New York to Chicago, July 2009

New York to Chicago, July 2009

There are a couple of posts missing in my archives, will insert them before this one as soon as I find them.

Slowly but surely we move closer to New York City, and although the highway consists now of 6 lanes in every direction we get stuck in a traffic jam in the pouring rain. Everyone wants to drive into The City tonight which leads to a total traffic chaos. We thus decide to circumvent Manhattan on our way to Maplewood/New Jersey where our dear friends Olga & Javier (Greetings!) have invited us to stay a few days.

Archie is allowed to take a day off and we catch a train to ‘Penn Station’ like so many other people from New Jersey (‘bridge & tunnel people’). We have a lovely day, including a meeting with long-time friends Lana & Kirill (Greetings!). Manhattan’s energy is truly contagious and there are many new things to discover since we lived here. A novelty is, for example, ‘the highline’, an elevated train track that runs 10s meter above the ground from the ‘Meatpacking District’ to Chelsea (www.thehighline.org). The ‘highline’ is exclusively reserved for pedestrians and we are happy to have successfully escaped the noisy streets of Manhattan for a while. The ‘highline’ offers plenty of seats to relax and enjoy new perspectives on Manhattan from the air.

Archie is allowed to take a day off and we catch a train to ‘Penn Station’ like so many other people from New Jersey (‘bridge & tunnel people’). We have a lovely day, including a meeting with long-time friends Lana & Kirill (Greetings!). Manhattan’s energy is truly contagious and there are many new things to discover since we lived here. A novelty is, for example, ‘the highline’, an elevated train track that runs 10s meter above the ground from the ‘Meatpacking District’ to Chelsea (www.thehighline.org). The ‘highline’ is exclusively reserved for pedestrians and we are happy to have successfully escaped the noisy streets of Manhattan for a while. The ‘highline’ offers plenty of seats to relax and enjoy new perspectives on Manhattan from the air.

The Highline

Since we do not want to hide our friend Archie another day in New Jersey we drive into The City the next day. As soon as we stop to take a picture we notice a woman running towards us. “Oh my God, is that the car of the future?” she screams. It is difficult not to laugh. “No, if no terrible climate change takes place this car belongs rather to the past than to the future”. Archie conquers more fans as we cruise through Manhattan and enjoys the numerous compliments (“That car is bad-ass!”). We escape before the rush hour begins, still unaware that the ‘King of Pop’ Michael Jackson has just passed away.

It is hot and humid while we drive through New Jersey the following day. All African-American brothers and sisters  drive with their car windows wide open and we hear Michael Jackson’s music all around us. The atmosphere on the streets is very special today, the entire country seems to be mourning. People may say whatever they want about Michael Jackson, but he has written the most brilliant pop music. We listen to his songs all the way until we finally arrive in Philadelphia.

It is unbearably hot and humid in Philadelphia, we get stuck in the evening rush hour and our enthusiasm for the historic buildings in town is consequently dimmed. However, we cannot leave Philadelphia without having visited the ‘Independence hall’ where the Declaration of independence was signed on July 4, 1776. The confrontation with so much history makes us hungry and we are more than happy to find a lively street with plenty of restaurants and bars right next to the historic district. A juicy ‘Philly cheese steak’ is exactly what we need now! (Greetings to Christopher B. and the Elsner Clan!)

After having spent about a week in New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia we are longing to escape modern life and to return to the countryside. The Amish farmlands seem to be a perfect destination and we continue our journey towards the town of Lancaster. It is not easy to find an available campsite as the travel season has now begun we are not the only ones that feel intrigued by the lifestyle of the Amish People. The Amish life is based on farming and is supposedly a very simple life without the ‘blessings’ of modern technology. That’s the theory. One evident contradiction lies in the fact that the Amish attract and cater to busloads of tourists (like us) and many villages are very modern tourist traps. To be fair we also see farmers that work the land with horses and wear their traditional, simple cloths. The Amish are apparently very successful farmers, all villages are in top shape and blend in perfectly into the hilly countryside. However, after half a day we have seen and smelled enough fresh air and continue towards the town Gettysburg, one of the major battlefields of the American Civil War (1861-1865).

Gettysburg

The fields and meadows and we see today must have been soaked with blood when around 6,000 young men passed away between July 1-3, 1863. More than 40,000 were wounded. The newly opened visitor center offers an evocative documentary on the battle. We follow it up with a drive on narrow roads through the former battlefields and begin to realize the dimensions of this battle.

We leave Gettysburg in a slightly somber mood and drive to the ‘Ohiopyle State Park’ in order to take a break. The park is located an hour south of Pittsburgh and home to one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces,  “Falling Water” and the ‘Hagan House’ (Kentuck Knob). We take advantage of the beautiful weather and go for a long hike in the mountains, hoping to spot an eagle or a turkey vulture – without success. Our legs hurt badly as we rest next to our camp fire later that evening. While we observe hundreds of fire flies in the air a deer appears and stays for 5 minutes very close to us. It is like a kitschy scene from a Walt Disney movie, had the deer spoken to us we would not have been surprised.

We leave Gettysburg in a slightly somber mood and drive to the ‘Ohiopyle State Park’ in order to take a break. The park is located an hour south of Pittsburgh and home to one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces,  “Falling Water” and the ‘Hagan House’ (Kentuck Knob). We take advantage of the beautiful weather and go for a long hike in the mountains, hoping to spot an eagle or a turkey vulture – without success. Our legs hurt badly as we rest next to our camp fire later that evening. While we observe hundreds of fire flies in the air a deer appears and stays for 5 minutes very close to us. It is like a kitschy scene from a Walt Disney movie, had the deer spoken to us we would not have been surprised.

Meanwhile it is July 1st and the first month of our trip has passed. What lesson did we learn? A month is a very short time and we are happy that we still have 23 months left! We also begin to actually live the wise words of Confucius: the journey is the reward! We take our time and make time for unforeseen things – today is today and tomorrow is another day…

We continue our way towards the west via Pittsburgh and Ann Arbor (MI). Despite its supposed “renaissance”, Pittsburgh has certainly seen better days… Ann Arbor, however, raises fond memories of Georges’ two-year MBA program at the Michigan Business School. In the meantime, the multi-millionaire Stephen Ross has made his mark by donating 100 million dollars (and lending his name) to the school. The result is a (public) school whose architecture and interior design can compete with any private bank in Luxembourg. Let’s hope that the investment does not stop here as plenty of brain power is today needed in this region. The State of Michigan, and Detroit in particular, are the worst hit by the financial and economic crises in the US and will need the brightest people.

The weekend of the 4th of July was spent with dear friends in Chicago to celebrate America’s Independence day (Greetings to Yves & Liz & Martine!). The city is located on the shores of the huge Lake Michigan and it feels like being alreadyon the beach in California. Thousands of people celebrate on the meadows and beaches with their families and friends, waiting for the Independence Day fireworks to begin…

After this lovely weekend in Chicago we continue our journey westwards towards the Yellowstone National Park. In about two weeks you shall get an update about our adventures in the Wild West…!

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