Day 2 in New York was our Marathon tourist day. It was a whirlwind day, and it consisted mostly of traveling to a spot, saying "oooh, ahhhhhh!" snapping a picture or two, then moving on to the next place! We were all totally exhausted after that day from all the walking... but again, it turned out to be a very good representation of what my days as a missionary were like (i.e. out for 12-13 hours, and walking an insane amount - I actually had a companion that kept a pedometer and estimated that in one of my Queens areas we walked on average 10-12 miles every day... which is still shy of the average 13 miles that Amish men walk every day!). It was a very fun day, and we did get to see quite a bit, so here goes!
Our first stop was just down the F train to Coney Island and Brighton Beach. There wasn't too much to see while we were there. It was first thing in the morning, so none of the shops or rides or anything were open at the time. But it was still fun to see the sites... we of course had to get our picture taken with the Nathan's Hotdog Eating Contest sign. I did watch Kobayashi live a few years ago when he broke the world record... so it was pretty cool to see.
We walked for a bit on the Boardwalk to Brighton beach. It was a very calm morning. The temperatures were cool, so there were only a few joggers out; we pretty much had the whole boardwalk to ourselves. There was a picture on the front page of some Newspaper just 2 weeks later when a heat wave hit New York City, and the picture showed the same Boardwalk packed with a whole bunch of people that had no elbow room! We were lucky to avoid the crowds.
We rode the Q train from there up to the Parkside stop to visit one of my areas in Brooklyn, and a street that I worked on quite a bit. The picture above is a tree from Prospect park... we just thought it was cool that the tree was so huge that with the three of us, we could barely touch fingers!
This is a good picture of my apartment on Flatbush Avenue (I lived in the apt directly above the Jamaican Bakery).
Two fun things to note:
1.) You'll notice the bus stopped right in front of that apartment: there is a bus stop for the B41 not 10 feet away from the window where I slept. That route is so popular and used so much that a bus stops at that spot every 7-12 minutes... even at night. It actually took me several weeks after leaving this apartment to learn how to sleep again without the sounds of a bus stopping outside my window every few minutes. (If I think about it now, I can still vividly remember the sounds of the brakes screeching, the hydraulics of the doors opening and closing, the hydraulics lowering and raising the front of the bus to allow people on and off, the bus driver swearing at kids who tried to get on without paying etc.).
2.) I lived in this apartment dead in the middle of summer when the temperatures climb into the 90's, then lower themselves down into the high 80s at night. With a super-high humidity, it made for some very hot and muggy nights (being poor-as-dirt missionaries, we didn't have any air conditioning units either, so the temperature inside was always the same or hotter than it was outside!). What made it worse though, was the Jamaican Bakery that sat below us. They fired up their ovens and started baking at about 4:00 AM every morning. Being right above them, our apartment felt like it turned into a furnace every time they ran their ovens. I joked with the owner one day and said that he could bake his bread right in our apartment because it was so hot! Because of the heat, I never slept passed 4-5 AM in that apartment.
Next we hopped on that B41 bus and rode it up Flatbush to the Brooklyn Arch, a Civil War Memorial patterned after the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Very neat and fun to see again.
This was a random sign that had been put up just outside of the Parkside Stop on the Q train.
From the Arch, we walked our way up into Downtown Brooklyn to see the parks, Fulton St. Mall... and of course, get some Junior's Cheesecake. If you've never heard of Junior's Cheesecake, then you're missing out! It is the quintessential New York style Cheesecake (insert drool here). I managed to save up money and go there twice as a missionary, and definitely had fond memories of the fattening cholesterol-laden goodness. Oh man is that some rockin' awesome cheesecake!
From there we made the walk to the Brooklyn Bridge. This bridge is my favorite structure in the world. I think it is a gorgeous bridge, and the history and story behind its construction is fascinating to me. Seeing it as a missionary had a profound impact on me. I fell in love with it, and it became one of my all-time favorite visiting spots during my time there. I can credit my love for this structure as one of the things that inspired me to go into structural engineering (which I got a degree in and currently work in that field... though I don't get to design anything so beautiful as this...) It was also the inspiration behind the name of my first daughter: Brooklyn.
Here are a couple of sweet shots with one of my companions: Elder Bryce Holmes, a really great guy and an incredibly hard-working individual. Then of course the shot at the same exact spot with Naomi, who is a really great gal and is definitely better-looking than Bryce was.
We did get to walk across the bridge into Manhattan which is always a fun experience. I also think that this is where we all got a bit sun-kissed and managed to get a tad sun burnt and exhausted!
This next shot was my mom's idea: Whenever I visited the Brooklyn Bridge as a missionary, I could only go halfway. Technically, the far West side of the Bridge is part of the New York City North Mission, which is outside my mission, and thus off limits! So I never got to cross the yellow checkered plating that makes up the expansion joint that is the halfway point of the bridge! The picture is my first time actually crossing the halfway point and walking onto the Manhattan side of the bridge. Brought a tear to everyone's eye!
Later, we hopped on yet another train to make our way into Queens, but made sure to stop at Canal Street (Manhattan China-town and awesome shopping) and at Grand Central Station (iconic transportation hub and youtube flashdance sensation) Hahaha good times for sure.
We headed out to Queens via my favorite train: the 7 Train. By this time everyone was so tired, it was a blessing to finally get to sit down on a train to rest for a little while. The 7 train is very scenic winding through some awesome sections of Queens. There's always some good graffiti to see near the Citibank building (see below).
We didn't have long to rest though: We got off the train at Flushing Meadows/Corona Park. I love this park. I have great memories of this park during my time in the Corona/Jackson Heights area. My apartment was literally in the shadow of Shea Stadium (which is at the extreme North end of the park, and has since been torn down as rebuilt... go Mets!) There also is the Arthur Ashe Tennis stadium (where the US Open is played) as well as all the cool stuff from the World's Fair back in the 70's. Think Men in Black, and the Alien taking off from the space ship and crashing through the Unisphere! It's a beautiful Park, and I have good memories of playing soccer there on P-days against a bunch of Equadorians (who almost played as dirty as us missionaries did...) having district meetings underneath the Unisphere, and buying Italian Ices for $1 from a tiny Mexican lady from Oaxaca who was the nicest person in the world!
We had just enough time to walk around for a bit to see the park and sit down from a few moments underneath the giant steel globe before heading back to the train. We made one last stop on the M train in North Brooklyn at Knickerbocker Street (aka: 2nd Puerto Rican Island) to try to do some souvenir shopping. But we got there really close to sunset, and I did NOT want us four to be the only white people in this potentially scary neighborhood when the sun went down. Well, make that 3 of us... Naomi could've fit right in! So we didn't spend too much time there, then hopped back on the trains and made our way back down into Dyker Heights to our Hotel. We got to our hotel after 13 hours of sight seeing and I'm pretty sure we all slept REALLY well that night.
The next morning we all rode a taxi to Laguardia to board our flight. Our taxi-driver was a born and raised Brooklynite who took it upon himself to be our final tour-guide whilst in New York. He drove us through downtown Brooklyn and spent his time telling us all about the different sights as we passed them, all the while weaving in and out of traffic like it was a carefully choreographed ballet. The looks on our faces must have been priceless (think Jim Carrey & Lauren Holley in the Limo at the beginning of Dumb & Dumber) We did manage to survive the BQE and got to the hotel with plenty of time to spare. I flew to Chicago, and Naomi and my parents flew to Utah. Naomi picked up our kidlets then flew back the Chicago the next day! I was so excited to see my girls again that I got to the airport an hour early just in case! It was a fun reunion, and the girls were almost as happy to see me as I was to see them!
It was the coolest and most intense vacation I've ever been on for sure! Big thanks to Mom & Dad for inviting us and making it all Possible! We sure love you and are grateful for the memories!