Sunday, May 05, 2013

Visitors: Round One

At the end of April, my Mum came over to visit us and see New York City. A little over a week after she left, Laura's parents visit. Then, at the end of May, my Dad and Stepmum will be the latest visitors to the city.

L's parents are still here, but we're tired and having a lazy day which means I finally have a bit of a break in which to update the blog. Why so tired? Well, I'll let the photos tell the story of everything we crammed in during the week of my Mum's visit:


Cabin Overhead

First was the "tramway" to Roosevelt Island. It's been around for decades, but many don't even know it exists. The cars have been upgraded considerably since they first started, so we were't totally terrified by their height as they run alongside the 59th Street bridge. Once onto the island we also had our first view of Manhattan, from the East - we saw much of it from all 4 directions over the course of the week. We had been to Roosevelt Island before, but hadn't taken the tramway due to bad weather.

The Closest I'll Get

Looking Back

The next day we took the Staten Island ferry, and straight back again. This is the closest we can get without taking the tours - and the tours still aren't taking anyone on to the island, thanks to hurricane Sandy. The ours however remain pricey, whereas the Staten Island ferry is free. So this made a lot of sense! Also, we got to see Manhattan from the 2nd direction: this time from the South.

Mum @ Lake

Later that day we took the subway up to Central Park. I have more photos from there than I know what to do with, but none of my Mum enjoying one of the sights near the top of her must-see list. She'd always wanted to visit the city, so we were so pleased to show her around. Mum even had fun pointing at various things around Manhattan to prove "she was there"!

Footprint A

The next day began at the 9/11 Memorial. I won't get into past memories again, but I do think the memorial site is a fitting tribute. The sheer size of the fountains, within the footprints of the fallen Twin Towers, really gives you a sense of scale of the event: once you're standing right there, you really get it.

We Saw Newsies

Times Square Processed

After enjoying some NYC's finest traditional pastrami bagels, we chilled out at home before our evening jaunt on Broadway. We saw Newsies! We had great seats for one of the city's most popular productions, which also happens to be one of Laura's favourite musical movies. Whilst she thought a few of the changes were unnecessary, everyone enjoyed it immensely. Everyone in our party that is; a couple next to Laura tried to talk the whole way through (we shushed them), use their phone (everyone stopped them), didn't applaud at any point, and even fell asleep halfway through. You have to think they might have something better to spend their money (well over $100 a seat) on! After the show we went to Times Square, which is always "very New York" - bright, loud, busy... and photogenic. Mum was delighted to be there and I hadn't really been since I used to work there.

Thirty Rock

Empire Cross Processed

We had a day off (aside from a short walk in Hoboken, seeing Manhattan from the third direction - West) to recover from all the tourism, but spent our final day at Rockefeller Center. We tried out the NBC tour first, then scored some free rehearsal tickets to see Jimmy Fallon - a great and unexpected bonus. We then toured the plaza, before heading up to the Top of the Rock for a glorious view of Manhattan - from the North (well okay, from the middle, but looking down!). Afterwards we ticked off the last few things on the list (many of which my Mum pointed at), including the Chrysler Building, and Grand Central Terminal. To the end the day was dinner at The Smith in Midtown East, which was very loud, but very, VERY good. L and I will be going back.

Sadly we had to say bye to Mum but she had a great time (we are told!) - and we enjoyed being tourists too. So many times we avoid the touristy areas because "we live here, damnit!", but really we would have been sad to leave here without seeing all the sights. Sights or no sights, however, the name of the game is happy families:

3 Ladies

Son & Mum, Top of the Rock

The whole set from Mum's trip is here. More family fun to come over the course of the next month!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Return of the Sunshine, and This Blog

There's something about the lack of sunshine, freezing temperatures, and wet outdoors that really sucks the motivation out of you. I'll make that part of my excuse that I haven't updated this blog in nearly 5 months - though laziness is part of it too. I've been actively posting on my Instagram however, and aren't pictures worth a thousand words? It's been really easy to snap a moment, and upload everywhere important... except here of course.

So this is going to be my approach from now on: it's not drastic, but I will aim to tell some of the stories behind the pictures on this blog, on a more regular basis. I will also look to return to some of the things I've missed since November, and before - including the small matter of my wedding! After all, the sun is returning, the weather is improving - so the motivation is rising as fast as the temperatures. So what better place to (re)start than a look over the source of this new found inspiration - embracing Spring!

Truthfully of course, the first chance I've had to properly enjoy Spring has been more like Summer - freakishly high temperatures more at home in August than April - yesterday was a high of 28C (!) in New York City, and just a little less in Jersey. I just had to get out at lunchtime and enjoy it, so two days ago I had my first outside lunch of the year, over by the food trucks at World Financial Center.

Sun! BBQs! I love it.

I didn't grab food from this barbecue, but it spoke to me of a summer to come! The temperatures continued into the next day - I took my lunch inside, but followed it up with a walk to City Hall.

Something's going down

All the benches and fountain-side spaces to sit were taken, but something else was clearly going on at the Hall. I continued on to capture some of the more decorative buildings in an area I had not really explored yet.

Old before new


That did it for lunchtime - but come 5pm work was done and I needed to go out again. I took my wandering to Jersey City this time, thinking I would take a scenic route home. L and I had noticed many nice apartments and riverside views between Exchange Place and home, so that seemed as good as anywhere.

Rail terminal, lady liberty, big ol' clock.

Miss Liberty again, amongst boats.

Views of Lady Liberty galore! The first pic shows the slightly garish landmark of the Colgate Clock, and the latter is a marina outside some rather expensive apartments. Not a bad view to wake up to at all! I was not even halfway home when a fellow Jersey resident back in the office called and suggested we meet at a new bar, for L and I anyway. It is only 3 blocks from us, but we never visited when the weather was grim. It is the sort of bar best left to savour in sunlight. The name? Zeppelin Hall Biergarten!

Biergarten kinda people #jerseycity #nj #sunshine #beer

We stayed here until the sun finally left, and long after that too. Armed with steins of lager, we heralded the return of the sun, warmth, and outside social niceties. The storms have started today, and the temperature has dropped back to normal, but we've been shown much promise of a nice Spring and early Summer, to be enjoyed whatever country we're in (more on that later). And I promise to share more of it, too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Road America

Some of you may have noticed that I haven't updated this blog in ages, other than to post updates on our trip into the hell of Hurricane Sandy. Some of you may also have realised that stuff has happened in the last couple of months - most notably, getting married!

Before I get into that though, I have something to catch-up on from before the wedding - the Run Offs, at Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin - where my future brother-in-law was competing, amongst many other races. Finally, I have sorted the picture and put them up, so let's complete the job with a blog update!

Racing, especially at Road America, has been a big part of Laura's family's life for decades; indeed this is how her parents met, and still meet with friends today. Her brother, Ethan, competes in Formula F (currently) and made the whole family proud with a win last time out. Now, it was time for the National Championship Run-offs, and we went to support him, meet said friends and family, and enjoy 2 of the many-days of racing this event had to offer.

Upon arrival, I was put to work - to help Ethan work out the weight distribution in his car. Cue comical readings of my weight, gasps of amazement, and then the equipping of lead shot to make me weigh more like the real driver.

In a Racecar

After the work was done, we went to hang out with some of Laura's family friends and watch some qualifying. First up were the T2s.

T2 Car 2

We stayed until sunset, but the F5s were still qualifying.

3 Cars Go By

But eventually we headed off to a nearby town for a night in a hotel. The track looked so pretty at dusk!

Moon over the Racetrack

The next day, there were more races before Ethan's Formula F - we watched the SRFs (Spec Racer Fords), a number of which took a couple of nasty knocks!

Had a Bash

Before some super-charged Mutangs and the likes in the GT1 class.

Line of GT1s

But then it was on to the main event. Laura, her Mom, and I took our place in the stands at turn 5 - one of the best apparently, to watch Ethan. He qualified in third, but some unsporting manoeuvres from his competitors near the start saw him drop a few places. Still, every time he went past, it seemed he was about to overtake on our corner.


A couple of drivers ahead of him spun, and a great overtaking move saw him get up to third on the last lap. Sadly, it wasn't to be, as a more powerful car overtook him on the final stretch; but fourth was a great finish given the issues at the start. We knew he gave it his best shot, and he has a proud family (new brother-in-law included!) no matter where he finishes.

Ethan Zooms By

Shippert Racing

A great couple of days out and the opportunity to spend time in Wisconsin are always welcome by me. Of course, just to add more weight in its favour, Wisconsin once again provided some amazing scenery and a dramatic skyline on the way home, to accompany us on our more timid drive home.

Sky & Fields

The full set of photos from Road America can be found here.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Mission NJ: Home!

We made it!

A little before lunchtime we made it to Jersey City after stopping for breakfast and a couple of wrong turns. The apartment, for me at least, was unscathed - though the basement had flooded about a foot, meaning it had to be pumped out before we could have power and such. But when we arrived our landlord and 6 different PS&G (Power Company) vehicles had our street blocked and were at work.

After only an hour, and help from neighbours, the truck was unloaded and by that point, the awesome power guys had electricity running again - and as a bonus our Internet kicked back in immediately  Score! Running water isn't a problem either, though we will boil it before drinking it.

The guys are still outside trying to do whatever needs to be done to get gas back online - meaning we can cook. We have a microwave in the meantime, so that's a plus. They don't reckon we'll have heating for a couple of days though as the basement needs to dry out before they can provide power to the boiler that gives us hot water and heat. So cold showers until then, and Laura is off with her parents looking for a space heater in whatever stores are open around here. I'm catching up with work a bit before we start trying to make home more like home, and huddle up for the night!

Mission NJ: Penn in the Dark

Quick one: we reached the very edge of Pennsylvania and tried to find a hotel. Oops. The first town had no power (thank you, national news for not telling us PA was having power issues) which made negotiating intersections with no lights a bit hair-raising. Our next move was to head back into PA as we knew NJ would be worse off. We tried a bunch of hotels who rudely told us they were full and unhelpfully dismissed us rather than finding something else nearby. Thankfully, a combination of mobile internet, map reading, and cellphone service booked us a hotel 35miles away. It took a while to reach it but after eating (Crackerbarrel, again!) we got there and are all about ready for sleeping.

Tomorrow we have to get back on the Interstate and then it's about 90 more minutes, maybe 2hrs if power is still affecting traffic, to the apartment and next assessment of the situation.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mission NJ: Good News!

After Ohio we were in West Virginia for all of 15 minutes; a little spike on the map before entering Pennsylvania. It was here I received a very positive call from my work colleague and fellow Jersey City resident Matt. He had picked up a rental car (since his own washed away) and was outside my apartment. Although there was no way of being 100% sure, he reckoned the flood water hadn't reached my street really; certainly there was no visible storm damage to the apartment. The basement apartment may have been affected which may mean the gas connection would be shut off, but it supposedly looked minimal damage if anything.

We have avoided all the areas with the worst reported snow coverage, with only a period of snowy hills and trees in Pennsylvania thus far. The roads have been clear and spirits pretty high, considering the 4 of us have been cooped up together for 2 days. There was ones wrong turn on the way to lunch but eating cheered everyone up within 5 minutes.

We will now wait until we reach New Jersey in a couple of hours before finding a place to stay for the night. Tomorrow AM we will head to the apartment through the reported clear streets, unload the truck, and see about getting me working from home. There's another day for the local authorities to restore power and such to the area; they've been reported as doing a fantastic recovery job thus far so fingers crossed!

Mission NJ: Overnight in Ohio

Last night we made it to Springfield, Ohio (home of the Simpsons?) where we stopped for the night at a Quality Inn. The whole place reminded me of the setting for the film "Cedar Rapids" but we had a surprisingly good dinner at their near-empty cafe, watched some comedy on TV then got some sleep.

We heard back from the office management and the situation is not good. 7 World Trade Center has 13ft of water in the basement, and have only been able to pump out 1ft of it out due to more seeping in through the bedrock. The office is not expected to be back open until Monday, November 5th at the earliest, so those who can work from home will be doing so this week. Of course our bosses have reminded us that our own personal safety and situation is the primary concern ahead of work availability.

This morning we ate nice breakfast sausages at "Bob Evans" and drank a bunch of coffee, ready for the road again. We are expecting snow en route so will take it easy; we may stay overnight again so we can get into Jersey City in the first hours of tomorrow's daylight.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mission NJ: into Indiana

It has now been about 8hrs which includes a lunch stop for around an hour at Crackerbarrell; "home of good country cooking!" I had a catfish sandwich.

The drive as expected was uneventful up until about an hour ago. We hit Indianapolis at about the time traffic became slow and weather became miserable. There's nothing unusual about either at this stage; they aren't slowing us down majorly and indeed I think we left the worst of the traffic back in Indianapolis. However the weather was so gloriously dry in Wisconsin and Illinois that this has injected some realism into the trip: the weather is going to be like this the rest of the way. There is likely going to be places with a lot of snow or water on the ground too, but hopefully the rain and wind doesn't get worse than a blustery downpour.

Reports from colleagues back in NJ and NY are that most flood water has receded and that folk are assessing and repairing some of the damage. Early reports however indicate that the PATH system; which links me in NJ to work at WTC; will be down for 7-10 days, so looks like I'm not getting to the office anytime soon, at least by conventional methods. Of course, the office building management haven't stated how the area is faring, and with many tunnels and subway flooded the office wouldn't receive many inhabitants anyway, so operating from home may well be the best policy for the next week.

We are now nearly in Ohio where we plan to drive about another 100 miles before finding a late dinner and a place to sleep. Onwards!

Mission NJ: Update from the Road

I haven't used this blog for a while, but as there a few asking for updates on our travel to storm-hit Jersey City, I figured I could use this, at least whilst we have mobile internet signal...

About 2 hours ago we set off in a very full truck towards NJ. It is not overly comfortable but no worse than a budget airline, and at least with this method of transport we can stop and get out!

Doug has picked a route which takes us a few hours South before we cut across; this should mean we avoid hitting the storm head-on, unlike with route through Canada. Our first day of driving should be long and uneventful; but tomorrow we will hit West Virginia for about an hour where the storm is currently depositing 2-3ft of snow. We are however expecting the highway to be open by tomorrow, and likewise expecting the worst of the weather and flooding to have receded ahead of arrival in Jersey City.

What awaits us there is a little bit of an unknown; a colleague lives a little further towards the Hudson river and has had his car swept away by 5ft of water (he didn't heed warnings to move it to higher ground) and the bottom floor of his building was flooded. He is fine but is assessing damage. The good news for us is that our apartment is further from the river and about 8ft off street level with a basement below. This will be bad for whoever is below us but should have spared our apartment from anything catastrophic. Further good news is that another colleague nearer to us is mostly ok barring loss of power. We may be without power when we arrive, but as many millions are out this will be both expected and resolved as soon as possible.

Early reports are saying that transport tunnels are very badly flooded so it is likely many won't be able to get to our office, even if it is open. World Trade Center is a construction zone and is at the end of Manhattan which has seen a lot of flooding. No one at our building has been there to give us an update so we are playing work by ear. Those with power and Internet are able to work from home.

As always we are travelling with caution and of course today won't tell us much from this distance. More updates will follow as I know more! It is also Doug's 70th birthday so we are planning in stopping for something nice to eat this evening before finding a motel. Should raise our spirits!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Parks in NY and NJ

Across 2 weekends recently I visited the two big parks of New York and Jersey Cities respectively.

Everyone knows Central Park, and I was rather annoyed that it took me 4 months to get out there again. But I met Ash for brunch then went and lazed in front of a softball game.
Sunbathing and Softball
And sunbathed between the odd cloud.
Summer Park Loungers
Kite On Clouds
Before heading on past the little lake full of remote controlled boats.
RC Boat

But what about Liberty State Park, Jersey City? It's really quite long, and there's a lot of walking to be done there. I discovered it's only a 10-15min walk from the new apartment, so I headed past the ugly docks and, despite the overcast skies, I started snapping.
The Long, Straight Path
The main feature is of course its proximity to the Statue of Liberty; and this is about as close as you can get without a zoom lens, or access to next door Ellis Island. Or a boat.
As Close as She Gets
Sepia of Liberty
Regular park-goers were enjoying the large picnic area.
The Picnic Spot
There is of course a look back towards New York City... yet more great views of skyscrapers. In this photo you can see back to Jersey City, Manhattan, and Brooklyn all at once.
NJ, Manhattan, Brooklyn
Finally, beside the Hudson there was a family enjoying what little wildlife they could actually catch in that river...
Hudson Fishin'
But all in all a nice stroll out. Recommended!