Travel Journal, Days 7 – 9: Taking It Easy On The Way Back Home To Texas

June 21 – 23, 2017

Before we made it home to Texas, we relaxed in North Carolina. We visited Kevin’s parents for a full day. It gave us the opportunity to wash some clothes, sit on the couch, and tell the family about our adventures we had up north. Katelynn and Sara played with their cousin in the backyard. After sitting in the car for that long, it was great for them to run and get the wiggles out of their system.

The following morning, we packed, had a last breakfast with the in-laws in Morganton, and hit towards Texas. That day, we managed to make it all the way to Little Rock. We were done with the I-40 stretch, and had only the I-30 portion to Dallas left. The motel room looked fancy. And I really liked the firm mattress. Kevin and I looked for the tag, the next morning. I wrote down the brand and style. When it is time to retire our mattress, I have to shop and see if I find a mattress like the one in the motel. πŸ˜€

It was Friday morning. Being in Benton, Arkansas, we had less than 300 miles left. It was a relief, we were that close. The road was easy to drive. Usually rush hour is seems to be all day on Friday. It might be only a DFW Metroplex thing. At about 1 p.m. Kevin drove the van in our driveway. Our house had us back. The pets were so happy to see us, again. And the garden had whole lot more sunflowers. The neighbor’s daughter took care of our pets and the garden, while we were out of town. She came over to bring the keys back, after work. πŸ™‚

After technically exact 8 days, driving through 15 states, and 3752 more miles on the tachometer, it was a great feeling to be back home. The girls saw five more states; I saw four more states; and Kevin? He lost counting after traveling so much as a child. I’m sure he traveled a few more states than we did. πŸ˜‰ Live is good! And we have a lot of more conversation material for the future. I’m planning already the next NYC-trip in my head. πŸ˜‰

~ The End ~

5K-Runs, Independence Day-Parade and Fireworks

Rain, lightning, thunder … all night long. Kevin, Katelynn, Sara and I had a tough time to sleep. The night was over at 6 am, because we planned to got to the Liberty 5K Run in Stewart Creek Park at Lewisville Lake. The event wasn’t cancelled, and we got out of the house by 7 am.

At the parking lot we met our friends. And we all walked into the park together. We still had plenty of time, before the race started. Kevin and Sara stretched a little bit more. But Katelynn thought, she was fine. Later she said, it was a mistake. Her calves started to cramp, when she was running. Usually, she does the 5K under 40 minutes. This time, it took her almost an hour to reach the finish line. When Katelynn ate her yogurt, she said she should have stretched more. Lesson learned. Kevin came in at 36 minutes. And Sara was crossing the finish line at around 50 minutes. It was all for the fun of running for the girls. For Kevin it is more like an extra run to stay in shape for the Half-Marathon in October.

Once we all ate our snacks and drank some water, we walked back to the car. The Independence Day Parade supposed to begin at 10 am. And we still had 45 minutes to line up. Since it was sprinkling, a lot of people didn’t go to the parade. Kevin could park the van backwarts into the parking space. If the sky had opened more, at least we could have sit in the back of the van to stay try. But a little bit of sprinkling doesn’t keep us from cheering on the parade. This year’s theme was “Superheroes”. It was no surprise, that “Wonder Woman” was the Grand Marshal of the parade. Police vehicles, fire trucks, business trailers, churches, boy scouts, girl scouts, the City Council, and more lined up to greet and wish us a “Happy 4th of July”. Our town’s parades might be not the biggest and longest. But it is always enjoyable to get out and see people preparing for events in our community.

The sky cleared, and it turned out to be a nice evening. After dinner, we went to the “Liberty By The Lake” event, which was also in Stewart Creek Park. The “Tin Man Band” was live on stage, when we arrived and set up for watching the fireworks. The sunset was stunning at the lake. I haven’t watched it at the lake in a while. And it was a refreshing sight. The boats where lined up to see the fireworks on the lake. When it got darker, we could see all the lights from the boats out in the water.

When the fireworks started, I’ve noticed my camera battery was as good as dead. And I forgot to bring my charged battery. Oh well, there are more fireworks in the upcoming few days. Kevin, the girls and I shared a wonderful evening together. And that was much more important. ❀

Travel Journal, Day 6: From New Jersey To Philadelphia, And Back To The South

June 20, 2017

Tuesday morning, we left New Jersey. Surprisingly traffic was not very heavy. And we got out of the thickest in a decent time. When we went to a gas station, Kevin got a little surprised. In New Jersey, you don’t pump your gas yourself. It’s illegal in this state, and a gas station operator will do it for you. The windows got washed with no extra costs, in the meantime. But the gas is a little bit more expensive, because of the service. Kevin made a short comment to me: “Hehe, we need this in every state.”

Our plan was to make it to North Carolina by the evening. But first, we had to go and see another historic symbol of the United States of America. Leaving New Jersey, we entered Pennsylvania to get to Philadelphia. In Philadelphia we parked in the park house of the Independence Visitor Center. We had 30 Minutes to walk to Liberty Bell and come back to the car. And somehow, we did it. It wasn’t too busy in the Independence National Historical Park and in the building. Therefore, I could capture pictures in a decent time. And we got out of Philly fairly quick.

After Philadelphia, we reached Delaware (State #33). Being on I-95 it is not a wise idea to blink, or you’ll miss the State of Delaware. … LOL We stopped at a rest area to get a bite to eat. I loved, that they served a mix of German/American style sandwiches. The Turkey-Brie-Apple Ciabatta-Sandwich I had for lunch was very delicious. The lady at the counter warmed it for a minute, which made the cheese melt a little bit. I also had a Danish as a dessert. It was good, very good! Half of the sandwich, I kept for later on the road. Because it was very filling.

As soon as we passed Baltimore, Maryland, we decided to go on a different road. Since we’ve been in Washington, D.C. back in 2015, we could avoid the country’s capital traffic and make our way faster into Virginia. In Virginia everything goes in a slower pace. It was relaxing after the faster pace, we’ve experienced the days before. The landscape is stunning. We always enjoy driving through the Appalachian Mountains. Up and down the hills we went. People start to greet ya more often at the gas stations and rest areas. It’s a sign of being back in the South. ❀ At another rest area, we stopped a little bit longer. Katelynn and Sara needed to run and chase each other, playing tag and get some fresh air. Down the hill, I discovered some berries. And Katelynn found a centipede crawling in the grass. I let her watch it, but told her not to touch it. Katelynn loves all kinds of bugs. And sometimes, I have to remind her, it’s not a good thing to touch every creepy-crawly.

After refilling the little cooler with water and juices, we were back on the road. It felt so good to see the North Carolina state sign. It meant, we were not too far from our Tuesday’s destination anymore. Kevin got some bread, lunch meat, cheese, tomatoes and cucumbers. This was dinner at the motel for that evening. Kevin called his parents to let them know, we had arrived in town. We would meet for breakfast the next morning.

… to be continued …

Travel Journal, Day 5 (Part III): β™« New York, New York β™«

June 19, 2017

Ferries entered and left the dock very quickly. Once our ferry entered, it was our turn to get in the boat. Another rainstorm hit the bay, and the waves on the Hudson River were high. Katelynn felt a knot in her tummy and wasn’t sure, if she’ll keep her shrimp soup down. Sara thought, that ride on the river was fun. She really enjoyed these high waves. Arriving at Liberty State Park Landing, we let other passengers pass by to get to their cars in the parking lot. Katelynn took a couple of deep breaths, and her face gained its normal color, again. In the meantime, I’ve noticed something: “That’s how it works!”, I said to Kevin. “People are parking here in New Jersey, and then take the ferry to go to work or have fun in Manhattan. … Cool!”

It was still raining. But the clouds seemed to clear in the west. We saw the “Liberty House” and wanted to see, if we can stand under something to stay out of the rain. At the Liberty House were some patio chairs covered by an awning. The restaurant seemed to be closed. If somebody had shown up, I doubt they minded us sitting there to wait out the rain. The sun peaked through some clouds, before it was setting. I enjoyed the warm rays touching my face, when it popped in my head: “OMGosh, the sun is shining in the west. And it still rains in the east. Do you know what that means???!!” I ran south past the Liberty House, because it blinded my view to Manhattan. Kevin, Katelynn and Sara followed me with quick steps through the puddles. And there it was: a double rainbow sat over the skyline. The rainbow started behind One World Trade Center and where once the Twin Towers used to be. And it stretched all the way to the bay. Oh my, it was breath-taking! How lucky we were to witness this event, Mother Nature provided for us at that evening. It’s something, not every tourist gets to see. And we will cherish this moment for a very long time.

613

This was a very spiritual occurrence, we had in New Jersey looking over to Manhattan, New York. We’ve got rained out. But Mother Nature let us witness a beautiful moment.

And here are some photos of New York City and Jersey City. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy! πŸ™‚

β—Šβ—Šβ—Šβ—Šβ—Š

New York, New York

Start spreadin’ the news, I’m leavin’ today
I want to be a part of it, New York, New York
These vagabond shoes are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it, New York, New York

I want to wake up in a city that doesn’t sleep
And find I’m king of the hill, top of the heap

These little town blues are melting away
I’ll make a brand new start of it, in old New York
If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere
It’s up to you , New York, New York

New York, New York
I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps
And find I’m A-number-one, top of the list,
King of the hill, A-number-one

These little town blues are melting away
I’m gonna make a brand new start of it in old New York
A-a-a-nd if I can make it there, I’m gonna make it anywhere
It’s up to you, New York, New York

New York

Written by Adolph Green, Betty Comden, Leonard Bernstein β€’ Copyright Β© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

β—Šβ—Šβ—Šβ—Šβ—Š

… to be continued …

Travel Journal, Day 5 (Part II): At The Hudson River In New York City, New York

June 19, 2017

Despite the rain, Kevin, Katelynn, Sara and I did a little bit of sight-seeing in New York City. Personally, I prefer this weather over a hot and muggy day. And life still seemed to move on: We saw a lady walking a dog, a gentleman sprinting, and some people on bikes riding along the Battery Park City Esplanade. They didn’t seem to mind at all, that water came from the sky.

But before I can continue about river, I need to go back the PATH-Station first. Kevin looked at a map on his phone, before we decided to take a step outside. When Kevin had it mapped out, we past the memorial and walked down to West Street. I’ve noticed a lot of men in Gucci and Armani suits. And these people smelled so good. Making our way into Vesey Street, the clouds didn’t look very promising. We walked for shelter into the mall area of Three World Financial Center. Since the hot dog was holding us over only for so long, we used the time to make plans for dinner. “Let’s see what we can find along the river, once it stops raining again,” I suggested. Kevin agreed, while Sara looked up to the glass roof and said: “Look at this rain! So much rain!” She seemed annoyed a little bit. It was no fun for her to sit around and wait for it to stop. Katelynn replied: “Oh well!”

Finally we had a little break, we began to walk along the Battery Park City Esplanade. It didn’t take long, before we stumbled over this little seafood place named “Merchants River House”. We looked at the menu card posted outside, which sounded very good. Hmm, it made our mouth watery. “Let’s take a look!” Kevin suggested. We walked in, and I loved the view over the river. Seeing the Liberty Statue in the distance while having a good seafood dinner, made it very special. Katelynn considered “The Soup of the Day”. She asked the waitress, what was today’s special. The waitress replied, it was shrimp & clam soup. Katelynn was in heaven. She loves shrimps. And this would be a perfect meal for her. Kevin had a burger; Sara was excited, she had pizza for dinner; and I loved the “Vermicelli Pasta”, which is angel hair pasta, manila clams cooked in a garlic Chardonnay sauce. Sooo good! Since we enjoyed our dinner so much, we ordered some desserts as well. Kevin and the girls had chocolate and vanilla ice cream, and I went for the “Caramelized Banana Cheese Cake”. Sometimes we have to splurge, right? πŸ˜‰

After we paid for our dinner, we decided to walk back to the mall of Three World Financial Center. It made no sense to walk all the way down the esplanade to get a closer look at Ms. Liberty. Kevin took the girls with him to look at some stores for a couple of souvenirs, and I just took that moment to sit for a little rest on the bench. When they came back, they had some fancy chocolate from a French place in tow. I suggested we could take the ferry across the Hudson River. It was getting darker. And this would be a good opportunity to get some great photos of Manhattan. Kevin said, he was thinking the same about the ferry. They seemed to be fast and would bring us directly to the landing, where we wanted to be. Said, done! We walked down to the World Financial Center dock to take the fairy to the Liberty State Park Landing. While waiting for the ferry, we’ve learned, lots of people park in New Jersey and take the fairy to go to work or take care of other businesses in the city. More about crossing the Hudson River will follow, tomorrow.

Β … to be continued …

Travel Journal, Day 5 (Part I): From Niagara Falls To New York City, New York

I just went through some of my New York City photos and realized, that I have to split the travel diary of the “Big Apple” into several blogs. Here is the first part of it. And one or two more will follow in the next couple of days.

June 19, 2017

Monday was an odd day. On one side, I wanted to spent more time in Niagara Falls. But on the other side, I was excited to see the “City, that never sleeps”. To get there the fastest way, we had to drive through Pennsylvania and New Jersey. But first we’ve spent some time driving through New York state. And let me tell you: Despite being annoyed with the toll roads, New York has a beautiful landscape to offer. We stopped at a rest area, while it was drizzling a little bit. I loved the smell of the mosses, which grew on the tree trunks. And I got reminded by childhood memories, from back in Germany, when I saw those maple seeds. As kids we used to pick up the fresh green “helicopters” and opened them up a little bit to pull the seed out. The part where the seed was protected had a sticky residue. We split it and “glued” it to our noses. Now, we looked like rhinoceroses. Yeah, as kids we played some interesting safari games. Imagination was everything!

The weather became interesting in Pennsylvania. We drove through these sheets of rain. One moment it was try, then we saw the line of rain, and within the next few seconds, we were in it. It repeated about a couple more times, before we entered New Jersey (State #32). In New Jersey, it was a beautiful sunny day. We stopped at the Welcome Center to stretch for little bit, before we kept driving towards New York City.

Once we were close enough, we came over this hill and here it was, stretching from one point of the horizon to the other: Manhattan … WOOOW! NYC was right in front of our eyes. So close, but still so far away.

In North Bergen, we checked into our motel. After getting cleaned up, we called Uber. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long for the Uber driver to show up at the motel. Driving through the Lincoln Tunnel, the driver told us a bit about New York. He really enjoyed giving us some advise of certain sights. He also mentioned, he lives in New York for the last 28 years, and the city grew on him. He loves it so much, and he can not imagine to live anywhere else. I replied: “I totally understand. I feel that way about Dallas. Cities like them grow on you.” Our destination was the 9/11 Memorial. Carefully I asked the Uber driver, if New York has changed since the attack. He paused for a moment, then he answered: “Yes!” I felt, it was a very sensitive subject for him. But he continued: “About 70 percent of the population, who used to live in Lower Manhattan, moved further north towards Upper Manhattan. The attacks on that day scared a lot of people. They didn’t want to live close to Ground Zero.” I let him know, I appreciated his answer. Sara lightened up the conversation by pointing out every single hot dog stand, since Kevin mentioned he wanted to eat a New York Hot Dog. πŸ˜€ We also noticed, people are very busy and a little bit more impatient in New York, than we would see it in the south. But somehow, they figured it out. Not once have I seen a fender bender.

Arriving at the memorial, we said “Good-bye” to our Uber driver and parted ways. When we walked up to the fountain, which was once the place of the North Tower, a lot of people gathered around to show respect to the victims of 9/11. People talked quietly to each other. It was pleasant. Kevin picked up Sara, so she could see the fountain better. He explained to our girls what happened on that day in September 2001. Both girls listened very carefully to their Daddy. They had some questions, too. I was very proud of them at this moment. Because they were respectful, didn’t act out and kept their voices low. I was so impressed, I forgot to capture this moment in a photo. 😦 Then it was my turn. I laid my hands on some of the names stamped out of this beautiful metal plates. And I began to feel the pain. The pain wasn’t physically, but more mentally. Tears ran down my cheeks. It hurt so bad, but something told me to look up. And I gazed at the new tower. The mood began to change. I felt pride. This day took the wind out of us. But it couldn’t bring us down. One World Trade Center stands as a symbol for us Americans growing stronger and closer together. It reminded me, we should be kind to one another on a daily basis. It doesn’t really matter, if we have different opinions, believes, orientations, complexions etc. We should treat each other well.

Kevin found a hot dog stand behind the subway station. I found a bench, where the girls could sit together and enjoy their hot dogs. Next to them, two men had a conversation in German. I waved at them and asked them, where they came from in Germany. The older man seemed a little grumpy and answered: “Berlin!” I nodded and replied: “I’m from WΓΌrzburg.” The men looked slightly confused, and Kevin added: “We are also from Texas.” I guess, my accent mostly had confused them a little bit. Over the years, I gained a new accent in the US. Lots of Germans get a little bit irritated by it. They usually expect me to talk in my Franconian accent. But there is always some American slang mixed with it. I don’t hear it. But I think, it’s cute when people started pointing it out. πŸ˜‰

Clouds began to roll into the city. The sky became darker. A thunderstorm was in the forecast. Kevin, the girls and I looked for shelter. The World Trade Center PATH-Station seemed to be the perfect place. A lot of people had the same idea, and therefore it became crowded very quickly. While we were waiting out the storm, we checked out the PATH-Station a little bit. Kevin and I looked for some places to check out along the Hudson River, once the storm would pass by.Β Katelynn and Sara were glad, they were in a try spot.

… to be continued …

Travel Journal, Day 3: From Ohio To New York

June 17, 2017

Waking up to the smell of German-style pancakes, bacon and fresh brewed coffee was great on Saturday morning. Katja’s husband had fixed breakfast for all of us. The kids had eaten already and were outside catching frogs in the pond. It gave Kevin and me the opportunity to get cleaned up, before we would hit the road again. But before we left, we spent some time outside to look at the farm, the life stock and the frogs. Of course, we had to capture photos for our online albums. Before we left, Katja and her husband said we were welcome to visit again. We definitely have to repeat that. But next time, we’ll fly to Ohio. πŸ˜‰ After getting directions, how to get back to I-71 faster, we were ready to leave for New York.

After we passed Cleveland, we soon entered Pennsylvania. For the girls, this was a new state. Kevin and I have been traveling through Pittsburgh many years before. I’ve noticed a lot of vineyards along I-90. But the grapes were still teeny-tiny. East of Erie, Pennsylvania we made a stop at a park and had some homemade sandwiches. We all needed to stretch our legs, and the park was leading to a beach at Lake Erie. Katelynn and Sara couldn’t wait to get their shoes and socks off to get their feet wet in the water. When it was time to get out of the water, Kevin had to carry Sara to a shaded area. The sand got hot due to the sun baking it.

Soon, we entered New York (State #31). The whole toll road adventure began right at the border. Oh boy! New York state really knows, how to pull money out of people’s pockets. πŸ˜‰ Buffalo was only an hour and a half away. Once we arrived there, I was really excited to see the Niagara River. On the east side of the river is the USA; on the west side is Canada. After we crossed Grand Island, we made it to Niagara Falls (USA). We got a hotel room 1500 feet from the falls. When the helicopter landed and the pilot turned it off, we could hear the water falling. But we had to keep watching the falls for later that evening. First Kevin got some sodas and waters, so we could meet with his high school friends in the Oppenheim County Park. Jackie arrived with her daughter shortly after I managed to drag that heavy cooler across the field. I was glad, we had the first gazebo. Christine rolled in with her boys, minutes later. And she brought snacks. Oh my, her Texas dip was so great! I couldn’t stop eating it with some chips. Delicious! All the girls and the boys had a blast in the splash zone and at the play ground, while Kevin enjoyed talking about the good ol’ times, when they all were in high school. When Lisa finally arrived, she had some stories to tell as well. I can’t count, how many times I laughed so much, I had watery eyes. When the sun set and dusk crept upon us, we decided to go to the falls.

Walking from the hotel to the falls, the falling of the water became louder and louder. After walking over a little hill, the Niagara Falls were in sight. Both, the American Falls and the Canadian Horseshoe Falls looked very impressive. They reminded me once again, how small we really are as human beings. It’s very humbling seeing all this water falling 167 feet deeper to the lower part of the Niagara River, which flows from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. What makes the Niagara Falls very attractive in the dark hours are the different colors of light, that illuminates the water. It is so pretty to see it change colors every several seconds.

The evening turned out to be great. We made arrangements with Lisa and Jackie for dinner on Sunday. Kevin and I had plans to go to Toronto that day. And then we would have a nice meal in a Texas restaurant, after we come back into the US. Yep, we traveled all the way to New York to eat Texan food. πŸ˜€ πŸ˜‰ But I’ll write more of that, tomorrow.

… to be continued …