Colorado, Oklahoma, New York - July 2007

The Chinese call it the year of the pig, but, for me, it’s been the year of the apple.

Kris and I finished our first year of teaching well, with my winning Teacher of the Year and the Freedom Award and Kris making massive improvements to several key processes within Winfree.  But, having had an exhausting year, we were ready for a good summer of travel.

After a few days off, Kris and I drove up to Denver to visit my sister and her family from June 10 - June 21, 2007. 

While we were there, Jimmy flew up as well. 

We had a lot of fun celebrating Jenny's birthday, going to the park, pool, sprinklers, and to the Colorado Renaissance Fair.  As much as it pained me to leave, we headed back home on the 21st. 

We then had a few days alone before Adam came to stay with us, and Terri joined us on the 4th of July.  After a trip to Oklahoma to visit the WinStar, we all headed down south to Houston to spend a few days in Pasadena with Wayland, Terri, and Adam, then drove back home to give me time to pack for my New York trip with Valerie Albright on July 12 – July 16, 2007.

Thursday, July 12, 2007
We flew from DFW to Newark airport with a connection in Atlanta.  Our first flight left at 5:45 am, and, if you know me, you know that I didn’t sleep any the night before.  I was quite tired by the time we arrived at EWR, but we took the Airtrain to NY Penn Station and pulled our luggage the four or so blocks to the hotel anyway.  (This wouldn’t be such a hard feat if you didn’t have swarms of people running into you and going the opposite direction.  I felt, quite often, that for every two steps I went forward, I went one back due to the pressure exerted on my luggage.)  We checked-in to the Wingate Inn Manhattan Midtown, a really nice hotel with a nice sized room and super comfy bed.  They offered a free hot continental breakfast every morning.  I was quite happy with the hotel.  Then we rest and unpack before Danny comes and picks us up from the hotel to drive us to Astoria to see the entire family.  (Now I’m ready and raring to go.  Miraculously, I don’t feel any of my previous exhaustion.  That hits me on our trip home.)

We make it to Astoria to have dinner with Aunt Alice, Uncle Nick, Danny, Nicky, Caroline, and Juliette.  They delighted us with fantastic pasta, ravioli, pasta salad, potato salad, BBQ, etc.  My aunt even went out before we got to NY and bought my favorite soda.  Then, after a remarkably tasty dinner, Danny gave us a remarkable driving tour around the city. 

We got to see Times Square, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and more all sparkling and dazzling at night.  It was phenomenal.  Walls and walls of light and concrete spanning distances beyond imaginable.

Friday, July 13, 2007
I’m a tripaholic.  I love traveling and planning to travel.  I almost live for exploring new places, taking pictures of new places, testing the boundaries of what’s completely familiar to me…well, as long as I still have a semblance of control over the situation.  That being said, I went a little plan happy over this New York trip.  So much to see, so little time and all.

After eating breakfast, we walked to Planet Hollywood to pick up our New York 3-day passes (highly recommended for those wanting to do a lot of activities).  We walked in Times Square and over to Rockefeller Center where we stopped at La Maison du Chocolat for Iced Chocolates and a platter of amazing chocolates.  We then took our first subway to the Museum of Natural History.  After touring the museum, we walked across Central Park to the Guggenheim, which wound up being my favorite museum.  We walked east to Ray Bari’s pizza parlor where Val and I both had a slice of cheese pizza and I had a lemon Italian ice.  We then walked to my mother’s old high school, St. Jean the Baptiste, and to her old church, which was very pretty in a churchy way.  Then southwest to the MET before hitting a subway back toward our hotel. 

A few showers later, we headed toward the Empire State Building to meet up with Danny, his cousin, Joey, and Joey’s girl, Chrissy.  The five of us got on the NY Skyride…really cool…and then went to the top of the Empire State Building.  This was definitely worth doing…we were up there on a beautiful night with great company and a spectacular view.  Afterwards, we went to Scotty’s where I had an amazing meal…roast chicken stuffed with swiss cheese and broccoli. 

Saturday, July 14, 2007
We got a later start today and had a slight revision in plans.  We hit a few stores in the morning and then took the subway to Rockefeller Center to go to the NBC Experience Store and do the NBC Tour.  The tour was incredibly neat.  We got to see where Conan and SNL are filmed, how makeup is used, and I even got to pretend to be a newscaster while reading a teleprompter.  I’m glad I wasn’t the weatherman…that guy embarrassed himself a bit.  We later ate at Planet Hollywood ($20 off thanks to the NY Pass), visited the Hard Rock Café and a few other shops, and took the subway back near our hotel.

After cleaning up, Val and I took the subway to our chosen off-broadway show, My First Time.  It was so phenomenally funny, and we had front row center seats that couldn’t have been beaten.  It was super enjoyable.  After the show we walked to a subway station that took us over the E. 60th and 3rd where we met up with Dan, ate some pizza at Patsy’s, and had AMAZING Frrrozen Hot Chocolates and desserts at Serendipity 3 (from the movie).  Then Dan gave us a few hour long tour of the city.

We drove to the WTC site and walked around, drove uptown, downtown, Chinatown, Little Italy, Wall Street, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and to the South Street Seaport (where we walked around).  He gave us such an amazing tour of the city.  I don’t think you could pay hundreds of dollars and get the caliber of tour that we got.  We didn’t get back to the hotel until 3am.

Sunday, July 15, 2007
We woke up and took the subway to Times Square to grab a hot dog and take the M42 bus to Pier 42.  We were able to grab our tickets onto the “Beast” to see the Statue of Liberty. 

(The Beast is a speedboat run by the Circle Line.)  There was no line and no wait, which was amazing, and the boat ride was fantastic fun.  I strongly recommend this ride as the way to go see the Statue of Liberty.  After our 30 minute boat ride, we rode back to Times Square to get a subway to Little Italy. 

We walked Canal Street, bought some Coach in the back room, ate at a great little restaurant called Vincent’s (I had the stuffed shells and Val had ziti), and we decided to get the heck out of Chinatown.  It smelled really badly.  We headed back to the hotel, stopping in a few shops along the way, and I got into the shower.  When I got out, Val was sleeping, so I went to a little shop near the hotel and bought a really cute top.  I was later picked up at the hotel by my Uncle Nick to go see Dan and Nick play ice hockey.  (Val was plum tuckered out, so she opted out in favor of R&R at the hotel.)  Aunt Alice, Danny, Nicky, and I went to the ice hockey game, and I got a few great hours watching the guys and seeing my Aunt.  After the game (which the guys won 5 to 2), we drove back to drop off my aunt and cousin Nicky and Danny drove me back to the hotel.  Val had already packed all of her stuff, so she was nice enough to help me pack mine.

Monday, July 16, 2007
Val and I hit a few shops right near the hotel, and we picked up black & whites for our respective loved ones back home before Danny came to pick us up at the hotel.  The streets were bustling, so I must add here an astounding observation…I don’t see how anyone can drive safely in New York…let alone in a garbage truck.  Geez, it’s amazing.  Uncle Nick had picked everyone heroes up at this great deli near my aunt’s house, and the lot of us – Aunt Alice, Dan, Nick, Caroline, Juliette, Val, and I – ate a fantastic lunch before getting to
see “Sugarless” (one of D&N’s garbage trucks) and a tour of Caroline and Nicky’s house.  After a few hours of talking, Danny and my aunt drove us to Newark so we could catch our flight.

All in all, my trip was fantastic, and I can’t wait to go back.

And this is why I call this the year of the apple…from teaching to visiting the big apple…back to teaching again.  It’s a theme.

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