Monday, October 31, 2011

The Big Apple!

New York City. The Big Apple. Manhattan Island. The big city. And I'm finally here!

The view of Manhattan Island from the Staten Island Ferry. For only $7 a day and a free ferry ride, Staten Island is a great place to park and ride over to the big city. And if you're coming from the south, it is free to get into Staten Island (however, I paid $13 coming in from the north). Technically, there is no overnight parking here, but... I did park overnight for one night and was fine.

Occupy Wall Street! Ra Ra Rabble Rabble!
Hope these guys do some good with all the donations they've been given.

The rebuilding of the World Trade Center. The 9/11 memorial just opened up. It is still difficult to get tickets at the moment, but it should get easier after awhile.

Way cool looking skyscraper in the middle!

Time Square! The lights here are unreal!

I wonder if I could get my picture up on one of these billboards...

Bingo! If you buy something in American Eagle and show the guy on the 2nd floor your receipt (or someone's elses if you're cheap...), you can get you and any friends up on a Time Square billboard. It rotates through about every 5 minutes and you will show up for 15 seconds. It will rotate through until enough new people do it you are bumped off. Since not many people seemed to know about this, I showed up 3 times while I was there and was probably up there several more after that. The masses had flocked to another billboard (Forever 21) which took a blurry picture of the crowd every now and then and showed it for a few seconds. If you have a sharp eye you can pick out the general area you are in...

The Empire State Building shot from Grand Central.

Inside Grand Central!

If you take a right from the main entrance, you can find this domed area that, when you and a friend stand in opposing corners and talk to each other, you can hear them like they are standing right there next to you!

The view from Central Park. An oasis in the middle of chaos.

It truly is a spectacular park. With everything from softball fields, to running trails, to bike lanes on all the roads going through, to boulder formations to enjoy a picnic, to a simply nice, tree covered walk through the middle.

And there's even a castle!

Which comes with this spectacular view!

And you can even find some semblance of solitude in the right place!

Colombia University had quite a nice campus, however, because of the surrounding neighborhood, requires an ID badge to get into any of the buildings, thus preventing me from wandering around where I should(n't).

So what did I like about the city? Oddly enough, it had the best, cheapest food I've found as well as the most expensive! I was able to get excellent deals on very tasty food from the street vendors (try chicken and lamb over rice, I got it for $4, look to pay $5-7) and in the right areas, excellent NY pizza could be had for $2/slice (Mama's in Harlem on 106th, just a block or two from Central Park). And around Colombia University were some of the best happy hour specials I've encountered yet. So when you're thinking about eating in Time Square, think again, and head off the beaten path a little bit and you just might find better food for a half to a third of the price.

What else? Be prepared to walk. All of the concrete surfaces can even wear out the feet of someone who has no problem hiking all day without rest. The subway system is great here and not badly priced at $2.50 a ride, but walking from place to place is where you really get to see the city and get a vibe for the atmosphere. People that live here really are quite friendly, just like everywhere else. However, they have a shield around them that has to be broken through first and it takes some skill, the right location (people really don't like to talk to strangers on the subway, but a ferry or a bar or even Central Park is OK at times), and a little luck.

On the ferry ride back, don't forget to look for a beautiful sunset over Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

New England In Pictures


While driving down the coast of Maine, there are tons of waterfront parks to stop at for a picnic or a nice spot to read.

This nice spot was located in Rockford, Maine.

 Tons of excellent spots to stop for some great soup and a good beer.

The seafood stew at Cappy's Chowda House was brilliant! It had tons of mussels, haddock, shrimp, sausage, scallops and more!

And tons of lobster shacks all over the side of the road!

Fresh lobster is an absolute must in Maine! Don't bother with the expensive restaurants for lobster. Find a good, cheap lobster shack for almost half the price of some places.

And as always a good running trail is never very far away.

Check out the BackCove Trail in Portland. It's a beautiful loop around an ocean cove that totals just shy of 4 miles.

Downtown Boston from the Bunker Hill Monument

The Bunker Hill Monument is not only a great place to visit for the history and the view of the city, it also provides free parking (2 hours) along the streetside to tour the city and comes with a sweet 294 stairs climb.

Walking along the Freedom Trail provides excellent views of the city as well as cool historical places along the North End.

And not far from the end of the Freedom Trail is the beautiful Boston Common Park and Lagoon as seen here.

And the bridge across the Lagoon.

The statue of President Washington stands guard, picturesqe in the setting sun.

For shopping there is a very large Macy's, which had quite a few American Flags on display.
Americaaaa! #*&^ yeah!

The Zakim Bridge leads into downtown Boston and is made so that the top half is shaped like the Bunker Hill Monument.

This day's sunset is a gorgeous one.

Downtown Boston from the river where the Harvard rowers practice.

This particular Harvard building was my favorite.

But this one from MIT blows it away.


Providence has one heck of a nice looking mall.

And downtown was surprisingly relaxed and quiet for a weekend.

The Capitol Building seemed to simply rise out of the trees.

A cool viewpoint of downtown could be found on top of College Hill.

But the best viewpoint comes from Prospect Park, a little lower down.

Or along a city street.


Dowtown Hartford from inside Bushnell Park

The park can be ran in several different figure 8 loops of around a mile, with the only road crossing here at these cool towers.

The capitol building backs up to the park and provides spectacular scenery.

As do the fountains!

Which are beautiful from both sides!

And close by is the Mark Twain house!

So cool it deserves two angles as well!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sunrise In Acadia

And there it is! Finally. After a very wet day spent driving around Park Loop Road and running around Eagle Lake and another reading at the park and hanging out at the Maine Grind (excellent coffee shop, for coffee, soup, a working atmoshphere, and very friendly sevice even) in Ellsworth, I was about ready to give up if it didn't clear up soon. But it did. And in a big way. I'd never experienced winds so strong while waiting for the sun to appear on top of Cadillac Mountain, the first place it is visible inside the continental United States. Whatever front had moved in had cleared everything out in a hurry. And apparently was still in a hurry. A big one. But it didn't matter. Because on this day I was among the first in the country to see the sun as it popped up out of the ocean, shining bright and glorious.

With the previous days being shrowded in mist and fog, it was a huge relief to see things clear up quicker than expected.

Though it takes more than a rainy mist to supress Acadia's beauty.

This bridge next to the Fort Knox Historic Site on the route to Acadia National Park from the White Mountains of New Hampshire is very reminiscent of the Zakim Bridge in Boston.

Now that the weather was good, it was time to break out the bike! With over 45 miles of carriage trails to bike on, the best, and only way, to see the vast majority of the park, is by bike. And with the packed stone and gravel carriage roads, a hybrid bike, is the bike of choice.

However, if you have it, a cyclocross bike seems almost tailor-made for these roads.

Bubble Pond is a great starting point to jump right on the carriage trails for either a run around Eagle Lake or for the start of a bike ride. When I arrived at 8am, I was the first person there, however, after a short nap (1 hour), the parking lot was full, so be prepared to have to drive further down the road for parking.

The carriage roads allow exploration of so many lakes and beautiful areas that aren't able to be viewed by car.

Such as this falls here which is one of many on the island.

The path is wide and lined with trees, but watch out for all the pine needles on the road during steep descents.

Much of the roadway is nice, short, steady climbs leading to amazing mountaintop-esque views followed by descents best taken carefully.

The ocean is almost always visible in the distance.

Signs help keep you from getting lost, but having a map, or even better, a gps (phone), is a must.
Wait a sec... Around Mtn? But, I want to go UP Mtn!

For a short, easy route, Jordan Pond here is right next to Eagle Lake allowing a figure 8 to be done around each following a fairly easy path.

All in all, biking Acadia is definitely the way to go. One of the coolest rides I've done, and for most of it, I was all alone, undisturbed, as I climbed and descended around and around the various forested areas of the park. Of note though; the trails at the very bottom of the park leading out to the ocean, are all private and are off limits to bikes. So be very careful NOT to travel on them. They are easy to spot as they are all soft grass and very narrow. And also perfect for a cyclocross bike... The people on their high horses were not happy...