Sunday, September 18, 2011

(9) PA: NYC - so much to see!

On my city tour of New York City in August this year our tour guide was so resourceful. At times it felt like a bit of an information overload and I wish I had my note pad out and scribbling while driving around in the bus and taking pictures all at the same time - but sadly I couldn't do it all together and I did not remember every interesting detail he mentioned. I wish I could.

Thankfully I do remember quite a lot and some bits of the rest - it is the blanks that I have been filling in with some additional reading online, hence it taking me a while to write my next post on New York City. (Those of you who are only joining me now can read the first installment of my adventure here. For the rest of us we can just pick up where we left off, right? (*smile*) Let's go!

I love cycling but when I saw this I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. You'd better be fit if you're going to be doing this for a living. I suppose a good or a bad day will depend on whether you have a more weighty or lighter load. I love the plastic cabin cover but I still don't think it is a good idea in the rain - not my idea of fun anyway. And if I cycle I prefer to do it alone. Shame, I wouldn't have the heart to expect of someone to peddle me around in the rain either. Then again, he might want to strap some paddles on. Never know when it might come in handy - haha

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

(8) PA - A long, EXCITING day in NYC

Once I heard that Pennsylvania is not that far from New York City I felt excited. Maybe, just maybe, we could squeeze in going there then? I hoped. A few suggestions were made, one of which was to check with my friend, Nancy, whether she would be up to spending a day in New York with me and showing me around a little.

Nancy and I 'met' on Facebook. We have been e-mailing back and forth for about eighteen months but I have never met her in person. As excited as I was about the prospect of seeing the Big Apple I wondered if we would hit it off as well in person as we did in writing. The thought even crossed my mind, "What if we don't quite gel?" But then again, we had been chatting for eighteen months. Come one! The girl simply adores me! (*giggle*) I made up my mind that we weren't only going to be just fine, but we were going to have a blast - and we did!!

Initially when I found out that we were going to Pennsylvania I really wanted to make use of the opportunity to meet with Nancy but I didn't quite know what we should do for our memorable occasion. Initially I thought maybe just a simple meal at a restaurant or maybe just coffee. However, I have to be honest: those ideas were nothing compared to seeing New York!! Who would want to go for a breakfast if you can take a bite out of the Big Apple instead?!

Once I had mentioned the idea of NYC to Nancy she was in - boots and all! Within a day or two she had

Monday, September 12, 2011

(7) PA: the day before New York City

Nothing like working up a good appetite walking in Lackawanna State Park before going to dinner: All you can eat clam special. It was a fun day.
We went for a walk in the Lackawanna State Park. Under the canopy of the beautiful green tree tops you can walk for miles in the beautiful woods.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

(6) PA: Explore, explore some more with me

So... we had finally arrived in Pennsylvania. Now what? It was time to start expl-o-ring. Join me for a bit of sightseeing, why don't you (*smile*)

What's that strange looking "thingy magic"? If you haven't guessed it... It's a jukebox in a diner booth. Cool! right? What makes this different is that it's not a jukebox for the whole diner. This is only for the occupants of this particular booth. The question that rose in my mind was, "How does each booth listen to their own selection? A bit of a mad house, don't you think?" Apparently not so. This is listened to at a volume only loud enough for your own booth. Hmm... Stereo speakers...? Maybe that is to make the soft music more clear? It certainly can't be to make it loud, right?

From what I gather it works similar to a vending machine. It uses quarters (25c) and your selection is made using the letters and number, e.g. D7 - almost like selecting your favorite chocolate or drink. I only saw these in the one diner where we ate.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

(5) PA: Red means stop (for now anyway...)

Now! Now! I know some of you must be anxiously looking forward to the New York City pics but we're getting there... Remember, we had to drive to Pennsylvania first. I've taken so many pictures and I'm still processing them. 500 just in NYC! Remember, see what I see, yes?

Not even the uncomfortable car seat could ruin a beautiful morning like this one. I had no idea what we were driving throught the night before while it was dark. I've heard so much about the mountainous landscape of Pennsylvania, but it was more beautiful than I imagined.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

(4) PA: It will be dark soon (still day 1)...

By the time we reached Indianapolis we've been driving for roughly 12 hours with only short breaks to refuel, breakfast and lunch. I simply loved all of what I've seen so far; I was still on an adrenaline high and far from tired. Besides, I haven't yet had a chance to drive. I would have my opportunity soon enough - yay!

Approaching Indianapolis... A comforting sense of familiarity - again (*smile*) This is one of the biggest cities that we drove through on the way.

Recreational riding is popular in the US. Wearing a helmet is mandatory by law in 20 states, only mandatory for some riders in 27 states and in 3 states there is no law in this regard. In Kansas you don't have to wear one except on the military base. Personally I prefer wearing one. It just seems like the responsible thing to do, you know.  
Beautiful view; a glimpse of civilization the way I'm used to it. Until now I've only seen this kind of America in the movies and now I was driving in it. 
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: a highway.
City scape of Indianapolis from the highway.
Look familiar anyone? I was fascinated by the blue on these bridges. It wasn't until we drove back and passed it a second time that we noticed that it is part of a space theme around the highway. They had all sorts of space shuttle cartoons "engraved" into the concrete on the side of the road. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of it - sorry :(
There's that famous off-ramp to the right...
Garett was a little concerned that we were going to hit Indianapolis during rush hour traffic. His memories of the highway was a little unsettling and he didn't want to have a repeat experience. We only realized it just on the other side of town that the time zone changed in Terre Haute, Indiana, so instead of it being 5pm, it was already 6pm and the worse was already over.
Those little VW bugs are also rather popular around the cities... Seeing as we've already been driving for 12 hours by this time it was quite a relief that this highway was not that busy. Just like everyone rushing home to dinner we were starting to feel like it was time for dinner and a decent break.

Unfortunately it was dark after dinner and I couldn't take any more pictures. Finally it was my turn to drive. The weather was cool and rainy - much appreciated after the fairly hot day in the car. We got to see a spectacular display of lightning. We decided to drive as far as we felt the energy to do so safely. It turned out to be around 3:30am. Now both Garett and I were pooped and we decided to find a safe spot to take a break until at least sunrise.
Note to self: Liane is too tall to take a nap on the front seat; comfortable for driving but not for sleeping. I would have preferred the backseat instead but it was filled with luggage - sadly no luck there :( Either way it was a welcome break. The upside was that we wouldn't have to drive another full day to our destination. We were now already within the state of Pennsylvania and I was slowly starting to look forward to getting the long drive behind us.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

(3) Road trip to Pennsylvania: Day 3 (blog) of day 1 (trip)

Just recently someone made the comment to me that they wish they could be where I am and see what I see. So with that in mind I set out on this road trip to take pictures of things that you wouldn't usually see in travel magazines. On the one hand I very much enjoy seeing the pictures that provoke a "oooh!" and "aaah!" response, but on the other hand I also enjoy seeing some of what is to the left and the right of that moment that is frozen in time. Does anyone else ever wonder that?

So to some a highway is a highway is a highway, but to me it is seeing what is to the left and to the right of the famous image that is always portrayed in magazines or on television. It is a taste of "real".

What strikes me often as very fascinating is how other countries are portrayed in a way that makes them look so much better than the place where you live. When you're marketing some place as a tourist attraction it makes a lot of sense, but what is beneath all of the glamour? Is there also "ordinary" the same as what we get bored with where we are everyday, or take for granted? Is there also crime and poor areas or dirty areas? No one likes to show those, huh? But when you get your head out of the cloud isn't that some of what you see everywhere in the world - even if in varying degrees?

Anyway... where were we?

I completely agree: wearing safety belts are wise. How some people drive without them I really don't understand. I feel almost "naked" without it on; so vulnerable. In some other places there were signs that said, "Seat belts for the next million miles"! I kind'a enjoyed the creative way of saying "always" instead of boringly spelling it out. Almost as if saying everyone should know it by now.
Well, well, what do you know: the same BP sign. I've seen this before!
About 350 miles into the trip (560km) it is time to refill on gas and check oil and tire pressure. Garett is being very responsible. Note the little device in his left hand: the gas station does not have a pressure guage for you to measure the air in your tire. You actually need to drive around with your own tire pressure guage. If you don't have one you're either someone who don't care about the right pressure or you're pretty darn good at sucking your thumb. You can either view this as something new to learn - yay! - or you can feel it as a big inconvenience. I think especially the ladies in South Africa often count themselves very privileged to have someone at the garage to help you with this kind of thing. For me the missing guage is rather annoying when I try to put air in my bicycle tires.  
HYUNDAI! One of the popular car brands here (although not exactly taking over the market), especially in the bigger cities I've seen more of them, and especially the Tuscon.
Approaching St Louis, Missouri - This is what a lot of the highways look like around the bigger cities. St Louis is also where Joyce Meyer lives. I love her ministry and what they do across the world.

One of the things that took me a while to get used to in the US is not just driving on the other side of the road, but that everything else that we take for granted so easily is also opposite, like the on- and off ramps on the highway. It is still - or was anyway until before this trip - quite odd for me to take an offramp to the right, or to watch out for traffic flowing onto the highway from the right hand side. Driving on these big highways (interstate) is not too hard because all the lanes on one side go in the same direction. Oncoming traffic is not really an issue - less that confuses your mind - and rather the same as driving a left hand drive vehicle on a South African highway. It sounds odd but it is almost easier driving on the big highways instead of a smaller road with two way traffic, believe it or not - for me anyway. What it helped me with a great deal was that the highways didn't scare me at all. I felt rather at home - just always having to remind myself that I need to move over to the right for an off ramp, that the fast lane is on the left (instead of on the right) and of course that the gear stick is also on the right in case I need to respond quickly. What I also liked about the bigger highways was that you could do a moderate speed that you felt comfortable with and there was room for other "Schumaghers" to overtake you with ease on the left or the right. I'm still only a "Schu" so far and working on it (*wink*)
There we go: St Louis, Missouri - officially
...the same kind of concrete divider in the middle like we're used to in South Africa...
...same kind of fly-overs and bridges that I know... The reason why this is so interesting for me is that such a big deal is made of South Africa being a third world country vs some larger countries in the world, and yet what are all the cool stuff that we have to enjoy and to be grateful for that is the same in the first world countries of the world! We're not that far behind in all regards. Or maybe the concept of third world country is often used in the wrong context.

Sometimes those who seek to "escape" the country to some place better make it sound like other places are heaven compared to what we know. I've often wondered just how true some of those stories are, or is it purely the perspective of someone desperately seeking greener pasture and through their eyes they only see the impressionable opposites of that which they are running away from.

For instance, I've heard people quote unemployment rates like other countries don't have any poverty whatsoever - I don't think that is true. There's always rich and poor, even if it is billions vs thousands. I don't think there is any place where everyone is only billionairs (although I did see an article on Yahoo the other day where rich people were/are planning to build their own island in international waters and for it to be recognized as their own country - if I remember correctly)...

I've even heard people talk about other countries saying that they didn't have any pot holes! Really?! Is that a reason to move to another country? Well, people, let me tell you: America does have potholes, ok. In case that is your reason for imagrating, then this is not the country for you! (*giggle*) Or otherwise you'd have to get over here and drive through all 51 states to determine which one you'd prefer living in. Might take you a while... (*wink-wink* *ha-ha*)
Yip! There's the state line. Almost missed it!
Next we have Indianapolis; the largest city that we drove past/through on the way. Garett was convinced that the highway around/through this baby would totally freak me out. Now he had me intriqued. If you want to get me fired up then tell me that something is hard or cannot be done. That's when I really want to do it! Even if just to prove a point to myself. I can be so stubborn sometimes, but in the same way I've done many things that others have said couldn't be done. In my mind I have valid grounds for my suspicion of "impossible". I was going to have to wait and see for myself... Can't say till you've experienced it for yourself sometimes. Unfortunately Garett doesn't know what it is like where I'm  from so he doesn't understand what I am used to or not. I have to keep that in mind. 
Outside of the cities much of the highway looked like this... (One thing that stood out for me are all the trucks on the road. They are huge when you drive next to them in a normal sedan. And they don't play around, I'll say that much. I don't know when last that many trucks overtook me. I don't feel intimidated that easily on the road, but I had a new respect for these trucks when we were done. They don't shlep along in the slow lane backing up the traffic. They motor and you get out of the way! However, I have to add: I came across only one truck driver that I thought was driving careless and inconsiderate - not just toward cars but even other trucks. Otherwise they are actually quite polite from what I've seen. 
Pocahontas..? Wasn't she some native Indian chick living in a forest on an island somewhere that was threatened by modern westerners and then she falls in love with one of them...? Hmm... maybe this is what those woods look like now and her home is just a half a mile from here... (*giggle*)  Most of what I remember about that movie is one of the songs in the soundrack, Colours of the wind sung by Vanessa Williams.
At first the landscape was nothing more than agricultural land; fields and fields and fields of mostly beans, corn and soy, but as we progressed westward the scenery became more luscious - I almost want to say it had more of a tropical feel to it, similar to driving to the Kwazulu-Natal coast. At this point in our trip it was also starting to feel a little hot in the car and the airconditioning was a very welcome cooling down. Don't know for sure if it felt tropical because I was hot and sweaty, or if I was hot and sweaty because it is more tropical...  
On the one hand one of the difficult things about the lush growth right next to the road, however, is that it makes it harder to spot deer running toward the road. "Now you don't see me. Now you do!" Now, maybe if you're driving an 18-wheeler... no problem for you - shame! the little deer :( But if you're just driving a regular car there is no way of knowing.

On the other hand it felt pretty darn intimidating over taking one of these huge suckers! Because of how fast they're driving it took a while to overtake them sometimes. I found that I had to concentrate on the road ahead extra hard or I'd start feeling "drawn" to the truck with it's huge wheels constantly turning in the corner of my eye, the loud noice of the road and the engin - Garett likes to drive with the windows down - and the movement of the road and the scenery on the side from the speed of my own vehicle. A few times I wondered - but just for one second - how it happens that two cars drive "into each other" side by side... Then I'd accellerate just a little and just get it over and done with.