May 11: Adventures in New Jersey

[posted to the Wheeled Migration Yahoo Group on May 11, 2005]
It's my last night in New Jersey! If you've looked at my photos since my last message, you have a pretty good idea of what I've been up to, but here's a brief rundown:

I stayed in Montclair with Uncle Dave longer than I'd originally intended because my friend in Poughkeepsie isn't available to see me until this Saturday, and because he was willing to put up with me. ;-) I've made myself useful around the house.

Last Wednesday Dave drove me around Brooklyn and Queens, and then he took me to his workplace so I could try flying the jet simulators. Now, I flew a real plane once, a single-engine propellor plane that I had helped to free from Oklahoma mud. The owner handled take-off and landing; I just tried to fly the thing in a straight line, but it was so difficult that I lost any interest I had had in flying. But if the simulators are accurate -- and Dave swears they are -- these corporate jets practically fly themselves. The avionics tell you what to do, the autopilot does what you tell it, and the rudder pedals are totally unnecessary as long as there's no crosswind. Anyhow, it was fun!

Thursday I rode the bus into Manhattan and walked the length of Central Park. Then Dave and I drove to Poughkeepsie to see my cousin Audrey inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, and we brought her home for the weekend.

Friday I went to the American Museum of Natural History, which still beats the pants off the Smithsonian. The recently renovated Hall of Ocean Life is spectacular, and the new Hall of Biodiversity is excellent as well. If you go to http://www.amnh.org, you can read a transcript of the planetarium show I saw about whether there's life on other planets... the script is so detailed you can imagine the visuals.

Saturday, as it happened, I met the best friends of all three of Dave's kids: Ethan's girlfriend Heather (who met him after he joined the Marines but before he was sent to Iraq), Audrey's lifelong best friend, and Daniel's friend Dan. (Yes, there are two Daniels in my family, and soon there may be three Heathers.)

Sunday we drove Audrey back to her school, which is in the Catskill Mountains where spring has not yet sprung.

Monday I borrowed Ethan's car to check out the roads I'll ride when I leave here tomorrow, because this corner of the state is not covered by njbikemap.com. The roads look OK, but I'll want to avoid rush hour, and the campground I'm headed for is up a few miles out of my way and up in the mountains, so I might chicken out and get a hotel instead. I burned $10 worth of fuel just driving out there and back!

Tuesday I biked to the town of Paterson, which I'll pass through when I leave, but I wanted to be sure to see the Great Falls on a nice day. As picturesque as the falls are, few New Yorkers go to see them because Paterson is a very blue-collar town.

This morning I returned to Manhattan and rode the subway to the southern tip of downtown, Battery Park. I walked from there to the World Financial Center, where there's an exhibit about the plans for the WTC site. Ground Zero itself just looks like a construction site at present, but I got a photo of a nearby building that hasn't yet been repaired from the blast.

From there I walked through Greenwich Village to Washington Square Park, where professional chess players crush the overconfident and take their money. But business was slow, because the park was being set up for NYU's graduation festivities.

That's about it... I'm set to hit the road as soon as rush-hour traffic wanes tomorrow morning. I'll write again before I cross into Canada, towards the end of next week. See you then! --Ben