Saturday, April 23, 2011

First Madison Farmer's Market trip of the year

The whole family made our first trip to the farmer's market on the capital square today. Only about half of the vendors were there, but the weather is still cool. The ones important to the kids were there including the beef jerky and cheese curd stops.
As usual, Zack needed to make a pit stop at the capital bathrooms. They now have security checkpoints at the entrances so we had our bag of purchases checked and pockets emptied. Guess times are changing in Wisconsin.
And apparently the Blogger app for the Android phone doesn't like vertical pictures.  Chad and I are still trying to figure it out, but no matter how we attach the picture from the phone it shows up sideways.  And they can't be modified in the post once it's imported.  So...just turn your head to the side to see a couple pictures from our trip.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Person to Person History

Monday was on off day for our planned events.  The museums we had on our "maybe list" were closed on Monday, so the morning was set aside for visiting the World Trade Center site and other downtown sites like Federal Hall, Wall Street, and famous churches.

We took an express subway train and came out right by Trinity Church, completed in 1846.  It's a standout among the other buildings of Wall Street.

A few short blocks and we were at the massive construction site of World Trade Center.  The area is more massive in person than I imagined.  We planned to take a guided tour of the site but had a short while before the Tribute Center opened, so we peered in the windows next door at Ladder 10, one of many FDNY units destroyed on September 11th.  Around the corner of the station was a firefighter memorial that we would find out more about on our tour.  It depicts all the events and tasks that occurred on that day and was donated by a company who had offices in the World Trade Centers.  One of this company's employees was a volunteer firefighter who gave his life helping others on that day.

We were one of the first in the door of the Tribute Center and had time to wander through the exhibits.  Finishing early, Chad suggested we ask a helpful gentleman with a volunteer tag what his connection was with the events of September 11th.  The theme of the Tribute Center is Person to Person History which involves those directly affected by the events sharing their stories with others.  These volunteers have tags asking the visitor to ask them about their story.  So we did, and this was the first of the amazing history I learned.  This gentleman, Victor Guarnera, was the Chief Technical Advisor for Security at the World Trade Center.  He left his office in the South Tower(first to collapse) and went to the Security Center in the North Tower(first hit) to help.  He was one of the last ones out of the North Tower before it collapsed.  To hear his story in his own words was priceless, and for him to volunteer to help others learn details of the tragedy is just amazing.  He has written his account of the day and can be read on the National 911 Memorial website.

Our main tour guide did a great job giving us a tour of the Trade Center site and the area surrounding the site.  She was out of the country at the time of the attacks, but was employed by the Port Authority.  Pictures of the destruction and attacks were shown while looking at the construction that is in progress.  Another guide walked with us holding a portable speaker for the main guide's microphone.  Midway through the tour, this second guide told us her story, and it was devastating.  Her name is Ann, and her husband John was a firefighter on FDNY Rescue 2 and was killed in the collapse.  With two young daughters, her life was changed in an instant.  Now almost 10 years after the event, she was telling her story to strangers and left the whole tour group speechless.  After the tour ended at the Eleven Tears Memorial in the American Express Building, Chad and I thanked her for telling her story and after talking for a bit, she encouraged us to stop in and visit any fire station and stop by the FDNY Fire Zone.

The tour ended on the other side of the World Trade Center site from where we began, so we walked around the rest of the area and to St. Paul's Chapel.  St. Paul's has survived imminent danger many times since it was constructed.  Although right across the street from the Trade Center site, the church survived the collapses of the towers without even a broken window.  The chapel was used as a collection site for rescuers during the recovery process.  There are many displays still remaining from the memorials established in the days, weeks and months after the attacks including a display of patches from fire departments around the world.

We had checked in at FDNY Ten House after making it around the site, but were told to come back in a short bit so we headed to Federal Hall and Wall Street.  The boys got the requisite stamps in their National Parks booklets and we were quickly headed back to the station.  Ladder 10 was out but we were able to share some time with a couple firefighters from Engine 10 and buy some t-shirts for Chad and the kids.  One of the firefighters was with Ten House in 2001 and he showed us some special memorials in the station and some pictures from that day.  The station was damaged during the attacks and didn't reopen for two years.

Here are some pictures from our day:
World Trade Center construction site

The black structures behind the trees are fountains built in the footprints of the North & South towers

One World Trade Center(Freedom Tower) halfway up
Pool of Tears in the lobby of the American Express World Financial Center Building

St. Paul's Chapel has stood throughout history
St. Paul's Chapel
Police and Fire exhibit in St. Paul's Chapel

Ladder 10 "Still Standing"
The boys on Engine 10

Ten House Memorial to 9/11

Engine 10 door from 9/11/01
Who put this ding on the side of Engine 10?

Henry did it! Good thing they labeled it so Henry doesn't forget what he did.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Family takes on New York City

Sunday started with someone's need to purchase a Nintendo 3DS.  Since Chad and Kevin didn't stand in lines at midnight the next choice was to make it an experience and purchase the unit at the Nintendo World Store.  Chad called and they opened early for the day due to the release of the new game system.  We headed back to the subway and across to Rockefeller Center, effortlessly now that we were pros finding our way out of the underground.  There were just a handful of people in the store and plenty of 3DSs to go around.  Upstairs was a Nintendo museum with all the old game systems.  Downstairs was Zack's favorite section, the Pokemon area.  He had his picture taken with Pikachu, then picked out some Pokemon action figures to purchase.

After Chad ran the purchases back to the hotel, we headed to the Museum of the City of New York.  Since we went to many Smithsonian museums in D.C. last year we figured the kids would not enjoy overdoing the museums again this year.  None of the boys were interested in the art museums either.  The New York Museum had some interesting content but unfortunately a large part of the museum was under renovation and closed. There was a good movie to watch and some home furnishings and stained glass from some of the New York mansions.

We had tickets for a tour at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in the afternoon.  In order to get to the museum by public transportation we would need to transfer from subway to a crosstown bus.  We took the subway to the Times Square station and emerged into a different world.

At the last museum and on our walk around Central Park to get to the subway there were not huge crowds of people, in fact only scattered groups.  But walking into Times Square was a blast of neon and people, street vendors, lots of police.  We found our bus stop on 42nd Street and stood in awe while we waited.  Normal businesses like, Walgreens, Subway, McDonalds were supersized in neon lights.  There was a Mini Cooper car, full size on a billboard.  Definitely a different New York experience.

The Intrepid was hard to miss once we got to the end of the bus ride.  It dwarfed a cruise ship parked at a nearby pier.  Once inside we traded our etickets for lanyards in different colors representing different jobs on board the ship.  It was fun to compare our choices.  This ship has a very interesting and varied past.  Everything about our tour was excellent and I would highly recommend one of the guided tours.  We had a small group of 9 people in our tour and were able to go "behind the scenes" in several areas of the boat.

We took a plane elevator from the main floor to the top deck, where there is a large collection of foreign and American planes and helicopters.  We went inside the roped off areas for up close and hands on looks at the machines.  Zack sat in the front seat of a Coast Guard helicopter.

We were able to touch an A-12 Blackbird but not allowed to go past the landing gear, supposedly by CIA orders.

We were allowed into the restoration tent where the staff was working on two units.  The one plane is being put together with pieces they find on ebay.

After our tour and bus trip back to Lexington Avenue, we picked up meat and cheese at a deli to make sandwiches on some leftover bagels from breakfast.  Again, the food was good, but service at the deli was almost non-existent.  After supper we checked out the rooftop at sunset and after dark.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Madison Shamrock Shuffle - 2011 - 10K

my Madison Shamrock Shuffle - 2011 - 10K Run results

Found this missing post by Chad, at least it gives us credit for a blog post in March.

Vacation Begins: New York City

Early Saturday morning we began our trip to the airport in Milwaukee.  Chad worked Friday night and was back home with no sleep when we left just after 4:00 a.m.  He was able to sleep some on the car ride to the airport, I was driving of course.  We weren't sure how long to allow for security, so we planned for a couple hours at the airport.

I wasn't sure how the flight would go.  The kids have never flown before, and Chad has only been in a puddle jumper for a short bit and was not really interested in flying.  The airport experience went much better than I expected.  We flew on Frontier Airlines, and I checked in online the night before and printed boarding passes.  The bags were easily dropped at the desk, then on to security.  There was a huge line formed at the gate, but because we had Classic Plus tickets we were able to bypass through our own check in line and breezed through security.  After checking our gate location we relaxed in the Best Care Club.  They had free snacks, drinks and a dark, relaxing place to wait.
We watched the planes outside being de-iced which was not encouraging.  There was lake effect snow in Milwaukee all morning.

We boarded the plane on time and were just slightly held up by the de-icing process.  Everything went smooth.  Chad and the boys liked the snacks on the plane, and Kevin watched the gps TV channel which showed our speed and elevation during the flight.  We landed on time and after collecting our baggage Chad called for the car I had arranged to take us to the hotel. I arranged a car service after reading online that the yellow cabs were about the same price but the drivers were horrible.  We used Legends Limousine and reserved a sedan, but were happily surprised when a Cadillac Escalade pulled up for us.  The driver got us to the hotel safely, the ride was really fast.

Our room at the Affinia Shelburne was not ready so we headed out in the big city to investigate.
Grand Central was just a few blocks away from the hotel and was the closest subway station.  We would be using the subway to get around and after our experiences in Washington D.C. last year we knew that we needed to orient ourselves to the ticketing and trains before we needed to use it.  Luckily we found it was very similar to the D.C. setup.  We bought 7 day passes and then spent some time looking around Grand Central.  It was a beautiful building, and we checked out the small Transit Museum there to learn some history of the building and subway system.  There were many choices for food for a late lunch and the family decided on the Manhattan Chili Company.  Everything we ordered was very good.  We had dessert from a bakery on the first floor of the station and ate sitting on the floor of the main hall.

As we were leaving out the front door of Grand Central, we spotted a countdown timer and display for the new Nintendo 3DS that Kevin was expecting to buy in New York.  The next day was the release but a special party was being held at midnight in a Best Buy store in downtown Manhattan.  And yes, there was discussion and consideration of needing to go wait in line at midnight.

The hotel room was ready when we walked back, and that gave Chad and Kevin a chance to crash and sleep for awhile.
Our room was on the 14th floor and had a view of the Empire State Building.  Zack and I checked out the rooftop of the building while the others slept.  There is a lounge on the roof during the warm season, but hotel guests can go up there at anytime.  Zack wanted to climb up on the benches and look over the edge, but I freaked out a little and told him he needed to keep his feet on the roof.  We could see a lot of Midtown Manhattan from the roof, including the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building.

Once the other boys were awake we headed downstairs to the hotel restaurant, Rare.  We began to notice some things about restaurants in New York City.  They were expensive, service wasn't real great and there were no kids items or kids menu.  This last item wasn't a huge issue because Chad and Zack were able to share an item off the menu of most places that served only large entrees.  This restaurant featured steaks and gourmet burgers, both of which were ordered at the table and both of which were excellent.  We also had a fry sampler which was great.

After dinner, no one was ready to call it a day in the "City that Never Sleeps" so we headed out for our first travel on the subway to Rockefeller Center.
One thing about the subways was that there many exits and depending on which one you took, you could end up a block away from where you thought you wanted to be.  We stumbled upon the Top of the Rock entrance pretty quickly and headed up with little crowds.  There was plenty to see on the clear night, but it was windy and cold so we didn't stay too long.

The kids also liked the Swarovski crystal displays.  One was a large display on the top floors created to look like you were inside of a giant geode with changing colors.  The other display was crystals hung from the ceiling in the entry foyer downstairs that were shaped like Rockefeller Center upside down.

Walking around Rockefeller Center outside, mostly because we were looking for the subway entrance, we saw the Lego Store, the skating rink, the Nintendo Store, and the Today Show Studio.

We found the subway and headed back to the hotel for a great night's rest to get ready for another day.