected, no flashy colors to clothes and not even buttons for the women! With no electricity, appliances are propane powered. After the house visit, we were free||to roam and we gravitated to the||Vicuna enclosure.|
|The village also has a covered bridge on one side of the property. It is well preserved though closed to motor traffic. Pennsylvania is home to some of the most concentrated number of covered bridges.
There is said to be well over 200 such bridges all over the state, the most in all of the US. Said to be built from the 1800s, they are made from wood as stone bridges are said to be inappropriate for the harsh winters of this state.
|After exploring the bridge, we headed back to the farm to view the turkeys, cattle and tiny chicks that are still being cared for on this working farm – well sort of, to cater to visiting tourists such as us. Both of the Vicuna appeared to have been shorn recently.||Now the mode of transport of the Amish is the horse buggy. There are open top ones (sort of like the convertibles) and we would see many later today. After lunch, our next stop was at one of the antique malls, where Suan found new shopping experience!|
|This part of Pennsylvania is known as “antique alley”, and you will find “malls” and individual stores along the roads.
The “malls” are really large ware-house with many small booths leased out to tenants to display their wares on a permanent basis.
|Probably started out as a real storage area that ended up being used for shopping! Today we visit Cackleberry, just a little further up from the Amish village. There is so much to consider from small trinkets, old books, vinyl records etc. Unfortunately this was just an orientation for Suan,||so we headed on to look for the||Amish folks riding on their buggies.|
|Today is Sunday, so the Amish people are not working. It is also a day of church, which means many of them will be making their way to and from service. And so like us normal folks, they are “driving” in their vehicles enjoying the beautifully warm day. It’s not easy to get a photo of them and we had to drive by them slowly. Some of the buggies contained an entire family! Imagine the poor horse having to pull all that load!|
|As we drove we stumbled upon another covered bridge while pursuing Amish buggies.||This one is in a much more deteriorated condition than the previous one we saw.||There was a camp site nearby and numerous RVs were parked there.|
|But our day was far from over.||We are headed over to the town||of Strasburg, named after the city in Alsace as the earliest settlers came from that part of France or Switzerland. It is also known as “train town of America”, with its many railroad attractions, including the large railroad museum of Pennsylvania.|
|Now the Strasburg railway is not just an attraction for children.||Obviously the presence of Thomas the train was the draw for the kids especially now during the summer vacation.
You do not need to ride on the train to take photos of Thomas. The platform is open for you to explore, and you can watch the train pull up (or out).
When the train is stationary, you can also take photos of the changing faces of Thomas. This railway brings back the childhood in all of us! But you can imagine the
|embarrassment of the two of us amongst the children…|
|As Thomas pulled out of the station, you can see him smiling as the passengers set off on a 45-minute round trip journey in the farming countryside. Now that we have checked off our last item for today, we began our drive back, stopping first at Adamstown, yet another part of antique alley.|
|Adamstown has a whole street of antique stores and malls. Here Melvin bought an entire 8-volume set of the “History of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire” – for US$128!
The drive back took slightly over 2 hours. Today we are having dinner at the Malaysia restaurant, time to relish in some home food after being out here with burgers, fries and pasta for well over a week.
The original intent was to drive all the way to Cape May and do the visit to Liberty island on Sunday. But by waking up late (finally for Mel after 5 early work days), it was by default that we drove to Liberty State park to lay our rental car in the shade for 5 hours.
Truth be told, it does not need to be a ½ day event. A well planned “attack” of the sites will lead you to cover both Lady Liberty and Ellis island in 2 hours. Except that we spent nearly 2 hours in various museums and exhibits of Ellis island. It could have been more, but Panda Sim (yes finally she hungry) made the call to leave.
Only to end up at the Jersey Mills (mall) where the last bucks were spent.
After 19 years, we are back on Ellis island and the Statue of Liberty. And the day ended shopping in the Mills at Jersey Garden.
|We started the day driving to and||parking at Liberty State Park||ferry point. There is a walkway along the waterfront facing the Hudson river that many people are strolling, cycling and jogging in the morning.
This area was said to have been tidal flats with oyster banks. With land filling, it would become reclaimed land.
|Today it affords a great view of Ellis island or the NY skyline. When we walked further up, we came up to Ellis island bridge which is not open to the public. So, no free walk over without the ferry! In the distant is the Statue of Liberty, the principal objective of our trip today.|
|We walked to the CRRNJ terminal where the ticketing office is located. Abandoned in 1967, it is now cordoned off. An adult ticket costs US$18pp and is valid for “unlimited” rides on the ferries that ply between our starting point to Ellis island,||Liberty island and even to Battery||Park on Manhattan.|
|There is a fixed schedule if you look at the boards, but today the crowds are so large that it was not following time…It is always better to come earlier in the day as we soon found out. Before you get on the ferry, you first need to get through an airport style security scan of your personal belongings.|
|Then it is time to board the ferry, for us to Liberty island via Ellis island.||The ride took us past the beautiful skyline of lower Manhattan, resplendent in the morning sun.
The ferry has two decks (and three for those serving the battery park stop). They have indoor seating even on the top deck, so you do not need to burn in the summer sun.
|We are coming to the statue, known in French as “La Liberté éclairant le monde”|
|This means Liberty||enlightening the world. This copper statue designed by a French sculptor was built and dedicated in October 1886 as a gift to the US from France. Declared a national monument in 1924, in 1933, this island was||given over to the National Parks.|
|Did you know that the statue was||a dull copper color?||From 1900, the green patina began to appear. This was the oxidation of copper skin and it spread such that by 1906 the entire statue has become the current iconic green.
|The “armpit” shot of Liberty lady…||Pick up the audio tour if you need one!|
|It is said that 27.2 tons of copper were used in the construction. There was also 113.4 tons of steel used. Together with the other materials used, it makes the total weight well over 204 tons! We did not reserve a slot to access the pedestal or crown, so no climbing up the stairs today for us. You have to do this before getting on the island. Next up, Ellis island.|
|Ellis island started to be the US’s main immigration gateway from 1892 until 1954. During that time, the island processed a total of more than 12 million migrants. It is said that more than 40% of present day Americans can be traced from people who came through here.||At the heritage center, there||were many tracing relatives who came through here.|
|Prior to being a immigrant station, the island was a military fort.||It was replete with a 20-gun battery.||Good to know! It was one of a strong of fortifications defending the bay of New York.
Actually, from 1924 the island became a deportation and detention centre as well. Today it has museums showcasing the history of immigration to the US.
|During WWII, it was an “obvious” place for axis nationals to be held,||as were communists and fascist during the early 1950s at the height of the phobia against the influence of the Soviets etc.
← Today, the surnames of → the migrants are engraved in a roll of honor on the island.
|Actually the island has hospitals too, all to examine migrants…|
|Now you will probably take the better part of a full day to explore all the sections of the museum. And while the history is interesting, we were beginning to tire of the walk.
It is now time to leave Hudson bay. By this time (1pm – and Panda Sim is hungry…see how she is when no shopping), there are long queues for the ferries at every island. We waited for nearly half an hour for our ride back to liberty state park. Honestly, we have been really lucky with the weather. In November of 2012, there was a terrible
|hurricane that damaged a lot Ellis island. Even liberty island was badly affected.||Hence all of us a so blessed to see Liberty in her glory as today.↑ See the torch on the flame, it should light up brightly at night!|
|Because we cannot walk around the perimeter of the island,||it is best to take photos of the hospitals sections of the island||from the ferry. Now the ferries eventually did return us to Liberty state park as the hunt for lunch began. We had originally wanted to dine at Liberty House but it is only open between 12-2pm for lunch and we had drifted past that. So we made the decision to drive on to|
|the Mills at Jersey garden for our very late lunch at Applebee’s, but not before had a long search for parking.
After lunch, it was shopping for Suan where she picked up last minute bargains. Then it was back to the Hilton where we were surprised by,
|A firework show that lasted well over 10 minutes! It must be a pre celebration for the 4th July! The photos may not do justice and it is the videos that capture the truly spectacular night show.|
It’s the 4th July weekend soon. And when we got back there was a near 15-minute fireworks show just over at the Short Hills mall.
Time to pack up. Surprisingly this journey ended with 4 checked in luggage – 2 x large suitcases which we brought and the 2 x trolley bags packed to the brim with stuff. Imagine this : the products were shipped in bulk via large 20′ containers from China to the US (probably Los Angeles), transported to the East Coast of the US. We are bringing this in small packs via air back to Singapore…
A late morning wake-up and check out at 1pm, we drove to the Mills at Jersey garden to do some last day window shopping. Then it was off to return the car and getting to the airport for the flight home!
|After a lazy morning, we checked out at 1pm and headed to the Short Hills mall for a quick lunch before we embarked on a harrowing drive towards JFK airport. This time we took the route that skirted Manhattan and looped around via the Verrazano bridge.||The toll to this parts cost a||grand US$15!|
|The bridge is said to be the longest suspension bridge in the United States.||It also has an upper and lower deck like most others. It would have been a pity to drive on the lower deck as the views would have been obstructed, so we are on top! Either the GPS is not set up well or whatever, but we seemed to turn circles before getting to the airport.||Eventually topped up the car and returned it after a long search in the traffic jam.|
Like our experience in San Francisco, the traffic one of the bugbears of driving in the US for us. While in Singapore there are similar jams on the roads, it is not quite like the “parking lots” that these freeways become whatever the reason is. Yes we know this is not a US challenge and similar conditions exist elsewhere (London’s M25 comes to mind).
Overall this journey around the world in 42 hours (flight time we mean) was a record for us. Despite all the air travel we’ve done for the last 20+ years, this was the first time we flew round the globe.
Life is about experiences, one more in the bag for us!