so here's the story of New York... this will be long!
Monday, December 29: Andrew's train was four hours late!
Tuesday, December 30: Our train was basically on time. The train ride was LONG. Through the night none of us could sleep. We would all lay there with our eyes closed for 30 minutes or so, and then we would turn to each other and we were like "did you sleep any?" "no, did you?" "no." During the day though we dozed off here and there. We got into Philly on Tuesday around 6:00pm. Erica and her mom met us at the station and drove us back to her house in Atlantic City, NJ, which is about an hour and a half away. We stayed there for the night.
Wednesday, December 31: We got up and headed to the bus station. We planned on taking the 7:00am New Jersey Transit bus, but we missed it by like 2 minutes, so we took the 8:00 Greyhound. The ride to NY City is about 2 1/2 hours. When we got there, we took the subway to Erica's cousin's house. (Her cousin's name is Jackie, and she and her fiance Neil live together in an apartment on 71st just off Broadway.) We dropped all our stuff off at the apartment and went to Central Park and just wandered around a bit. We came back to the apartment and ordered a "real New York pizza" for lunch. I'm not personally very impressed by them. We hung out around the apartment for a while until it was time to go set up camp in Times Square for the big event. We got settled in at Times Square around 6:00. After a little confusion of where to go when we first got there, it wasn't too chaotic for the rest of the evening. Every hour there is a countdown, which is like a short-term goal to look forward to while you're out there freezing in the middle of the street. The five of us eventually decided to make a theme for each hour, among which were "20 questions" and "the group hug"... meaning we played 20 questions for a straight hour, and then stood in a group hug to conserve body heat for a straight hour. Finally midnight rolled around. Music played, confetti flew, the ball dropped, and fireworks went off. It was terrific. We all tried to call the people we had promised to call, but cell phone service was apparently overloaded because most of our calls wouldn't go through. So for those of you who didn't get a call, or got one an hour later, that's why, and we apologize. After it was over, we headed back to the apartment for the night.
Thursday, January 1: We took the opportunity to sleep in a little late. Jackie (who is incredibly awesome) cooked breakfast for us. We left and went down 5th Avenue to see a few shop windows. We made a quick stop in Sacks, only to be completely astonished by the price tags, and continued on to Rockefeller Center where we saw the famous Christmas tree and the ice skating rink. From there we went to the Empire State Building. From start to finish, that alone was a four hour ordeal. Needless to say, we were hungry by the time we exited the building. We subwayed back to the end of Jackie's street and called to find out the location of a nearby Chinese place she had suggested. She told us it was called Ollie's and we headed in its direction. The food was terrific. After dinner, we were completely beat, so we just went back to the apartment and watched a movie and a few tv shows and went to bed.
Friday, January 2: We woke up early (reasonably) and got ready. Jessica and her family live in Orange County, New York, and they came into the City and met up with us. We loaded our stuff into their cars that morning to get out of Jackie's way, and spent the rest of the day doing stuff around the City. We went to Ground Zero, the Statue of Liberty, The Pier mall (near the fish market), and made another stop in Times Square. Erica had to leave half-way through the day to go back home for a retreat. At the end of the evening the rest of us drove back to Jessica's house, which is about an hour and a half away. They live in a really cool log cabin style house. We watched a movie and then spent a little time in the hot tub. When we finally came back inside, we put in another movie, but three of the five of us were out in seconds, so we decided not to finish it. Christina and I woke up the other three and we all headed down to the basement room where we were staying for the night. We all got to sleep in beds! That was nice!
Saturday, January 3: We bummed out around Jessica's house for a while, and then caught the 3:30 train back to the City. This is where the story really begins. We arrived into Penn station and we had to find a place to keep our luggage because we had reservations at a comedy club that night. We weren't staying in the City that night, so we couldn't just leave our luggage where we would be staying. We needed somewhere to keep it until after the show when we would be catching the bus back to Atlantic City. None of the bus or train stations in NYC have lockers anymore since 9-11, so we left Penn station and went up to the Penn Hotel which is on the street above it. We asked one of the bell hop guys if we could store luggage at the front desk and he told us that it cost $4 a bag, but that we could. So we got in line and waited for like 15 or 20 minutes. When we got to the desk, they informed us that we could not keep our luggage there since we were not hotel guests. We were really ticked at the bell hop guy. Andrew and I sat with the luggage on a bench over to the side while Krissy and Christina ran around trying to find somewhere for us to keep our stuff. Finally they found out that we could check it at Penn station, so we took it back down there. We checked a map to figure out where we were going for the show. It looked really close, so we decided not to take the subway but to walk instead. We had about 30 minutes till we were supposed to be there at this point. We started walking, and within a short time we realized it was a lot further than we thought but it was too late to turn back and take the subway, so we continued on a frantic power-walk through the heart of New York City. We finally got to Caroline's (the comedy club) and all was well. The comedian was great, and the food and drinks were good, too. Afterward, we walked back to Penn station (which is not nearly as far when you're not in a hurry and sorta know where you're going!). We got our luggage and took the subway to the bus station. We got on the 11:30 bus to Atlantic City. You would think the story ends there, but alas, it has only just begun. We were on the highway and passed two other Greyhounds on the side of the road. Our driver pulled over and informed us that it is company policy that if she passes two other buses she has to pull over to make sure they're okay. (Not that there's anything she could have done for them, but it's their policy.) So she got back on the bus after checking on them, and within 5 minutes our bus died and we were the ones on the side of the road. What luck. The Jamacian woman in front of me saw the water in the grass on the side of the road and insisted that we were in the swamp and were going to be eaten by snakes. I thought to myself, "We're from Florida. That's no swamp. That's a puddle." The driver called the head office and they instructed her to pull off the highway, so she did. They told her a mechanic and another bus were coming. So we waited. The other passengers started getting really worked up. They were all tourists on their way to the casinos in Atlantic City, so they weren't happy about a broken bus taking up their gambling time. Among other things, one woman demanded that the driver call the police. What did she think the police would have done for us?! Another woman complained about how she was tired and hungry. The driver offered her ham sandwich to her, but the woman said she didn't eat ham. Several irate men from the back wanted phone numbers and addresses for the Greyhound offices, apparently so they could call and complain about the driver, as if it was her fault the bus broke down. Eventually a second bus came for us. It was 4:30am by the time we reached Atlantic City. Erica's mom graciously met us at the bus station and drove us back to her house. What a day.
Sunday, January 4: We slept. Obviously. Erica was back by the time we woke up, which was well after noon. We spent the remainder of the day watching movies and eating. Then we went back to bed!
Monday, January 5: Not much more exciting than Sunday. We got up, packed, stopped by the store for some snacks, and drove to Philly to catch the train. Luckily it was on time. 18 hours later, we were in Jacksonville.
Tuesday, January 6: Our train got into Jacksonville around 8:00am. Christina stayed on to go to Orlando. The remaining three of us got off. Krissy's dad dropped Andrew and I off at my house where we sat on the couch and watched tv and napped (well, I napped) for most of the day. Around 5:00 I drove him back to the train station yet again. Luckily, this time his train was on time. He got in line to board the train, and that concludes our events of the week. I went home, ate dinner, and crawled into bed by 7:00. A well-deserved full night's rest.
Random notes: When in NYC, be advised, Penn Station is much further from Times Square than it seems on the subway maps. Take the subway. Don't walk. If you plan on moving to the City, I hope you're rich. The apartment we stayed in had one bedroom, a combination living/dining room, a kitchen where you could touch all three walls at the same time, and a small bathroom, and it cost $2,000 a month. When on a trip, be sure to DOUBLE CHECK if you're leaving anything behind. Andrew successfully forgot something at every place we stayed. I also forgot my cell phone at Erica's and therefore didn't have it for most of the week. It's funny how dependent we are on those things! And a final note: if you're thinking about taking the train from Florida to New York, don't. Fly. It's worth the extra money. 18 hours is a long time.