Enter the Bird’s Nest

Last week, the Voyager passed through ten states, and Washington D.C. for good measure, from Florida in the scorching South to New York in the bustling North-East. In week fourteen, the journey breaks South to fly with the Eagles before soaring high into a freezing New England.

Day 92 – New York, NY

Our week begins as last week ended, in a wet and wild New York City. Our first stop would be Central Park which, in all honesty, did not look quite as grand as I had imagined plus, the likelihood of breaking an ankle slipping on the carpet of fallen leaves was almost certain. The despondent weather did not do the park any favours. It is big though.

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Next on the NYC bucket list was a trip to the summit of the Rockefeller Centre. Most eager tourists head to the top of the Empire State Building, perhaps forgetting that you can’t see the Empire State Building from the Empire State Building. We, on the other hand, had a tremendous view of the Empire State Building and of murky Manhattan below.

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That did not stop us from visiting the aforementioned building and having a poke around until someone checked to see if we had a ticket. At over thirty dollars a pop we thought we would take our hard earned dollar to a bar and blow it all on a single beer to share instead. Beverages aren’t quite that expensive but a night out would cost slightly more than your average evening in Downtown Carmarthen.

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Having left the Voyager at a Walmart in New Jersey we made a rather nervous late-night bus journey back to assess the damage. After initially believing he was stolen, we just forgot where we left him, we found him untouched and damage free. We would need to repeat this dicey process tomorrow in order to save a crown jewels in parking fees. Fingers are crossed.

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Day 93 – New York, NY

Back to a far sunnier, and colder, Manhattan this morning for a sorrowful moment of reflection at the 9/11 memorial. Sorrow for most but a rather questionable opportunity for a joyous selfie for others, each to their own. Nearly fifteen years have passed since that tragic day and the site is still not fully completed. However, the new lustrous One World Trade Centre is open and dominates the Lower Manhattan skyline, as you might expect from the tallest building in the United States.

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A breezy stroll along the coast brought us to the boat that would carry us over to Liberty Island, home to, yes you guessed it, the Statue of Liberty. Another landmark that looks a lot smaller in its oxidised copper flesh, although that may be a result of the colossal Manhattan skyscrapers she has to contend with.

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With the sun already setting before you get a chance to finish your afternoon tea, we have had to view most of the city after nightfall, which actually offers a more attractive spectacle. A short walk down Wall Street and we were crossing Brooklyn Bridge. Despite nearly being run over by many an enthusiastic cyclist, the skyline vista looking back from the bridge was uniquely beautiful. A remarkable contrast to some of the remote, barren places we have been to on this journey.

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One final glimpse of Times Square and we were headed back to our New Jersey basecamp. Having spent nothing on parking or taxis or hotels, and by using a bargain bus from N.J and our feet around Manhattan, we had seen the best of the Big Apple for less money than it costs to rent a leaf blower. Our stinginess would go out the window this weekend though…

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Day 94 – New York, NY to Philadelphia, PA

After the chaos of New York City, we decided to give ourselves the morning off before making the short trip South towards the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia. If you know me, or have read my blog before, you may know that I am quite a large supporter of the Philadelphia Eagles football team. So it is fair to say that I was more excited than a Trump in a gun store when we arrived at their hallowed stadium, Lincoln Financial Field.

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I made clinical use of the fact that I was owed a birthday present by heading straight to the team shop and procuring several Eagles related items and apparel. Thanks again Shu, Aaron & Jess. We then finalised the priceless tickets for our return tomorrow afternoon to watch them play the Miami Dolphins. Elated is a drastic understatement.

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Given my gift the following day, it was inevitable that historic Downtown Philly was never going to kindle quite the same euphoria. Despite being home to the Liberty Bell and the centuries-old building where the declaration of independence was signed, it was not quite the Eagles. In all honesty, we did not give those two notable attractions a fair opportunity to impress as the queues to view either were longer than a Texan’s food bill. We did catch a glimpse of the bell through the window though. His name was Carl.

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Day 95 – Philadelphia, PA to Trenton, NJ

Game day. For once a freezing dawn alarm call was met with the exuberance of a child on Christmas morn. New white Eagles jersey donned; we headed back to Lincoln Financial Field to begin the festivities. Once parked, the first thing every American does before a football game is get out the folding table and chairs, set up the barbeque and connect the beer cooler to a generator capable of powering a large Nigerian city.

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That is if you’re a mild supporter. More fervent cohorts arrive six hours before kick-off in fully customised buses, baste and cook hogs on spits and set up all-you-can-eat-and-drink buffets, all beside their vehicles in the parking lot. The tail-gate is, without doubt, the greatest American tradition. It would never happen in the health and safety obsessed United Kingdom.

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We arrived just the four hours before kick-off, made chili and rice before getting our faces painted and heading to the pitch. The next three hours or so, barring the discovery of Route 66, was the most gratifying of the journey so far. Despite the Eagles throwing away the game and losing by a solitary point I was too overawed to care. I never truly considered that I would ever get the opportunity to watch them play here.

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We were the last the leave the stadium and the last to leave the carpark. We were in no rush to head back Northwards, on this occasion to the capital of New Jersey, Trenton. We found a quaint and quiet sports bar, ate and toasted to, barring a fourth-quarter red-zone Mark Sanchez interception, the perfect day. How lovely.

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Day 96 – Trenton, NJ to New Haven, CT

Today’s journey North was an unqualified minefield of toll fees and unnecessary charges as driving within fifty miles of New York City is apparently a privilege that must be paid for. It is not a privilege. In fact, it is a gridlocked nightmare. Hence our two-hour detour through the slightly quieter New Jersey and Pennsylvanian countryside. Highly recommended.

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We made lunch at the rather beautiful Peekskill, New York, at the crossing of the Hudson River. It is easy to forget that New York state is mainly rolling Appalachian Mountains and green countryside, the bustling city is a mere speck in its South-Eastern corner. We then made the crossing into a region often mistaken for a state, New England. It comprises six rather modestly-sized states that we would have to criss-cross around in order to complete our American journey. The end is nigh.

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Day 97 – New Haven, CT to Plymouth, MA

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Many a famous American college are located in New England and Yale in Connecticut would be the first we would try to slink around pretending to be students. A role that, even though I had more than my fair share of, I do miss. I am not sure, however, that advertising the fact that your alumni include Bill Clinton, George Bush Snr and Jnr enhances your reputation, but that may just be me.

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A short drive along the Atlantic coast and we were in state forty-six, and the smallest of them all, Rhode Island. It may be the smallest but it could quite possibly be the wealthiest. The first affluent American’s built their mansions here and it is fairly easy to see why. The infamous Ocean Drive is literally besieged with secluded beaches and cliff walks and is home to a pretty good sunset too.

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We continued a little further along the coastal highway where we were propelled out of Rhode Island and into Massachusetts, the business hub of the North-North-East. Town names here are all taken from England, unsurprising given the region’s name, and we passed through a Southampton and a Portsmouth on the way to our camping location in Plymouth, I wonder if their football fans like to beat each other up as is traditional back home?

Day 98 – Plymouth, MA to Brattleboro, VT

We camped forty minutes away from Boston, our last major city in America, and after a look around the Downtown area we headed to the site of the Boston Tea Party. Forget New York City, Chicago & Los Angeles, parking in Boston is an inexplicable incubus of misery. After scouring the streets for over thirty minutes we had to settle on parking in a permit spot and taking it in turns to walk to the Tea Party Museum. With two of the ships involved in the debacle restored to their former glory, it was almost worth the parking debacle of our own to see them. Actually, it probably wasn’t.

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Our next stop would be the most illustrious college in New England and, quite possibly, America, Harvard. With security at the world-renowned Harvard Library trumping that of the White House, our slinking skills became highly inadequate. However, we did manage a tour around the campus and a look inside the undergraduate store. It is slightly more impressive than Cardiff Metropolitan University, I must admit.

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With our ninety days in America running out faster than a toupee in a hurricane, we had to continue our whistle-stop tour of New England by heading North-West, in darkness, to Vermont. The closer we got to the Green Mountain State the more ominous the destination appeared. Following a major leak from our water container the back of the car, our bedroom, was more than a little damp whilst the temperature was more than a little freezing. An interesting night await in the dark, lonely forests of Brattleboro.

Next week, the Voyager, if surviving Vermont, crosses off day one hundred as it attempts to visit the final two states on the Bucket List, New Hampshire and Maine. If successful, all fifty states would have been visited within one calendar year. The finale awaits.

Total kilometres: 26,062

J

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