Posts Tagged ‘NY’

Tooling Around the Northeast, 29 July – 06 August 2016

9 August 2016

Last week we took a driving tour around parts of the Northeast.  We drove 1093 miles over eight days.  Photos from our vacation are here on Google+.

We left OKC Friday evening (29 July). We had an airline Charlie-Fox right off the bat. The ground crew got us boarded and completely ready to go 10 min before departure (very cool). The pilot reported that the fuel guy loaded 1,000 lbs too much on the airplane. We sat for a while, and then the pilot announced that it would take to long to get the fuel guy back to defuel, and it would be faster to sit near the runway and burn it off (that’s REALLY strange to hear). We say there for 20+ minutes, then the pilot says they have a brake temp warning light, so we have to taxi back and have maintenance look at it.

We go back, but there is only one ground crew in OKC, and the airplane in the gate is having a maintenance issue, so we wait 20 minutes before they push back. In the meantime, the LAX-OKC EMB 175 has come in, and is waiting behind us. We finally get there, the maintenance guy agrees the brakes are not on fire, they sign out, and we head out again. AA booked us on a later flight, but we get into BOS at 1250, and to the hotel in Providence at 0230, and in bed about 0300.

A note here: we had a sail around Newport harbor scheduled for Saturday morning, I sent an email to the folks there (Classic Cruises of Newport) right before bed, and they changed us to the 1230 Monday cruise, which was darn nice of them. We slept until almost 1000.

After dragging out of bed, we headed to downtown Providence and visited the Rhode Island School of Design museum. They have an impressive collection of art from names I know, including an interesting piece by Rodan. The museum is connected to the Pendelton House, which has a lot of Revolutionary War era stuff in it.

After the museums, we headed towards NYC. We stopped in Milford and checked into our hotel, then headed to NYC. I wrote a blog post about driving there.

While Raegan saw Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, Erin and I just wandered around the Times Square area.  It was raining (occasionally pretty hard) while we were there, and it wasn’t quite as crowded as it was last year, but there was still a huge amount of life and elan around us.

Once Phantom was over, we headed back to the hotel, arriving around 0100.  We were now working on one loooong day, less than six hours sleep, then another looong day.  We woke up at 0900, getting a decent recharge, and headed out to Mystic.

We hit the Mystic Aquarium and spent a couple hours there.  I was not as impressed with this aquarium as some others.  While I enjoyed seeing the beluga whales, I liked seeing the rescue area (which was mainly populated by exceptionally cute baby harbor seals), and the couple of sea lions.  I was less than impressed by the one display area.  There was a “pet the shark” area, kind of cool.  The jellyfish exhibit was also very neat.  But it just seemed to me that there was a lot that was lacking.  A physically large part of the aquarium was a swampy area that was filled with lilypads, and had turtles (must have been on vacation that day 🙂 ), small frogs, and bullfrogs (very cool).  At the end of the swamp was a penguin area.  We ended our visit at the stingray “petting” area, where Erin and I were approached by a couple rays.

Afterward, we went down to the Seaport area and wandered around for several hours.  At one point, the drawbridge opened to let a couple ships through, very cool.  We drove the coast route back towards Groton, and drove down to Noank to look at the ocean from in front of some very expensive houses.  We had dinner in Groton, then checked into our hotel, and crashed early.

Monday was a big day.  We headed towards Newport, and part of the drive was through the beautiful woods between I-95 and RI 4.  The big Claiborne Pell Bridge over the Narragansett Bay is very impressive. As I mentioned before, we had moved our sail to Monday, and we arrived at the boarding area early (for us, a minor miracle).  We sailed on the Madeline, a 72-ft trimast schooner.  I *love* the schooner and sloop form, it’s very flowing and sleek.  The folks at Classic Cruises put on a wonderful sail.  The breeze was about 15 knots out of the SE, and when those big sails got filled, the boat accelerated nicely.   We had several heels in the 30deg range.  The breeze was fresh, the crew very nice, and the sail absolutely relaxing.  We didn’t get quite as far out to the ocean as I would have hoped, but it was a great experience:


After the sail, we had lunch and visited some of the shops in the harbor area.  Then we drove to the coast, passing some amazing, large houses south of downtown.  We drove around the coast and all the way to Fort Adams, then stopped and waded in the ocean for a while.

From Newport, we drove up the east side of Narragansett Bay towards Providence.  We stopped for dinner SE of town, and then headed on into the Boston/Norwood area for the next phase of the trip.

Tuesday and Wednesday were work days for me, so we had activities in the evening that mainly involved shopping.  I found some pretty interesting robotics kits and parts/supplies at a hobby shop in Dedham, and visited an Eastern Mountain Sports to buy a hiking trail map of the White Mountain National Forest.  We also hit an REI, and Raegan and Erin visited the Boston Museum of Fine Art, an amazing museum.

We tried to visit the Blue Mountain Observatory, supposedly the oldest continuously operating weather observatory in the United States.  I noted on their website they were open until 1630, and that was enough time for a quick visit.  We got there, and I was surprised that the road to drive up to the observatory was not open to private vehicles.  I noticed in the parking lot just to the west the sign that said you needed to walk up the road.  Note:  I submitted a correction to Google, as Maps shows the road as drivable.

Regardless, Erin and I walked up there.  It’s just about a mile, and a couple hundred feet of altitude gain, but it was easy for us.  We got up there and saw nice views to the south, northwest, and north.  But… the observatory was closed.  A sign there noted that it was open weekends.  Well, crap.  We walked all around it, petted a couple dogs a couple had brought up, and then we decided to walk back down.  We went back down the road, and decided to walk over to the ski area just a bit down the road, and ended up at the top of the ski lift.  After checking all that out, we walked down the ski slope, and then over to the parking lot.

There was a Massachusetts Audubon Society Blue Hills Trailside on the way.  It has exhibits on the local environment, and displays of rescued animals.

Thursday we got up and checked out of the hotel, and headed northwest towards New Hampshire. My intent was to leave early enough to be able to hike in the Franconia State Park area, but that didn’t work out.

We got to Manchester and visited the Lawrence L. Lee Scouting Museum, which is located at Camp Carpenter, a council facility just southeast of Manchester. The Museum as a lot of vintage uniforms, handbooks, patches, and gear. I was fascinated by the backpacking baskets they had (people actually used them!). The docent was amazingly knowledgeable. We also visited the Scout Shop and I scored a Wood Badge patch.

We drove a sorta roundabout path from Manchester to Concord, then to Lebanon, and north on 91 until we got to 301, where we cut across the corner to Littleton. Tomorrow, we hike.

Friday, Erin and I got up and drove to Franconia Notch State Park.  I-93 is two lanes through here.  We got to the park about 1000, and found every parking lot full of cars.  We parked on the shoulder of I-93 and walked underneath to the east side.  We hiked about 1,000 ft up the Falling Waters trail, marveling at the beautiful waterfalls.  It was hottish and fairly humid.

After the hike we drove back into Littleton, and the three of us had lunch, drove back to the Park, and walked around the Flume Gorge area.

Then we drove down I-93 to Tripoli Road and drove through the White Mountain National Forest.  There were a huge number of campsites along the road!  Many of them were occupied.  We rejoined civilization at Waterville Valley, then drove back to I-93 to our hotel in Manchester.  We tooled around Manchester for a bit, then got up the next morning and flew back to OKC.

This was a nice trip.  Aside from work days, and the flight situation getting to Boston, we got up and out of the hotel in decent time, saw a lot of pretty scenery (always a priority for us), did some cool stuff, and generally relaxed.

Food was very expensive on this trip.  We typically pay about $35 for the three of us to eat, and we were getting meals at family restaurants in the $50-$60 range, with no real evidence of additional quality.

There were some nice towns that we would like an extended visit at, including Manchester and possibly Littleton.

There is always next year for more exploring.

Cosi, LaGuardia Airport, Flushing, NY

28 August 2013

Così on Urbanspoon

While we were waiting for our flight home on 02 August, we scattered to get food in the terminal. I chose Cosi because the salads looked good. They were! I got a chicken caesar salad. The chicken was grilled and thin sliced. The ceasar dressing was from a bag, but not bad at all. As you might imagine, it was heavy on the lettuce and light on the chicken, but I liked it just fine, and finished it before the flight. I didn’t like the look of their teas (all green tea and herbal stuff), so I got a bottle of water.

Service was very friendly, and my check was $11.85. I will be on the lookout for Cosi locations that are elsewhere in the country.

One odd thing. The restaurant I ate in is called Cosi. The receipt I got for my meal was titled “Centerplate”, I presume the name of some other restaurant. Under “Centerplate”, it has a URL for “”, which is a gourmet dining place in LGA called “Figs”, which seems to be a full-service type restaurant, but which I gather is out of business. Three restaurants, one receipt. Hmmm…

Alexis Diner, Newburgh, NY

28 August 2013

Alexis Diner Restaurant on Urbanspoon

This is the first of three catch-up posts from our big trip to the NE in July.

We had a latish lunch here while on the road between NJ and Vermont. Alexis is right off the interstate, which was very convenient. Raegan and I started with cups of chicken and rice soup that were great. Erin got the chicken parmigiana sandwich, and demolished it. Raegan got a platter of cold shrimp and ate all of them (except those that Erin snagged). Ian got a philly cheese steak, which he ate all of (despite misgivings) and enjoyed. I got yankee pot roast, which was wonderful, tender and tasty. It had natural gravy that was very good. Only Brisk iced tea, but Erin and Raegan got some, and Ian and I got some flavor of soda.

Service was very good. Our check was $68.66, for a LOT of food. Great stuff.

Northeastern Family Trip, 24 July – 02 August 2013

5 August 2013

We took a 10-day vacation trip that combined a bit of work for me with a lot of travel for all of us, a loop that started and ended at New York LaGuardia airport, and looped from New Jersey back to Connecticut.

Photos from the trip on on my Google site here.

Trip summary: Just under 1400 miles, and seven states: New Jersey, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

We started out by flying from OKC to LGA on 24 July. I bought my ticket through my work travel site (saving over $100 by flying to a NYC airport instead of Boston, where I would be working), and got the family tickets by cashing in some American AAdvantage miles. We had good flights in, arriving at LGA around 2130. Here is where it got fun. The signage out of LGA is for crap. We had no less than three oops moments trying to get from there to our hotel in New Jersey, every one of them within five miles of the airport. It wasn’t any better on the way back in (see that later). We broke a couple laws regarding turn lanes and such, but eventually got moving, and crossed the RFK bridge to get our first sight of Manhattan!

As we approached the Washington Bridge, it turns out that the RFK-westbound bridge ramp was… closed! No signs telling us that. We did watch as a couple enterprising New Yorkers drove around the barrels and cones and a curb to get on the bridge anyway. We drove down the Hudson for a couple miles, broke another couple laws turning around, and got up on the bridge that way. We then continued the drive to Parsippany, NJ, our base camp for several nights. The only remaining adventure was being passed by at least 15 motorcycles, weaving in and out of traffic. We were doing 80, they had to be going 120; those guys were moving.

The next morning, Thursday, we got up and had breakfast. Our plan for the day was to take the Staten Island Ferry to New York. That plan survived until we passed a National Park Service sign that pointed to the Thomas Edison Factory National Historic Park in West Orange, NJ. It was a GREAT detour! I was utterly fascinated by the place. Edisons work was so wide ranging as to be incomprehensible. The mostly self-guided tour led through the main building where stuff was machined. After lunch, we headed north to the town of Paterson, NJ, and the Great Falls there. We next just drove out into the countryside to look at the pretty hills and trees. We ended up back in the hotel around 2100.

Friday we made good on the Thursday plan. We drove through the Newark area and made our way to Staten Island. Since we were inbound to NYC, it was a $13 bridge toll. We mad a heck of a time trying to park at the Ferry lot, but ended up using on-street parking a couple blocks away. We missed a ferry by one minute, and so had a half hour wait. The half hour ride across the Hudson was amazing! Tours out to Liberty Island were booked up through September, but the ferry ride past Liberty Island was awe-inspiring. I always enjoy ships and ports, and that was a huge bonus on the ferry crossing.

We got to NYC with the expected crush of people; it was amazing! We had lunch at a streetside shop, and headed for the Subway. We had a little glitch here. Each ride is $2.50. I went to a subway pass station, and bought two $15 passes. The third one, it complained about my credit card. We used Raegans card (same company and account, different number), but same result. WTH? We used Ians card to get the last two, no sweat. We figured that USAA was being prudent since us using the card out of state was tripping a flag. We called, and that was NOT the case. USAA showed the two passes being bought, but no declines on the other attempts. And the card worked two minutes later at a restaurant. My theory is that the subway machine/network was unhappy about buy three cards of the same denomination in a row. Regardless, we had our passes.

We headed uptown to the area south of Central Park. We walked the famous 42nd Street, Times Square, the Rockerfeller Center area, visited the flagship American Girl store there, and just generally drank in the sights, the people, the smells, the food carts. It was ALIVE there. Eventually we were quite walked out, and so we headed for the nearest subway stop, which happened to be Grand Central Terminal. That was one amazing building! The architecture was stunning. Although the high ceiling was intended to collect and vent steam and smoke, now it is just gorgeous and HUGE.

We rode the subway back to the ferry port, had a short wait for the next one, and then an amazing ride back to Staten Island with the lit up NYC skyline and the Statue of Liberty lit as well. After some car stuff on Staten Island, we found a restaurant, and got back to the hotel around 2300.

Saturday we visited the Intrepid Air and Space Museum. This is the WWII/Korean War carrier USS Intrepid along with a lot of other exhibits. We headed out from the hotel and drove to NYC via the Lincoln Tunnel (another $13 toll), then parked on a former dock ($35). We spent basically the entire day at the Intrepid; there is a LOT to see. A number of the decks are open. I wish the engine spaces were open, I think that would be fascinating! We were able to attend a lecture by four senior NASA folks on the future of manned spaceflight (and both Raegan and I got to ask questions, very cool). The Intrepid has the shuttle Enterprise on her after deck, which was a nice treat. Again, I wish the shuttle was actually open; I don’t see why it wouldn’t be able to be. It would be the coolest thing to walk the middeck and into the payload bay. The only thing we didn’t get to do was walk through the submarine Growler; they close it early for some reason.

At the New Jersey Meadowlands, there was an interesting structure that reminded me of enclosed ski areas I’ve seen pictures of in Asia. A little research here showed that’s exactly what it was, as part of a large entertainment and amusement park development for the Meadowlands. Not open, unfortunately. Maybe this fall according to Wikipedia.

We headed back to NJ through the tunnel again (no toll since we were outbound), had dinner, and got back to the hotel around 2100.

A note on meals here. We ate in a number of diners. I’ve seen NJ referred to as the diner capital of the world. The meals we ate in diners were at worst pretty good; none were bad. They were by and large, huge amounts of food. The menus were varied. It’s hard to get fried chicken in the OKC area, but I think every diner we ate at had fried chicken, and it was good stuff. The only downer, we had one place with decent iced tea during the trip; it was at a diner. I actually looked in a WalMart for a jug of Red Diamond; they had some other brand, but it was lemoned, so I passed.

On Sunday we got up and packed, and headed north. Our objective was Burlington, VT. We got a late start. We drove through Parsippany and one other small town. We then stopped for a full gas tank, and found that NJ requires gas stations to be full service. You can’t do anything in the process except hand your credit card to the attendant. We continued north through stunning rolling, tree-covered hills, eventually getting off the interstate to find Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskills.

This was a great little hike, about 1.3 miles roundtrip and 600 ft of elevation gain.

The only problem is that the parking area is a bit away from the trailhead, and you have to walk along the road with only about two feet of space. It’s dangerous. I would be very surprised if people have not been hit and injured or killed along this.

The Catskills were beautiful. There are lots of trails in the area that I would like to go back and walk. Evetually we got into Albany, accompanied by heavy rain with a couple vivid bolts of lightning. We got dinner at a very good family style place, and continued north. Darkness was falling as we got to Lake George, and eventually we crossed a very pretty bridge over the southern end of Lake Champlain. We got into Burlington around 2200. I would far rather make that drive in daylight next time.

On Monday morning, we were in the Hilton right on the waterfront in Burlington. We toured the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center (ECHO is Ecology, Culture, History and Opportunities). This is a bit of a natural history center, partly an aquarium, partly a childrens museum, and partly a research center). It’s pretty cool. We also walked along waterfront for Lake Champlain. From Burlington, we headed out through the Green Mountains of Vermont through Montpelier. We drove on into New Hampshire and towards the White Mountains. There were a bunch of very slow drivers along this route, like 20 miles an hour under the speed limit. It is, however, a beautiful drive.

One word about wildlife. From the moment we left Burlington, we saw sign after sign after sign warning us about moose crossing, moose activity, moose this, moose that. We saw exactly zero moose. I think that the VT and NH tourism departments need to get on the ball and get those moose out for us tourists to gawk at.

We drove up Mount Washington in NH. The views were magnificent. We saw a stunning, bright full-arc rainbow on the way up. It was cold (50F) and pretty windy up there higher than 6,000 ft. I enjoyed looking at the views, and the exhibits of the “worst weather in the world”. Afterward, we headed south into the Boston area, getting in around 2245.

On Tuesday, I went to work for the day. Raegan and the kids went to Concord and explored the area.

Wednesday, I worked again. Afterward, we went back to Concord, visiting the Minuteman National Historic Park where the American Revolution started. We also went to the Concord Museum, which was a very neat facility. Afterward, we drove down the battlefield trail to Lexington. The day ended with us tooling around outer Boston for a while, then driving downtown to look at Old North Church (which is wedged very tightly between many newer buildings), the Boston Commons, Beacon Hill, and the State Capitol.

Thursday, we took it easy heading back towards New York. We had lunch in Rhode Island, visited Misquamicut Beach, stopped in Mystic, CT to visit the Seaport and have tea, then drove through New London, into NY and our last hotel for the trip.

We got up Friday morning for our last day, had a leisurely breakfast, and headed out the 24 mile trip three hours before departure time. It took and hour and a half to get there!

Random Notes

We had a Hyundai Tuscon rental car. It was a good size for the four of us. We traveled with three biggish rolling suitcases, and one checkable rolling suitcase. Those and our four backpacks were our entire gear set. We did pretty well, I think. We bought some stuff on the road (including some shirts on sale for Ian), and managed to get it all back with no problem.

This was a connected trip. We didn’t use a single paper map (although we had one for Vermont). We relied on Google Maps for navigation. There were a couple places we didn’t have connectivity; mainly along the eastern shore of Lake George, NY. The car had dual 12VDC plugs and one 5VDC USB up front. I bought a 200W inverter/power supply at Target that took a 12VDC input and put out 120VAC, 5VDC USB, and another 12VDC (it was only $25, a good deal). We ran that inverter into the back seat for the kids, and Raegan and I shared the USB up front. It worked out pretty good.

Some of the roads we traveled on were terrible. We were constantly driving on a minefield, it felt like. NYC roads were especially bad, to include the expressways, the arteries, and the side roads. Signage was lacking in many instances. We totally missed (for example) the turnoff for the RFK bridge. Once we figured that out, we hit the toll booth for the bridge, and were looking for I-278S; we only saw a sign for I-278 and followed it… north. The turn the other way had no sign for I-278 at all; it should have had one for I-278S.

If you are reading this and you are in charge of road signage around LGA, you should be fired. Every other airport I have been to has large signs on approach for rental car returns. The only ones around LGA are ON THE GROUNDS. And since the rental car returns are on the far west side, they should have signs before that exit to get people there who are coming to LGA eastbound. After getting turned around, I saw a sign (it was probably only 8×14″) for Avis as I came west. Dumb.


We left a LOT undone up there. Raegan and I were constantly amazed at how green and beautiful it was. I’m already thinking that the next time, we will spend less time in NJ/NY and more time in upstate NY, maybe Canada, and drive over into Maine.

This 10-day trip cost us about $3,000, which isn’t too bad, I think. We saved a huge amount of money by staying 20 miles out of NYC. Of course, that is partially offset by the tolls, but the hotel costs in NYC were $250+ per night; our Embassy Suites was $120, and the HGI we stayed in the last night was only $105.

There is a lot of cool stuff that we didn’t realize was doable, for example, visiting the Coast Guard Academy in New London, and the USS Nautilus museum in Groton. We saw the Edison exhibits via a National Park Service (NPS) sign on the Interstate; we otherwise would have had no clue that it was there. And it was very cool. We also passed on many shorter stops that could have added up to hours of extra time; an example is the overlook of the Hudson from the parkway we drove down from our last night hotel on the way to the airport. More research next time.

Food… we ate very well on this trip, all local. Diners have huge amounts of food. I think the prices are 20% higher than prices back home.

We need to get moving more quickly in the morning… OK, the heck with it, we haven’t learned how to do that in 10+ years, so never mind.

Navigation in the NYC area is tough! It’s best to have a navigator that is able to look ahead a turn or so so help the driver out.

I wish the NYC area would accept credit cards.

I would like to walk around more of NYC, including every borough, the islands, and the like.

And there is a heck of a lot of hiking in the northeast…

Great American Grill, HGI, Nanuet, NY

3 August 2013

Great American Grill in Hilton Garden Inn on Urbanspoon

We stayed in this hotel on the last night of our New England trip, and had breakfast there before checking out.

Raegan, Ian, and I had various eggs. Ian had sunny side up, we had over easy. Good, but cooked a little long on the first go-round. Raegan also asked for pancakes, and it took a while before they were ready (like, halfway through the meal). The bacon was uniformly undercooked, but the sausage links were pretty good. Erin stuck with cereal and fruit.

This HGI had little interaction with the servers; you ordered from the cook, and picked up directly from the cook, who could be less than communicative. They didn’t have much in the way of bread beyond white or wheat for toast.

So it was in, and out, and little interaction. You could do worse.

Nanuet Diner, Nanuet, NY

2 August 2013

Nanuet Diner on Urbanspoon

Yet Another Diner. And probably the last one on this trip, and a good one! We picked it since it was just down the road from our hotel. It was pretty good. They started off with some very good rough rolls and butter, and a relish tray with decent ranch dressing. Nice touch.

Raegan and Erin got bowls of chicken noodle soup; I had a cup, as did Ian. It was very good. Ian got a burger that was very good. I got fried chicken that was excellent, perfect skin and great flavor. I had fries and broccoli; the fries were OK, but the broccoli could have used a little more steamer time. Ians burger came with cole slaw that was excellent; he doesn’t like slaw, so I scarfed it.

Erin got a rainbow cake and liked it; Ian got some chocolate cake, but didn’t eat much of it since it had an odd flavor. We speculated that it had picked up odor from other stuff in the dessert case.

Service was OK. They only had Brisk “tea”. Our check was $40.00. We would go back.

Rockwell’s Restaurant, New York City, NY

28 July 2013

Rockwel's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

We just got off the boat. Literally. And we were hungry. We picked Rockwell’s since it was a block away. It was pretty good also.

Ian and I got chicken parm on hero bread, it was a special on the hot line. It was excellent. The chicken parm was tasty, tender, and hot! Erin got a chicken parm from the deli line, and Raegan got a ham, turkey, and bacon on wheat; she reported it excellent.

They had soft drinks on tap (they are a Pepsi shop), and a whole bunch of everything else. The ops concept is that you order and pay on the first floor, and then either takeaway, or go upstairs to sit and eat. I can’t find the receipt, but our check was only about $35, pretty good value.

Kings Arms Diner, Staten Island, NY

28 July 2013

Kings Arms Restaurant on Urbanspoon

We were coming back from Manhattan last night after a long day, and we were hungry. We stopped at Kings Arms for dinner.

I got chicken marsala over rice, it was excellent. Ian got a cheeseburger; I sampled part of it, very good beef and perfectly cooked. Raegan and Erin both got chicken soup followed by coconut cream pie, but very good.

The only thing I didn’t like was the iced tea; I switched to Coke. Service was very good. Our check was $56.94. Pretty good place.