#cjandsjadventure2018: nyc

Well here we are … back at my favorite time of the year; that time when CJ and I embark on a little adventure to somewhere he’s never been. This year? New York City was on the agenda and as soon as I told him (after leading him on that it could be Tulsa or South Carolina or Minneapolis), he was all about it.

Instead of writing a series of posts, I’ll give you the quick hits and a lot of photos. Quick hits because, well, people in New York City are abrupt and get right to the point. And well, some of our travels were so bizarre only descriptive lists will do.

With that said, let’s go on a little long weekend adventure, shall we?

Thursday, August 2

  • Only including August 2 because I decided two days prior to book airfare. Because I’d been working too much and the thought of driving solo for 11ish hours felt too daunting. It’s relevant

Saturday, August 4

  • Mom wakes me up a little after 5:15. I couldn’t fall asleep the night prior and thank the Lord I’m a 38-year-old living with my parents. We never would have made our flight
  • Leave for the airport at 6:30
  • Start getting texts our flight was delayed at 8:00
  • Arrive in Chicago in good time (go, Subi, go!) to park at offsite parking
  • See giant security line and am mildly thankful our flight was delayed
  • Arrive into the terminal and stroll up to the JetBlue counter. We had to check a bag (extra 50 points for mom for packing for two in one bag that weighed just 32.5 pounds)
  • Second in line. Receive text that our flight is canceled. Good thing we’re second in line
  • Walk up to counter. They can get us re-booked on Sunday at 1:45. I respond that won’t work because we have a non-refundable hotel and ask if another airline is an option. Negative
  • Walk over to the side, fight back tears and try to figure out what to do. Look at flights out of ORD, MDW and call Hertz. Because at this point? I’m desperate
  • Find out from guy in front of us we could get a flight out that night on United. For $860/person. Quickly find a car that we can take one-way from ORD to JFK
  • Embark on 13-hour adventure from Illinois to New York
  • Grab mostly snacks along the way and find a cool hot dog joint near Pennsylvania in Youngstown, OH that offers gluten free buns and fixins’ you’d never think to pair with a hot dog. Guy on the street asked us for money (oh hey, downtown) so I offered to buy him a hot dog. He took us up on it
  • Young mom at hot dog ‘bar’ apologized for her shirt and engaged us in some fun dialog. She felt sorry for us, basically.
  • Decided around 8ish I needed to see something other than highway so we found a random state park in PA to drive through. Saw some beautiful deer hanging out and felt like we were back home. Realized we couldn’t drive all the way through the state park back roads when we arrived in someone’s driveway. Turned around and got back on the highway.
  • CJ fell asleep around 10 and I had the distinct pleasure of driving into NYC at 12:45 in the morning. Another reason I booked airfare? I was nervous to drive in the city. Fear conquered!
  • Check into hotel. They ‘upgraded’ us to a room with double beds because the king room with a view couldn’t fit the rollaway I requested
  • Walk into room and CJ hops into bed. Head into the restroom and the floor is soaking wet from who knows what? Tell CJ we need to head back downstairs. They have no other rooms and have the floor cleaned up before we get back to our room
  • In my opinion, this day didn’t even happen

Sunday, August 5

  • Wake up to a beautiful sunny morning in the city
  • Let CJ decide which five things we’re going to use our city pass for over the couple days we’re in town. First pick? NFL experience. #shocking
  • Head out for an adventure to get gluten free breakfast goodies
  • See that we’re literally across the street from 1 WTC. Get goosebumps as I’d stayed right near there in April of 2002 when it was still mostly rubble and working lamps. Simply breathtaking
  • Walk through Chinatown to the adorable bakery that had every gf goodie CJ could drool over
  • Headed back towards our hotel but first took a stop and little stroll onto the Brooklyn Bridge (my favorite). It was already getting super hot so we had a quick water break at the hotel before we took a quick walk around the 9/11 memorial site
  • Thankfully, I was wearing sunglasses. That’s just so overwhelming. And beautiful. I can’t say enough about the thought and care that was put into the park. The pools are just so powerful and the survivor tree is such a sweet memorial. The Oculus is also incredible. It reminded me of Grand Central but that of today. Just my opinion. I also can’t afford any of the stores in there but thankfully, walking through is free
  • Took the subway up to Times Square. If you haven’t gotten off at 42nd St/Times Square, it’s a must, especially for a first time city-goer. Connor’s eyes widened as we exited the station and were overwhelmed by the massive buildings, giant billboards, superhero characters and naked cowgirls. #facepalm
  • Hit up the NFL experience which was a blast. It was also cool in there which was much appreciated by my little hot box
  • Walked from there up to 50th to visit the Rockefeller Center observatory
  • Connor was completely floored at the view. Loved seeing the Empire State Building and didn’t even say if he was nauseous (he doesn’t actually love heights)
  • Took the subway back towards our hotel and decided we needed some grub so we found this amazing little restaurant, Bareburger, that served up gluten free buns, fries and milkshakes #momscore
  • I told CJ it would be fun to see what was left of the sunset with a walk to The Battery so we strolled that way and he caught his first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty
  • CJ’s favorite highlight from this day was our visit to the pools at WTC. He said, ‘it was just awesome to see how they changed a bunch of dust and rubble into an amazing memorial with amazing stuff around it.’

Monday, August 6

  • Totally sleep in until almost 8. Vacation is life
  • Had looked up some hidden gems to see in NYC the night prior so we hop back on the subway and head towards Harlem and the High Bridge. Decided I want CJ to see as much of the city as possible and to appreciate the people we might encounter. We talked a lot about that, actually
  • Found the High Bridge and decided the fence was too much of an obstruction to photos of the city skyline so I climbed up on the rail and held on to a light pole. CJ was not a fan
  • Headed back towards Midtown and Central Park. At this point, it’s hot. So, our stroll around the park was not nearly as long or as peaceful as I’d hoped but he still came, saw and smelled so we found a little lunch spot over on Columbus serving up gluten free bagels. YES!
  • Walked down Columbus towards Columbus Circle. Found a ridiculous cool candy shop and smoothie cart. Sugar helps to keep you cool, right?
  • Walked along Central Park South towards 5th Avenue so I could show him the plaza (where the Today Show magic happens that he didn’t feel was worth an early wake-up for) and headed towards Grand Central
  • We took one wrong turn which was awesome because it led us to the very beautiful and ultra cool Bryant Park
  • Appreciated the interior of Grand Central and even took at stab at the Whispering Arch. It didn’t work that well for us but I hear it works well for celebrity lovebirds #archwayproposal
  • We opted for a break for a bit before heading out on the waters of the East River on a little boat tour
  • This was likely my second favorite highlight of the trip. Seeing the city from the water and getting up close and personal with Ms. Liberty was incredible. The breeze was also welcome (in case you haven’t read into my ramblings, it was really, really hot and we were very, very sweaty) #feelslike97
  • We were a bit bummed when we got back and couldn’t get into the 9/11 museum. They close tours at 6 and we arrived at 5:58 (which I let the attendant know) and you know how New Yorkers are like, ‘eh. better luck next time.’? Yeah, that
  • We made some lemonade by heading north towards the Empire State Building for a near sunset walk around the 86th floor. We would have gotten our walk up to the 102nd floor but $24/ticket more. CJ told me he was okay not going up and I told him I didn’t really care if he was or wasn’t. I wasn’t going to spend the $50. Sorry, kid!
  • Dinner that night was a floor picnic at our hotel. We popped over to Whole Foods and I wasn’t even mad about it. It was late, our feet were tired and we both wanted food like, now
  • CJ’s highlight from this day was the boat ride. He said, ‘you got to see the whole city and the Statue of Liberty. the Statue of Liberty was pretty awesome.’


Tuesday, August 7

  • Our last day in NYC. We knew we should head out of town around 2 so we knew we had just one big last stop on our list o’ five (we missed the museum so it became a list o’ four)
  • We first snagged a quick breakfast on the hotel because of you know, water and upgrades and things
  • Hit the subway to go up to 34th Street/Penn Station for a visit to Madison Square Garden. We had to wait a bit after getting our tour time so we had another happy accident as B&H Photo was just down a couple blocks. I’d never been and this was a totally selfish mom thing but I had to see the store at my friend’s push. We were both crazy impressed. What a fun experience!
  • Now, I wasn’t expecting the MSG tour to be uber cool because, sports arena, but I was completely impressed. We were treated to a our of their Lexus suites and a great view of the main arena floor. The history of that place is pretty incredible and it was definitely Connor’s favorite visit of the trip. His little sports brain was totally tripping out
  • After MSG, we hit up a couple of souvenir shops and grabbed some snacks because we planned a good dinner after our arrival in Chicago … at 7:13 pm
  • We took the Jamaica train out to JFK and had plenty of time to check in and get through security
  • All was well
  • Then our flight was delayed because of weather in Chicago. I checked radar. It was going to pass. Cool
  • We got on the plane around 6:15 (originally due to leave at 5:05) and sat down breathing a sigh of relief that we were on a plane
  • But then we kept sitting. And then we got cleared to take off. Yay!
  • But then we didn’t. And then the flight attendant was all, ‘oooooh, man, i’m so sorry all but we have weather now coming in over JFK and it just so happens that our flight crew is beyond working hours sooooo yeah, this flight is canceled. here is the number you should call.’
  • Before she rattled off the last digit, I was dialing up American. My first call was disconnected
  • We got off the plane and I called again. A nice lady helped re-book me and at the end of our call, we both realized that she booked me out of LaGuardia. Which is great and all but I’m not at LGA and I have no way to get there
  • During the call, I got a text that I was re-booked on a flight on Wednesday morning out of JFK arriving into ORD at 3:26 pm
  • Fighting back tears, I consider options and call my mom so she can calm me down. A conversation about flying into Detroit comes up and I simply can’t have my parents drive to Detroit to pick us up so they can get me back to Chicago WHERE MY CAR IS
  • I start looking at cars. Again
  • We head down to baggage claim and I call American again because I see a flight out of JFK yet tonight, flying into Boston at 1 something a.m. and then into Chicago at 6:46am Wednesday morning. More tolerable
  • Nice lady on the phone re-books me on that flight after realizing I’m not on my way to LGA because I’m still showing as booked on that flight. I’m tired
  • So the problem at this point is that we don’t have our bags. In haste, I rent a car on the off-chance I may have to drive to Boston so I can get on the 5:00am flight
  • We meet two nice men who have much bigger travel deals than we do. One was returning home from a four-month stint on a military ship in Japan (awesome!) and the other was taking his birthright trip to Israel (also awesome!). CJ had so much fun entertaining them with sports talk and Star Wars recaps
  • Just over two hours after we hopped off zee plane, we have bags. Everyone claps
  • We rush upstairs to get checked back in for our flight that had been delayed until 11:30. It’s now 10:11pm
  • American Airlines counter supervisor guy is already fired up when we get up there with another customer. He decides they’re closed. We can’t check in
  • I’d prayed about this situation and told CJ if we could get checked in, we were flying and if not, we were driving
  • Off to the car rental lot we go
  • We arrive in Boston at 2:30am and take the shuttle to the terminal. We met a sweet family from Jamestown, MI which was madness at that time of morning and the only other people on the shuttle. More happy accidents
  • We get up to the AA counter and nice lady looks at the computer for a long time; hitting keys, making twitchy faces … and then says how she wanted to be sure she could get things figured out before communicating but they had ONLY.BOOKED.CONNOR. Thankfully, she got me on to the flight, too and we were seated together. She also saw from the look on my face that I might turn into a basket case if I cannot get on this flight
  • 5:00 am and we are on our first flight of the trip. We get into O’Hare as scheduled, go get our car and make the (what feels like) very short trek back to Michigan
  • The end
  • Oh, CJ did have a highlight for this day. ‘Madison Square Garden. i really liked it because it was one of the best stadiums in the world. and kristaps porzingis and kevin knox.’ Apparently, they play for the Knicks.

Lessons learned?

  • My summer adventures with CJ are the most fun and unexpected experiences I have all year
  • He is an amazing little traveler despite the complete chaos. The drive with him was a blast, except for when he complained about the state park backroads. And I told him to suck it up because I needed a break. And when he slept the entire way from NYC to Boston because at that point, I was just jealous
  • Hertz doesn’t offer one-way rentals when I need them and that made me sad
  • I’m never flying anywhere again. Out of O’Hare, JFK or on American. Kthxbye

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