US East Coast sojourn: September 2022

My first International trip after COVID-19 hit the World in late 2019 … Hopefully, many more to come.

Had landed in Singapore early in the morning. The Ambassador Lounge in Singapore Changi airport was one of the rare ones with space available at that time and it was quite crummy, with crummy coffee and crummy food.

 

My friend had asked me to purchase “The Macallan” Whiskey from Duty Free, as apparently that was the “flavor of the season” among his friends. Had no luck as it was sold out in the 2-3 places I checked.

 

I personally like Changi airport a lot. It has a homely and comfy feel as opposed to the glassy or rundown airports like JFK, Heathrow, Hong Kong, Seoul, Dubai Etc. I like the greenery around the airport and the carpeted flooring (though the carpets have started looking tacky. Time to replace?).

 

 

 

As I had time to spare, I walked around pretty much the whole Changi airport.

 

A Singapore Airlines’ Airbus A380 was getting loaded at one of the gates.

The particular Singapore Airlines SQ24 flight from Singapore Changi airport to New York JFK airport was (at the time) the single longest flight in the World, with an official duration of 18 hours and 50 minutes. In terms of distance also, it is the longest, with a distance of 9537 miles. The previous real long flight I had taken was Emirates flight from Dubai to Sao Paolo. This flight was also unique in the sense that it did not have Economy and instead had only “Premium Economy”, with way more foot space than normal.

 

Singapore is the busiest port in the World and there were ships galore.

The route was over Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, China, Japan, Alaska, Canada, Great Lakes area and finally into New York.

The movie choices during the flight was very poor (compared to the last time I flew Singapore Airlines) and I saw a few eminently forgettable movies: Liam Neeson’s “Blacklight”, Adrien Brody’s “Clean”, the raunchy slapstick Paul Rudd’s “This is 40” and similarly raunchy John Cena’s “Blockers”. And even the food has deteriorated way more than what it used to be several years back. Looks like COVID-19 has impacted the overall customer experience of even a renowned airline like Singapore Airlines.

About to land at JFK, New York.

In Chalfont, Pennsylvania, we went for a morning walk along a local hiking trail. I later returned to a public park in the same area for some jogging.

My friend’s event (25th Wedding Anniversary) was at the Pearl S. Buck House at Perkasie, Pennsylvania. To be frank, I had never heard of this author before, but apparently she is quite well known and several friends had read her books. Her most famous work is “The good Earth” (Never heard of it before πŸ™‚ ) for which she won the Pulitzer prize.

 

To get there, we have to go past Peace Valley Reservoir. My friend mentioned that one can trek/jog all around this body of water.

The below photos were taken during the drive from Chalfont to Perkasie.

 

The overall route of my entire trip. I had landed at JFK International Airport, New York, where my friend picked us up. From there to Chalfont, Pennsylvania, where my friend is based and around where the event took place. Then the road trip from Chalfont (PA) through Cape May (NJ), Lewes (DE), Ocean City (MD), Emporia (VA, where we stayed overnight), and finally to Raleigh (NC), where my friends dropped me off (They went on to Charlotte (NC)). I.e. We went through 5 states in a single day! I then took Amtrak from Raleigh (NC) to New York (NY) the next day and finally, I was back to JFK International Airport.

When we started our road trip to North Carolina, the Rain Gods were doing a number in the Chalfont-PhiladelphiaΒ  area.

I am not a fan of anything on wheels or of driving anything on wheels. Given a choice, I prefer to be a passenger, which is exactly what I managed, thanks to my friends πŸ™‚

There was a huge traffic jam in the other direction. Probably due to the rains.

 

The ferry port at Cape May (NJ).
My ticket to the ferry from Cape May (NJ) to Lewes (DE).
The heavy rains were still present … And I was dressed for the tropics πŸ™‚
Driving into the vehicle parking deck.
The staff helped line up the vehicles. The ferry was quite full.
Loading is almost done.
Off we go … Sun! Where the heck are you???
Due to the rains, the decks were quite empty. And with the boat rocking from side to side, it was not easy to walk along the deck.
Approaching Lewes (DE).
Exiting from the ferry …

The ferry had a snack counter and also a small souvenir shop. Bought some postcards.
Off we go to the beaches …
Looks like the region is a part of “Historic Area”
Well, that is an eyesore of a structure (To my eyes) …
Onward …
I kept taking photos (on my phone) as we moved along …

 

Metered parking was available near the beaches. Several payment options were provided.

 

First stop was at Rehoboth beach. There were not many people around. Probably because it was close to lunch time.

 

Then, onward to Dewey Beach. I kept clicking away during the drive.

 

We stopped for lunch at “Woody’s” near Dewey Beach. Apparently their crab cakes were good. Indeed it was.

 

I went for one of their craft beers … Forget the name πŸ™‚

 

The different “Beer choices” we made πŸ™‚
The Crab Cake and Onion Rings. I normally stay away from fried food items, but I was really hungry and gobbled up most of the Onion Rings πŸ™‚

 

 

Hotels of various size/scale were present all along the beach.

 

Bit beyond Dewey Beach, we went over the Indian River Inlet bridge, which is a cable-based bridge.

 

We went past Bethany Beach (DE). Shortly, we entered Maryland.

 

 

Ocean City (MD) Beach Boardwalk.

 

The post-lunch crowd was slowly building up … Keep in mind that this was the Labor Day long weekend.
Most of the boardwalk benches were sponsored ones.
The city has tried to keep the boardwalk clean and there were garbage bins placed all over.
Looks like a Sand Sculpture Artist has done some extensive work earlier.
A dedication to the “Firefighters of the World”.
Always nice to see public clocks showing the right time πŸ˜‰
Model of a life-size shark.
Liked this view, especially with the yellow/orange flowers in the foreground.
A white Marlin model, mimicking the real one caught off the coast.
The pier. We went along it till we reached the point near to the cabin where the gate was locked.
One of the many ice-cream joints. Almost all of them were manned by kids (Summer jobs).
The good old locks πŸ™‚ This is truly one portable belief. Seen it in several different countries.

 

That is one cute Life Guards station.

 

By the by, notice all the “healthy” food items … πŸ™‚

Now it was time to drive on to Assateague Island. The advertisement shows many wild ponies roaming the beaches on this island.

During the drive to the island …
The visitor center. But it was closed by the time we reached.
A map of the whole area, all the key points of interest.
Behind the Visitor Center, there was a viewing deck.
With some chairs, in case you want to sit and reflect on deep topics.
Hmmm … Interesting bridge.
There was a parking lot which sought “donations” (voluntary). After donating and parking, we walked over to the beach. For a long weekend, there was barely anyone there.
We were ready to face “wild ponies” but saw none πŸ™‚
Where is everyone???
Some theories on how the wild ponies came to be there.
There are size limits, in case you want to catch a crab.

 

 

Finally!!!! Wild ponies, crossing the road …

We were on the way out of the area when we had our first sight of wild ponies πŸ™‚

We then went to Virginia Beach (VA) which is where we had our dinner. On the way we crossed the Chesapeake Bridge right when the Sun was going down and it beautiful.

 

The Chesapeake Tunnel Bridge (which starts off with a regular curvy bridge) looked very nice.

 

The boardwalk was quite deserted by this time (9PM).
The King Neptune statue at Virginia Beach.
“Sister Cities” πŸ™‚ In Norway, Ireland, Germany, Japan and Philippines.
Dinner item: Crab Soup.
Dinner item: Seared Tuna. Did not like it that much.
Dinner item (My friend’s choice): Some crab dish.
Dinner item (My friend’s choice): Salmon dish.
The restaurant where we ate … Neptune’s.
One final look at King Neptune statue …

 

The Fairfield Inn & Suites where we stayed at Emporia (VA). That is our rental car in the foreground.

After an overnight stay at Emporia (VA), my friends dropped me off at my hotel in Raleigh (NC). I did a walk around downtown Raleigh later in the day.

“Second Empire Restaurant and Tavern” … Looks quite nice.
The Holiday Inn in downtown Raleigh where I stayed. A pretty basic hotel.
Edenton Street United Methodist Church.
Gulp! From 1811 …
Sacred Heart Church.
Another view of Sacred Heart Church.
Yet another Church. Not sure of the name … By the by, every street corner seemed to have a Church.
One of the high rises in downtown Raleigh.
Most of these churches look quite vintage …
The Wells Fargo high rise in the background …
Fiber cable access points, clearly marked, on the footpath.
Nash Square, downtown Raleigh (North Carolina).
Fire Fighters’ Monument @Nash Square.
With the names of all the Firefighters who died on duty.
Lime Electric Scooters … Pay & use.
As with most downtowns, Raleigh downtown area also had a lot of graffiti.
Map of Raleigh downtown area.
The 33-floor PNC Plaza, the tallest building in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Some of the artwork was on the footpath itself πŸ™‚
The Church of the Good Shepherd.
More vintage buildings …
St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Morgan Street Food Hall. There were several food vendors available. Since I craved for some Chinese food, went with that option πŸ™‚
Another view of the Pendo building, with my hotel in the background.

 

Early the next day, I walked over to the Amtrak station. The primary reason I picked this particular hotel was due to its proximity to the Amtrak station. I had taken Amtrak trips before, but this was my my first one along the East Coast of USA.

Since I had come in quite early, I first checked in my baggage to New York.
There was almost no one else in the hall.
Walked around the whole station. There were several seating areas.
Went to the terrace to have a look around …
A view of the downtown from the terrace of the Amtrak station.
History of the Union Station, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Liked this graffiti, near the Union Station.
They have details of the artist as well … That is nice.
This is interesting … “Pay what you can” CafΓ©. Hope they are profitable.
One of the commercial buildings in the area. You can note the Lime Electric Scooters on the side.
The Union Station from across the street …
“Visit Raleigh” magazine was available in of the racks near the ticketing counters.
North Carolina train network.
The Amtrak Silver Star train, which starts from Miami and goes up to New York.
Another view of the “Silver Star” train. It was adjustably punctual through the whole trip, considering the overall distance it covers.
Ample legroom, at least for my height πŸ™‚
Had brought this Ginger Beer with me, for the trip. I also had lots of potato chips and some bakery items, to snack on.
Read this magazine, especially the cover story on the sustainable farming couple.
Pretty comfortable seating. Took several naps along the way.

 

 

We went past towns and cities, corn fields, rivers, lakes, bays Etc.

 

While crossing Washington D.C., I noticed the Washington Monument in the background …

 

As we approached the Penn Station (New York), I could see Manhattan skyline in the distance. You can make out the Freedom Tower, if you look carefully.

 

Silver Star, having reached the final destination, Penn Station, New York.
The huge hall in Penn Station, New York.
The Baggage Claim area in Penn Station.
I had some difficulty in getting a cab from Penn Station to my hotel near JFK International Airport. Since it was a long weekend, there were several events going on in the area Madison Square Garden is right there). Also, there were all kind of scamsters (charging more than double the normal rate) around. Also, it was around 9PM local time. And to boot, I had 2 bags with me (other than my backpack). Finally, I managed to get this dude. From his accent, sounded like an East European.
JFK International airport has been operational since 1948 and it shows πŸ™‚ You can see that it looks quite outdated when compared with the flagship airports in other cities, especially the Asian cities like Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Hong Kong, Singapore Etc.
Air India! After a long time … I love the logo. Alas, that is pretty much it. The last time I flew Air India, the food was quite fine. This time, the food was blah.
This was the Inflight Entertainment screen right through the 15hr New York to Delhi flight!
Sorry, there was this screen also. The two versions kept toggling. By the by, it was not just for me, all passengers had the same. I noticed that, like me, all passengers had brought their own entertainment on tablets and phones.

 

 

And that ended my East Coast trip.

 

Adios!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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