2011 Vacation: Day Eight: Acadia National Park

We spent day eight of our vacation at Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island, ME.  The views were tremendous!  We couldn’t have asked for nicer weather.  It was in the 70’s most of the day and sunny.

Tom and Sam climbing toward the top of Mount Acadia
Tom and Sam climbing toward the top of Mount Acadia

After I completed an eight-mile run through a portion of the national park, we set out to do some hiking.  Our first stop was Mount Acadia for a “strenuous” (according to the hiking map) hike to the top.  Sammy led the way, and occasionally forgot to watch for the blue blazes on the trail, so we wandered off the approved path twice.

View of Somes Sound from atop Mount Acadia
View of Somes Sound from atop Mount Acadia

We made it to the top without too much trouble and enjoyed the cool breeze.  It was just after 1000, and the morning fog hadn’t burned off yet, so all our pictures have that Smokey Mountains look to them.

We had lunch in a sandwich place in Bar Harbor and then headed to the park headquarters.  Then we drove along the park loop, enjoying the views.

Sammy at Thunder Hole
Sammy at Thunder Hole

We stopped at a site, called Thunder Hole.  A couple of hours before high tide, the tide rushes into the gap between the rocks and makes a crashing sound like thunder.  We arrived about a half hour late to hear Thunder Hole, but the views over the pink granite cliffs were outstanding.  We took some time here to take a batch of pictures.

Climbing one of several "ladders" up to the Beehive
Climbing one of several "ladders" up to the Beehive

Tom, Sam, and I decided to climb a mountain near Thunder Hole, called “The Beehive.”  This is another strenuous climb, so Candy decided to hang out near the Sand Beach (the only sandy beach on the island) and ogle, while we climbed.  The climb involved several ladders up sheer cliffs, shuffling along rock ledges, and scrambling over rough terrain.

Is that Arnold Scwartzenegger?
Is that Arnold Scwartzenegger?

Again, fearless Sammy left the trail and had us climbing over terrain we had no business climbing until we backtracked and got back on the trail.  We got behind a very overweight man who looked both petrified and exhausted, so we hung back a little.  I was worried he was going to fall off one of the ladders and take Sammy with him.

View from atop The Beehive
View from atop The Beehive

This picture doesn’t really do the view justice.  It was amazing up there!  It was well worth the 40-minute climb.

The Beehive from the ground
The Beehive from the ground

As we were climbing up, we were concentrating on the climb and the views.  We didn’t realize until we got back down how steep or tall The Beehive was.  If you look very closely, you can see one small white speck just over pine tree.  That is someone’s shirt.  That gives you some perspective on the climb.

We drove back into Bar Harbor to find a restaurant that had been advertised on the tourist TV station.  They claimed that “we do garlic right.”  Well that appealed to me.  When we found the place it turns out that they may do garlic right, but they charge you an arm and a leg for it.  We went to the pizza joint next door for calzones.  Both Tommy and I had fresh garlic in our calzones.  They were not skimpy with the garlic, and Tommy and I were safe from vampires well into the next day of the vacation.

One of the competitions at the Great Maine Lumberjack Show
One of the competitions at the Great Maine Lumberjack Show

After dinner we drove into Trenton, MA, just over the bridge from Mount Desert Island, for the Great Maine Lumberjack Show.  The owner and host of the show, Timber Tina, apparently was on one of the earlier incarnations of Survivor.  The show was really a lot of fun.  The humor was family friendly.  She took the time to explain the various lumberjack skills and competitions before they began, so it was also a bit of an educational experience.

Sammy learning to be a Lumber Jill with a cross-cut saw
Sammy learning to be a Lumber Jill with a cross-cut saw

At intermission, they show the kids how to use a cross-cut saw.  Sammy said the saw did most of the work and that it was really easy to cut the log.  We went to this show because it looked unique and fun.  It was a good choice.

Tomorrow we’ll spend a little more time in Acadia and then off to Moosehead Lake.

2011 Vacation: Day Seven: Lexington, Concord, and on to Maine

Entrance to Minute Man National Historical Park
Entrance to Minute Man National Historical Park

Today we visited Lexington and Concord, not far from Boston, MA.  I really could have spent more time here and would have liked to hike the Battle Road, but three hours were all Candy and the kids could take.

Minute Man Statue near the site of the brief skirmish on Lexington Green
Minute Man Statue near the site of the brief skirmish on Lexington Green

We began in the visitor’s center in Lexington, which is very close to Hanscom Air Force Base, where we spent the night.  This is the wrong place to start.  There is little in the visitor’s center and almost nothing related to the battle to see in town.  Except for this statue (above) and a nice diorama of the fighting at Lexington in the visitor’s center, Lexington is just a nice town.

From Lexington we headed toward Concord to the Minute Man National Historical Park visitor’s center.  Tremendous!  They have a 20-minute movie about Lexington and Concord which is outstanding.  (Even Candy and the kids enjoyed it!)  From the visitor’s center, you can get on the Battle Road trail (which would be good for walking, biking, or running).  There are a couple of buildings near the center that featured in the retreat from Concord in small ways.

One of the markers along "Battle Road," the line of march back to Boston from Concord
One of the markers along "Battle Road," the line of march back to Boston from Concord

The real highlight, however, is Concord.  They’ve reconstructed the North Bridge.  The visitor’s center (which is not nearly as nice or informative as the Minute Man one) is on the site where MAJ Buttrick had moved his men to better see the bridge and downtown Concord.  A student intern gave a very good talk near the bridge about the fighting at Concord.

Reconstruction of the North Bridge in Concord
Reconstruction of the North Bridge in Concord, where the "Shot Heard Round the World" occurred
Monument at Concord near the North Bridge
Monument at Concord near the North Bridge

I really enjoyed this visit, which rekindled my interest in the American Revolution.  Next time my friend Nick attends the Lexington and Concord re-enactment, I might see if his unit has some extra stuff they can loan me so that I could participate.  I might also like to drag Dave up here to run the 16-mile trail from Concord to Boston.

From Concord we headed to Southwest Harbor, on Mount Desert Island, ME, not far from Bar Harbor.  It was supposed to be a five-hour drive, but it took over seven, mostly due to really bad traffic around Boston and along the border of New Hampshire and Maine.  Once we checked into our hotel, just outside Acadia National Park, we went to dinner.  This Summer while on his week-long cruise with the boy scouts on Chesapeake Bay, Tommy had his first crab.  Since we are in Maine, Candy and Tommy had 1-1/2-pound lobsters.  Sammy was creeped out by Tommy’s lobster “staring at her” during dinner.  Tommy went after his lobster like he was dissecting it for biology class.  While the verdict was that lobster is “not my favorite thing,” he enjoyed it.

Tommy's first lobster at Sea Food Ketch near Southwest Harbor, Maine
Tommy's first lobster at Sea Food Ketch near Southwest Harbor, Maine

Tomorrow we’ll be hiking around Acadia National Park and also seeing a lumberjack show in Trenton, Maine.

2011 Vacation: Day Six: Plymouth and Beyond

Entrance to the Mayflower II Exhibit
Entrance to the Mayflower II Exhibit

After another run along the Cape Cod Rail Trail, we packed up and headed to Plymouth, MA.  Our first stop was to see the Mayflower II.  This ship is an authentic recreation of the Mayflower.  It was built in 1957 and sailed from Plymouth, England, to Plymouth, MA in 55 days.  While it has sailed to different parts of the US from time to time, it mostly rests in Plymouth, MA, as an exhibit.

The Mayflower II at dock
The Mayflower II at dock

The cost of entry was supposed to be over $100 for us to see this and the Plimouth [sic] Plantation (see below).  We must have found one of three non-Marxists in New England, because when Candy asked about the advertised military discount, the man behind the counter admitted us to both exhibits for FREE.  What a great way to start the day!    We thanked him several times, and he joked about possibly losing his job at the end of the day when the counted the till.  It was a very nice gesture.

Living history actor on board taking on the role of the ship's captain
Living history actor on board taking on the role of the ship's captain

There were two living history interpreters on board when we visited.  This one in the picture played the role of the ship’s captain.  I learned a great deal about the economics of 17th century merchantmen from this man.  He was very interesting.  Below on the Orlop Deck was an actor playing the role of a seaman.  Topside was a plain-clothes docent who was enthusiastic and informative.  One of her interesting stories was the fact that the Mayflower only had a 20-foot draught.  In heavy weather the yardarms could touch the water.  I had always heard that the pilgrims were not allowed on deck, but after this discussion I realized that was for their own safety.  Apparently one of the pilgrims who was on deck (illicitly) actually fell overboard and would have drowned had he not luckily grabbed a line that had also fallen into the water.

We thought that the ship would be the sidelight and that the main event would be Plimouth Plantation.  We enjoyed the ship more than the plantation.

Entrance to the Plimouth village
Entrance to the Plimouth village

At Plimouth Plantation they built a Wapanoag (Indian) village and a reconstruction of the 1627 Plimouth settlement.  We found the Wapanoag village underwhelming.  There were several living history re-enactors there, but they interacted very little with the visitors.  When we did ask questions, we received short, curt answers.  There were two men apparently building another long house, but they couldn’t be bothered to talk to us about what they were doing.  The only vocal person was a woman who was expounding on the evil Europeans.

Tom and Sam at the Wapanoag village
Tom and Sam at the Wapanoag village

One thing I found interesting was that the corn was planted as the Indians would have done so.  It was not planted in tight rows as we do today.  It was planted in a more open, non-row pattern with an equal distance between plants in all directions.  Clearly using rows gives you more corn per acre.  This is the kind of attention to detail that characterized the Plimouth Plantation.  After a little while we moved on to the Plimouth settlement.

Part of the reconstructed Plimouth settlement
Part of the reconstructed Plimouth settlement

They’ve done a tremendous job of using historical records to lay out this village, complete with stockade walls, meeting house, and various dwellings.  There were a few living history re-enactors around the village taking on the roles of various historical personalities.  They had really done their homework and could talk in great detail about the persona they were taking on.  One of them had some interesting insights on the relationship of the common folk with the royalty and Church of England.

View down the main street of Plimouth settlement from the meeting house
View down the main street of Plimouth settlement from the meeting house

While there were several living history re-enactors scattered around the village, the man representing John Brewster (the religious leader) and one of the men in the process of constructing a new house were the most informative and outgoing.  One thing notably absent were working craftsmen in the village.  Other than the three men building a new house, most folks were wandering around talking to visitors.  As a result, it was difficult to get a sense of what daily life was like in the colony.

Most of the buildings were decorated to this level of detail
Most of the buildings were decorated to this level of detail

Probably the most interesting tidbit of information was the reason the pilgrims came to the New World.  They had fled from England to Holland for religious freedom (their Church was outlawed in England), but not being citizens of Holland, they were relegated to a very menial existence.  They petitioned the king to form a colony for economic reasons.  By the way, half the folks on the Mayflower were not part of the pilgrims’ religion, but participation in their ceremonies was compulsory for all members of the colony.

Candy and Tom replacing secret blue prints in the Cabal safe
Candy and Tom replacing secret blue prints in the Cabal safe

From Plymouth we headed to Foxboro (outside Boston) to a place called Five Wits.  I had read about their immersive entertainment experiences in the IAAPA trade journal some years earlier.  As I am a zealot for mixed and augmented reality for training and entertainment, I really wanted to see this.  In the Foxboro location they have two “shows:” Espionage and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  Both experiences involve a plot line that has the participants moving through several rooms.  In each room you have to solve one or more puzzles to move to the next room.  Most of the puzzles were clever.  After cracking the safe of the evil group Cabal, in the picture above you see Tom and Candy replacing the blueprints to hide the fact that we had been there.

A "steampunk" exhibit in the front lobby
A "steampunk" exhibit in the front lobby

The second event was the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea experience.  The event was of similar design but with a Jules Verne appearance and a different set of puzzles to be solved.  We disagreed on which experience we liked better.  Both had their plusses and minuses.  We really enjoyed both.

Steampunk bicycle in the museum that was the hidden entrance to Nemo's Nautilus on which our adventure took place
Steampunk bicycle in the museum that was the hidden entrance to Nemo's Nautilus on which our adventure took place

Tomorrow: Lexington, Concord, and a long drive to Maine.

2011 Vacation: Day Five: Cape Cod

Park Headquarters for the Cape Cod National Seashore
Park Headquarters for the Cape Cod National Seashore

I began the day with a six-mile run along the Cape Cod Rail Trail, a converted railroad right of way for bicycles and runners.  After cleaning up, we headed to The Last Stop, a local deli, for tremendous breakfast sandwiches and sandwiches to take in the cooler for lunch.  Our first stop was the park headquarters for the Cape Cod National Seashore, where we took a couple of hikes nearby.

Salt pond near park headquarters
Salt pond near park headquarters

One of the hikes took us near this salt pond.  When glaciers receded from this area, they left blocks of ice that created depressions that filled with fresh water bubbling up from the water table.  These are called “kettle ponds.”  Over time, due to erosion and other factors, some of these kettle ponds became connected to the ocean.  The tide at this salt pond can change the water level by several feet during the day.  A lot of sea-water wildlife is left in little ponds as the tides go out each day, making it easy to see some of it up-close.  Incidentally, this was the only nature trail I’ve ever seen that was set up to enable blind people to enjoy it.  There were ropes to hold while walking the trail that had cork stops in front of plaques, written in Braille.

Plaque commemorating the site of the first trans-atlantic wireless station
Plaque commemorating the site of the first trans-atlantic wireless station
View of the beach from the site of Marconi's towers
View of the beach from the site of Marconi's towers

We stopped near Wellfleet, where Marconi set up the first trans-Atlantic wireless tower.  The ground has eroded around the area, so the original towers have fallen or been taken down, but the site is marked by a nice plaque and a scale model of the tower setup under glass.

Mayo Beach in Wellfleet
Mayo Beach in Wellfleet

You really couldn’t get to the beach near the Marconi site, so we drove to one of the public beaches, Mayo Beach, in Wellfleet.  We arrived about 1230.  By 1400, most of the beach was gone due to rising tides.  The water was VERY warm.  Apparently on this bay side of Cape Cod, the water is much more shallow, and therefore much warmer.  In this picture you see the kids fighting in vain to preserve the foundation of their sand castle from the encroaching tide.  They lost their epic battle against nature.

View from "Pilgrim Heights"
View from "Pilgrim Heights"

Later we stopped at an area, named “Pilgrim Heights.”  The pilgrims first landed at Cape Code and spent five weeks exploring various parts of the cape looking for a suitable site to build their colony.  This area is part of their second expedition, where they found their first fresh water since leaving England.  They didn’t think the area was suitable for a colony and eventually moved to Plymouth.  The view from here was really nice, because you could see salt pond, lower and upper marsh, and the ocean.  By the way, we made a bunch of mosquitos’ days walking along the marsh trail.

Race Point Beach
Race Point Beach

Working our way further up the cape we stopped at Race Point Beach to visit the old lifesaving station.  This is a nicely restored lifesaving station.  From here, members of the Lifesaving Service would watch for wrecked boats and launch into the stormy weather to rescue seamen.  The Lifesaving Service eventually was combined with the Coast Guard.  Near the lifesaving station is Race Point Beach, where we spent a little time on the white, sandy beach.  The Mayo Beach on the bay side was covered in broken shells and dead crustaceans.  Race Point Beach was white, clean sand, more like Panama City, FL.

Pilgrim Memorial
Pilgrim Memorial

In Provincetown, we saw the Pilgrim Memorial, the tallest granite structure in North America.  This commemorates where the pilgrims first landed.

Outside the Waydah Pirate Museum in Provincetown
Outside the Waydah Pirate Museum in Provincetown

Also in Provincetown was a nice little museum dedicated to showing off some of the relics and telling the salvage story of the pirate ship Whydah.  Whydah was commanded by Sam Bellamy, who was the most successful pirate ever — until his ship ran aground near Provincetown, cracked open, and went down.  There were only ten survivors, two of whom were sold into slavery and six of whom were executed.  The museum had interesting displays about how they found the wreck and how they bring up parts of the treasure.  At this point they’ve brought up only 6% of the treasure.

The rest of Provincetown was crowded and touristy.  While some of the shops and restaurants looked interesting, the crowds were so heavy we didn’t really want to go in any of them.  The crowds were thick, the drivers nuts (made worse by skateboarders weaving in and out of traffic apparently oblivious to the cars), and many of the locals of deviant proclivities.  Suffice to say other than the beach and the pirate museum, we didn’t enjoy Provincetown.  We were also getting hungry.  The pool at our hotel closed at 2000, so we drove back to Orleans so the kids could play in the pool while I picked up a couple of pizzas for dinner.

Tomorrow we’re off to Plymouth and then on to Boston.

2011 Vacation: Third and Fourth Days

We began the third day by backtracking a couple of miles to New London, CT, to see the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear submarine.  There is a VERY nice museum in New London to the submarine force.  We had intended to spend a half hour there, but we ended up staying 90 minutes.  The story of the Nautilus is fascinating.  I wonder if we have the same drive as a nation to accomplish great things like building the first nuclear submarine or putting men on the moon anymore.  It seems to me that when a country stops striving for great things it is on the path to mediocrity and merely a footnote in history.

Us in front of the USS Nautilus
Us in front of the USS Nautilus

After visiting the Nautilus, we took a quick spin through the grounds of the Coast Guard Academy.  It is a beautiful campus, but there is no visitor center.  Other than driving through the campus and identifying different buildings from the guide map, there really wasn’t anything to do there.

Candy and the kids on a water taxi ride to Fort Adams
Candy and the kids on a water taxi ride to Fort Adams

We then headed to Newport, RI.  This is where lots of rich people have their mansions.  As a result, prices were crazy expensive, making New York City seem pretty inexpensive.  After taking out a second mortgage to park, we took a water taxi to Fort Adams past all kinds of yachts with more square footage than the barracks at West Point.

Interior parade ground of Ft. Adams
Interior parade ground of Ft. Adams

Ft. Adams, built by Brigadier General Totten, is the largest fortification ever built in North America with the most sophisticated land defenses ever built here as well.  Forts McHenry, Sumpter, and Ticonderoga would all fit in the interior parade ground — at the same time — and still leave room for a large number of troop tents.  Ft. Adams was built after the War of 1812 as one of 40 or so fortifications built from Maine to Florida to ensure that never again would a foreign power be capable of attacking the United States.  You can only enter the fort on a guided tour.  The guide reminded us of Gilbert Gottfried, the actor, but he was very informative.

A 24-lb gun in one of Ft. Adams' casemates
A 24-lb gun in one of Ft. Adams' casemates

After visiting Ft. Adams we took a bus to the start of what is called “the cliff walk.”  It is a trail along the ocean.  Some of the going is difficult; other parts are easy.  The cliff walk runs behind many of the huge mansions for which Newport is famous.

Tom and Sam on part of the cliff walk
Tom and Sam on part of the cliff walk
The back side of one of the mansions
The back side of one of the mansions

It seems that many of these mansions are beyond the means of many of the rich folks to maintain.  Some have been developed as condominiums.  Others are now open for tours — at $15 each.  No thanks.  While some of the architecture was quite impressive, I didn’t have a lot of interest in seeing how the other half lives.

Illicit dinner outside a grocery store
Illicit dinner outside a grocery store

We completed the cliff walk late in the day and were quite hungry.  After the $4 hotdogs earlier in the day we were looking for something both quick and inexpensive.  We stopped at a grocery store and bought some prepared sandwiches.  We found a small coffee shop with exterior seating that was closed, so we illicitly staked out one of their tables for our “picnic” dinner.  We completed our day in Newport, RI, with a walk along Thames street to look in shops of stuff we don’t need.  I came close to buying a “bobble head” Robbie the Robot, but resisted.  The lessons of all the junk jettisoning we did on our recent move from Aberdeen to Severn were still to fresh in our minds.  We then drove to the Naval War College to stay in Navy Lodging — an adventure in and of itself — for the night.

A view of the Cape Cod Canal
A view of the Cape Cod Canal

Leaving Newport we eventually crossed the Cape Cod Canal.  This is widest canal in the US built at sea level.  It is this canal which designates the boundary between Cape Cod and the rest of Massachusetts.   We stopped briefly to put our hands in the water and then continued to Sandwich, MA, where we played miniature golf.

Sandwich Miniature Golf
Sandwich Miniature Golf

After some a little shopping in Sandwich we drove some back roads to Hyannis, MA, and eventually on to Orleans, MA.  Orleans is about the last built-up area prior to entering the part of Cape Cod which is largely nature preserve and beaches.

The Cove
The Cove

Candy found a place called the Cove, which is a nice mom-and-pop hotel in Orleans.  The room is large and clean.  We are right on the beach, but the hotel also has a heated outdoor pool.  (The kids like to play on the beach, but they prefer to swim in pools.)  We played miniature golf at Cape Escape Mini Golf in Orleans until the sky opened up and a boat with pairs of animals floated by.  We had had a large, Italian lunch in Sandwich, so we all had salads at Wendy’s for dinner while waiting for the rain to abate.  Then we finished our game and went back to the hotel for the night.

Tomorrow we’ll spend the day exploring and hiking the lower cape and perhaps spend some time on a beach.

2011 Vacation Second Day: Mystic Sea Port

The second day of our trip we drove about 90 minutes to Mystic, Connecticut.  Mystic Seaport is an outdoor museum featuring a whaling ship, Captain Morgan, which is under restoration.  In addition, there are a number of shops set up like a typical New England sea port village, such as a cooper, rope maker, printer, smithy (for making the metal parts of a ship), and a shop where wood is steamed and then bent to make boats.  All of the shops had interpreters and/or docents who did an excellent job discussing their “trade” with visitors.

View across the river from Mystic Seaport
View across the river from Mystic Seaport

One of the interesting exhibits was a history of light houses on three large monitors.  This display was inside the light house shown below.  It was an interesting presentation.  One of the interesting facts we learned is that many lighthouses have different paint schemes, called day marks, so that they can be distinguished in daylight as well as by different light patters at night.

Small light house at the end of the point
Small light house at the end of the point
Tommy and me with some of Mystic Seaport in the background
Tommy and me with some of Mystic Seaport in the background

At the shop where sextants, telescopes, and clocks were made and repaired, Sammy signed up for “Nav Quest.”  This was an activity that involved finding a series of points around the village using a spyglass and compass.  Sammy did a nice job of following the directions and finding all four points.

Tommy assisting Sammy with "Nav Quest"
Tommy assisting Sammy with "Nav Quest"

One of the interesting exhibits was rope making.  It turns out that the only missing requirement for Tommy to earn the Pioneering merit badge was making rope.  We learned about how at each phase of the process (fibers to yarn to strands to rope to cable) the material is twisted in the opposite direction.  It is these opposite twists working against each other that cause the rope not to unravel.

Tommy and Sammy making rope
Tommy and Sammy making rope

After witnessing the man overboard drill in the bay, Tommy and I helped hoist up the 2000-lb lifeboat.  This involved winding rope around the capstan and pushing it around in circles while one of the crew led us in sea shanties.  It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it might be; however, I can imagine it would get old if you were a sailor and had to do it all day, every day.

Tommy and me helping hoist up the life boat by pushing on the capstan
Tommy and me helping hoist up the life boat by pushing on the capstan

2011 Vacation Begins

As many of you know, we’ve been executing a plan to get the kids to all 50 states before my son goes off the school in four more years.  In a previous set of posts, I described our trip from last August to the Northwest US.  This year’s trip encompasses the Northeast.  After a very hectic week at work, combined with coming home to chores like putting up pictures and blinds in our new house, I was ready for this trip to begin.

Our first stop was New York City.  Now, you probably couldn’t see all the high points of New York in a week, but there were a few points we hadn’t seen in previous visits to the City.  On our last visit the kids were very  young, so we just wanted to give them a memory or two of the Big Apple.

The Battery area of New York from the Staten Island Ferry
The Battery area of New York from the Staten Island Ferry. The World Trade Center would have dominated this view.

On our way, the GPS took us down Canal Street, where we saw LOTS of freaky people and also a drug deal taking place.  Perhaps the kids are sheltered, but on this day they saw their first green Mohawk haircut.  We met Mark Ryan, who used to live in the city, had lunch in a New York deli, and then took the Staten Island Ferry.  We just took the ferry to Staten island and came back.  This gave us a view of Governor’s Island, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty.

Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry
Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry

After a walk around the are of the World Trade Center (which is what Tommy wanted to see) and the financial district, we drove up town to Central Park.  Mark had relatives from Germany arriving on Saturday.  We met them at one of his wife’s stores and strolled across Central Park together.

Tommy and Sam on a rock in Central Park
Tommy and Sam on a rock in Central Park

The park wasn’t as crowded as I expected it to be on the weekend.  Mark said that New Yorkers head to Long Island and elsewhere on the weekends.  We saw “the great lawn,” wandered past the the Central Park Zoo, and other sites.

Leaving Central Park
Leaving Central Park

Despite being surrounded by tall buildings, there are places in the park where you can’t see any of them or hear the traffic.

Sammy in front of FAO Schwartz
Sammy in front of FAO Schwartz

Sammy wanted to see FAO Schwartz.  It had changed a lot since the last time I had been there — nearly 30 years ago as a cadet.  It seems to me that it had more floors of stuff back then.  While it was impressive, I didn’t see any unique toys that I couldn’t get elsewhere.

Tommy and Indy (made from Legos)
Tommy and Indy (made from Legos)

There were several Lego “sculptures.”  Since Tommy is very fond of Legos, we took his picture with Indian Jones made of Legos.  We saw someone being assisted buying toys for a birthday party by a personal shopper.

Soon after visiting FAO Schwartz, we fought our way out of the city through traffic.  Mark told us the “good” route to take.  It would have been worse otherwise, but there was a huge accident on the West Side Highway (9A), so the entrances to it were blocked.  We ended up taking other streets to get to the Cross Bronx Expressway.

We passed New Rochelle, where Dick Van Dyke lived in the 1960’s sitcom, got some very good, but overpriced, burgers at an apparently regionally famous place called Burgers Shakes and Fries, and made it to our hotel around 2100.

It was a good first day!