We found a lovely campground near New York City, Croton Point Campground. It is a Westchester County park on a peninsula in the Hudson River. The sites are nice with electric, water, and sewer hookups, it appeared that most were 30 amp and some 50 amp service. They are good-sized sites with level gravel pads. There are walking trails in the park and a bicycle trail that follows the Hudson River. It was a hilly area and challenging for bicyclists, but we had several enjoyable rides while we were there.
There is a train station two miles from the campground and we took advantage of that when we went into New York City to go sightseeing. On Wednesday, May 25th, we hiked to the train station (all of our clothing, etc was in backpacks) and took the train to Grand Central Station where we transferred to the subway to Lower Manhattan. We booked a room at the Holiday Inn – Financial District for two nights. It was centrally located for the sites that we wanted to visit.
Do you remember the Blue Bloods episode when Jamie and Edie had to patrol in the NYPD’s energy efficient patrol car? Well, it must be a real patrol car because we saw it parked right across the street from our hotel!
We were able to check early when we arrived and, after a quick unpacking, we walked to Battery Park to catch the Staten Island Ferry. We had no intention of going to Staten Island, but the ferry ride gave us a viewing of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the NYC skyline. What a great introduction to New York. On our way back to the hotel, we had our picture taken beside the Wall Street Bull. We chose to be at the head, some others preferred to rub another part of the bull’s anatomy.
We had an early dinner at a pizza place next to the Holiday Inn, changed clothes and took the subway to Broadway to see a performance of Hamilton. What a great show! The cast and producers did a professional job and we enjoyed it all. I thought I knew quite a bit of history about Alexander Hamilton, but this performance inspired me to study our first Secretary of the Treasury in more depth.
On Tuesday, we took the 10:00 tour of the 911 Memorial. As we arrived Marines from the Amphibious Assault Ship “USS Bataan” were completing a unit run to the Memorial What an inspirational sight! Inside, the exhibits did a marvelous job of telling the story, including the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of Flight 93. They also described the build up to that day with the story of the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. I was struck by how quiet it was throughout the tour. There was a low murmuring as families and groups commented to each other in low tones, but nothing more. Instinctively, everyone recognized the solemnity of the Memorial.
From the 911 Memorial, we walked to Battery Park to board the tour ferry to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The National Park Service is in the process of moving the museum displays from the base of the monument to a separate museum building. Because you need to purchase a separate pass to go to the top of the pedestal, there wasn’t any crowd at all in old museum. It was interesting to see how the statue was developed and constructed and the timeline for it all. From the top of the pedestal, we had great views across the Upper Bay and Lower Manhattan. At one time, it was possible to climb interior stairs to the head of the Statue, but those days are long gone. After we toured the new museum (kind of a letdown after seeing the old one), we re-boarded the ferry to go to Ellis Island. What I liked best about the new museum is that the original torch is on display.
As we approached Ellis Island, I couldn’t help but imagine what it must have been like to be an immigrant arriving from Europe to settle in the United States. My own Great-Grandfather, Ollie John Wangen, migrated from Norway and passed through Ellis Island, before settling in Ludington, MI. We entered the Great Hall where newly arrived immigrants would be interviewed; they were then sorted into groups for further processing. They were given medical examinations, and hospitalized if necessary. Then onto legal examinations to insure they were legally allowed to enter the U.S., if there were questions, they would go before a Special Board of Inquiry. Once they passed these hurdles, they had to show that they had adequate funds, a sponsor, and a destination where they could find employment. If all of this worked in their favor, they were granted admission. If not, they were rejected and returned to their home country. The steamship line that brought them to the U.S. was required to give them return passage.
After returning to Battery Park, we stopped at Suspenders Pub for dinner before going back to our hotel to give our feet a rest.
We realized that we were in New York City during Fleet Week and the USS Bataan was available for tours. In the morning we checked out, left our backpacks with the hotel, and took the subway back to Broadway were we walked to Pier 88 to visit the USS Bataan.
The Bataan is an amphibious assault ship, which means she is like a small aircraft carrier and cargo ship combined. She can carry part of a Marine Corps Battalion Landing Team, discharge landing craft from a ramp on her stern, and fly helicopters and other aircraft from her flight deck. The Marines and aircrews were giving demonstrations of the equipment and explaining how they operate together.
We stopped at Times Square where there was a Fleet Week display. I took the opportunity to play underwater Tic-Tac-Toe with a Navy SEAL – I won! On our way back to the hotel, we ran into some of the Bataan’s Navy crew on the subway.
All good things must end, and we took the subway/train back to Croton-on-the-Hudson, and hiked back to our campsite. What a great trip!
On Sunday, we drove to the United States Military Academy at West Point to attend services at the Cadet Chapel. Our son, Scott, graduated from West Point in 1998, and it seemed fitting to go to church there while we were so close. While we were sitting at the start of the service, the chaplain invited everyone to turn and greet each other. The people in front of us turned around and we all stood there, staring at each other, recognizing and yet, not recognizing each other. Then the light bulb came on and we recognized neighbors, the Kirchen family, from DeWitt, MI, where we used to live. Their daughter, Paula, was also a West Point graduate and they were back for a visit. This world is getting way too small!
After church, we drove to the West Point Cemetery. One of Scott’s classmates from the Lansing area, CPT Steve Frank, was killed in action in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and we visited his grave.
We relaxed and generally enjoyed our time at Croton Point and on June 2nd, we drove to Milford, NH and stayed in the driveway of some friends from Key West, Ray and Harriet. It was an interesting experience to back our 38-foot fifth wheel up Ray’s steep, curving driveway, but we made it and we spent a nice couple of days hanging out with them. Some other Key West friends who live nearby, Ken and Susan, joined us for dinner and good conversation.
On Saturday, June 4th, we made a short drive to Freeport, ME – home to LL Bean Outfitters! If you are coming through southern Maine, this is almost a “must do” activity. After we set up our RV at the Cedar Haven Family Campground, we drove to the LL Bean Flagship Store. The entire area around LL Bean has turned into a retail bonanza. There are now all kinds of stores just waiting to sell you all kinds of neat stuff. We did get a couple of shirts and a pair of pants, but when you live in an RV, you only have so much room. There was a neat looking MacDonald’s where we had lunch, there was nothing different about the food, but the building was special.
On Monday, June 6th, we headed to Bar Harbor, ME to join an RV caravan to tour the Canadian Maritimes Provinces, that was the reason we drove this far in the first place.