Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Back in the Garden State

February 12- 21, 2016:

It was a shaky start to my travel day at the United Airlines ticket counter with a log jam of travelers and only one attendant on duty.  There were several travelers with over weight bags and others not familiar with the self service kiosks which had the line backed up.  It took about 45 minutes to get checked in. They somehow need to make these self service machines easier, so infrequent travelers can work them.  The luggage situation on flights is also out of control these days with so many large bags being carried on to avoid the luggage fees.  The big picture was good though, all my flights were on time, the weather was clear and the flying smooth.  

I get an almost new rental car, took me a few minutes to figure out how to adjust the heat down and figure out how to put it in gear.  Whose idea was it to do away with the gear shift lever !  A rotary knob to change gears is just so wrong and why does everything these days have to be a touch screen ?  

The ride on the Jersey Turnpike is pretty horrible with heavy traffic, some snow flurry activity, but no delays.

My son Jeremy has grand daughter Sierra for the weekend and we go to a local favorite lounge, City Streets, for dinner.  They have a good sounding band doing a best of the 80’s music set.  

The temperature on Saturday drops throughout the day to near zero by dark.  We do a brisk walk around the block with Sierra driving her battery powered toy Jeep.  She is really good at driving it and likes to go fast, could be trouble ahead ?  After a trip to the Quaker Bridge Mall for valentine shopping, Jeremy makes an excellent baked Ziti dinner for us.

Sierra in her Jeep

Sierra with Zeus

We watch a great documentary, 180 Degrees South, about Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia company founder and Doug Tompkins, North Face company founder  Totally amazing, not sure if it is possible to do what these two accomplished in todays world.

A trip to the NJ State Museum in Trenton on Sunday with a stop for lunch at Pete’s Steakhouse for a pizza.  The main focus was the planetarium laser light show.  It is  a small museum but has many articles specific to New Jersey that are very interesting.  There is also much on local native americans and the early european settlers.

Sierra looking a pig skeleton

Jeremy and Sierra arranging blocks

Washington Crossing the Delaware Vase

Sierra with a picture she colored

I take a ride to the Jersey shore on Monday amid snow flurries stopping at an old favorite, “the Roadside Diner.  Happy to say it hasn’t changed at all, the owner and cook Alexandro came out from the kitchen to ask if everything was all right, same as the last time I was there 3 years ago. The bacon omelet was also perfect in every way, as usual.

The Roadside Diner

Diner interior

Renovation seems to be stalled on the Asbury Park carousel building and the Casino, it still remains interesting and nostalgic which will most likely be change when they finally do the planned massive restoration.  It will then look more like a new building, that’s progress.

The Carousel House in Asbury Park

The Casino at Asbury Park

Asbury Park Convention Hall

The Wonder Bar

Convention Hall details

The temperature goes from zero to 50’s resulting in heavy rain and a “big melt” on Tuesday.  A pond starts forming on the street.

Water hazard on street

I go for my annual physical exam on Tuesday morning and then to a local pharmacy to get a shingles shot.  Hopefully I'm done for another year.  The EKG gets more painful every year with all those tapes being pulled off, but I suppose it could be worse.

The 38 Dodge is soaking wet from condensation due to the temperature change, but as usual with a little starting fluid, regardless of the soaked ignition system, it fires right up.  The rain yesterday hopefully washed most of the snow melt chemicals off the road as it is defined and must go out for a good run.  That happens on Wednesday without incident.

The 38 Dodge compared to the new Chrysler rental car I am driving is a dinosaur, but there are things I prefer about it.  There is something to say about simplicity, distinctive appearance and style which has disappeared in todays modern cars.  When you drive the 38 Dodge, it’s two hands on the wheel, concentrating on the road, with a few simple manual controls. No complex controls involving touch screens, no phone connectivity, no music libraries, no digital displays, it is a enlightening feeling to be smatter than the car.  

While I am in this frame of mind, I am getting up to speed again on the New Jersey roads, actually it’s the driving style now in all the large cities.  Todays cars are so powerful and agile with their full race car engines and road course suspension and braking systems that everyone drives well over the speed limit, and the police don’t really enforce it.  The days of keeping to the right except to pass, maintaining a safe following distance, changing lanes abruptly in front of another vehicle, etc, etc are a distant memory.  The driving style today is much like being in a Nascar race, you are driving for a position, if you can gain a position, you accelerate and dive in, it’s full throttle takeoff’s, hard braking, drafting behind someones rear bumper, passing with abandon.  If you crash don’t worry, with all todays safety features, front and side air bags, crumple zones in the body, etc you will usually walk away just like the Nascar guys do.   

A trip to New York City is always an amazing adventure, it is a collage of crowds, hustle and bustle, sounds, smells, diverse cultures and language, wonders of the world, incredible buildings all flavored with a certain amount of anxiety and danger.

Great to see that my last project at NJ Transit 
is still going strong 

Sight across from Madison Square Garden

Ice skating in Bryant Park

New York Public Library

Street view

Chrysler building detail

Intricate building facade

Grand Central waiting room

Grand Central Terminal and the Chrysler Building

Times Square

The Naked Cowboy at Times Square

I subscribe to an internet travel website/blog called “Wand’rly” who are a young alternative family who travel and work full time.  In a recent article they have a blog entry written by a couple who live full time on the road in a VW bus and are proponents of the “the Idle Theory".  It is interesting concept about the hustle and bustle of todays lifestyle and the need to simply relax, be idle, do nothing once in a while.  It is something to think about ?

A ski day at Camleback in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania is another form of anxiety and danger with people of all abilities skiing with abandon all around you.  Sierra 5 years old has been a few times now, is fearless and a natural skier, does not whine about the cold, will go all day, must be some nordic blood in her ?  Jeremy takes her up the chair lift to the top, she skies down the beginner slopes about as fast as I do, tethered or holding his hand and rarely falling.  I had a decent ski today as well, conditions were decent, crowds not too excessive, felt the magic again a few times and no injuries.

Jeremy and Sierra

Sierra on the ski lift

View from the top looking down

Camleback Mountain at dusk

Jeremy, Christine and I go to Laurita Winery near New Egypt, NJ on Saturday afternoon where a wine tasting festival is in progress.  We take the 38 Dodge there, a most appropiate way to arrive at a wine festival.  It is a huge building constructed with wooden beams, siding and flooring to resemble a farm barn.  Outside is a large picnic area and about ten food trucks. There was ice carving going on, but to be honest I’m tired of the corny bear sculptures.  We stayed until dark and drove the old Dodge back to Hightstown in the dark which is really special.  My son said it best when he said, “When you drive this car, you feel like you are operating a real machine, you can feel the heat of the engine, the vibration, the smell of oil, something you don’t get in a modern car.  I think Christine responded with, that must be a guy thing, I don't get it ?

The tasting room

The Vineyards

Ice carving

Driving in the dark

Later after getting the “machine” back in solitary confinement, we went to the “Tavern on the Lake” in downtown Hightstown to listen to the band.  The good thing is we can walk there from the house, no driving.  The Tavern’s clientele aren’t exactly high on the food chain but they seem to always have bands that fit perfectly.  It’s a mixed age crowd but mostly the music is 60-80’s vintage and pretty good. Christine is a dancer, when the music is right and they were playing her favorites.  As a result, a guy from the band gave her a free tee shirt and took our picture which may show up on their web site.

Jeremy and Christine with some old looking guy in between

I had the most amazing travel experience ever at Newark Airport on Sunday morning.  I was through the self check-in ticketing process within 5 minutes, no line !  I then went to security, again no line, a streamlined process, no shoes removed, no lap top out of the bag, no plastic tubs, walked right through in less than 5 minutes again.  All flights were on time, no delays, incredible.

Slick is back in Tucson again

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