2016 NYC Trip Photos #5: Central Park Walkathon

Conservatory Water!

Conservatory Water may have the most boring name of any body of water on Earth, but it’s a pretty place for toy boat regattas.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year from 1999 to 2015 my wife Anne and I took a road trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. With my son’s senior year in college imminent and next summer likely to be one of major upheaval for him (Lord willing), the summer of 2016 seemed like a good time to get the old trio back together again for one last family vacation before he heads off into adulthood and forgets we’re still here. In honor of one of our all-time favorite vacations to date, we scheduled our long-awaited return to New York City…

On our 2011 vacation we saw maybe 5% of the total square footage of Central Park, if that. We saw a feature or two, but were so drained by the time we got there that the oppressive summer heat burned away the last of our energy reserves along with any drive for exploration. After we finished with St. Paul’s Chapel, we decided another, longer tour through Central Park was in order. It wasn’t our first choice, but it was an inevitable choice.

My original plan after St. Paul’s was to return to the Brooklyn Bridge and, instead of gazing upon it from blocks away as we did last time, actually approach and maybe even walk on it, in accordance with my wife’s previously thwarted wishes. We headed over to the Fulton Street station, a relatively new building that opened in November 2014 and still bears much of the original stainless steel sheen.

Fulton Center!

A large nexus of several subway lines, it’s left some room for future transportation expansion, which we’re told is a thing that happens in all the better large cities.

Blue Screen of Death!

21st-century travel facility, 20th-century computer errors.

I’d hoped to take us on the A or C train to the High Street station in Brooklyn, which looked closer to the Bridge than any subway stops on the Manhattan side. We learned the bad news after we’d gone to the trouble of descending below street level: both the A and C trains were out of service. Far as we could tell, they were never in service the entire week of this trip. I spent a few minutes trying to work out another route, but Anne — somewhat frustrated, and I don’t blame her — recommended we go do Central Park instead. It was a good suggestion, but Manhattan’s subway tinkering effectively axed Brooklyn Bridge from our 2016 itinerary altogether. Something else to look forward to on our third trip someday, I suppose.

I’m struggling to retrace the trains we took from there, but we found our way on wheels up to the 59th Street vicinity near the southeast corner of Central Park and walked into a surprise street fair. It’s not been uncommon on past vacations for us to run across town festivals we had no idea were scheduled the same time as our visit. Go figure.

Bastille Day on 60th Street!

Ugly Americans that we are, we had no idea July 10th was Bastille Day, or that Manhattan would be throwing a block party in its honor.

Bastille Sausage!

To be honest, we were more excited about getting to Central Park before the ominous overhead clouds got any more ominous. The food we bypassed along the way looked appealing from a distance, though.

Central Park came a few blocks later. And thus our long, long walk began to see numerous artworks we missed last time, to saunter around new plains and paths, to chart the inviting topography, to cross a few must-see bits off Anne’s wish list, and to people-watch in general.

Cochonou Mobile!

Not far from the entrance, a mini-parade of curious cars were lined up for gawking purposes, including this one designed like a big bumpy picnic tablecloth.

Central Park!

Central Park! Your basic setting on a crowded Sunday afternoon — hundreds of people all over the place, milling and chilling and playing and laying and so on.

Central Park!

Fussy folks who don’t like grass stains can bring a blanket, pick a bench, or find a massive rock formation for perching.

Central Park Rides!

Carnival rides! I can’t find these on the map, so they may have been temporary fixtures for either the weekend or the season. But we have these back home and didn’t much care.

chess table!

The rain began when we reached the Chess and Checkers House. Other board games are stored on site for your entertainment. Thankfully the precipitation petered out within minutes and never built up much pressure.

Central Park Horse Ride!

Numerous entrepreneurs wander the Park with vehicles — horses, bikes, quasi-rickshaws, etc. — offering rides to romantic couples or exhausted walkers. A few were a bit pushy with their sales pitches.

Naumburg Bandshell!

Naumburg Bandshell has been a fixture since 1923, has hosted classical music as well as guest speakers (MLK, for one). This day, a hip-hop troupe was recruiting audience volunteers for…something. We wandered away before the big payoff, but smiles were in abundance.

NYC butterfly!

We skipped the Central Park Zoo, but I found this butterfly for free on the ground. Advantage: me.

Bridge guitarist!

It wouldn’t be Central Park without the musicians randomly hanging out here and there, like this under-the-bridge guitarist…

Bridge violinist!

…or this violinist working troll-bridge style.

Bubble Guy!

If you prefer visual over audio input: mega-bubbles!

None of these were the features Anne wanted to see most. We’ll get to those in our next chapter.

All told, our Central Park walk took us from Grand Army Plaza at 59th and 5th to just behind the Met at 81st Street. If this winds up being my final MCC entry, it’ll be because I don’t think I ever told Anne or my son exactly how far we’d walked, and reading this sentence first thing in the morning will be the first time she learns just how far and how hard I pushed us, which would explain why we were all near death by the time we left the Park.

(Hi, honey! You still love me, right?)

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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