GOING GREYHOUND (AA-NYC) & QUEEN MARY 2 (NYC TO ENGLAND)

October 8, 2005

 

Going Greyhound

From my journal

For the first time ever, I left my home on foot to begin my journey over the seas. It was a short walk downtown to the Greyhound bus station. Three close friends and my father joined me for the quarter-mile sendoff trek. It was a chilly fall day yesterday as I stepped closer to what would soon be far away.  How innocent the bus station was until that day. The power of a simple bus ride was clear, not just for me but for anyone. My life was on the edge of change, a position I have grown to crave.

 

I thought about turning back, about taking one or two steps back, and I even tried it – ruining the rhythm of the moment. This was the big send off.  Jerking back a step and another wouldn’t work. No. I was going forward.  That was all I could do. Some invisible inertia had suddenly been set in motion and the momentum would keep me gliding for the next seven weeks. I couldn’t stop it. I let go of the resistance and walked like a normal person into a place where going back was impossible, and that place was OK.

 

Something was taking me forward. Something was fueling the ride I was now on. I had three well invested reservations waiting, first the Greyhound ticket, then the Queen Mary, and lastly a return flight from Paris to Detroit exactly seven weeks away. I had to catch that plane somehow. I had to get on that bus and on that ship bobbing in the Atlantic at Pier 92, and I had to return home eventually. November 25th would be here before I knew it, so I kept walking.

 

My small entourage of friends and family was full of cheer, contemplating their plans for the evening, happy hour or dinner and talking among themselves about stay-at-home contacts. My mind was far away already. What had I forgotten? My luggage was portable. Surely I had left out a sock or a toothbrush or a comb. All I could imagine was that I was missing something major. Would I get stuck or have a hard time somewhere? Maybe the four empty pages left in my passport would fill up, and I’d spend the night in a far away prison for not having proper documents at a border crossing on that distant horizon. I kept walking.

 

At the station I received four special hugs and in the blink of an eye, I was on the Greyhound bus to Detroit. There was a plastic Burger King cup on the seat next to the only available space. So I sat down wondering who the cup belonged to. Was it full or empty? Would it spill all over me as the bus heaved down the terminal ramp?

 

I waved outside the window at my three friends and one relative who came to wish me bon voyage. I took a blurry picture of them outside the big bus window. The next time I would see them would be 49 days away, that is if I actually caught that plane on November 25th.  Every day from now until then was a big mystery. Even tomorrow and the rest of today were painted black with uncertainty. I only had three reservations, the bus, the ship and the plane. What on earth could possibly happen in between?

 

The bus trundled all the way down Main Street to I-94. No one claimed the Burger King cup which still sat precariously on the seat next to me. Once we got on the highway, I wedged that cup into the foot rest.  hough empty, the ice had melted, and I didn’t want it leaking out near me.

 

In Detroit, I began to get a feel for the Greyhound clientele. They fill those seats with four groups in particular: African Americans, resident aliens, teenagers and the elderly. And an occasional spy like me, too.

 

In Detroit I met a nice man, definitely in his 80s, on his way to NYC to meet his son who works on Wall Street. (Why didn’t his son buy him a plane ticket?  I didn’t ask.) He likes the bus, he said, because he can sleep and get from his house to the bus station easily. The bus was as comfortable as a plane; it only takes a little longer. The elderly man (as all who have acquired years) had several interesting stories of his days in the Navy and his graduation from UofM in 1945, whereupon he continued his studies at MIT. I should have picked his brain more about life at sea.

 

In Toledo, Ohio, a new passenger took the seat next to me. She was a young girl from Lebanon whose family now lives in Canada. She studies at Ohio University, and was on her way to Boston for the baptism of her sister’s daughter. She thought I looked ‘Greek’ and when she mentioned it, I thought SHE looked Greek! I looked nothing like her. No one has ever told me I look Greek. She had three exams the following Monday and was planning to cram while in route but discovered the reading lights on the bus were not working.  We learned the lights were deemed a “distraction” for the drivers. I was happy about that because I wanted to sleep. My new Lebanese friend talked on her cell phone using a graceful mix of Leban-glish. I could eavesdrop on half of what she said.

 

During a 40 minute layover at the bus station in Cleveland, I had fun exploring the gift shop. I bought a Greyhound tote bag which I carried from that day forward, and I bought a curious deck of cards. I had a moment of disgust there in the Cleveland terminal restaurant lounging area when I studied the “Iraq’s Most Wanted” playing cards. These were distributed to the soldiers on the front lines. Each card has the face of an individual. It is a bit shocking to look through the deck at all those faces, those people, those ‘terrorists’ and enemies of America – the sad truth of our times all at once. Since the cards were half price, I should have bought more to sell in the Bazaar! I am sure after the cold war on terrorism is over, they will be worth a mint on E-Bay.

 

After the gift shop, I perused the “Traveler’s Grill” which had a wonderfully colorful sign featuring a burger and fries and a soda pop – the all American meal. I took a picture of it. With my new digital camera, the photos would be endless! The flash undoubtedly startled a few diners who gazed over to see what I had captured, so I ordered a popcorn to change the subject, my favorite traveling (or anytime) snack.

 

I chatted with the 80 year old man and a young girl from Australia who was on her way to Boston to catch a flight to LA and a bigger flight from there to Australia. She said she couldn’t change her departure to Chicago so she had to go Greyhound to Boston.

 

When the bus was announced, the older man and I raced to the door fearing the seats would be gobbled up. There appeared to be several hundred people waiting around doors 7 and 8. We didn’t have trouble getting a seat. At first I sat in the plush comfortable front seat where there was a good view of the highway out the front windows. But another passenger and a Greyhound employee said, “No one is allowed to sit in those seats – driver’s orders.”

 

That’s ridiculous I thought, so I stayed. Another passenger leaned over and said, “I’ve ridden with this driver before. He is serious. He’s like a military man. I wouldn’t sit there if I were you.”

 

After several such comments, I decided not to wait for the driver to tell me to move, and I headed to the back of the bus where another seat was waiting.  A young man from Mexico who appeared to be very gentle and kind filled the seat next to me.. He listened to a Walkman perhaps too loud for his ears. I didn’t know if he spoke English since he used international gestures instead of words. “Espanol?” I asked him. “Si”, he said, and we shared some small talk in Spanish. When I told him I used to teach English as a Second Language on the border of Mexico in El Paso, Texas, he seemed to like me more. He was adorable.

 

Our conversation was cut short as the driver appeared. A hush fell over all 53 passengers. Positioned in an un-budgable stance in the center aisle at the front of the bus, the driver began a well-rehearsed speech. Or was it a sermon?

 

“I don’t like drama,” he said first. Then he repeated slowly, “I do not like drama.” He fit his driving uniform well and scanned the passengers, moving only his head side to side like a robot.

 

Someone from one of the seats ahead made a muffled comment, “Give me a break,” or something like that.

 

The driver snapped, “What did you say?”. And he repeated on a higher note, “What was it you said?” It was indeed a tense moment as none of us knew each other nor did we particularly want to spend the next 10 hours with each other if a fight were about to ensue once we started rolling.

 

The driver continued with as much drama as a boot camp drill sergeant, “First, the two front seats, here on either side, no, no, no!  These are reserved for the handicapped. These are NOT for the able bodied. Thank you for understanding.” He continued using a steady tone, “This bus is America 16-34, and I will be your driver. My name is Israel, like the country, IS-RA-EL.  I am not Jewish, I am Baptist. I love my job, and I don’t like drama. I am a right-wing conservative born-again Christian. I don’t drive your way, I don’t drive Greyhound’s way, I drive God’s way. We are all in God’s hands,” he said.

 

His spiel continued, “There are three buttons here at the front of the bus that open and close the bus doors on either side. The front windows pop out this way, and the side windows are also emergency evacuation routes.” He demonstrated. “The top hatch here above on the roof is another valuable escape should we need it. If something can go wrong, it will go wrong – these are the four exits. If the passengers on the bus that burned during Hurricane Rita knew the way out, it may have saved lives,” he said.

 

And there was more, “If you listen to headphones, do NOT bother your neighbor. If I can hear it while I am sitting in this cubicle… [he pointed to the driver’s seat] while the wind is blowing through my hair…” He had us under his thumb, but I saw an inch of a smile. “Then it is too loud!” His hair was a military crew cut and basically only scalp.

 

His fast paced, commanding personality was growing on me. “And mind those knees. Nothing worse than the guy behind you sticking his knees in your back! None of that.”

 

Finally we began the overnight journey to New York. It was just after midnight when we started. I learned the man from Mexico, who spoke broken English, “makes beds” in a factory in Ohio, but that the factory “broke” and everyone lost their jobs. He said he was going back to New Jersey to work at his old job. He was lucky since many of his friends had not found jobs. He said the work was good money.

 

After our conversation the Walkman headphones returned to his ears.  I wanted to tap another set of headphones into his machine as what little I could hear sounded pretty good! He was a very sweet person, and I marveled at his American life, working hard and very eager to see his one-year-old daughter in a few short hours. He had a picture to show me, and she was adorable.

 

The lull of the quiet bus rocked us to sleep. The two babies sitting on their mother’s laps diagonally across from the Mexican man and me, sat quietly during the entire ten hour ride. It wasn’t like in an airplane where babies scream right in your ear when the cabin pressure changes. This is one area where Greyhound has one up on flying.

 

I marveled at the silence, the genuine politeness of the passengers and the simplicity of the entire journey. Everyone slept. There were moments when I could not find the right position and when my foot and shoes got stuck between the foot rest and my backpack. But all in all, the overnight bus ride was fine, and Israel got a gold star.

 

Even the man who sat in the seat ahead of me who wore a hooded sweatshirt who had been on the same busses I had been on all the way from Detroit, even he slept. His face was black inside that big gray sweatshirt that dropped down over his face. I never did see his face since the hood was ever present.  At first I did not want to get in his way nor make him mad or poke my knees into his back at all. But then over the course of 16 hours plus, I learned he might have been the sweetest, kindest, most gentle being on that bus.

 

The hooded man always waited for others to get off first. He was concerned that the Mexican man next to me might not have enough leg-room since the man next to him, who looked like he was named ‘Bruno from Yugoslavia’, had pushed his seat way back without concern for the knees behind him. I thought the hooded man also wanted to push back when he appeared to be checking for clearance, but really he was checking on the comfort of the Mexican man.  Very sweet of him! And most of all, out of compassion for me, the hooded man did not push his seat back once.

 

The military sergeant’s voice blasted over the loudspeaker jolting everyone from their quiet slumber, “Mission accomplished! America 16-34, arriving, Milesberg, Pennsylvania. Newark, New Jersey, next stop.”

 

The bus lumbered into the truck stop parking lot near the Best Way Motel…  When we came to a halt, that voice came on LOUD again, “If you get off this bus and are NOT back by 5:30 A.M., then you had best have your ticket and luggage with you because I am leaving without you. The time on deck is 5:10 A.M. This bus leaves at 5:30A.M. The restaurant lounging area is through those double doors.”

 

At the next stop, “America 16-34 has arrived,” Israel summoned. In Newark, NJ he was pleased we were 45 minutes early. Some of the New Yorkers were eager to get going early, and that loud voice blasted again, “I might arrive early, but I will NEVER leave early. The time on deck is 8:30 A.M. This bus leaves at 9:15 A.M.  If you are not on this bus, we are leaving without you.”

 

During the layover, I overheard the driver talking to a passenger. He said, “Have no fear. Talk to me.”

 

The Mexican man left for his New Jersey home. He was so nice. I then chatted with the young man across the aisle who had long hair, two-tone in red and black and who wore a Led Zeppelin T-shirt. By 9am that morning he said he had been on the bus for 24 hours. He said the day before, forty miles out of Chicago, his bus broke down, and they waited on the highway for five hours before the new bus rescued them. Had that happened to me, I would have been in deep trouble. What would missing the Queen Mary feel like?!

 

Later while driving down the highway as the rainy morning became more evident, we happened upon a toll booth. As we passed through the arched structure the loud voice from the driver’s cubicle spoke, “Smile for the x-ray machine.”

 

Finally the familiar skyscrapers of the New York skyline came into view. The traffic thickened and gelled at points. At the end of the line we turned into the final parking space. The bus driver’s public broadcast went like this:  “We are arriving at the GREAT Port Authority. America 16-34, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Milesberg, Newark, New York, has arrived. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to have you on board. Now I leave you in the hands of the Lord. May you have a blessed Sabbath. Stay vigilant in New York City between now and November.”

 

Oh yes, terrorist threats in the subway….

 

Heather O’Neal

Of Global Interest LLC Adventure Travel

Ann Arbor, Michigan

(734) 369-3107 www.ofglobalinterest.com

 

 

New York City

Saturday, October 8, 2005

>From my journal

 

Ah, here is the perfect window, good for people-watching and the perfect music for writing, Starbuck’s Cafe – good coffee too.  It looks like it has stopped raining.  I wish I could catch a show or do something while waiting here, but with the heightened security problem in the subway, my luggage is suspect.  Not much my luggage and I can do together but sit here.  However, watching all of New York City go by on the other side of this window is better than television!

 

Oh, it’s raining again.  Darn.

 

The ship leaves at 5pm, but I am supposed to check in at 1 and it’s now 10am.  After getting off the bus at the ‘great’ Port Authority Station, I couldn’t find a trash can for the garbage I generated on the 14 hour bus ride.  Such receptacles are good for terrorists’ bombs nowadays so they have cleaned all public spaces of trash cans.  Finally, I found an unattended janitor’s trolley in a lonesome hallway so I was able to stash the banana peel when maintenance wasn’t looking.

 

This right here is excellent people watching.  All sorts of two legged beings going by, thick and thin, short and tall, fashionable and not, wealthy and beggarly, most with umbrellas, some without. The highlight of a visit to New York City is right here!  Who needs Broadway?  Look at all the shoes.  It’s really a parade of umbrellas in all colors, shapes, sizes, poka-dot, USA flag, plaid, floral and “I heart NY”, to name a few.

 

This coffee business seems to be located directly above the subway.  I can hear the trains rumbling under my seat in the tunnels below.  Hum.  Is the place going to explode while I happen to be sitting here?  No, I don’t think so.  Wouldn’t they pick a better day, like the biggest shopping day of the year?  Maybe a rainy day is a good day for subway trouble, but not on the day when I am boarding the Queen Mary – please.

 

Several fire trucks have passed this window, sirens blaring, wet streets spraying.  Seems a normal thing around here at the coffee shop.  No one is on edge or surprised or even looking out the window – except me. Maybe they caught a terrorist?  No, just a casual day in New York City.  The fire truck that stopped across the street certainly had me captivated.  Some firemen got out, milled around and then they left.  New York City is on high alert.  Level orange, is it?

 

I guess I better get on with my day.  The world’s largest passenger ship awaits.  How long do you suppose it takes to walk from 43rd to 55th and 12th Ave?  Shouldn’t be too bad.  But too bad it’s raining.  Good thing I brought my trusty umbrella.

 

I have certainly enjoyed my time here at Starbuck’s.  It is definitely worth the $5 I paid for a coffee and a dark chocolate covered graham cracker.  And the music is wonderful.  I am totally relaxed.  Now the song that is playing is a souped up version of “I just called .. to say .. I love you.”

 

I’d better go.

 

Having never walked to a pier in one of the largest ports in the world, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Is finding a ship like the Queen Mary like finding an airplane at an airport?  I didn’t think so.  The travel agent told me, “Don’t worry, [it’s so huge] you can’t miss it.”  And she was right.  When I got to the end of the land where the Atlantic Ocean began, I saw it.  On its tall starboard side was her name, “Queen Mary 2″.  But how would I get across the 8 lane highway to the other side and up onto that monstrous floating thing?  There must be a way.

 

Most normal passengers came by limo from the airport or by taxi or by Queen Mary charter bus up the highway ramp to some pedestrian friendly place where there must have been a door.  And then there was me, in the vehicle friendly area with my luggage and trusty umbrella.  Half a block south, I spotted a crosswalk and what appeared to be a traffic light.  Ah.  Here was my ticket to the other side.

 

However, at ground level, I seemed to be heading for the cargo, baggage, ship supply loading zone.  It did not feel like the warm “welcome to the Queen Mary” zone.  Where was the proper door?  What if I went in with the sheets and towels; how would they ever find me?  How would I find my room?  Would I end up in the loud underbelly of the ocean liner?  Where would I be if I went in with the forklifts?

 

Finally, I asked a man wearing a reflector covered jump suit.  “Where is the door?  How do I get on?” I yelled over the noisy trucks and pointed in the direction of the ship which still appeared to be in the distance beyond the truck gates.

 

“Where are you going?” the man asked.

 

“To England!” I said.

 

I was in the wrong place and was supposed to be up above, on the highway exit ramp.  But I had luggage and would have looked really silly walking as if I were a car up the ramp.  Excuse me, pardon me, Mr. Limo, Sir.  Besides there was a steady stream of wet trucks down below.  How would I ease myself into the taxi traffic lane?

 

The reflector man pointed toward the place where one of the trucks had entered.  “Go in there,” he said.  “There is an elevator.”

 

Ah ha.  I followed his instructions with my trusty umbrella and my luggage, and sure enough there was a giant cargo-type industrial lift which took me alone to the highway level above.  Ah, now we were getting somewhere – to where the real “welcome aboard” was in progress.  These people looked more like passengers, and the rainy day suddenly turned into a buzz of enthusiasm.

 

Now I was funneled among others into various lines based on my dining room.  I checked my ticket again trying not to hold up the line.  The “Britannia” diners were to go this way and the really rich people went the other way.  I was eyeing everyone and was feeling very young.  Suddenly I felt very much out of place.  No one else had luggage.  Seems the bell hop had taken their bags at the highway exit ramp to be delivered to each room.  Fancy!

 

Meanwhile, I was also the only one in line who was drenched head to toe and conspicuously leaving a wet trail as I towed my sopping luggage across the concrete corridors.  The only part of me that was somewhat dry was my hair – thank you to my trusty umbrella.

 

I started to mingle with the elderly couple who stood behind me in line and everything began to feel better.  They were extra nice and praised me for walking to the ship and for having taken the Greyhound to New York and for being on my way to Turkey in Eurasia no less!

 

“All in a day’s work,” I told them.

 

The line continued through long halls and cavernous warehouse type rooms and finally along organized roped areas, back and forth.  The que was moving faster than at the local amusement park.  After customs and security checks, there were about fifty attendants checking people in (all 2,600! passengers don’t forget) at computers along a really long makeshift counter that had separate stations on wheels.

 

“Next,” the woman said, and it way my turn so I stepped onto the “QM2″ carpet.  “Smile,” she said, clicking a digital photo of my damp head with a “what-am-I-doing” look on my face.  Processed within seconds, she then handed me my ship’s ID card.  This transaction came after I had presented my credit card (and the ID card was very much attached to my credit card of course!).

 

“If you want to buy anything aboard ship,” she said, “use this card and carry it with you at all times.  Welcome,” the attendant said.  “Next.”

 

Sincerely,

 

Heather O’Neal
Of Global Interest LLC Adventure Travel
Ann Arbor, Michigan

(734) 369-3107 www.ofglobalinterest.com

 

Queen Mary 2

October 8, 2005

>From my Journal

 

It was a five star (maybe more) hotel, floating, bobbing ever so slightly on water.  The lobby, huge, warm and comfortable with a grand piano, a grand staircase and grand glass elevators, was a little more than I had imagined.

 

I pictured someone showing me to my room, but as in most landlocked hotels, an escort is not necessarily necessary.  I checked my ticket again.  Room 6201.  The sixth floor maybe?  But what floor was I on?  The first floor was probably underwater somewhere.  Hmmm..

 

Once I got on the elevator, the sixth floor was as obvious as pushing button #6.  That part was just like a hotel on land.

 

Near my room, I soon found Agnes, the 6th floor maid in charge of my section of the hallway.  And after overhearing her talking with another maid who was identically dressed in a black and white skirt and shirt with a black and white apron, I asked her, “Magyar vagy?” which means, are you Hungarian? – in Hungarian.

 

She was surprised I understood her native tongue, and it was a good thing she was talking to the other maid about the luggage that belonged down the hall rather than about how I looked like a wet rat.

 

My room was 2 feet wider than the queen size bed.  There was a small desk and a mirror, a TV, a chair, a small round table and a second chair.  Under the desk was an efficiency-sized refrigerator with ginger ale, my favorite, among other beverages.  In a bucket on the table I promptly noticed a half-size bottle of champagne — just for me.  Mmm.  There was plenty of closet space near the door across from the small bathroom that had a little tiny shower.  Perfect!  I could live without windows – for a few days.

 

After exploring the nooks and crannies of my accommodations, I surfed all of the cable channels on the TV, including the in-ship station, like what you find at ski resorts where they report the day’s activities, the weather and that night’s entertainment.  One channel was a live view taken by a camera positioned outside on the front of the ship somewhere.  This was as close as my room would get to a window.  I could see it was still cloudy, foggy and raining out there in New York City.  The unmoving skyline meant we were still docked at the pier.

 

By now it was only 4pm, time for a “what-to-do-in-case-of-an-emergency” drill.  Seven loud blasts meant we were to locate and wear the life preserver, conveniently stashed in the closet, and head up one deck to a specified area listed on the plaque on the back of the door.  It was a bit unsettling to see hundreds of passengers crowding in the stairways and hallways wearing orange life jackets.  Before I left home a friend had said, “Don’t worry, the ship’s so big, if it sinks, they’ll have plenty of time to rescue you.”

 

Still I couldn’t help imagining the movie “Titanic” and the sense of panic such a moment might instill.  But the crowds on this day were very relaxed, as if they had done this drill a hundred times. My section of the hallway gathered in the correct zone where we would wait for further instructions or get into a lifeboat if need be.  For me, this was a time not to think about sinking but instead to think about eating.  Wow.  My gathering zone was in the middle of a big cafeteria that had the look of a soon-to-be feast.

 

I was eager to explore all the floors but wanted to return the life jacket to the closet and get my camera and my trusty umbrella, too so I could watch the sendoff from on deck – with champagne in hand – of course!  With twelve floors to explore, each the size of two large city blocks, I had better get busy.

 

I came up on the elevator to my room and then went for the drill on the stairs and within minutes I was all turned around.  This was the first time I wondered:  where did the room go?  It seemed to have disappeared, no, then it reappeared again on the other side of the main stairs.  Perhaps I should have paid closer attention.  On my second trip out, I took special note of the artwork in the stairwell landing nearest my room.  It was a large painting of the QM2.  Little did I know there were many paintings of the QM2 in several stairway landings.

 

I managed to open the champagne bottle all by myself without poking my eye out – a task I had never accomplished before.  Just what the doctor ordered after a long Greyhound bus ride.  Yum.

 

While vying for the perfect place among a few other travelers on the rainy upper decks, I had a terrible problem with my umbrella.  I was on the top floor where the wind was blowing fiercely and the rain was coming down in sheets.  Most passengers were inside a glass enclosed room of windows where there was a pool and four hot tubs and a band playing.  This was the sendoff party which included everyone who didn’t want to stand in the rain.

 

I, however, was standing in the windy rain trying to get the most out of the experience.  That was when my umbrella problem happened, and I was hoping no one was watching.

 

Suddenly, whoosh, and there went my umbrella.  That thing caught the wind and flew nearly out of my hand.  Before I poked someone’s eye out, it was inside out, looking silly.  I battled with it almost like I was fencing but rather than cutting through the air like a sword, my umbrella caught every gale.  I fought to get the point into the oncoming wind in hopes of it correcting itself back into its normal anatomical shape.  However, it seemed the metal was permanently bent and deformed, half up and half down.  Oh well.  In spite of its new form, it still offered a certain amount of shelter.

 

The next thing I knew, the wind came from all directions again.  My umbrella was completely inverted now, blowing up like a kamikaze parachute.  And my hair! was caught somewhere in the metal spokes.  I nearly shrieked as I could not release it, nor could I get the umbrella to where the wind would unbend whatever was pinching.  Finally after pulling hard and sacrificing a few strands, I was free.

 

Needless to say, I started the journey looking like a complete fool.  I prayed none of the other 3,000 passengers milling around the top decks were paying any attention.  Surely they were watching the New York City skyline and the sky scrapers with their top floors hidden in the low rain clouds and the love-boat ship next door that was on its way out to sea before us.

 

Then the ship’s horn sounded and blasted everyone on deck and anyone on 12th Ave.  It was so loud; had my umbrella not already been inside out, that toot might have done it.

 

Soon my attention was 100% diverted away from the umbrella fiasco and onto the tug boats – just two of them.  They were so small compared to the monster we were on, yet as another passenger explained, they were powerful.  Wow.  The Queen Mary was backing out of its 131 foot-wide parking space into the Hudson River – ever so slowly.  I wasn’t even sure we were moving.

 

The two tiny toy-like boats had a really big job.  Basically they had to hold one end of the 150,000 ton ship in place while the current of the Hudson pushed the front of the ship so it was heading out to sea and in the direction of the Atlantic.  At least this was the explanation I got from a very interested passenger with whom I watched and watched and watched.  Wow.  Success.  We were pointed in the right direction in no time.  This ship cannot do a three point turn by itself.

 

Perched on the 12th floor observation deck I had a good view of the Sea, Air and Space Museum which is located on the USS Intrepid, an aircraft carrier that fought in World War 2 that is now permanently docked at pier 86.  I was glad not to be traveling on board such a rig after hearing the stories my ex-Marine friend told me of military life at sea.  I would soon know a very different sea life.

 

The next attraction put all passengers on the starboard side as we passed.  It was Lady Liberty in person, standing faithfully in full regalia in the darkness of the early evening.  Her torch held high and her crown were both lit with confidence, assuring immigrants – my ancestors – and me of a future in America.

 

Later we passed over – just kidding – under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the once largest and now seventh largest suspension bridge in the world.  The Queen Mary 2 was actually built so that it would fit under this bridge.  Only 12 feet! of clearance had me holding my breath.  I stood on the uppermost deck for the best view of an awesome metallic underbelly that is held together with three million rivets and one million bolts.  I have crossed this bridge four times now on foot walking the New York City Marathon in the past years.  This new perspective was neat!

 

It didn’t take me long to discover the food options on this ship.  Oh my goodness!  Unlimited cookies, ice cream, sandwiches, french fries, all buffet style and open 24 hours!  This could be dangerous.  The cafeteria had a ‘help yourself anytime’ sort of theme.  Oh my.  Six days…?  I could go overboard with this.

 

Soon after ducking under the bridge in the narrows, the ship was in total darkness skimming the thin surface of the Atlantic in route to England.  There was no going back.  I was happy to be where I was.  If only Mr. Verrazano, the first explorer from Europe to sail into New York Harbor (circa 1524) could see us now.

Sincerely,

Heather O’Neal
Of Global Interest LLC Adventure Travel
Ann Arbor, Michigan
(734) 369-3107 www.ofglobalinterest.com

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