This drive is one I've been dreading for a while as it would take us dangerously close to New York City and it's legendary traffic. Frankly, though, the drive was uneventful other than the highways in Eastern Pennsylvania being beat to hell and super bumpy. After a fairly quick drive, we crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson and turned north on Hwy 9 through some narrow roads in riverside towns. This kind of driving while towing always makes me nervous, but knowing it was the recommended route to our campground reassured me somewhat. We even drove through the town of Sleepy Hollow. Yes, THAT Sleepy Hollow from the "Legend Of". Who knew? I always assumed it was either made up from the stories or was further up in New England, but nope, it's on the Hudson just north of the Tappan Zee Bridge.
We fretted over campsites in the New York area for quite a while. The tended to either be close in to the city and really expensive, but basically parking lots, or they were so far out of the city that getting into sight see would be a multi-hour affair. Finally, I stumbled across a real gem. Westchester County runs a park in Croton-on-Hudson called Croton Point Park. It has an RV park. It's only $250/week to stay there. It's within walking distance of a commuter train into the city. It's lovely and green and reminds me of a nice state park. It was perfect. Frankly, it's so perfect, I'm surprised that it wasn't totally overrun with long-term residents taking advantage of the easy access to the city and reasonable rates compared the local rents. There were some, but not all that many long-term residents. Crayton found one that had a little girl just a bit older then him. They kept a camper here for most nights and weekends even though they had an apartment in mid-town Manhattan. They were considering moving into the camper fulltime, but the dad has a vendor permit in the city and sells stuff on the street to tourists and this would be a heckuva commute for him. Crayton spent as much of the week as he could playing with their daughter Elizabeth. They weren't around a lot so much of the week was spent listening to Crayton say "I want to go see if my friend is home" over and over and over again.
Crayton and his new best friend Elizabeth
The week was my first full work week in a while and it felt good to get back into the swing of things there, but quickly enough, with the heat and rain keeping us indoors a lot as well, I was ready to get out of the camper and see the city. So Saturday we boarded the train and set off for New York City, the Big Apple, The City of Dreams, The City So Nice They Named It Twice, The City That Never Sleeps, Empire City, Gotham. Crayton was really excited. There's a TV program we've watched online for a few years now called "Travel with Kids" in which a family with two young boys go all over the world showing what kid-friendly things there are to do. It's a great show and Crayton has been watching the episode where they go to New York on repeat lately. We only had one day to spend in the city, so we couldn't do everything they did, but we tried to make the best of our limited time. We arrived at Grand Central Station and had a late breakfast there at the station. Pam had been telling me about a New York 'delicacy' of nova lox on a bagel with cream cheese. I had to try one and sure enough we found a place selling them. Man that was a great, if expensive, breakfast sandwich!
We then walked north toward Central Park. We stopped at Rockefeller Plaza to check out the sights and Crayton spotted a Lego Store, so we had to check it out. What a great place! Every Lego set you can imagine! loose bricks! mini-figs! The staff were great too, taking the time to find out what Crayton liked and show us around. Crayton picked out a small 3-in-1 dinosaur set and we picked up a Lego magnet of the Statue of Liberty as well . We continued on north to Central Park and decided to check out the zoo as it's the one 'featured' in the Madagascar movies as well as Curious George. It was nice, but not as nice as either movies would suggest. I always kind of feel bad for the animals at zoos. Particularly ones that don't have a focus on conservation, like this one. The claimed to, but didn't appear to be actively working on endangered species breeding programs or supporting conservation outside of the zoo itself. It was a disappointment. Leaving the park, after checking out the Ice Age 4D movie (really cool!), we walked through the park looking for a large field where we could sit and relax a bit and check out the skyline before heading down to Chelsea for our boat tour. We found a spot and it was loaded with dragonflies as well as picnickers. Wishing we'd had a blanket with us and more time to spend, we had to move on, walking over to a subway station and heading south to 23rd St. Getting off the train we realized we only had 10 minutes to check in for our tour, so we speed walked and even ran a bit to get there just a few minutes late, but not too late to check in.
A poor bear at the Central Park Zoo
Enjoying the view of the skyline from Central Park
The boat tour was on the sailing schooner "Adirondack 2" with just 45 or so other people on board. We took seats right by the captain so I could pepper her with questions as we sailed to the Statue of Liberty and back. Crayton was nervous at first. We've been watching a lot of sailing YouTube videos of families that sail full-time and he's in love with the idea of sailing, but this would be his first time on a sailboat and we were a bit nervous for him, too. But we needn't have worried, he loved it! He found a slightly older boy on the boat and they hung out together while we chatted alternately with his family and the captain. The winds were light at first, so we motored, but once the breeze started to pick up, they put up all three sails and at some points were were hitting close to 10 knots! Crayton was happy to see the Statue of Liberty fairly close up, seemed comfortable walking around the moving deck and made himself useful taking people's empty cans and cups to the garbage hatch. I enjoyed watching the other boats go by, admiring the city skyline and talking to the captain. It was a perfect introduction to sailing for us and a perfect day for a few hours on the water.
Crayton's first ride on a sailboat!
Sails up past Lower Manhattan
Lower Manhattan from the water on a beautiful day
A near perfect replica
Greetings from New York!
Back on land, we walked over to a local Mexican Restaurant called Fonda in Chelsea. We spent way more on dinner than we intended, but it was without a doubt the best Mexican food and margaritas I've ever had. We even treated ourselves to a taste of my favorite tequila, El Tosoro Paradiso. Full of food and tequila we started walking back uptown. Without even realizing it, we had walked all the way past Madison Square Garden, through Times Square, and back to Grand Central Station. As it was just starting to get dark, Times Square was a bit of a madhouse. There were tons of people. Tourists, hawkers, locals and freaks alike. Crayton loved the busy excitement of it all. Of course he was cozy in his little portable stroller we'd held on to and didn't have to navigate the craziness on foot. We escaped, found our train and headed back up river to our little camper home... sleepy, sore and full of memories of this huge city we'd only scratched the surface of.
Our one photo from Times Square. Too Chaotic!!
We had plans to go back into the city on Sunday and take a bus tour that we'd already bought on Groupon. By the time we got up and moving, though, we just didn't have it in us. Exploring large cities, mostly by foot, is exhausting and we were all a little sun-singed, tired and feeling under the weather. Crayton was upset as he was ready to go, but eventually he accepted that we would just have to come back to New York another day and that we were heading to Vermont on Monday and that would be a whole new adventure. On a related note, we have three open-top bus tour groupons for sale. I think they're good thru October. ;)