Tag Archive: new york

Vandwelling NYC (3)

My second morning in the Bronx I wake up to the sound of rain heavy on the roof, a sound I normally love. But I’m feeling dirty, broke, and vulnerable… totally overwhelmed by this massive crumbling city. I’ve seen the place, done what I came for, and skipping town seems so much easier than the alternative: getting soaked on the walk to 170th Street Station and then wandering around downtown all day in the rain, without the money to do anything interesting.

I decide to hit the road, taking one last drive through Manhattan on my way out. I find my way across the bridge to 5th Ave and turn south.

I actually love driving in this city. There’s no expectation that you stay in your lane, or that you signal before you cut someone off, or that you obey any signs. Trucks stop wherever they want to make deliveries, and pedestrians walk blithely out in front of moving cars. Concern for others is misplaced in this town: everyone just has to do whatever’s necessary to get through the madness between A and B. It’s liberating, once you learn that it’s okay to break the rules.

Suddenly I’m happy, swerving through the sea of cabs and buses, gawking at all the wet landmarks from my warm dry van: I see Central Park, the Met, the Guggenheim (#&@% me, that is a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful building), The New York Public Library, The Flatiron Building, Greenwich Village. Traffic is clear now but I need to stop and take another look at a map, so I turn off 7th and there, right in front of me… a parking spot. A free spot, til 9am tomorrow. This makes all the difference in the world, and I decide to stay one more day. Like magic, the rain turns to a light mist, and I spend a lovely morning wandering Greenwich Village, and the afternoon walking from times square North about 60 blocks, eventually connecting with a friend at Columbia University. She takes me to an amazing lecture by Juhani Pallasma, we have fantastic tacos with her friends afterwards, and bless her soul, she lets me use her shower. Oh my god, I feel clean and fantastic. Thank you Rand! And thank you New York, now we can part on good terms.


Vandwelling NYC (1)

Day 1 was just driving. Beautiful fall colours all through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Had a bit of a scare watching the mileage, but that was after hours of facing a headwind, and uphill; on flatter terrain the mileage was slightly better than I had planned for. On a 9000km trip with very slim financial margins, these things make a difference! Crossed the border after dark and made it to Portland, Maine, where I found a comfortable place to park for the night in about 5 minutes.

Day 2 was just driving too. Freeway and trees, with the odd tollbooth. Paul Simon in my head: “so when I reached my prime, I left my home in the maritimes, headed down the turnpike for New England, sweet New England…” I’m relying on the signs, having completely used up my $25 roaming data by early morning, just from using my phone’s map feature a few times.

Just as it’s starting to get dark I arrive, mapless, in the largest city I’ve ever visited. I take a random exit, turn a bunch of times trying to avoid all the potholes and taxis, and find myself lost in a neighbourhood that’s all latino autobody shops. The Bronx, I learn later. I love that it feels just like non-touristy Mexico, but it takes me a few minutes to adjust. I stop and park, collect my thoughts, and go for a walk. Try to look tough. Can’t find a place to use internet. Definitely no Starbucks. Find a store, buy a paper map. Get back to the van, relieved. After studying the map for about half an hour I go for a drive, manage to find my way to Manhattan, and park around 80th and Lexington. I think I’m allowed to park here this time of night? Go for another walk, find a Starbucks: internet, thank god! I have a horror of fussing with my huge, already torn paper map, so I download an offline one that can use the phone’s gps to tell me where I am, yay! Research a few likely YMCA’s for a shower and a swim, tomorrow. I’m guessing daytime parking anywhere on the island will be impossible, so I drive back to the Bronx for the night. Settle in, sleep like a baby.