Day 1: Ferries, Wineries, Strip Malls, Russians, and the Cyclone, Oh My!
The first day of my cross continent journey was jam packed. I traveled from Central Massachusetts to Coney Island, with the vineyards, fishing villages, and strip malls of Long Island in between. I met some interesting people including a nuclear submariner, and caught up with friends and family.
My ferry was scheduled to leave New London, Connecticut at eight in the morning, so I had to leave early from my home in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. I didn’t need to leave as early as I woke up though. I don’t know about you, but when I am leaving early in the morning on a trip, my adrenaline pumps all night and I usually get up at around four o’clock in the morning. This trip was no different.
After getting up, doing some last minute packing of the car, and showering, I started my journey at about 5:45 in the morning on June 6, 2015. On the first day of the trip I broke one of the cardinal rules of the trip, I drove on interstates and limited access parkways. The first use of the Interstate was planned, as I’ve driven the backroads to New London from my house before. The second wasn’t and I’ll explain why I broke the rule later.
I arrived at the New London Ferry terminal, which is across the Thames River from the Nuclear Submarine Shipyard of Electric Boat, at about 7:15. I was 45 minutes early, but it was well worth it. I had purchased a priority ticket on the Cross Sound Ferry. It may have been the best extra $16 I have ever spent. With the priority ticket, coupled with getting to the ferry early, I was the first car on, and more importantly off the boat.
I have a couple of regrets from this first day, which isn’t really good for the first day of a 12,000 mile voyage, regrets should come later. The first regret is that I didn’t look more carefully at the schedule for the ferry company. As I sailed across Long Island Sound on D-Day it would have been extra special to have done so on a ship that participated in the D-Day invasion. The Cross Sound Ferry has such a ship, The Cape Henolpen. To add a little more insult to injury, as they say, the landing craft was built on the banks of the Ohio River in Jeffersonville, Indiana. I will be staying in Jeffersonville, across the river from Louisville, later in my journey.
I mostly travelled Route 25 on the North Fork of Long Island. I expect that in many places on this trip, I will wish I could have spent more time on the North Fork. I drove past many wineries that were not yet open for tasting. I am definitely planning a return weekend to do the wineries. In addition to the drive I stopped in Greenport, NY a former whaling village. It reminded me a lot of a smaller Newburyport, Massachusetts or Portland, Maine as you can see in the picture below.
Getting back on the road, I tried to stay as close to the coast as I could, past even more wineries – I wonder if there is a booming professional designated driver industry around here – and was mostly successful. As you get off the two forks, Long Island turns into one big strip mall from Syosset to the merge of the two forks. After visiting the Stony Brook athletic fields, to get a picture of Rowdy the River Hawk at his America East Rival, I decided to jump on the parkways. Yes this broke a cardinal rule, but really once you’ve seen one strip mall you’ve seen them all.
— Rob Eno (@Robeno) June 6, 2015
I rolled into Massapequa at about one o’clock in the afternoon to have lunch with my friend, and fellow political blogger John Brodigan – you should follow him on Twitter @Brodigan. We waxed philosophically about many things mostly on how hard you have to hustle to earn a living blogging about conservative politics. That brought me to the story about how Western Journalism had basically stolen my Ted Cruz video on Tom Brady earlier in the week. I explained how our network of bloggers and communications professionals had basically shamed the CEO of the company into compensating me for the copyright infringement. We both agreed the tweet-shaming model works. We also talked about the Presidential race and my work on profiles at Conservative Review.
John graciously paid for lunch, a recurring theme as this trip gets started, and I owe him one. We took a walk around Massapequa Park and ate some great creamy Italian ice. I had never had this before and it was quite good.
After leaving John I went to Walmart to pick up an inflatable mattress. Something I’ll need on a few stops along this journey, including that very night with my brother Jerome. I then started the journey to Jerome’s house in the Prospect Park neighborhood of Brooklyn.
I made great time up to the end of the Jackie Robinson Parkway, but once on the streets of Brooklyn it took me 30 minutes to go four miles. That was painful. It was also on this drive that I had my second regret of the day. I passed within a few miles of Belmont Park. I had debated buying a ticket for the Belmont Stakes earlier in the week, knowing I’d be passing through. I didn’t, and well I missed the third Triple Crown winner in my lifetime, and the first since I was four years old. C’est la vie.
I finally got to Jerome’s apartment that he shares with his girlfriend, Amy. Let me brag about my brother for a moment, Jerome is an extremely talented photographer and you can see his work at EnoPhoto.com. I was excited to see his new apartment. Compared to some of the places he has been living in New York City, this was both affordable and very well maintained, and it is in a great neighborhood – while true this part was for my mother’s sanity as well.
I had been drafted to bring some of Jerome’s items from our parent’s house to him. We unpacked those and my overnight bag and started catching up. As I mentioned, Jerome is a professional photographer and we spent the afternoon chatting about my new camera and how I could take better photographs. So if you like the photos, thank Jerome.
I convinced Jerome and Amy to do something I have always wanted to do, go to Coney Island. So we started walking to the subway stop to get on the Q train to go to Coney Island. The first stop was not on the express route so we had to walk a few more blocks. On the train we decided to eat at Brighton Beach. I had always wanted to experience this little piece of Russia on American soil, so I heartily agreed.
Brighton Beach is a trip. Most of the signs on the storefronts are in Russian. It is one of the largest concentration of Russian and Soviet ex-pats in the world. You can really tell. I was tempted to yell out “Putin is a fraud,” but thought better of it. Never know if the FSB is standing beside you in a place like that.
We had a great dinner right on the Boardwalk that connects Brighton Beach with the Coney Island amusement parks. The name of the restaurant was Café Volna. The food was pretty good, and there were a lot of Russian ex-pats there. The service could be improved. I chose to have a chilled vodka, naturally, and a smoked fish platter. The fish was fantastic and included lox, smoked herring, smoked whitefish, and a smoked steak of Coho Salmon.
The people watching on the boardwalk was outstanding. The one person that really stood out to me was a Russian gentleman with one leg who was walking using crutches into Volna. It was not hard to imagine that he had probably lost it while serving with the Soviet Army somewhere in Afghanistan. Now that might not be the true story, but it’s what I’m sticking with. It is also worth noting that while at Brighton Beach you are amazed that you are actually inside the city limits of New York.
After dinner we walked down the boardwalk to the amusement parks. We went to two of them, Dino’s Wonder Wheel Amuesement Park, and Luna Park, which took over operation of the World Famous Cyclone roller coaster. These parks brought back memories of Salisbury Beach when I was a child, before they tore down the seaside amusement park there. It is fantastic that this little piece of Americana still stands, in the midst of our most populous city.
It is important for the first time visitor, of which the three of us where, to know that there are two amusement parks, because they are physically connected to each other. We bought ride tickets for Luna Park, but wanted to ride the Wonder Wheel Ferris Wheel, you can’t use the Luna Park tickets for that. I would recommend taking a stroll around the parks and then buying tickets for the one you see the rides you want to go on.
We rode the Wonder Wheel. At night it was pretty fantastic, but I couldn’t help but realize that during the day or at sunset the views would be amazing. After visiting the park for a couple hours, it was time to go home.
The subway stop at the Aquarium is huge, and it is an Elevated stop, with two levels. To get the Q train you have to walk up to the top level which is the equivalent of walking up the stairs on an 8 story building, it seemed. I had walked a lot that day, my phone said over 18,000 steps or 10 miles by the end of the day. I was dragging, especially on the walk back to the apartment.
All in all it was a fantastic day, and a great way to start the trip. I was excited to see my brother and spend some quality time with him. Meeting Brodigan is always a trip, he’s an interesting dude. With about 11,800 miles left to go, stay tuned for more.