July 22-25, 2018

New York City

  • 2 great plays
  • 2 virtual caches
  • 1 traditional cache
  • 1 puzzle cache
  • 1 geocaching fail

My brother Chip dreamed last year of seeing Bette Midler starring in Hello Dolly. He was extremely disappointed that her stint ended without him having the chance to see her. When she announced she would return to the role in August, he was ecstatic and immediately declared that he was flying to New York to see her. 

Fortunately, he was willing to let Deban, Aunt Sylvia and me join him. Deban and Chip booked our flights, made hotel reservations, and bought tickets for Hello Dolly and Kinky Boots. This was to be a short trip – a three night stay. 

The day finally arrived and we made the drive to the Greeneville/Spartanburg airport to begin our journey. From there we flew to Atlanta, and then on to La Guardia Airport in New York City, arriving at 9:30 pm. We had less than 15 minutes in Atlanta to reach our gate before the plane started boarding, but fortunately, it was in the same concourse and nearly across the hall from the gate we arrived at. This gave us no time to get something to eat, and the only food they offered on either flight was one tiny pack of pretzels each. Fortunately, I had some snacks in my backpack that I passed out, but they did little to fill our empty bellies. 

We thought during the last flight that the pilot must have lost his way. Chip had just asked the flight attendant what time we would arrive, and she told him 9:30. I was looking at the flight tracker and it said 9:12. We had already begun our descent, and the plane seemed to be turning. Deban and Sylvia were excitedly looking out the window, thinking they were seeing the lights of New York, but my map said we were just north of Philadelphia.  As I continued to watch the flight tracker, the plane kept turning until we were headed the opposite direction. We wondered if we were being diverted to Philadelphia for some reason. 

After a few minutes, the plane began to turn again, and the pilot made an announcement. He said that they had changed the runway we were to land on, so he had to circle and re-align. Finally, we were on the ground and the real fun began. 

We collected our luggage and made our way out to the taxi stand. We told them we needed a van taxi because we needed extra room. I got in the front seat while Sylvia and Chip climbed in back. When Deban climbed in with them and plopped on the seat, Sylvia squirted out from between her and Chip onto the floor. She ended up riding there for the entire trip 30 minute trip to the hotel. While this taxi had plenty of room for all our luggage, the back seat was simply not big enough for all three of them. 

To make matters worse, the AC in the back wasn’t working. It was churning out super-heated air instead of cool air. They were finally able to get one of the windows open about 15 minutes into the drive, and the AC kicked on just a few blocks from the hotel. Along the way, Sylvia kept commenting on the skyscrapers, which was all she could see from the floor. Chip couldn’t see those, but commented on other sights that she couldn’t see. What you see in life is all about your perspective. 

They were telling me all of this later, and I mentioned that the temperature was comfortable up front with the window open, except when we went through the Mid-town Tunnel. It was very hot in there with all the other vehicles. Sylvia said, “We went through a tunnel?” She had totally missed that from the floor. 

At the Marriott Marquis, we went to the concierge desk to pick up the electric scooter Chip had reserved. It was parked in a back room, and the employee asked if I would go back with her and drive it out. She wasn’t comfortable driving it. I went with her, hopped on, and was doing great until I reached the doorway out of that room. It was a sharp turn to get through the door, and I could not get the beast of a scooter turned to get through the narrow door. She finally decided to take me a different route, and we made it out without incident. 

We checked into our room, and went up to drop off our luggage. The views from the 37th floor were quite impressive. After settling in, we went back downstairs and across the street to a restaurant named Junior’s that we had noticed on the way in. Despite it being 10:30 pm, it was packed with diners. We enjoyed a delicious meal, and then took a short walk to see Times Square. It was bustling with activity despite the late hour, and was a site to see. We finally made our way back to the room, and fell into bed about 1:00 am. 

The next morning, Deban, Sylvia and I got up, showered and went to Junior’s for breakfast. We were very surprised to see grits on the menu – something you wouldn’t normally find in the north. We returned to the room, woke Chip, and began talking about our plans for the day. 

We knew that we wanted to do a Hop On Hop Off bus tour during our stay, but also knew that there would not be enough time for it today. Chip still needed to take a shower and get ready, he needed to eat, and he wanted to be at the theater at 5:30 to get in line for Hello Dolly. 

By the time he showered and got dressed, it had been a few hours since we ate breakfast, so we went across the street to Junior’s to get some dessert while he ate lunch. On our previous two visits we had seen delicious looking slices of cake and cheesecake being delivered to other tables, and we wanted to sample some. I ordered a strawberry cheesecake and Sylvia ordered carrot cake so that we could split them and share. Deban stuck with red velvet cake. They were all delicious. 

When we returned the the hotel, Chip and I went to the front desk to talk with them about our room situation. He had requested a handicap accessible room. The room they had put us in did not have an accessible shower – just a small tub shower with a removable shower wand and a shower chair that would not fit into the tub. The front desk clerk apologized, and immediately made arrangements to move us into a room with a walk-in shower. 

We moved everything to the new room, and when we arrived found out that it did not have a sofa bed for Sylvia, a feature that we had paid extra for in the original room. Once again, Chip went to the front desk, this time with Deban along for moral support. A manager was called, and after hearing the situation apologized to them once more. He explained that they did not have any rooms for that night that had both a walk-in shower and sofa bed, but one would be available the next night. They offered to let us stay in the room we were in for one night, and then move again for our last night. They also offered a discount to make up for our trouble. Deban and Chip declined the move, saying that if they could just provide a pallet for Aunt Sylvia, she would sleep on the floor. Hearing that, the manager offered an even larger discount, saying they would credit our account $400! Everyone was happy with that outcome, and we settled in to our new room. 

Since we still had about an hour and a half before heading to the theater, I changed into the clothes I was going to wear for the play, and then headed out to find a couple of virtual geocaches. A virtual cache is one that does not have a physical container. Rather, you must visit the location and collect information to send to the cache owner proving that you were there. When I arrived at the posted coordinates for the first virtual, I read the description to see what I was looking for. It was only then that I realized this was a multi-stage virtual. I needed to visit three different locations within a five block area. These locations turned out to be three historic Broadway theaters, all built in 1903.

I gathered the info needed at the first theater, the New Amsterdam. I then looked at the additional waypoints and saw that the third theater (Hudson) was closer than the second (Lyceum), so went there next. This caused me to get confused when I started looking for the information I needed to gather. I was looking for the features referenced for Lyceum at the site of Hudson and not able to figure out the answers. I finally realized the error of my ways while I was at Lyceum, and had to backtrack to Hudson again. My journey took me through Times Square several times, and even in daylight there was a lot of interesting characters out and abut. I saw several women with no tops on, but body paint covering the vital parts. One proclaimed to be a “naked cowgirl” but when she turned around I saw there was nothing girlish about her. In fact “the girls” were nearly at her waist. Not a pretty sight. The “naked cowboy” I saw the next day wasn’t much better. 

Once I finally had all the info I needed for the virtual cache, I knew I wouldn’t have time to visit the other virtual before we had to leave for the theater, so I went back to the hotel. 

We walked across the street to the theater (just past Junior’s) and Chip went into the lobby to ask where the line began. They told him that the doors did not open until 6:30 instead of the 6:00 open that he had been told previously. I decided that since the wait was going to be that long, I would go to find the second virtual while they were in line. 

It was a few blocks away, but I made the trek quickly, found the info I needed, and returned to the theater to wait for the show. 

Hello Dolly was superb, and Bette Midler’s performance was stellar. I realized several times throughout the show that my face was aching from smiling so much. While I greatly enjoy the local theater productions back home, as well as plays at the Barter Theater in Abingdon, there is nothing like a show on Broadway. The level of talent, stage sets and costuming is so much higher. And did I mention that Bette Midler was stellar? This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was somewhat sad to realize that the show’s Broadway run was ending in just three days, making us very glad that we got to see it. 

A few weeks ago, while chatting with a colleague who works in the conference office in Alcoa, I mentioned this upcoming trip. Charlotte said she and her husband would be in New York at the same time, celebrating their anniversary. She asked the purpose of our trip and I said we were going to see Hello Dolly. Excitedly, she asked on what day and I told her. She said they would be there the same night, and to look for her in the balcony. 

Our seats were near the back of the theater under the balcony, so I hadn’t had the chance to look for her before the performance. During intermission I went down to the stage, turned and scanned the balcony. I spotted her quickly, but she was standing and looking the other way. Finally she turned and looked my way, and I waved. She waved back and posed for me to take her picture. We didn’t get to talk in person, but texted later to share our enthusiasm about the show. 

Photos and videos are not allowed during the performance, but they are lax about this rule during the closing number. When I saw others taking photos at the end, I pulled out my phone and got it turned back on in time to snap a few pictures. When the show had ended, we took more photos of each other with the huge Hello Dolly screen that had come down instead of a curtain at the end of the show. 

We then exited the theater and went to get something to eat. Chip wanted to wait outside for David Hyde Pierce, the male lead in the show, to come out and sign autographs. He had seen him do this the night before and had been told that he did it every night, but that Bette Midler never did. Deban walked over to a nearby Italian restaurant to check out the menu. It was extremely expensive, so we decided to eat at… you guessed it… Junior’s. After waiting about 30 minutes, Deban, Sylvia and I went on to the restaurant to order while Chip continued to wait for him to emerge. He finally came to join us after a security guard came out to tell the crowd that there would be no autographs tonight. 

After we ate, Chip and I went back to Time Square while Deban and Sylvia went to the hotel. We spent some time watching the craziness of street performers, persons dressed as a variety of cartoon characters, and thousands of tourists walking around. We tried to visit a gift shop, but since it was midnight they were closing. We eventually returned to the hotel and went to bed. 

We intended to get up early on Friday to go on the Hop On Hop Off bus tour, but all of us were exhausted from two late nights in a row. I awoke a little after 10:00, took a shower, and then woke the others. The first order of business after they got ready was to get something to eat. Can you guess where we went? Yep. Junior’s. It was too late for breakfast, but we had a good lunch, and then made our way to the pick up point for the bus tour. 

We sat on the top, open-air deck of the bus since the views are best there and there was no air conditioning downstairs. This was fine for the first portion of the trip because we were surrounded by high rise buildings that provided shade and there was a nice breeze. Signal the Frog had a front row seat and the best view. 

Our tour took us through Time Square and then along 5th Avenue before heading toward lower Manhattan. We saw the New York Public Library, Empire State Building, the Flat Iron Building, and traveled through iconic New York neighborhoods like Koreatown, Greenwich Village, NoHo, and SoHo. Many people got off the bus at Battery Park, and new people got on, but we opted to stay on board. 

I saw a vendor selling bottled water at this stop and signaled to him that we wanted some. He was prepared for such a sale, and passed the two bottles up to us using a grabber tool that is sold to senior adults to save them from having to bend over to pick something up. These tools also come in handy for picking up trash during a CITO event. The vendor had asked if we wanted icy water, and I said yes. I didn’t realize this meant it was frozen solid. We sucked as much out of the frozen bottles as we could, and then spent the rest of the trip trying to thaw them enough to suck a little more out. 

Once the tour resumed, we caught a three second view of the Statue of Liberty, which was a bonus at twice the duration our tour guide had predicted. We then came within view of the new Freedom Tower, and passed the 911 memorial fountains at Ground Zero. We made our way along Wall Street and then headed north again along the east side of the island. 

This long stretch with heavy traffic and the hot sun seemed eternal, giving us a feel of what hell must be like. Sylvia was especially suffering from the heat, and was using her frozen water bottle on the back of her neck, trying to cool off. It was a huge relief when we finally made the turn west and were back among the high buildings and out of the sun. 

We got off the bus one stop before the end of the tour, since it was a one block walk from the hotel rather than three. By the time we got back, Sylvia was shaking and needed to lie down for a rest. Deban got her situated in the room, and then we went across the street to Junior’s for our late afternoon dessert break. This time, I selected apple crumb cheesecake. It was delicious, but not as good as the strawberry cheesecake the day before. When we had finished, I walked several blocks to Bryant Park to find a geocache while they went to the room to rest. 

I was extremely lucky to come up with the cache container in the first place I looked. I had made an assumption on where I would find it as I approached, and fortunately I was right. Some hunts are like that, when there are other times that I can search for 10 minutes to find a cache that is right under my nose. I was also fortunate to be able to retrieve, sign and replace the container without attracting attention from muggles. The park was packed with people on this beautiful Friday afternoon, and I enjoyed the music of a jazz band playing on a nearby stage. 

I looked at my phone to see what other caches might be in the area, and spotted a puzzle cache on the other side of the park that did not have to be solved ahead of time. I then noticed a multi a block away, and looked at it more closely. It was located at the New York Public Library, and the cache page gave the hours that the library was open. It closes at 5:45 on Friday, and the current time was 5:33. I decided to give it a try, and quickly made my way to the posted coordinates. 

I had seen an image of a QR code on the cache page, so knew I needed to look for that. It took me several minutes to finally find it (by using the selfie feature on my phone camera) on the bottom side of the telephone kiosk at GZ. I then realized that I had deleted the QR reader app from my phone some time ago, and had to take time to download it again. I finally obtained the information I needed, which told me to go into the library, go to a certain department, and ask for the geocache. I checked my watch. 5:44. I dashed across the street and up the library steps to the front door. 

There was a security guard at the door, directing people out and preventing more people from coming in. I begged. I pleaded. He finally said, “Go to the side entrance. It is still open.” I dashed down the steps, around the corner, and up a ramp to the side door. I was able to get past the first security guard, but a second told me I couldn’t come any further. He said the library would reopen at 10:00 on Saturday, but this was the time we were leaving for the airport. I had to just rack this one up as a failure. Hopefully, I can log it some day. 

I sadly walked away from the library and made my way to the posted coordinates for the puzzle cache I had seen on the map earlier. It required finding a specific spot, and then projecting a waypoint of so many meters in such and such a direction.

I then read the hint which provided even more information about the location of the container, and made my way in that direction. When I got to the spot that the compass and hint indicated, I saw that there was a muggle sitting where I thought I needed to be. I waited for her to sort through her belongings, repack them, and finally move on. I took her spot, and casually began searching for the cache. No luck. I looked around and decided I needed to be in a place about 20 feet away where two men were sitting. I waited for several minutes until they got up to leave and then slipped into the chair one had vacated. I looked for a few minutes before spotting the cache, and finally had it in hand. I signed the log, and then made my way back to the hotel. 

I spent some time writing logs and then dressed to go to the show. Sylvia was still feeling badly, but didn’t want to miss the show. At the last minute she decided she couldn’t make it, and stayed behind. The sun had simply been too much for her. 

The rest of us made the short trip to the Kinky Boots theater. While waiting for the show to start, I had searched the area on Google Maps for a restaurant we could have dinner at afterward. I finally told Chip and Deban that I had found an excellent choice. The name? Junior’s. There simply wasn’t anything else in the near vicinity that had the choices we could find there. And, although the food on their menu was more expensive than we would find at home, it was less than most of the area restaurants. 

Kinky Boots was an excellent show as well. It had Chip and me crying at times, but all ended on a happy note.

As we made our way back from the theater, Deban called Sylvia to check on her. She was feeling better and ready for something to eat, so Deban went up to get her and they went to Junior’s, got a table and placed our order. Chip and I went around to Time Square to shop at the gift shop we had seen the night before. He wanted souvenirs to take home to Patrick and Maverick. We then went back to the Junior’s, arriving just as our food did. 

After another satisfying, late-night meal, we made our way back to the hotel, packed our luggage, and went to bed. 

We got up early on Saturday morning, finished packing, showered, and went downstairs for a quick breakfast. For the first time during our time in New York, we ate somewhere other than Junior’s! Our hotel had a breakfast counter where they served bagels, so we ate them and then headed to the airport. 

Our ride to the airport went much more smoothly than our arrival, with Deban in front and Chip, Sylvia and me in back. The AC worked, and the trip seemed to go more quickly with less traffic. Our time in New York was ended. It was a short trip, but a great one that we will all remember for quite some time. 

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