Monday, August 31, 2015

New From New York City, NY

This is where the adventure began.  We walked some around the tower and park at One WTC.  We stopped in at O'Hara's Pub and had a soda.  Then, we went to the National Museum of the American Indian, but not to go in this time.  We went to pick up a bike.

City Bike is the ride share program that operates in New York City since 2013.  There are hundreds of stations where you can pick up a bike around the city, and around 12,000 bikes in service.  It's quite a system, and it's very popular.  After years of complaining that I wanted to give it a try, my son offered to go all the way to New York City for the day just to go bicycling.  My goal was to figure out how it works and take a lovely ride around the waterfront on the greenway that was created in the Bloomberg years.

The waterfront area of South Manhattan has some wonderful views.  You can see the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, New Jersey, One WTC, the Irish Famine Memorial, Battery Park, Castle Clinton, ferry docks, and so on.  In recent years, the waterfront has been made into a showplace in order to attract city dwellers to come out and play, and City Bike was the crowning glory of that goal. 

The architecture is fascinating whether it be at the updated ferry terminal or at Brookfield Place.  There are so many beautiful places to see.  I never knew that there were full sized palm trees in Manhattan at the mall.  

After 9/11 the area was devastated, and the city wanted to do something to bring people back to the area.  It wasn't easy to find a solution to that, and we all understood that.  The idea of making the waterfront into a beautiful haven really appealed to people, and it's been a great success.  I enjoy walking there and watching the sunsets over Jersey.  It's gone from being a place that's scary and falling down into a beautiful haven where you nearly forget that you're in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world.

But this time I didn't come to walk.  I came to bike, and we picked up our bikes at the National Museum of the American Indian, right across the street from Battery Park.  The bikes cost $9.95 a day with various options for multi day and weekly passes.  You pay by credit card.  You receive a code that you put into the keypad next to the bike that you choose.  It releases the bike and off  you go.  Now, I learned the hard way that it's a good idea to take a map of bike stations, because you have to check in every 30 minutes while you have the bike.  That's the rule.  So, it's a good idea to know where the stations are so that you can do that.  We didn't see one for a long time going up the East River shore next to FDR Drive.  We ran over and it wasn't a calamity, but I really wish that I would have gotten a map or gotten the app with the map on it for my phone.  Live and learn, which was exactly what the trip was about.

The bikes are all over the city.  You can get them in Brooklyn, Queens and all over the place.  You can ride them from borough to borough across the bridges.  You can take them to NYU.  You can ride them right through Times Square.  They are all over the place.  You do have to be 16 to ride and then you have to go with an adult.  When you're done, you take the bike to the closest station and make sure that it is secure in a parking spot.  That's it.  You're done.  Easy.

There are bike paths that run along FDR Drive, there are paths that go right through congested uptown areas, and there are some paths along the rivers that have amazing views.  New York City has done a great job making the entire city extremely bicycle friendly.  I was riding on a designated bike path that ran between two lanes of traffic on an exit ramp, and it was just fine.  The drivers were very respectful and it was easy.  

So, if you want to get a beautiful view, an unusual view, an artistic view, or just a view that you can't get any other way on Earth; take a ride on a City Bike and see New York in a whole new light.  Remember, City Bike is a corporation that isn't only in NYC.  They are a subsidiary of Motivate and they have systems in places all over the world including Boston, Washington DC, Chicago and so on.  So, if you can't make it to New York, look up Motivate and see if they have a system near you.  It's a great way to see a city near you.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I Hope You All Know I Had the Time of My Life

I don't have much time to write this week.  It's the last week of summer and I'm running around like a chicken before school starts, at which point I will have all the time in the world to blog about all the things that I learned and did over the summer.  I just would like to say thank you to all the people I met along the way in my travels this summer.  I may not know your names like I do Scott who drove us all around the dunes in Saugatuck, Michigan, but I do remember you all and am grateful that for whatever reason, we met.

I would like to thank the owners of the A-1 Star Inn in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada for being the nicest people I ever rented a room from.  The place wasn't a five star accommodation, but we were still very happy there, and it was all because you were so nice to us.

I would love to mention the lovely couple that we had dinner with at the food court right before the fire works in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.  I loved meeting you and hearing about how after being widowed you both decided to take the plunge and try again.  I loved the stories about being a trucker in Saskatchewan and I love the fact that you didn't bring your passports, even though we were all looking at the U.S.  After all your travels, it told me something eye opening.  Good luck on your marriage and may you have many years of happiness.

While we're at it, I would like to thank the gentleman at the cigar shop who told us all about import rules, so that we knew how much we could spend on Cuban cigars for a souvenir for my husband.  I learned a lot in your shop.  I would like to shout out to the comic book guy for teaching me about Captian Kanook and having a great store.  I would like to thank the people at Niagara Falls Go Karts for giving my kid that special pass to come back and ride some more for less money.  Thank you to the wonderful girl at the Rock and Roll Wax Museum for being so funny and friendly and telling us all about how the place came about.  Thank you girls at the Hornblower Tours for helping me figure out how passengers got to the bottom of the gorge to get on the boats.  That was really bothering me.  Thank you street performers for providing a lot of great music and magic for us to enjoy on our journey.  We had a great time.

And, thank you great crowd of Canadians that we met in the line to go to America at Rainbow Bridge for telling us that it normally wasn't that bad.  I think that we found out later that it really is that bad, because Blue Water Bridge was no better.  But, thank you for trying to make us feel better.  And thank you border guards for doing your job and protecting us, but to the guy at Blue Water Bridge, I really do live here.

Thank you to the folks of Frankenmuth, Michigan.  Thank you to the staff of America's Best Inns for being so friendly and getting our room ready for us in a hurry even though you were having a terrible staffing crisis.  We felt special and that was great.  Thank you ladies at the Bavarian Inn for telling us the history of Little Bavaria and giving us the background on an amazing place.  And Wally Bronner, may you rest in peace, your store is truly amazing.  We loved meeting the people who keep the legend alive and we got some great deals too.

Thank you Dearborn, Michigan, and thank you everyone who helped give us directions to the Henry Ford.  It's not easy to find.  Thank you to the tour guide at the Rouge Factory that answered my million questions.  Thank you to the staff at the old diner in the museum who told us all about it's history and made a great burger.  Thank you to the ladies who helped us get some annoying people out of the way so that we could take our pictures in the car.  And thank you to the gentleman who not only let us play around in the car, but told us all about how many times they take it apart as part of the experience in the museum.  Thank you also in the Ann Arbor Motel 6 for helping us figure out the WiFi, fixing our fridge and helping us order our Domino's Pizza in it's hometown.

Thank you John Cologne for being you.  Hell is one of those amazing places that you wish you could spend more time in, and it's all because of your vision, your sense of humor, and the drive you have glowing from within.  It was a wonderful experience that we will never forget.

Thank you all that we met in Holland, Saugatuck, and Douglas, Michigan.  Thank you kids that we met at the pool from Chicago and your grandparents.  We enjoyed our evening with you and had a lot of fun.  Thank you to the breakfast lady at the Comfort Inn for still making us breakfast even though we were late.  Thank you to all the people at the Dune Schooners including our veteran tour guide, Scott.  Thank you to Zoe, Nate and your family for having a fun afternoon with us at Oval Beach.  I loved hearing the story of how Zoe was a miracle baby.  It does the soul good to hear such tales.

And thank you Cleveland.  Wow, what a town.  We will be back.  Thank you to the lovely couple at the hotel who helped us get around and made us feel like family.  Thank you Indians for putting on a great game and thank you to whomever came up with Rock and Blast, because that was the best fire works show I ever saw.  Thank you to the security guy, the bartender, and all the locals that we met along the way for making us understand why people like Anthony Bourdain and Drew Carey are so fond of your amazing city.  Your town is a true original and truly beautiful as well.

So, for all of you like me who think that it doesn't matter if you show up today, or it doesn't matter what you say or do, I assure you that it does.  I met so many wonderful people on the road this summer, and without you, it never would have happened.  Please keep being who you are and doing what you do so that when people like me show up, we can appreciate it.  I learned a lot and had a lot of fun along the way.  Thank you and I hope that you all know I had the time of my life.

I'll be back next week with some new stuff for travelers, but in the mean time, go to Cleveland.  What a town.