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
found opportunities for us to see as much as possible in the time we had available. We both knew that one day wasn't a lot of time and NYC is just too extravagant to fit everything in but she was determined and she did one hell of a job! Here's how it would go down:

We would take a bus into the city - a surprisingly short two and a half hour drive. That way we wouldn't have to be concerned with the stress of driving and traffic. Then we would have some free time to do whatever we wanted till our city tour started at 12:30pm. As part of the tour we would take a boat trip on the Hudson river - a very good vantage point for Lady Liberty herself. Afterwards, if we had enough time left, we would go for dinner, then back to the bus terminal and heading back to Pennsylvania. The best part: all of it was for under $100!

So before I get into the pictures and stories of the day - thank you, Nancy, for going out of your way to make this day as memorable as it could be. I wish we had more time but it gives me a good reason to go back there for more, and when I do, who knows, maybe they'll mistake me for an old New Yorker (for all I got to learn and experience on this trip). And thank you Garett for allowing me to have this adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed it - most certainly a highlight of our road trip for me. I very much appreciate having had the awesome privilege.

So without any further ado - let's go for it!

Initially Nancy checked the weather before confirming our reservations. It would be pointless trying to explore the city in the rain. The forecast looked good - 29* even though somewhat overcast with a 40% chance of rain. Even so, Nancy felt sure that it wouldn't be a problem. For once the forecast was pretty accurate.

Meet my friend, Nancy and her husband Joe. The bus boarded at 7:20am. Nancy send me a few e-mails to confirm the details just so I would know what is going to happen. The last one had the crucial information highlighted in yellow with some larger font and bold print. One of it was that I could not afford to be late! The next bus would only leave for NYC at 10:30 and then we would miss our tour for sure. Well, guess what? I was on time! In fact, I was early enough for us to have some of our coffee before we had to board the bus. How's that?! (*big grin*)

I was rather looking forward to the bus trip; I don't remember the last time I was on a bus. And although I love driving I actually appreciated that we could chat and enjoy the time together while the bus driver concentrated on getting us there. This was going to be fun! But then again...

The bus made about three stops on the way to NYC to pick up additional passengers. He was driving and we were chatting away. You can imagine that we had lots of catching up to do. During our roughly second stop the bus driver thought it was a good time to make some announcements. He announced that we were not aloud to talk as we were not considering the other passengers. Although he didn't point his finger at us perse but he didn't have to. Everyone knew that he was talking to Nancy and I. Maybe in a lame attempt to make it a little more general he also included that people should not use their mobile phones and they should turn the volume of music devices and laptops so that only they could hear it.

I couldn't believe it! Talk about a bucket of cold water... I thought that we were trying to be considerate even though I could understand that we might have gotten a little carried awayin all of the excitement, but it was still not full volume. (This bus driver has clearly not heard me at my best!) But in the spirit of common courtesy we did taper it some, but then again... this was a public bus for goodness sake! If you want silence then a bus is not the ideal form of transportation for you. Now put that in your pipe and smoke it! Or otherwise may I suggest you stick your iPod or MP3 in your ear and give me a break!!

Well, instead of getting all wound up about it like a cheap watch, we decided to take it in our stride. This bus driver was not going to rain on our parade. And besides: I packed my umbrella!
The excitement started mounting once we were able to see the actual city. I could gather that the lade in the right of this picture was also a tourist; she was constantly holding up her camera and snapping pics. She had a good front row seat though with a good view.
Our buss was a Greyhound on the way in and a Martz on the way out. Those are the two major bus companies in this area. The Martz bus had some trouble and our bus driver pulled over to check that he was organized and help on the way.

Next we were going to head through the Lincoln tunnel but before we get there we were going to drive on the open lane in the left side of this picture. Let me tell you: that is a narrow lane! It looks like it was initially two lanes which was then made into three. In passing some of the larger vehicles (like other busses for instance) I'm sure the distance between my window and the theirs was no more than a ruler (30cm.) Just imagine the distance between the sideview mirror on our bus and the next bus. The drivers seemed oblivious to this though. They had become so accustomed to navigating the narrow spaces - a fair amount of practise I guess. A good thing was that no one was racing anywhere. The speed limit was reasonable and everyone seemed to stick to it. Then again you can't really go very far or very fast in rush hour traffic, huh? I wonder if there is ever a day when this road is 'quiet'.
So there we are in the Lincoln tunnel. Personally I don't even want to smell what it smells like in that tunnel with all the carbon dioxide even though there is a ventilation system. I'm sure that air is still not clean, I don't care who says what I'm keeping my window wound shut!

The Lincoln tunnel cosist of three tubes - south, centre and north - each consisting of two lanes. The lanes in the centre tunnel are both reversable (i.e. during morning rush hour traffic both lanes head toward Manhattan - one lane exclusively for busses - and during evening rush hour traffic both lanes head toward New Jersey. The rest of the time it is two way traffic.)

Construction started on the first tube in March 1934 and the third tube was finally opened to the public in May 1957. All together the three tubes make for roughly 4.5 miles of road and carry approximately 120 000 vehicles per day, making it one of the busiest vehiculer tunnels in the world. In addition a few bicycle tours and foot races also pass through it every year by special arrangement. (I wouldn't mind cycling through it - without the vehicles, of course. The road is as smooth as a baby's bottom. The toll fees are obviously spent well.)
The New Yorker, an American magazine established in 1925, is well known for its illustrated and often topical covers, its commentaries on popular culture and eccentric Americana; its attention to modern fiction by the inclusion of short stories and literary reviews; its rigorous fact checking and copyediting; its journalism on world politics and social issues; and its single-panel cartoons sprinkled throughout each issue. It also has a wide audience outside of New York. (Source: Wikipedia) At night the sign lights up in red. (Source: Liane's logic)

Yip! The weather forecast was spot on: overcast. The one good thing I have to say about it is that it made for wonderful pictures. Many of the buildings are so high that you shoot up at the sky and they still don't fit into the frame. Now imagine trying that with the sun shining right into the lens. Minus the rain and trying to keep camera equipment dry I think the weather was perfect. And - gratefully - I did pack my umbrella and it served me well!
A busy bus terminal. We arrived perfectly on time despite stopping to check on the stationary bus. We are all on our way somewhere, aren't we?
Without those kids fooling around this wouldn't have been half as good a picture. haha The door frame and the three statue passengers are permanent fixtures in the middle of the floor. I wonder how many people have posed for a photo here?
This reminds me of the airport in South Africa, except this is for busses.
Lo and behold! Do these little booths not look familiar to anyone? It would seem "Made in China" uses the same little booths no matter where they go (*giggle*)

As we were walking I tried to draw as little attention to myself as I could while I snapped pics for my collection. All awhile I wondered Is it ok for me to take pictures...? Well, I guess if it's not then someone must just tell me... Just to make myself feel a little less like a 'terrorist' I voiced this to Joe. Two seconds after finishing my sentence there was an anouncement over the intercom, "...the use of cameras inside the building is not allowed..." Well, I guess that solved that one. Someone was clearly watching me (us)! (*grin*)
We were finding our way out to the street and I was telling Nancy about something that I read in the New York Times. As we step out of the building... what is right there? - Nancy pointing at it with her finger...

The New York Times was founded on 18 September 1851. That equates to 160 years of reporting! Now that is remarkable! Someone is obviously doing something right. The newspaper is owned by the New York Times Company which has been under the control of the Sulzberger family since 1896. The same company publishes 18 other newspapers too, including the International Herald Tribune. The paper was originally printed in an 8 column black and white format - sjoe! That is a lot of columns on the eye. It was one of the last papers to change to the 6 column format and also to using colour photography. It is reported to be the most pupular American online newspaper website today with 30 million unique visitors per month.
Probably the most noticable visual difference between New York City and Johannesburg for me is the use of electronic media and lighting. If SA used this much electricity for advertising Eskom would probably declare a permanent power outage to the rest of the city. The lights add a certain energy to the city though. It is a big part of the atmosphere on the street. The second difference is the absence of minibus taxis.

There are countless bilboards and signs up of famous people, for e.g. this larger-than-life board with Brad Pit. As we found our way from the terminal to the place where our tour was bound to start I made little mental notes for myself so we could easily find our way back later on. So here's how it goes: you walk one block south and turn right by Brad Pit. Then walk for two more blocks and make a left at Julia Roberts. Continue for half a block - if you've reached Madonna then you've gone too far - and you should find it on the left. lol
Just a busy sidewalk in New York City. I read in the New York Times not too long ago that they were trying to control more of the polution by - amongst other things - encouraging people to cycle in the city. One of the ways in which they are doing it was to create the bicycle lanes to make it safer for cyclists. Hmm, I like that, however here are some of my thoughts:

At first I read it I thought, "WHAT!? Do they realize that it is NEW YORK CITY we're talking about here... Cyclists in that traffic..? Are they mad?" Since then I've had an enlightening experience or two since then. One: I have cycled in Johannesburg City - also something that mostly everyone else would say is ludicrous. I realized that if you've driven in the city before it is not half as scary to cycle in it. If you don't know a city though I would advise you to get to know it first, ok. Don't go and get hit by a bus and blame me for it.

When I was in New York I didn't feel afraid of the streets at all. I think I would cycle there, but I would familiarise myself with the best route to wherever I'm heading. (One thing I do not like about cycling in the city is breathing in the carbon dioxide. The more tired and out of breath you become, the deeper you tend to breath, the more carbon dioxide you inhale. Yuck! That is not a chest on fire but rather only smouldering ashes.

Two: Creating a bike lane is good for (attempted) safety but it does not stop you from perspiring from the exercise. So unless you are able to shower and clean up when you get the office, or before your meeting, I'm not sure if it will work too well. Plus, hauling a bag with a fresh change of clothes and toiletries will make for a heavier load, making for a tougher workout and ultimately more perspiration...

On a different note: I don't think I'd feel comfortable pulling luggage down the street in Johannesburg like that. It was odd to see people do so without worrying about something happening to it.
One of the many, many entrances/exits to the subway - underground railway system. I didn't think we had time then but I should have taken a walk onto the platform just to see what it is like. It would have been even nicer if we could ride the subway from one place to another but unfortunately time did not allow for such an experience. I would have nonetheless liked to have seen an actual subway train. Tsk, tsk.
I really did not see much of this the whole day. I don't know whether it was because it was raining and wet or whether that is the norm. Even Nancy commented that it is the least beggars that she has encountered of any of her trips to the city. The reality is though that poverty is everywhere. On the one hand I think it is just the way life is. There will always be rich and there will always be poor - leaders and followers, day and night, weak and strong, life and death. On the other hand it gives the privileged someone who has a need that they can give to and make a difference and it helps you to remember just how much you have to be grateful for. I didn't want to wake him up or embarrass him so I just snapped one as we walked by. Part of me wonders what is his story. Where did it all begin and how did he end up here? Is this the way it is going to end or is there any redemptive ending for him?
Definitely an add that I'm sure draws lots of attention. I thought it didn't need a lot of words.
Just a street in New York City...
Parking space tends to be a problem in NYC. Someone has invented a contraption that would have gotten him killed if either of the two cars in the back belonged to me. I'd say that is a valid reason for concern. I wonder if the owners of those vehicles were aware of what was going on.

Here's how it works. It is operated with hydraulics and can move up and down, as well as sideways. I imagine it becomes quite a clever shuffle as to getting them out if perhaps you arrived first but is also wanting to leave first. Here's a little video clip demonstrating how it works: again a little like picking candy from a vending machine: C3, B2, etc. The only catch is that you need to have the keys to the candy, right?)
The light on the top of this taxi is not lit. That means it is occupied. If the "Off duty" inscriptions are lit the cab is just that - off duty - and will not accept passengers. If the middle light showing the medallion number is lit the cab is empty and available and can be hailed by raising your hand or standing by a taxi stand. A driver must pick up the first or closest passenger that he sees and he is not allowed to refuse a trip to any destination within the five boroughs of New York City, neighboring Westchester, Nassau or to Newark Liberty International Airport. You can pay an average of about $14 (roughly R103)for 5 miles (8km) and 5 minutes wait time - Yes, you pay if the taxi is standing still or moving slowly (under 12 mph) "(40 cents for each one-fifth of a mile or 60 seconds of no motion or motion under 12 miles an hour)" ~ Wikipedia. Well, that beats the R250 ($34) to R350 ($48)quotes I got for the same distance in South Africa with no wait time.

The New York Taxicab Company was started in 1907 by a man who was rich enough to be fed up with the horsedrawn cabs of the day - Harry N. Allen. The last straw was when he was charged $5 (or $113.66 in 2010) for a 0.75 mile (1.21km) journey. He would charge $5 per mile. Later the same year he imported 65 gasoline-powered vehicles from France. They were origianlly painted red and green but he changed it to yellow to make it visible from a distance. The next year the number of taxis was at 700.

The Checker Taxi was an infamous New York icon. It took a long time to phase them out due to their durability. The last one retired in July 1999 after more than 20 years of service with nearly 1 million miles (1,609,344km) on the odometer. Aaaah... those were the days when cars were still built to last.

In 2005 a decision was made to change to more fuel efficient hybrid vehicles as a way of reducing greenhouse emissions. However, it made for a smaller cabin, a bumpier ride and also high maintenance costs compared to the saving on gas. Thus they let that one go. So that is where this Ford Escape Hybrid comes from (pic above). I suppose what matters most is that it's yellow, right? (Go here for a little more on the history of the yellow taxicab.)
It rained probably for around two hours after we arrived in the city. Luckily by the time the tour started it basically stopped for the most part and then a few drops blew on us again on the boat. This was managable even though I still needed to use one hand to hold the umbrella to keep the camera dry.

New York has a vibrant cultural calendar. The Winter Garden theatre is just one of many more theatres in the city - this one currently shows Mamma Mia! I loved the theatre production that visited Johannesburg. That place was filled with such energey and excitement you could cut it with a knife. Countless times the audience, or part of it anyway, was singing along out loud and at one point everybody was stamping their feet. The seating was built like a pavillion in a sport stadium and the whole structure shook with the thunder of feet. The cast was outstanding and it was money well spent!! Definitely one of my best theatre experiences ever!
An overcast glimpse of Time Square. Football is probably as big in America as rugby is in South Africa - kick off was 8 September. People were counting the days. (This almost looks like an evening picture but it was around 11am. It poured down for a while just before our tour started. At that point the tour guide explained that we might not even get off the bus as they didn't want to risk anyone getting wet and sick. Gratefully the rain had almost completely stopped by the time we made our first of six stops for the day. At this point huricane Irene was on the news everywhere and the tours for the weekend has been cancelled because of it. Our timing was perfect.)
A snapshot of a souvenir shop window. Two things that are very big for NYC momentos are the yellow taxi cab and the Statue of Liberty (and then the Empire State Building, in my opinion).
Yellow taxi cabs...
Here's a good picture of both kinds that we mostly saw. The one in front is how I know it from the movies, and then there's the hybrid in the back.

That's it for today. You'll have to keep coming back here for more - it was a long and very interesting day indeed. It would be humanly impossible for a Liane to squeeze it into just one or two posts (*wink-wink*). Those who know me will know what I mean :D


  1. September 14, 2011 at 1:09 pm
    A wonderful post, Lee. What a rude bus driver

    1. September 14, 2011 at 2:35 pm
      Ooh, we aren't done with the bus drivers just yet, CINDY, but the other bit I'll tell about a little bit later… I was not impressed with what he did, but then again we managed to turn it around into a few good giggles. I certainly don't think we'll ever forget that bit of the day, that's for sure! I count it all as memories

  2. September 14, 2011 at 2:29 pm
    Wow! Wow! Wow! Loved your blog on NYC… fact, I've enjoyed all of your blogs leading up to this one. (Perhaps I'm a bit partial to this one because I was lucky enough to be there for your journey)!! Looking forward to reading the rest! Hugs!Nancy

    1. September 14, 2011 at 2:34 pm
      NANCY, I'm so glad you enjoyed them I have many pictures so there will still be a few posts on our day in NYC. Enjoy!

  3. September 14, 2011 at 4:49 pm
    Getting caught up and just read all of your posts from Pennsylvania to New York City. Wow, it looks like you are having SUCH a great time, from the forest to the city. I love living this adventure by reading your posts!!!

    1. September 14, 2011 at 5:14 pm
      'm glad you're enjoying it, TRACY I kind of see it as if sitting down with a friend and my album and paging through, pointing and telling all the interesting and fun bits about each one. It sounds like I'm accomplishing just that