This was our second visit to Airstream's Statue of Liberty Rally, one of the best in WBCCI.
NEW YORK CITY - August, 1997
Our second trip to New York City with the trailer was just as enjoyable as the first - perhaps more so because this time we had our teenage grandchildren, John (15) and Bonnie (13), to share the experience with. The weather was better than five years ago also. It rained a little the night we arrived, but for the rest of the week, it could not have been prettier. We were impressed last time by the comparative cleanliness of New York, thinking it was only because a major convention had just finished a stand there. It was just as clean this time - maybe cleaner. There has obviously been a major effort made to make the city attractive to tourists. It is not a place to drive a car though. They do many things to discourage automobile traffic. Even so, there was a lot of traffic. One of our tour guides stated that there are 12,832 "medallion" taxis - the yellow cabs. It takes a special driving talent to drive them. The claim was also made that the crime rate in New York has dropped dramatically in the last few years. Still, the masses of people and the stacked housing and the massive buildings and the problems all that creates make it a place permnanently desirable only to those who like that sort of thing, and to others desirable only for a looksee and quick departure. The cost of living there is horrendous. Regular gasoline was $1.54 per gallon. Two room apartments rent for $2,000 per month, etc. The four of us had hamburgers one day at a cost of $60.
The most economical thing about our trip was the cost of the rally. This was WBCCIs Statue of Liberty Rally - an annual event for Airstreamers. The rally fee was $105 per person, or $420 for all four of us for a week. The rally site was the old immigrant train station on the Jersey shore directly across the Hudson River from Manhattan. It is now called Liberty State Park The tracks have all been removed, and the old depot has been remodeled into a museum. The open field to the south of the depot is where our trailers were parked. A wide brick walkway goes along the riverfront for a couple of miles. From our trailer, we could see the Manhattan skyline, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty. Although we had no hookups, the beauty of the lication made up for any inconvenience that caused. What a bargain!! The rally fee included breakfast every day, sandwiches for supper every night and a barbecued chicken dinner one night. Tickets on the ferry to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty were in our goody bag. Also included was professional entertainment each night. We paid extra for three tours which included visits to the New York Stock Exchange, the observation decks atop the 110 floor World Trade Center and the 103 floor Empire State Building, South Side Sea Port, Radio City Music Hall, Grants Tomb, Trinity Church, the old Federal Hall (where George Washington took the oath of office for the presidency), Central Park, the Trump Tower, Chinatown, and a lot more.
The high point of the trip was a climb to the crown of the Statue of Liberty - 354 steps, the last half of which are a spiral around a pole to the crown. We didn't get to do this last time because of the long lines waiting. This time we took the first ferry of the morning and were the first in line when the statue doors opened at 9:30am. That should be an experience the kids will never forget.
We rode into the rally with a convoy of 78 other trailers that rendezvoused at the 76 Truck Stop at Exit 7 on I-78 near Bloomsbury, NJ. This was the end of a caravan from Columbus, Ohio led by Starvin' Marvin Grossman. We joined 195 other trailers and motorhomes (total 273) at the rally site on Tuesday evening. The trailers were parked in even rows beginning at the waterfront and stretching back probably 35 rows. We were the fourth in on the twelfth row, an easy walk to where the rally activities were held.
John and Bonnie adapted well to the conservative style of living with limited space, water and electricity. They experienced the subway, a wild taxi ride down Broadway, bus rides throught he Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, a ferry ride across the river to Manhattan, and a boat cruise on a full circuit of Manhattan Island. They took in the beauty of the New York sky line at night. They saw a modern New York and learned some history too, both national and personal.
We made a visit to the New York Public Library to get a copy of the May 20, 1854 New York Times - the date our ancestors arrived from Germany on the Bremen bark "Wieland" - and tried to visualize what New York might have looked like then. There would have been no motor vehicles - only horses and carriages. The Statue of Liberty had not yet been conceived. None of the twenty bridges or seven tunnels to Manhattan existed then. There was no Empire State Building, now World Trade Center. Trinity Church was the tallest building on the island. Yet, it was still a place teeming with people. May of 1854 was the peak month of all time for the number of immigrants from Germany to the United States.
We saw several old friends at the rally - Airstream friends from past caravans, and many from our Tampa Bay Unit. Some of these we hadn't seen in six years. Many of them had grandcholdren along too. Eleanor Peskoe had arranged a special walking tour of New York for the kids on Thursday, and as many adults as wanted to were invited to go along. We were quite an entourage - the 62 of us making our way through the streets of New York. Perhaps the real value of rallies like this is the renewal of valued friendships. Maybe that's the reall value of an organization like WBCCI - the Wally Byam Caravan Club International.
We left the rally a day early to get John back to Chesterfield, Virginia in time for his first football practice. We picked out the most direct route which took us down the New Jersey Turnpike and I-95 to Richmond - and for the privilege paid over $40 in tolls. From Baltimore to Richmond, the traffic on this Sunday was fierce, but we made it in fine, deposited the kids at their home and headed toward our mountain home.