Our first official stop- without even stepping into New York. Get to the Statue of Liberty from Jersey City, on Statue Cruises- it's $13 for the ferry and 2 stops on the islands. Less people than from Battery Park in Lower Manhattan- plus, you get to see the train depot.

You’ll know when you get to New Jersey, even if your eyes are closed. DANG! Do they spend any money on road maintenance? It was like reading Braille through the seat of my pants as we rolled, or shall I say- catapulted- from bump to bump along the NJ Turnpike. We had selected an RV park that had a reputation for the best location to access New York City: minutes by subway, or only 4.5 miles by car via the Holland Tunnel to the epicenter of the Big Apple. Right they were on reputation #1: Location. WRONG they were on reputation #2: Bad Service. We rolled into the Liberty Harbor RV Park after taking a little turnpike detour (that cost me an extra $1.10 x 3 times to cover missing an exit when we arrived) and stopped at the park office. BIG security guard guided us to park, then enter the office where we met Peter, the owners son. He was nice, real nice in fact. As busy as he looked, he offered us as much time as we needed- even walked us to the spot he wanted us in and made sure we would fit so as to avoid the extra $20/night charge for a car if it wouldn’t fit in the space. We appreciated his attention and that the reviewers on RV Park Reviews were not completely right this time.

Although we would be paying $64 a night here, and the hookups were only for electric and water at the site- with sewer dump across the park at a centralized dump station- we could see the Statue of Liberty from our spot (if we leaned way over and peeked out of the top of the rear lounge window on the drivers side).  We were close! Across the Hudson River, Lower Manhattan spanned the horizon with familiar sights, even though we’d never personally seen this view with our own eyes, in person. It was, again, a sight that we’ve been looking at for years, and it was again, smaller in real life than I’d imagined.

This is the first approved photograph of Lauren in several months. She was very excited to be here- and she let me take many photos of her, in New York City.

We met a chatty, friendly couple next to us that were kind to offer tips on the city, getting around and at one point, ripped out the downtown section of their AAA guidebook for us to have when we set out to explore on our own. You meet the nicest people. We would end up chatting with Cliff and Talulah almost each evening as we or they returned from the city to share what we’d seen, or ask questions we had. You see, Cliff grew up here and had a good perspective on everything we wondered about.

Our first day, we decided to tackle one of our biggest objectives for this city: Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. We knew that we couldn’t get onto the crown (booked out 3.5 months), and a pedestal pass would be hard (group of 9 couldn’t get in for over a week), but we did purchase passes for the grounds of the SoL, and Ellis Island. Our ferry left at 12 noon, and deposited us at the immigrants first stop, first. This island had been many things over the years, and is now a great symbol of the right way to come into America. A great train depot laid behind the island, that would distribute these new folks across the countryside as they made their way to find a piece of America to call home, or join their families. Standing in the center of the reception hall, where thousands of immigrants had passed, where hundreds of soldiers had slept, was humbling. Again, an opportunity to realize how small we are individually, but how grand the country is together. Although, personally, ‘the country’ seems to be diluted in recent years by the attitude of our leaders to accommodate new arrivals, no matter how they come inside. To meet their needs and fall over ourselves to make sure we don’t offend anyone, at the great expense of our own countrymen… I digress, but truthfully share concern.

The time of this island in it’s heyday, was also a time that the United States showed great leadership to the world in engineering, industry and goodwill. A time that the country was rightfully proud and foreigners felt privilege to become a citizen. Things feel different today, and seeing the foundation that we started with makes that even clearer. (end of soapbox) After Ellis Island, we landed at Lady Liberty's feet and spent 2 hours investigating the best angle, taking a ranger tour, and reflecting what it all meant!

At the end of a hot day of constant walking, we had earned a night out, and cold beer was on sale. You can see why Kelly looks happier.

Lauren has been eager throughout this trip to get to New York- a BIG city. City of lights, action, stores, people, hustle and bustle. She admitted however, that the view of Manhattan might be better from the Hoboken shore, than from inside of NYC herself. We spent some time along the Jersey shores investigating the Colgate Clock, and the location of the Cake Boss bake shop: Carlo's. We peeked inside (and talked our way into a private tour) of a majestic old movie theater- the Loews Jersey Theater, at subway rail yards, and built forts along the edge of the Hudson River until the sun dropped behind the city to our West facing backs- and let the NYC lights shine upon our faces, dripping with awe!

Walking along the street of Jersey City, we stumbled across this magnificent theater- and pulled on the door to find it OPEN! Once inside, we were treated to a personal tour of the theater, which was now run by a non profit that was preserving it from the wrecking ball. Seating almost 3,000- it boasted a live stage, monster movie screen, and juicy history. Check out the Loews Jersey Theater when you're in the area. They still do occasional theatrical events. If I lived inthe region, I'd be volunteering here, just to get a closer look inside.

At the front of the theater, adjacent to the orchestra pit, this pipe organ was on a pedestal that could raise and revolve so the audience could watch the musician in charge of this historic (and fully functioning) machine work their magic.

The Empire State Building in 3 shades of illumination, the Chrysler building shimmering with art deco style, the grand ships and aircraft carrier, the constant flow of boat traffic, the noise of the city rushing from across the water - the feeling of being somewhere important. Important I say, but you couldn’t see a single star. The grass was intentionally planted, the animal habitats among discarded cinderblock and scrap wood, the smells from something that people created and not Mother Earth. So it’s different than home, but it was exciting to be standing at the front door of the most spectacular view of a city ever seen by these eyes.

Buon Appetito served up a 28" monster pizza- that we finished in no time. Walking distance from the RV park.

At that shore, the little kids scurried around stacking wood against a center beam of wood supported by 2 large boulders, creating a fort. Occasionally they would pause, look across the water and soak it in, then get back to construction. Lauren on the other hand, sat in one spot and stared. I don’t think she ever dropped her jaw or drooled, but she didn’t take her eyes off of the view for long if at all.

Early in the day we poked around this classic old 50' tall wooden clock. It sits on the site of the former Colgate world headquarters. Now, it looks sadly across the Hudson at the bustling city of New York, having seen all it tragedy and rich stories from a rocky shoreline littered with bricks discarded from the old days of US industry.

This was from the recon trip of the Cake Boss's bakery- where we would order a custom birthday cake for a celebration the next week in Ohio. LINES on the sidewalk are the name of the game here. Kelly will be going inside, and tell you how to beat the line!

Over the next few days, we would venture inside the belly of this great city by van and subway. We would make several trips during the day, and in the middle of the night. The lights were always on, the locals were always out- and we experienced some first hand stories of near misses and triumphs that we’ll share next time.