Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Here we are at Eric and Terry’s in Frederick, MD and it’s great to have 8 of the Besch kids back together again. Cousins Erin, Logan, Lauren, and Duncan have been sharing their scooters, bikes, big wheel, and toys with us. They live on a beautiful park, so there’s plenty to keep everyone busy. We arrived just in time to creatively come up with last-minute Halloween costumes, and off they went trick-or-treating together. Now we’re making good advances in school, and are close to the next round of tests.
Before this, we visited Pat and Mary Kay O’Neill in New Jersey, and their 3 children Sarah, Kayla, and Matthew. Due to a bad storm, electricity was out in the entire neighborhood. No problem! Not only were we self-sufficient in our RV, but we also plugged in their frig/freezer to our RV and kept it cold with our generator. It’s nice to help others when so many have opened their driveways to us! We enjoyed a romantic candlelight dinner in their beautiful home that evening, with all the kids! Pat was kind enough to let us keep our RV there, while we ventured into Manhattan for a daytrip.
We rode the NJ Railway 45 minutes into Penn Station, which was exciting for the kids. We read books, talked with commuters, and Sam even brought his sewing kit along to pass the time. The weather was sunny and crisp, perfect! Robby was a real trooper, maneuvering his way around on crutches like a pro. He sprained his ankle only 4 days earlier. We visited the Empire State Building, and the guides expedited us right to the elevators since Robby was “disabled.” The 50 minute wait only took us about 10 minutes, and suddenly we were on the 86th floor overlooking the breathtaking sights.
Our next stop was Ground Zero. Thom and I lived on Long Island, NY for the first 2 years of our marriage, so we’ve seen many of Manhattan’s sights. Yet our last time here was in the late 90’s. Ground Zero is the one place I really wanted to see on this trip. It’s easy to tell when you’re getting close, since it’s the only large area in Manhattan that has no tall protruding buildings, except for Central Park. As we walked 2 sides of Ground Zero, we could hardly see what was going on in the busy centerpiece. The views are blocked by large tarps for construction. Once we reached the south side, we could walk up to a 2nd level overlooking the giant construction scene. It’s truly amazing to consider what happened on Sept 11, 2001. Memories poured over me, as I recalled walking back from the boys’ bus stop that morning in Maryland, being 8 ½ months pregnant with Sam at the time. Thom had just started his new job about ½ mile from the Pentagon on Sept 10. Luckily, he was 10 miles south of there at Ft. Belvoir on Sept 11. To think about the innocent lives lost that day is something I will never forget. We walked past Fire Station Company 10, literally across the street from Ground Zero. A wonderful, artistic wall relief (like a mural) is a great tribute and memorial to all the brave fire fighters. I bought a DVD geared towards children and schools as a documentary of that fateful day. Robby was only 6 at the time, and I want our boys to understand the significance of 9/11. The Freedom Tower and three other sky scrapers are in the construction phase and are supposed to be up by 2012. What a great celebration that time will be!
The next stop was South Street Seaport where we caught a water taxi around Lower Manhattan. Ah, to be on a boat on such a picture-perfect day in this world-famous city was exhilarating. The boys loved it too! We snapped a bunch of photos with the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, and skyscrapers of lower Manhattan. Again, we caught the Grayline Tour which drove past Soho, Chinatown, Little Italy, The United Nations, and Fifth Avenue. We jumped off at Rockefeller Center, and the boys complained that we didn’t bring our ice skates! Yes, kids were skating on the rink for all to see. We walked to Central Park, and then caught a subway to The American Museum of Natural History where “Night at the Museum” was filmed. By now we only had a short time remaining, so we focused on dinosaurs. The boys are at ideal ages where they’re enjoying the sights without getting lost. Ben panicked a bit when he couldn’t see us in a crowd surrounding a McCain rally we happened upon in the center of Times Square. He spotted Will and came running. Then he burst into tears. New York is a scary place for a 9-year old on his own, he realized. Earlier in the day, he decided he’ll never live in a big city because there are just too many people. Now I’m sure that’ll be his opinion for years to come!
So let’s see, we enjoyed the lights of Times Square, which is definitely more lit up than I ever remember it. They’ve even added neon red stairs for people to climb and enjoy the view…directly in the center of Times Square! We caught the train located below Madison Square Garden where the Rangers were playing that evening, and headed back to NJ. We’d spent 11 hours in the city and I can’t imagine how we could have packed more in than we did!
Before NJ and Manhattan, we spent a couple nights at Round Pond, a campground outside of West Point. I want to mention it because we had 2 days of snow while there! Couldn’t believe it! I kept asking Thom, “What are we doing so far north?” We made good progress with Calvert schooling, and then headed south.

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