New York Snow & Driving South


The day after the ‘great storm’ – which brought New York to a complete halt001 – dawned bright and sunny and New Yorkers were out in force enjoying the snow – after all, it was Sunday.004 005 006 008 012 013 Central Park was the place to be. First, I had to sort out Alfie’s footwear – the salt they put down to make the snow melt quickly is full of chlorine and burns dogs’ paws. You either put shoes on your dog or you wash their paws immediately you take them home.

Debbie had some ‘Ruffwear Barkn Boots’ she could give me that belonged to Kristen, the adorable guide dog she had before Ellie which are like little doggie trainers – really good quality that the Seeing Eye Association give all new dog owners.

First, Alfie and I took the Subway down to 66th Street and the Apple Store where I did 4 hours of workshops on my iphone and MacBook Air – technology scares me and the young guys giving the workshops varied in attitude and tolerance of my competence. Alfie lay under the table the whole time, such a good and patient dog. It was good to get out of the store. Sadly, I am writing this blog on my old Acer as when I imported my photos from my iphone to my MacBook, they all came in sideways….. Back to the camera and the old laptop until I get the hang of things.

Suitably booted, Alfie and I were happy to cross several roads and into Central Park: before arriving, we twice found ourselves being pursued down the road by people anxious to ask where we had got the dog boots.

Central Park was full of local residents and tourists happily playing, making snowmen, cross-country skiing and sledging. We walked around enjoying ourselves with people taking pictures of Alfie, as usual, wearing his cute little boots.

We walked back uptown taking in the scene and chatting to various individuals on the way. Getting back to Debbie’s apartment we collected Kristen so she could walk to, and were let out by her lovely doorman 010

006 003 004 005 008 009 011The following day, I bumped into a man as I was admiring the building where he lived, and one thing led to another – he told me about this amazing hidden Museum around the corner from where I am staying: The Nicholas Roerich Museum, dedicated to this Russian-born artist whose work focused on nature scenes from the Himalayas – right up my street, indeed! So Alfie and I went straight there and enjoyed ourselves looking around. In Alfie’s case, trying to look around everywhere – as whenever he goes to a place he has a compulsion to sniff every nook and cranny – the sheepdog in him, no doubt.

Today’s Donald Trumpism “I could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and wouldn’t lose voters”. And people genuinely take him seriously? It is an unfortunate choice of expression because, being the USA with their lax gun laws, news of people being gunned down is an every-day occurrence. I watched some men in an armoured van collecting cash from a store. While one man held the case, the other walked out with his hand clutching the gun in his holster. It is so sad but there is a massive swathe of people in this country who follow the second amendment to the constitution (1791!) – the right to ‘bear arms’ – ironically this came out of their struggle with the English, the right to bear arms coming out of English common law. We no longer have that right in the UK. When you travel around the States and flick the radio dial, you will come across adverts for guns.

017I found these funny comments regarding smoking and dog fouling attached to the wall at The Cathedral of St John the Divine

Wednesday 27th was the day scheduled to pick up my car and I was already prepared for it to be an automatic, which I have never driven, and drive through New York (an experience I was dreading) but what I hadn’t prepared for was the big 4×4 Jeep Cherokee they gave me instead of the small Kia I had paid for. Following the expression ‘never look a gift horse in the mouth’ I graciously accepted, but with huge trepidation. Just before I picked it up, I bumped into 2 New York policeman (and can I say here, every one I have spoken to or have had dealings with has been utterly charming and helpful), told them I was about to pick up a hire car, and asked for their advice on driving in New York; which was ‘Don’t turn right at a red traffic light and watch for pedestrians’. The USA is made up of States (it is in the title) and each State has its own rules and regs. Most other States allow you to literally jump a red traffic light if you are turning right and there is no traffic coming the other way, but not New York. Many out-of-towners fall foul of this and get a $100 ticket for the pleasure.

Ty, in Alamo, patiently explained how to drive the car ‘Forget about your left foot’, put your right foot on the brake, put the car into D for drive and release the pressure on the brake as the car moves forward, then use the accelerator….. Utterly terrified, I started off on 44th Street where The 018Phantom of the Opera is playing and turned into Broadway to make my way up to 116th. How I got there I do not know – but allowing taxis to cut me up right left and centre, and having paranoia attacks every time I saw a police car, I made my way to Debbie’s, where I parked illegally with the hazard lights flashing and loaded up the car, still in a state of shock at driving through New York. It was sad to say goodbye to Debbie and Ellie but we will see them on 5th May.

I set off for the George Washington Bridge and got lost twice. The first time a roadworks crew helped usher me back onto the right road, and the second the GPS on my phone was telling me to make a U turn, right at the moment I spotted a police car on my right hand side. I stopped the car in the traffic and ran over to the police car. They, in turn, placed their car so I could make the illegal U-turn – see what I mean about how nice they are? I was off, down the I-95 towards the South, twiddling the dial on the radio.

I found the only radio station worth listening to – Public Radio – and driving like a granny I cautious followed the flow of traffic. I was driving over 700 miles to South Carolina. The first time I stopped for petrol I couldn’t work out how to open the petrol cap (should have asked Ty this one) and a guy in the petrol station finally figured out that it was under the handle on the driver’s door…. You have to pay at the pump in the station, but at the same time you can pay in advance on the Credit Card and if you over-spend (which I did because the petrol is so cheap compared to the UK, practically the same price for a gallon that we pay for a litre) it gets re-credited back.

Exhausted after several hours driving, Alfie and I pulled into a petrol station (right up to the glass window where there are people 24-hours a day), had a walk round and a leg-stretch, and conked out for a couple of hours.019 040

It was dawn when we awoke. Grabbing a coffee and having another leg-stretch with Alfie, we got back in the car with several more hours to go until we arrived at Charleston. Thank heavens the GPS on the phone is working perfectly. And as for perfect, sweet Alfie is the best of travelling companions – he never complains and just lies on the back seat, occasionally getting up to adjust his position, stretch his legs and have a look out of the window.

Charleston and the South, here we come….