Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Battery Park

It was around one in the afternoon when we reached Battery Park. Lunch time. I ate a trail mix bar, dry fruits and a banana. My wife had brought some stuff packed from home. Children found a Sub Way outlet nearby, thought that they were very hungry and bought foot long sandwiches.They ate about three inches of the foot long sandwiches and Bhanu and Vishwa had to finish the remaining.

Battery Park was full of activity. There were hawkers, entertainers, vagabonds, homeless, loiterers etc etc. There were also a large number of tourists on their way to the statue of Liberty.

There was a group of street entertainers, performing Gymnastics and dancing to the tune of music from their tape recorder.

A fellow had painted himself in silver and sat like a statue. Nothing moved him but a quarter or a dollar put in his box. If you made an offering, he would tip his cap and also pose with you for a picture if you so wished. Reminded me of the silver painted Gandhi who stood on a pedestal at the Congress Exhibition in Bangalore.

This gentleman stood next to the queue waiting to board the ferry and played a tune from the country of every visitor who passed in front of him. He hit the sides of the steel drum with something like a drumstick and produced the tunes. He played “mera joota hai japani” for us and got a dollar.

And there were many willing visitors ready to part with a dollar or two for getting their pictures taken with these people dressed like the Statue of Liberty.

We could have spent some time there but since we had planned to return to Plainsboro and proceed to Washington DC after visiting the statue and Ellis island, we hurried towards the ticket counter, to get the tickets for the ferry.

Friday, October 22, 2010

New York - contd.

We started walking slowly along Broadway, towards Battery park. I had never thought that I would be walking in New York one day – that being a place we only read and hear about - and it was hard to believe that I was actually there. The names and landmarks were familiar and I moved at my own pace keenly looking at everything around and reading all the sign boards and name plates.

I envied the dentist who could boast of a clinic on Broadway.

And was amused with the millionaires who bargained.

Of all the places that I had been in the US, Broadway seemed to be the closest to our shopping streets with its pushcarts – where Bhanu bought a of milkshake – and ‘shoe polish’ on foot paths.

We passed the wall street and the ‘Bull’

and soon afterwards, reached Battery park .

Monday, October 18, 2010

New York

To avoid the hassles of driving and parking in New York, we had planned to leave the van at Nanda’s place in Plainsboro, go over to New York by train, see whatever we can, return by evening and proceed to Washington DC.

We did have intentions of starting early but when Nanda dropped us at the Princeton junction station, it was nearing 10 AM on 25th June 2010. We bought return tickets,

and were on our way in another ten minutes. I could find a seat next to the window and tried to absorb as much of the scenes as possible in my brain and in the camera’s memory card.

By quarter past eleven we were in the Newark Penn station.

Vishwa the leader, was the only person who had a fair idea where we were and how we should proceed. But he was not very confident too. He consulted instruction boards, automated information kiosks, his cell phone and a few humans who looked approachable and managed to get the required information and tickets. We had to take a metro red line train to reach the World Trade Center station.

It did not take long to reach WTC and we were there in fifteen or twenty minutes. This is the group minus Vishwa the photographer, just before emerging out of the WTC station.

We had to Head towards Broadway, walk through to Battery park and catch the ferry to reach the statue of Liberty.We came into the open, in front of the place where the WTC stood and where the New World Trade Center is being built and looked this way, that way trying to find the correct direction

and after a few minute’s walk, were glad to note that we were headed in the right direction.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Plainsboro - Princeton

When we started from Detroit, our plan was to visit New York in the evening, an hour by train, after checking in and having lunch at Nanda’s house on the afternoon of 24th . Post lunch, when the matter was put to vote, the unanimous verdict was to lounge on the comfortable sofas in Nanda’s living room and if she had no objection, remain lounging there forever!

Nanda had to find a way of getting us out and back on our legs before we claimed ownership of her living room and she suggested that having travelled all the way to New jersey, we at least see the famous Princeton university, which was close by. She said that it was just minute’s drive, and offered to drive us. She described the beauty of the campus, gave a short talk on its history, mentioned names like Albert Einstein, named the movies that have been shot there, said that there was a very good ice cream shop and to her credit, managed to evict us from her living room and herd us back into the car. No wonder that she is a success in her business venture!
The university was really a very short drive from her house, and the approach road gave a hint of what we could expect.

The historic campus was equally appealing and very pleasant in the late evening.

We strolled around the campus for about an hour, walked up and down the neat streets taking in the atmosphere,

and returned home ready again to gorge on stuffed parathas (paneer and broccoli) and ice cream.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

To New jersey

We left Dubois at 10 am on 24th of June 2010, and were expecting to reach my niece Nanda’s house in Plainsboro NJ, by lunch time. Vishwa kept a steady 75 miles per hour daringly exceeding the speed limit of Ohio by 20 miles and we cruised through the undulating green landscape of Ohio, enjoying the sight of large fields and farmhouses.

Many of the properties had their own pond or a small lake and on a rock by the side of a pond I noticed (with a bit of envy) a gentleman sitting still, with a line thrown in. Looked like an ideal life, at least from a distance. There were many places where I wanted to get down from the car and spend some time looking around but that was not possible. The freeways are meant for speeding along, not stopping here and there and looking around. I had to be satisfied with capturing the scene on the camera. That was proving difficult too. Just as I had the scene on the camera screen and was about to press the button, a car passed us or Vishwa overtook a truck. I got plenty of half trucks, cars and sometimes half a truck and a car.

We Stopped at almost all the rest areas, the space around which looked like gardens, ideal for a picnic.

By afternoon we were in the hilly regions of Pennsylvania, the freeway weaving through the slopes.

After Passing in and out of many tunnels with bright interiors,

we reached Allentown by two in the afternoon, exactly two hours behind schedule.

Latha and Bhanu who were not satisfied with the food they had brought (and the weight they had gained), ate some ice cream, and children nibbled on onion rings and apple pie. I took a bite of pie, found that it did not come anyway near the taste that I had imagined and drank a glass of water, reserving the space in my stomach for Nanda’s lunch. Vishwa’s GPS guided him perfectly and we arrived in front of Nanda’s house by three thirty in the afternoon, ready for a late lunch.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dubois - Holiday Inn Express

As I have mentioned earlier I am one of the unfortunate ones who can’t sleep well into the afternoon or stay in bed after waking up. I got up before six in the morning. There was not much room in the suite to move around without hitting things in the semi darkness, waking up the fortunate ones who were asleep and bear their curses/abuses and as a result I was in the reception lounge of the Holiday Inn Express by 6 am. The complimentary breakfast buffet was ready but it was too early for breakfast. There were some comfortable sofas in the lounge and also few copies of USA Today and I spent about half an hour going through the newspaper. Then I went out of the hotel for a walk. Dubois must be a convenient place for a night halt. There were plenty of cars and trucks parked around the gas station in front of the hotel.

Even the hotel parking space was full. I went out onto the freeway hoping to walk some distance and look around. But there was some road work going on and part of the road was barricaded. The vehicles were whizzing past in the remaining space. Since I did not have any intention of getting a firsthand experience of a US hospital or a morgue, I turned back and spent my time looking at the cars parked in front of the hotel. There were cars from many states and I found one interesting feature in the registration plates. Every registration plate had some interesting or important feature of the particular state, mentioned on the number plates. Camera was in my pocket and so here are some examples.

While I was involved in this activity, I saw one or two car owners glancing suspiciously at me and I decided to get back to the room before someone called the police. Dhruva was ready for breakfast and we went into the breakfast room. There was a good breakfast spread – cinnamon rolls, muffins, white and wheat bread, bananas, boiled eggs, omlette, scrambled eggs, sausages, raisin bran, Cheerios, butter and jam, tea, coffee, milk and juice. By the time we finished breakfast and went back to the room, others were stirring in the bed. While they got ready, I occupied myself making a note of everything that I saw since the time we left home and that explains the full list of breakfast items. By nine thirty everyone had had their bath and breakfast and we were ready to proceed. We loaded the car, Vishwa filled gas and we left Dubois by 10 AM.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

On the Freeway.

We were to go south on I 75 and then get into I 80 east. Vishwa had driven on these roads many times and knew his way very well. Still, the GPS was on and the map was on the dashboard. This GPS is a very useful gadget. It guides you perfectly well when you know where you are going but It confuses you further when you are lost! Once it guided Vishwa into a dead end and was urging him to turn left where there was no road but only a river. Luckily for us, he ditched his GPS, relied on his map and his faculties and all of us are still alive.

The GPS said that we were on I 75, I tried the map and confirmed that we really were. I wanted to search I 80 and find out when we would be getting into it. I was seeing plenty of numbers on the map and while searching for our route, got some information about the numbering. The odd numbered ones run north south and the even numbers run east west. When there are three digits, the one beginning with an odd number ends in a city while the one beginning with an even number goes around it etc etc. Some addition to my collection of information which I may never use.

The road was good. Vishwa’s driving was smooth. He kept a steady 80 miles, just five miles above the limit but still had his antenna up for police cars. The surroundings were wonderful. The lonely farmhouses amidst large green fields were a lovely sight and I never got tired of looking at them. I do not know the negative points of those houses, but I envied those who were living there.

After driving for about two hours we stopped at a ‘rest area’. With many flags flying in the front, it looked like a consulate.

It housed the toilets, coffee bars, food and ice cream out lets, public telephones, tourist information centers and a large lounge. The travelling public have it good in the US. But the travelling dogs have it better. They have their own exercise area!

Another two hours and it was dinner time. The Mc Donald and Burger king signs were visible from miles away and we drove towards them.

We had carried our food but the children being more American, wanted Mc Donald to serve their dinner. The weather was cool, the surroundings were very clean and the seating in front of the outlet overlooking the freeway was ideal.

Most of us were sleepy when we resumed the journey but fortunately Vishwa remained awake and by eleven at night, we arrived in front of Holiday Inn Express Suites, Dubois, located right next to the interstate 80.