When we decided to devote one day of our ostensible Philadelphia vacation to visiting the Statue of Liberty a reasonable distance away, we had no idea what to expect from the journey. We certainly didn’t envision it as a prequel to future vacations. And yet, there we were, and there it was.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, marvels, history, and institutions we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. Beginning with 2003’s excursion to Washington DC, we added my son to the roster and tried to accommodate his preferences and childhood accordingly.
After the record-breaking nine-day epic that was our 2009 trek to the farthest reaches of South Dakota, we decided to scale back in 2010 with a shorter drive in a different direction. We previously drove through the corners of Pennsylvania in 2003 and 2004 — through Washington in the southwest corner on our way to Washington, DC; and through Erie in the northwest corner on our way to Niagara Falls. This year, that extra-large wooded state would be the center of our attention.
As one of America’s original 13 colonies, Pennsylvania contains multitudes of U.S. history and authentic places and things from centuries past. For the three of us, we figured it would do well. Anne is a big history buff. I’m willing to drive just about anywhere within reason. My son would be dragged along for whatever ride until such time as he developed a separate life and identity.
We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.
Once we’d had our fill of Lady Liberty, we returned to the dock to await the return ferry. The New York and New Jersey ferries each have dibs on one side of the dock. Unsurprisingly, the New York side is partitioned to hold five times as many passengers as the New Jersey side. Their ferry arrived right on time. Ours arrived fifteen minutes late and bumped against the dock as if it were drunk.
On the return trip to shore, we had a poor sight line to the Colgate Clock, which Wikipedia says is the fourth-largest clock in the world as of 2010.
That background structure looming behind the clock is New Jersey’s tallest skyscraper, the Goldman Sachs Tower. Their owners are in charge of the clock’s upkeep and thankfully resisted the urge to pawn it and pay down their debts.
Our return trip to the shore was spent in silence, each of us in separate parts of the ferry. Anne stood on the side facing Liberty Island, getting one last look at what we’d already seen. My son ignored the windows and found the nearest bench to rest the feet that ached right now. I stood on the side facing NYC and wondered what a future vacation over there might entail. Each of us chose our own private preoccupation — the past, the present, the future — just like the forefathers who arrived here a century earlier for their own diverse motivations, except ours would’ve made for a really cool triptych.
Back on shore, we picked up an Italian ice for my son and returned to the Jersey Turnpike. I tried to stop for gas, but their stations offered only old-fashioned full-serve pumps. I assume this wasn’t for the sake of nostalgia, but for security purposes. I can’t blame them. I wasn’t in a tipping mood, so I held off till Pennsylvania. Weeks after the trip, friends informed us this was New Jersey state law, apparently because their citizens can’t be trusted to handle gas pumps without turning into wanton criminals. Or something.
We were exhausted by the time evening fell in Exton. Dinner was at a nearby Cheeseburger in Paradise, where my son ate two full servings of teriyaki wings and the waitress felt comfortable enough with her job security to take extended breaks between her infrequent stops at our table.
Back at the hotel, a pair of police cars waited outside, lights flashing. Two officers stood on duty in the lobby, one of them positioned next to the coffee stand and toying with her phone. When I came down later to take advantage of some free decaf, she let me know some more was being brewed fresh and would be done shortly. We exchanged two or three lines of small talk, but I retreated without asking her to divulge any useful info. Frankly, I didn’t want to know why their presence was required. If it was because of danger, it would ruin my night’s sleep. If it was because of coffee, then here come unfunny cop jokes.
That night on TV: TNT rerunning Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring, a film about a group of travelers with varying agendas united by a simple common goal and exhausted by a never-ending journey into smoky mountains and questionable establishments.
To be continued!
1. …and that’s the story of the moment when my son and I more or less decided our 2011 road trip would take us to the Big Apple.
2. As of today, Wikipedia’s “largest clocks in the world” list marks Jersey City’s Colgate Clock in seventh position. I presume someone paid for crews to travel the world with more diligence and lots of measuring tape to get accurate updates since 2010.]
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