Thursday, August 19, 2010

Miles' Birthday Trip - Part TWO, NYC

In all my travels to New York City, I have never once gone to a museum.  I always wanted to go to but there was always so much else to do AND being from the DC area, I'm so used to free museums that it has taken me awhile to warm up to the idea of having to pay for the privilege.  This was the trip I was determined to change this trend, and we chose the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  By the time we got ourselves up and moving and fed and into Manhattan it was already noon so we only had 90 minutes as we were meeting Katy at the St. James theatre at 1:30pm.  We were very specific in our desire to see the Picasso exhibit though, so 90 minutes was just enough time.  Needless to say there are rooms and rooms of other stuff there that we would both like to see, but at least we've made a start on NY museums.  The Picasso exhibit was lovely.  He had a huge body of work and worked for many many years, so there was a very broad variety of works to see.  I have to say that I liked his ink portraits of his "bar buddies" that he did when he was 18 better than any of his later works.  They were very detailed and small, about the size of a coaster, which means they would probably fit in my budget better as well.

After Picasso we found our way back to the front of the museum and hailed a taxi to take us to the St. James to meet Katy.  We were about to see Miles and Joseph's first ever Broadway Play!  We chose American Idiot which is based on the Greenday album of the same name.  It was a hard charging show that never slowed down.  We all really enjoyed it and we bought the soundtrack on our way out the door.  It starred John Gallagher Jr. who also starred in Spring Awakening, my all time favorite Broadway show.

It was about 3:45pm at this point and by now our donuts from the morning had worn off and we were all starving.  We had dinner plans for later but decided to grab a snack at Dallas BBQ.  My friend Nicole met us there and we had some yummy vittals.  Miles ordered the hot wings and we were all surprised when full wings came out, not just wing pieces.  It was a huge platter of food, but being a growing teenager he hoovered right through them and is still talking about how good they were.  We all enjoyed our food and catching up with Nicole and Katy.  Nicole had even brought Katy a floaty pen which is Katy's favorite thing!

Our next adventure was unexpected and delightful!  My dad's first cousin Carolyn moved from Miami to NYC many years ago and for the most part we had lost touch with her.  Recently she found me on Facebook and contacted me asking if I was interested in family tree information that she had collected over the years.  Of course I was interested!  I know lots about my mother's family, but very little about my father's so this was very welcome news.  I had met Carolyn at least one other time in my life, when I was five years old she was visiting my grandparents and she taught me to tie my shoes.  I thought she was SO cool.  I let Carolyn know that we were coming to New York and she asked if we would be interested in touring her husband Mitch's music studio.  Mitch is a music producer.  Of course we said YES!  So after our snack we called Carolyn and headed to the studio on 9th Avenue.  Mitch and Carolyn were absolutely adorable and we loved spending time with them.  They greeted us at the elevator outside the studio and welcomed us with open arms.  The walls of the studio were covered with photographs of the celebrities who had recorded there.  His studio has been there for many years.  The building is an Art Deco building from the '20's and the windows even open, which is so unusual in offices these days.  We sat in Mitch's office and enjoyed a view of the Hudson River.

Mitch and Carolyn had made reservations for all of us at their favorite restaurant just up the street, Ralph's.  We still had Nicole with us and though she attempted to back out as she felt it was a family thing, we convinced her to stay with us.  We had a lovely dinner at Ralph's, Joseph declared the fetticine alfredo as the best he'd ever had.  We shared a bottle of wine with our meal and then we all ordered desserts which got shared around the table.  Mitch snuck back to the bar and paid the check when we weren't paying attention, which was super sweet of him.  You would never have guessed that we had all just met, it really felt like we had known each other for years, we really were family.  When we finished eating we decided to walk a little and burn off some of those calories.  Carolyn told us that there was a free concert up the street at Lincoln Center so we headed up there.  Sure enough there was Caribbean music echoing from the buildings and a folks of every age dancing in the aisles!  We even saw a guy who was a dead ringer for Albert Einstein kicking up his heels!  I think the name of the band was Mazza Pucci, but don't hold me to that.

After the concert we asked Mitch and Carolyn if we could see their Manhattan apartment as I had always wanted to see one.  They have such a reputation for being shoe boxes and I wanted to see if the rumors were true.  I have to say that although their apartment was small, it was delightful.  I really loved it, it was plenty of room for two people and the location couldn't be beat!  We can't wait to hang out with Mitch and Carolyn again, we had such a good time!

We left the apartment and walked Katy back to her train and then Nicole and the rest of us walked over to the PATH station to head back to Jersey City.  As usual it was well after midnight before we got back to the rig.  Exhausted we fell into bed and didn't stir until 11am.  We called Nicole as she was interested in seeing this RV park in her town that she had never heard of before.  She walked down to where we were and hung out with us for a while.  She even drove the rig from our parking space to the dump station!  Then she directed us to a local diner that she had recently discovered and I had what may have been the best grilled ham and cheese ever!  We walked down to the waterfront to walk off our breakfast and then we said goodbye to Nicole and set off on the next part of our journey!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Miles' Birthday Trip - Part ONE, NJ

School is finally done for the semester and it is almost Miles' birthday so we gassed up the Rallye Girl and headed out of town again.  We had been planning on this trip ever since we bought the rig, as I had asked Miles first thing where he'd like to go for his birthday.  He chose Boston.  I can honestly say I was surprised by the answer although I shouldn't have been.  To be more specific he wanted to go to a clothing store in Boston.  The name of the store is Johnny Cupcakes and the reason this shouldn't have surprised me is because years ago when I took him to NYC for his first visit he wanted to visit a clothing store there as well (Bape).  My child is a clothes horse, what can I say?

By the time we got out of Strasburg it was almost time for Joseph's online class so we got off 66 at Front Royal and parked at the Cracker Barrel.  CB is one of those places that welcomes RV's and you can actually park there overnight if you like.  We were just there for dinner and class though, no overnights yet.  Miles and I amused ourselves on our computers while Joseph took his class.  We had the generator running and the AC on so we were quite comfortable.  

Now you may be wondering how we were all three online at the same time in a parking lot.  Well I am very happy to announce that we are the proud owners of our own little MiFi hotspot!!!  We had gotten so frustrated with searching for free WiFi and with trying to connect at campgrounds that advertised free Wifi but then had such a weak signal that we couldn't even check our email.  We are very pleased with our purchase and so far it is working like a charm!  

When class and dinner were done we hit the road again.  I assured Joseph that he didn't have to drive through the night.  We were headed to Asbury Park, NJ first, but we didn't have a reservation at a campground that night so there was no rush or exact destination.  Once we got north of Baltimore he started showing fatigue and was ready to find a place to plug in for the night.  

Now another aside about our other favorite gadget on the rig.  Our GPS.  We originally bought a GPS on our trip to Myrtle Beach before we even bought the rig, because we had gotten lost on that trip and didn't want to repeat our mistake.  We called that first unit Jill because that was the name of the voice we chose.  Although the unit was supposed to have all sorts of cool features, like traffic notices and exit ramp notifications we never really saw those features work.  I thought I just hadn't found the right commands and didn't really worry about it much.  Several times we would change roads without Jill's permission and she would do everything in her power to MAKE us go back and do what she said, but for the most part we were satisfied with her work.  One day though she simply stopped working altogether.  When we tried to turn her on she just blinked at us.  We weren't sure what was wrong, but the next time we went by a Best Buy we stopped in to see what could be done and the girl immediately took it back and gave us a new one.  Needless to say we were thrilled, it was less than 2 months old and I now know that it never worked correctly because as soon as we plugged the new unit in things were MUCH better.  We changed the accent on our new unit to Australian female, her name is Karen and we like her much better.  She doesn't seem as bitchy when we ignore her instructions for one thing.  ;)  For another thing, she tells us our exit before we get there.  I tell you all this in order to tell you that one of our favorite features of the GPS is the ability to find us a campground.  If you'll recall, on the way home from SML she found us the Shenandoah Valley KOA near Staunton, which was a fabulous place!  This time we weren't so lucky, but it wasn't Karen's fault.  She found us what looked to be a lovely campground near Elkton, MD but when we got there (after midnight) it was dark and locked and there was a gate with a code lock, so we couldn't even find a spot on our own and pay in the morning.  Luckily we had passed a Walmart so we back tracked a few miles and hunkered in there for the night.

In the morning we breakfasted at Waffle House and then headed on to our first destination of this trip, Asbury Park, NJ.  I had just seen a friend on Facebook mention the Silverball Pinball Museum and Arcade and knew immediately that I wanted to find it.  Of course Asbury Park was familiar to me as it is to any Bruce Springsteen fan and as it turns out the Stone Pony is diagonally across the street from the Silverball.  The deal at the Silverball is that it is a museum AND an arcade.  They have rows and rows of old pinball machines and arcade games, including skeeball in working order.  You pay $10 to get in and you can play all the games for free for an hour (you can also pay $15 for the whole day and go in and out all day long, but since we weren't staying we didn't need that option).  We plunked down our $30 for the three of us and got our armbands and headed inside.  I have never been good at pinball and today was no different, I suck at it.  

However, they also had Galaga which was my FAVORITE arcade game back in the day!  I rock Galaga, I even beat Joseph's high score, although I came nowhere close to the high score for the machine which they post on a little placard on every machine there!  When our hour was done (which felt like three minutes later) we went out onto the boardwalk and were planning to walk down to the water's edge and get our feet wet, but the "beach cops" had different plans for us.  Turns out that you have to pay to walk out on the beach there!  I didn't need wet toes that badly, so we turned around and headed to the rig, for some reason though the cops gave us the stinkeye until we were out of siight.  I'm not sure why they were so anxious about our presense, maybe they thought we were gonna turn around and bum rush our way onto the sand?

Our next destination was Hillside, NJ.  In order to tell you why I would be headed to Hillside, I have an embarrassing confession to make.   My guilty pleasure in life is the Real Housewives franchise on Bravo TV.  I have never watched the Atlanta version and I have yet to see the DC version but I love, love, love the OC, NY and NJ versions.  One of the Real Housewives of NJ, Teresa, just opened a pizzarria with her husband Joe.  On her blog one day (yes, I read the blogs too) she mentioned the address of the pizza place and said "If you are ever in the area stop by, Joe will probably be there and I might be there."  Well seeing as Hillside is very close to Jersey City where we were staying, how could I resist.  We found the restaurant with no trouble whatsoever, and even found a nice parking spot for the rig, not too far down the street.  When we entered we were greeted by a sweet man who was very enthusiastic about his menu and making sure we enjoyed whatever we ordered.  We could see Teresa's husband Joe sitting a table talking to some people, so he really does run his business in person.  We placed our order and sat down to wait.  The restaurant was beautifully decorated and a poster of Teresa and a copy of her book were prominently displayed.  When our food came they were HUGE helpings and totally delish!  Joseph got a steak and cheese wrap, Miles got paninini and I got veal parmesan.  The sauce on mine was amazing.  When we were done the cashier asked if we had come because of the tv show and we told him yes and described our rig parked down the street.  He asked if we had seen Joe which of course we had.  He asked if I wanted to meet Joe, which I did also, but I didn't want to bust in on his conversation, he was actually on the phone at this moment, so I really didn't want to disturb him, but the employee assured me that it was fine and called Joe over.  Joe was very sweet asked us questions about our rig and such.

If you’re in Hillside, New Jersey, stop by Giuseppe’s Homestyle Pizzeria at 1576 Maple Avenue!

Quantico and Triangle in the Rig

In mid July we decided to take our second trip in our Rallye Girl.  Living with a Marine had taught me a lot about the Marine Corps and I was excited at the notion of visiting Quantico Marine Corps Base and the National Marine Corps Museum.  Joseph was equally excited to show me the base and the PX and he had never been to the museum either.  We looked around online to find a campground in the area and decided on Aquia Pines.  We drove up there on Saturday, after my first week of the summer semester was over.  By the time we got to the museum it was already 3:30 and they closed at 5pm, but since it is a free museum, we went in anyway.  

This museum is truly an amazing experience.  They have really done a good job of activating all your senses.  There were placques to read, videos to watch, and music to listen to.  In some rooms the floor would vibrate to simulate riding on troop ships, at the beginning of the tour you could stand in a booth where the voice of a Drill Sargeant was yelling at you from all directions.  It confirmed for me something I already knew...I would have never made it in the Marine Corps!  I would have lasted about five minutes with people yelling at me and then I would have been a puddle on the floor.  In one room meant to simulate a battle where Marines were freezing cold during the Korean War the room was kept very cold.  

The first day we only got as far as WWI before we ran out of time.  When we left the museum, we moseyed on over to the base and I got to shop for the first time in a PX.  We bought Marine Corps license plate frames for my car and the rig and I also found my favorite perfume for $36 which is much less than the $50 I would have paid at a regular store.  I had been holding out on replacing my almost empty bottle for several months in anticipation of this trip and I was excited to have perfume again, especially at such a nice price!  After the PX, Joseph drove me around the base to show me base housing and such and then we headed into to town for dinner and then back to our campsite.  The campground was decent, although not as nice as some we had seen and although they advertised free WiFi, we were sorely disappointed in the service as we could only log on for 3 or 4 minutes at a time, and not at the same time!

The next day we woke up, showered, lazed around a bit and then headed back to the museum.  We spent about 4 more hours and made it as far as the Korean War in the history of the Corps before I was on overload and had to leave.  We still have to go back to do the sections from the Korean War to the present, but it was a lot to absorb and I just couldn't take anymore that day.  We had a late lunch/early dinner at the replica Tun Tavern (the original is where the Marine Corps was founded in Philadelphia!) in the museum and then once again headed back to our campsite.  We were actually scheduled to stay another night in the campground and we did hang out until about 10pm, but we were so annoyed with the WiFi situation and worried about getting to school the next day, that we decided to head on home so we'd have or normal commute on Monday morning.

Monday, August 2, 2010


When we finally got home from our Lake trip we unpacked and got our laundry started. We were still pouting because we didn't want the adventures to stop. We drove up to Winchester in our car which felt very weird after being in the rig for a week. We went to the Camping World store there though, so we were still traveling in our souls! After shopping we stopped for lunch and while we were eating my sister called. My sister lives in Brooklyn and was feeling lonely because her roommate was out of town. She didn't have to ask us twice to come visit! We could hardly get home fast enough to pack up and take off for New York City.

Now, I know you are wondering where on Earth we thought we were gonna CAMP in New York City. Well for once Dear Reader, I am one step ahead of you. It so happens that years ago when I was married we travelled to NYC on a regular basis, but we couldn't afford to stay in the expensive hotels in the area. We usually stayed with friends, but I researched camping options (we were tent campers) so that if our friends' couches and floors were unavailable, we'd still be able to go visit the big apple. While Joseph was throwing our snacks and computers and clean laundry into baskets to carry out to the rig I looked up the Liberty Harbor Campground which I had found way back in the day. It still existed, but by the time I called it was after 5pm so I got a voicemail when I tried to make a reservation.

Liberty Harbor is in Jersey City where two friends of mine live or have lived. It has been my gateway to Manhattan for years. So directions were not an issue, from the time we left the house until we got off the turnpike I knew exactly where we were, and finding the campground turned out to be a snap. We pulled into the gatehouse and although we didn't have a reservation the night guard assured us there was room and took our information. We drove through the gate and were simply amazed at what we found. It was nothing more than an asphalt parking lot with 50 or more motor homes, fifth wheels and travel trailers. They were all parked close together just like a regular parking lot, but down the center lines of the rows were electric and water hookups. I think it is a truly amazing and beautiful idea. Whoever owns that parking lot is making themselves a mint. It was a random weeknight and the place was packed. It turned out that the campground was actually completely booked, even though we had found an empty space, and in the morning they informed us that although we couldn't have a regular space with hookups, we could still stay in lot, off to the side and pay for the privilege. We were happy to pay for a safe parking space though, we have a terrific generator for power and they had a nice bathhouse . They are located only 6 blocks from the PATH train and they have a view of the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty.

So here we are in NYC, we headed over to Manhattan around noon and our first priority was some good new york pizza! We got off the PATH train at the WTC and started walking north. Within a couple of blocks we found our heart's desire and had a slice. We texted Katy and let her know we were headed in her direction and got subway instructions. Now, as many times as I have been in NYC, I have never taken the subway unless I was with a local. It just seemed entirely to confusing and I really didn't want to be lost underground. Katy has been living there for a while now and was confident of her subway directions, so we trusted her and headed underground. We found her work with no trouble at all. She works for an adorable portrait studio on the upper west side, Portrait Bug, you can even see her pretty face on their website! She introduced us to her co-workers and showed us some portraits she had shot that morning and then just before her quitting time, her boss came in and we got to meet her and her husband as well. After we left, we made our way to several landmarks that I have always wanted to see including the flagship Tiffany's store, Trump Tower and St. Patrick's Cathedral. We also found a Tad's Steakhouse which is one of my favorite places to eat in NY. It is just a hole-in-the-wall chain, but the food is always good and the prices are great, especially for Manhattan.

The next day we left the rig earlier and made our way all the way over to Katy's apartment in Brooklyn. Katy needed food and had other errands to run, so we ran around Brooklyn with her including a trip to Costco. Katy didn't have a Costco card but I do so she was able to stock up on a ton of frozen foods that were reasonably priced. Her local grocery stores don't have the variety of frozen choices that she is used to and she hates buying fresh food and then having it go bad before she has time to eat it. She was a very happy girl, and I was actually able to add her to my account while we were there, so she can go back. After all our errand running we met up with my friend Nicole for dinner at the Cowgirl Hall of Fame restaurant at 519 Hudson and 10th Street. This restaurant had been on my list of places to try for quite awhile. I actually first saw it on Sex and the City. The food was really good and we were glad to have searched it out. It was really good to see Nicole and have her finally meet Katy. On our way out we walked through a movie or television taping. Not sure what show it was but they were filming street scenes outside another restaurant as well as filming a scene inside a restaurant, so we just moseyed our way right on down the street.

We headed back to Katy's house in Brooklyn because our brother (CAB) was on his way up from Florida and Joseph and I wanted to surprise him. He had no idea that we were already up there and I had been very quiet about it on facebook all week to keep him in the dark. We went to all this trouble because CAB loves to surprise people in this way, and it was nice to be able to do it to him for once. Once CAB arrived and was suitably surprised we played a trivia game which is pretty much a mandatory activity when a group of us in are in the same room. By the time we left it was close to midnight and by the time we got back to the Rallye Girl it was after 2am and we were EXHAUSTED.

CAB wanted to see our rig and Katy had to work the next morning so he left Brooklyn with her and came to find us in Jersey City. We hung out for a while and then we drove him back to the PATH station and we headed home. We love NY and were thrilled at how well the Liberty Harbor Marina RV Park served our needs. We know we will be back there soon!