The last time I was in NYC was about 10 years ago and it’s very interesting seeing how the city has changed (and how I’ve changed!) but one thing that still shocks is the sheer number of homeless. There are some serious and vocal mental health issues on the NY streets and seeing homeless people in wheelchairs or with walking frames or other obvious physical difficulties seems much more common than I’ve seen elsewhere.
After the tiny hotel room we spent a couple of nights at a friend’s place in Brooklyn Heights and he can just see the statue of liberty between two huge cranes from his back window. This is not as bad as it sounds.
We went out for a several walks around his neighbourhood and it was weird looking over the water to where the twin towers used to be.
Just under Brooklyn Bridge we happened across the local ‘Art under the Bridge’ festival which is an Art Trail that takes over this area and includes work in some of the huge old dilapidated warehouses there.
It was great to see some of this and we also came across the car we wish were hiring.
We didn’t hang around in New York for long but while we were there we asked everyone we met where they would go if they had two months and were heading to the west coast. From a mix of their suggestions, our own ideas and the places we have friends we began to put a route together. Then we headed out to Hamilton, New Jersey to pick up the car (much, much cheaper than hiring it in New York) and hit the road proper.
First destination was a friend in Fredericksburg, Virginia but before arrival there we spent one night in a classic gas, food, lodging strip off Interstate 95 just outside of Elkton, Maryland. I LOVE motels and the cheaper the better. They have everything you need – a bed, a fridge, a TV and complete privacy unlike hotels.
You can sit there mindlessly flicking zillions of TV channels and get a good overview of political views in the US. I also find the commercials fascinating and very revealing about the culture. The ones for medication are particularly educational. In the US it seems there is a pill for everything. You don’t have to change your diet or your lifestyle or inconvenience yourself in any way..… just take the pill! However, they are legally obliged to also list all possible side effects including death but these are raced through at such incredibly high speed they are barely understandable. It was a lot of fun flicking between these commercials and the live health care debate.
Fredericksburg, Virginia is famous for being a huge Civil War battlefield. In fact this whole area is littered with Civil War history and battlefields. It’s a very pretty town on the banks of the Rappahannock River but is such a tourist spot it’s hard to see beyond that or find a normal shop! The place is full of antiques and historical memorabilia, old plantation houses and George Washington’s mother’s house. Mary Washington also gives her name to Fredericksberg’s university.
Another old university town, Charlottesville, was our next scheduled stop. We were intending to spend a couple of nights there especially because Charlottesville’s art centre and galleries always have open evenings on the first Friday of every month. However, this was not to be. We arrived and found that every single hotel, motel and inn was booked solid. There was a U2 concert so thanks to bloody Bono we ended up a 30 minute drive away in Waynesboro . Because that was actually nearer to where we were heading we didn’t go back. Instead we just went directly from there to the most beautiful and wonderful Shenandoah Valley……