Chippewa Herald * July 27, 2005

"Daughter of all vacations," part 3: Give My Regards to Broadway

Editor's note -- This is a four-part series:
[DOAV.1] [DOAV.2] [DOAV.3] [DOAV.4]

See photos for this section ( 3a or 3b) or get links for all DOAV stuff

by Tom Arneberg, Community Columnist

Day 8, June 10 -- After two days of travel and five days of searing heat in Washington, DC, we were ready to hit the beach. Our "Daughter Of All Vacations" was now one third over, but we still had a lot to see out East.

Because we had three weeks at our disposal, we had made a conscious decision long ago not to over-plan this family vacation. It seems more adventurous to play it by ear, and we figured we could get away with that in early June, when some unlucky kids were still sitting in classrooms.

Because of that flexibility, we were able to take advantage of a last-minute offer. Some friends of ours who were back in Chippewa Falls for the summer, Tony and Grace (Haley) Schmoldt, tossed us the keys to their vacant apartment in Virginia Beach. We weren't planning on going that far south, but we took along their keys, just in case. However, after several days of intense heat in Washington, we were more than ready to trade in our pop-up camper for a couple of nights of AIR CONDITIONING!

We thought we might as well go the beach while we were there. Good move. Not only was the temperature 15 degrees lower with the ocean breeze, but the kids had an absolute blast swimming in the ocean for their first time. I think a day on the beach and a night or two of air-conditioning will become required breaks in our itinerary for future multi-week vacations. We left Virginia refreshed and ready to get back to the hard work of big-city sightseeing.

Day 10, June 12 -- We decided to head to the Big Apple along the coast, rather than going back through DC and Philadelphia. Another good move! Little did we know that the 20-mile bridge (with two tunnels) across the Chesapeake Bay was considered one of the "Engineering Wonders of the World." Jasper duly noted that he can't convert a bridge to a tunnel in Sim City -- sometimes real life is more amazing than a computer simulation.

Later that day we crossed an even larger bay, Delaware Bay. To get across we enjoyed an ocean cruise on the Cape May-Lewes ferry. We chose a campsite near the Jersey Shore, set up the camper, and headed into Atlantic City.

Ever since I was a kid, I've wanted to see the city with the streets that inspired the property names in Monopoly. Unfortunately, it seems that Atlantic City is not quite the same as it was in its 1920s heyday. The central part of the city is now dominated by casinos, while the northern parts are slums, with bars on the windows and people in the street with nothing to do. We did venture out for a quick stroll on the famous Boardwalk in the southern part of the city, but then it was quickly back to our van and the safety of our campground.

Day 11, June 13 -- After a few hours of white-knuckle driving around an amazing array of highways and overpasses, we finally got to our "campsite" in New Jersey. We were a little nervous, as this was the only campsite listed in the Trailer Life catalog within 50 miles of New York City. But "Liberty Harbor RV Park" turned out to be great! It was right in the harbor, so we were covered by the same security that guarded the yachts. We had to walk only a few blocks for a subway train or ferry boat to Manhattan, and we could see the Statue of Liberty right from our camper! Not bad for $70 per night.

The campground itself didn't exactly offer the splendor of nature, but like everyone else there, we only needed to shower and sleep. Our goal was to spend every waking hour wandering the streets and subways of New York City.

I was excited to share my love of New York with my kids. Our first stop after Ground Zero was the requisite tour of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. As in touring the Smithsonians in Washington, it would take a solid day or two to get through all the immigration exhibits, so we had to skim a bit.

My favorite part of visiting Manhattan is simply walking the streets. It's as if you enter a different country every few blocks. Not long after taking photos on Wall Street, we were in the middle of Chinatown, where we found our way to a restaurant with defeathered ducks hanging in the window. The food was fabulous, plentiful, and less than $3.50 per person. On top of that, we bought six T-shirts for $10. Who knew New York could be a cheapskate's paradise?

We did have to splurge a bit, though, for theater tickets. You can't go into Manhattan and not see a Broadway show. Even though we saved money by sitting in the very last row during a matinee, we still had to shell out $35 per person. But it was worth it to see "Fiddler on the Roof" at the famous Minskoff Theater.

After Broadway, Beth took Simon back to the camper while I took the older four kids to their first Yankees game. Getting there was half the fun -- a rush-hour subway train to the Bronx is a whole different experience in sardine-hood. All I could think of was the deodorant soap commercials from the 70s: "Aren't you glad you used Dial?"

We got a kick out of the "spirited" attitude of Yankees fans, and of the plaintive cry of the bleacher vendors with their New York accent: "Bee-uh hee-uh." We snuck out after the seventh inning, unsure of how long the wait would be for a subway train in the post-game rush. We took a different route so we could experience Times Square at night. The kids loved it! They bought blinking light crystals from street vendors, while I took some night photos with my mini-tripod. Several budding musicians drew crowds by banging on improvised drum sets -- "Stomp" in real life.

Three days in the "city that never sleeps" feels like a week in real life, especially when the temperature is still in the 90s. While we had a great time in NYC, we were looking forward to our next stop in Boston -- we were ready for another air-conditioned break.

You can reach Tom at

[DOAV.1] [DOAV.2] [DOAV.3] [DOAV.4]

See photos for this section ( 3a or 3b) or get links for all DOAV stuff

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