East Coast Trip - October 2023

Work has been insane this year. Things have ratcheted up significantly. I'm spending more time and am under a lot more stress and pressure. It has been taxing and I've been very unhappy and depressed. This year was meant to be an east coast year. I didn't think it would be possible because of work. My team is very supportive, knew I needed it, and told me to go for it. I slapped things together last minute but was able to get 11 days on the east coast planned. I was very excited for it.

I was up super early on the 6th. I didn't sleep well and had an early flight. Jeska was a hero and picked me up at 4am and drove me to the airport. I milled around for a bit waiting for the 6am flight to Chicago. I made it there, grabbed food, and then caught the flight to Philly. I landed safely and had a busy few hours. Getting to the rental car place took forever. Then the rental line was 40 mins long. I got in the car and started heading north. I got caught in an insane storm. As it was a rental, the windows were pretty dirty so I pulled off and got food. I kept driving for about 3 hours total, making one more stop for groceries. I finally made it to the destination, got squared away in the room, and got to sleep.

I woke up in Hershey, PA. I'd not been there since I was a kid and wanted to check it out as an adult. I would be there for 2 nights. I slept better than expected, got up, and headed over to the park. I did not plan on entering and only checked out Hershey World. I spent time there seeing the sights, riding the historical ride and doing a little shopping. It started raining so I jumped in the car and decided to drive around town. I got lunch at the Hershey Pantry and started looking up other things to do.

I found a place named Indian Echo Caverns. I decided to go check it out and give it a shot. I am glad that I did. The property was great and there was a fall fair going on. I had forgotten all about the local fairs and it was a nice reminder. I did the cave tour and got some amazing pictures. I then headed back to the hotel and grabbed some foot. It was turning to night but I decided to walk around the main drag for a bit. I then headed back to the hotel, packed up, and got a good night's sleep.

I woke up on the 8th, got my stuff in the car, and got driving. The first stop was in the Poconos are to visit Chris. I'd not seen him since Vegas the year before. He's a very formative person in who I grew up to be. We got lunch and caught up for a while. I headed out and got on the way to Jersey. I was ahead of the schedule, so I was able to stop in Kearney and go visit my brother at the cemetery. I then went to see the old sledding hill before making my way to Jersey City. I got checked into the hotel and got an upgraded suite. It was still kind of early so I chose to take the train into the city and see One World Trade. I walked around a bit and then took the train back. I walked along the harbor for a bit, got back to the hotel, and just wound down.

The 9th was meant to hang with Mike. He had his plans change so I had the whole day to myself. I hopped on the train and decided to go see the new Yankee Stadium. I've never been and it was cool to see the area around it. It brought back memories of games from when I was a kid. I then walked around and took the train back to 5th Avenue. I figured I would walk along to see Times Square, the Empire State Building, etc. I did not connect the dots that it was Columbus day and how big of a deal it is. It was actually really cool to sit back and watch the parade for a while. I milled around a bit, caught the sights, and then headed back to One World Trade. I checked the area out more before taking the train back. It was only 5 so I ran to the store to grab a couple of beers for the night. I ate at the hotel and decided to take a walk over to Liberty State Park. I didn't make it all of the way but did enjoy the skyline and time out. I got back to the hotel, packed the room, and just enjoyed the happiness that I had in me.

The 10th saw me wake up and head south. I could not find balloons the other day and had some with me now. I stopped again at the cemetery and released them for my brother. I drove around Kearney and Harrison and then headed to Old Bridge. I met my Uncle Tom for lunch at the mall. We ended up being able to sit for 3 hours and hang out. It was a big year for him so I am glad that we had the opportunity to see each other. I hopped in the car and headed south. I went to Seaside Heights. I knew it would be mostly closed, but had to go. I walked the length of the boardwalk, bought some Berkley, ate a shore slide at 3 Brothers, and played for a while at Lucky Leo's. I was staying in North Brunswick so I then made my way there. I checked into the hotel and just relaxed. I caught up on the internet, watched a movie, and just tried to get the stress out. It was a very peaceful and calm night.

I was up early on the 11th. My first stop was Nicolo's. It was great to be back. I walked it, got to catch up with Joe, and ate some great slices. He let me leave the car there so I could walk around. Every time that I got back, I want the nostalgia of being 15, walking to MC, and exploring the town. This was the trip to do it. I walked all over and got harassed by the cops. I grabbed the car and headed over to the hotel. It was a new one and I got bumped to a great room. I got everything settled and headed out. I grabbed some comics from one of the places that I hit every time. I drove past the Keller’s home and then back to Nicolo's for dinner. I got slices and hung out for a bit before heading back to the hotel. I read some comics, watched a movie, and called it a night.

I had slept ridiculously well. I cannot remember the last time that I had gotten such great sleep and felt so well relaxed. I grabbed my things and hit Nicolo's for lunch. Once fed, I found Holmdel Park. I decided to check it out and it was amazing. I had no idea that it existed and spent some time walking all over and enjoying the sights. I then headed south for a bit, driving around some fun areas and seeing my uncle's old house. I stopped at Allaire State Park but did not stay long. They were doing maintenance and crews were dropping tree limbs. I saw Freehold mall, checked out Wegman's, and then headed back to Nicolo's for dinner. I took the long way back to the hotel and started packing everything up. This was the night that it really hit me that I was on the back side of the trip and that I'd have to face reality again soon. I sat in the room for a bit and just watched the traffic on Route 18. I threw on a movie and called it a night.

I woke up fairly early on the 13th. I decided to head north to the cemetery again one more time. I dropped off a gift that I had won for my brother and paid my last respects. I then headed out for the last time. I drove south to Eatontown and got checked into my room . I requested the same one from last time. I headed to the mall and got a massage. I grabbed something to eat and then hit up Wegman's. I dropped everything at the hotel and went out to see Jeff at a poetry event that he was at. It had been a really long day and I was kind of wiped out. I passed on sticking around and going out. I instead headed back to the hotel. I watched the night sky for a bit and then threw on a movie. I did not see Joe this night as he was watching the Taylor Swift movie.

The 14th was a great day. I got up and hit a local comic book shop. From there, I headed to the diner to meet Joe and his son. To be standing in the lobby and hear “There he is!”, turn around, and embrace my oldest friend in the world was exceptionally meaningful. We boys got lunch before he took Oliver out for a bit. I took the time to head to Asbury Park. I walked in the rain for a bit, got postcards, and saw the memorial bench for my uncle. I then headed back to Joe's house. I got to hang with him and his family for many hours. We at dinner together, caught up, and I got to see his kids really expressing their personalities. It was a few weeks early, but they got to open their birthday cards from me while I was there. It was really cool to see. Joe had to get them bathed and ready for the night. I took off so I could get back to the hotel and do my packing. I got everything pulled together and sat in the room for a while with the lights off, just looking out the window. It had been a rainy day and just seeing the place I love felt great. It was also a little depressing. The thought that this was my last night home for the unforeseeable future kept haunting me. Either way, I climbed into bed and called it a night.

The 15th was a bit of a mess. I woke up and got everything into the car. I wasn't going to be able to connect with Joe again so I decided to make my way to Philly. I took the longer route as I had time and mourned when I thought I had left Jersey for the last time. I got checked in to the hotel and decided to catch what sights I could. I headed to the Liberty Bell, got turned around, and wound up in Camden. I got back to Pennsylvania, parked, and checked out the bell and the Independence Hall exterior. It was a Sunday so it was closing early. I decided to gas the car, grab food, and then head back to the hotel. I did all of this, but wound up in a neighborhood that I definitely did not belong in. I got back to the hotel, split and packed everything for the flight, and just sat around before calling it a night.

The 16th was a somber day. I got up and gathered my things. I drove to the airport and got checked in. The first flight was to Nashville. I wandered the airport for a bit, got lunch, and then boarded the second flight. This put me back in Phoenix. I got my bags, caught a ride with Jason, and got back to the house. I'd assumed that it would cool down and turned off the A/C to save power. It was 94 degrees in the house. I got that moving, did laundry, logged into work, and got back to the grind.

I needed this trip a lot. What I needed was time in a place I love with no pressure and expectations. I missed people, but ultimately took care of myself and helped to reset my mental state. I miss NJ already and can't wait to be back.

Clouds from a plane.
First time in the air for a while.
Clouds over Hershey, PA.
Waking up to a gloomy day felt great.
The Hershey Convention Hall.
The convention hall.
The Hershey Chocolate Town sign.
I've not been here for a really long time.
Hershey Park entrance.
I did not go into the park.
A measuring system for rides.
The rides are driven by what candy you are.
Indian Echo Caverns.
I found Indian Echo Caverns and decided to check it out.
An underwater pool.
I'm glad I got the camera that I did.
Another underwater pool.
Incredible clarity in an underwater pool.
Looking out on Hershey.
Enjoying a beautiful morning in Hershey.
My old house.
A lot has changed.
A large grassy hill.
I used to sled here.
A view of Manhattan.
A great room with a beautiful view.
One World Trade at night.
One World Trade at night.
A train map.
I appreciate every chance that I get to be on these.
A view of the New York skyline.
Looking back on the city from Jersey City.
The outside of Yankee Stadium.
My first time at the new one.
A Don Mattingly poster.
He was always my favorite player.
A World of Ed sticker on a lamppost.
I cannot believe that someone vandalized this.
A large bat statue.
I saw this as a kid.
A Columbus day parade.
No idea how he made it here with such tiny ships.
A parade.
Based on the trash, these are all of the sanitation department.
The World Trade footprint.
A somber place.
Street art.
I loved finding this.
The New York skyline.
Looking out from Jersey City.
Liberty Park.
I took a walk here after a great day in the city.
Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
The New York skyline.
My last look at the city.
A cat on the beach.
A cat that I found on the beach.
Lucky Leo's.
The hour I had here was amazing.
Lucky Leo's cards.
My winnings.
A wooded stairway.
If you know what this is, you know why it is important to me.
MC Comics.
A formative place for me.
St. Thomas.
My favorite sign.
Nicolo's Pizza.
I ate here soooooo much.
Jeff Schroek on stage.
Jeff doing spoken word.
Asbury Convention Hall.
A quick stop in Asbury.
An Asbury bench.
Stopping by to say hi.
A rainy night.
Looking out over Eatontown.
The Liberty Bell.
The Liberty Bell.
Independence Hall.
Independence Hall.
Constitution Hall.
Constitution Hall.
A Philadelphia sunset.
My last pic of the east coast.