Well folks, we’re halfway home. Day 25 marks the midway point of our trip, and it fell on the Fourth of July, which was pretty cool. We started our day with a family walk with Tiger up to the local Krispy Kreme to grab some donuts. The 0.7-mile walk each way made us feel better about the sugar intake, and we drank a lot of water to dilute the sugar and negate any unwanted calories. That’s how that works, right?
After returning to the RV, we settled in to watch our church service online, which was a great sermon by our family pastor, Brad Canalejo reminding Christ-followers that our true allegiance is to Jesus, not to a country or anything else. It’s appropriate to be thankful for this country which allows us to worship as we please along with all of the other freedoms we have, but those freedoms, as our Founding Fathers referenced are given first and foremost by our Creator. Sometimes it’s tempting to be more passionate about being a citizen of the United States than being a citizen of Heaven, and it was a great reminder to keep our priorities in order, just like I learned back in my Boy Scout days: God, Family, Country.
After church, we cleaned up, threw some lunch items in our cooler and packed up the car for a fun day trip to see some of the historic sites on the Jersey side, including the famous Dueling Grounds in Weehawken where the then-Vice President of the United States, Aaron Burr, shot and fatally wounded the former decorated war hero and first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton in the final battle of their parallel careers. The only reason my daughters know about this tragic event is from the musical, Hamilton, which has been one of the most effective teachers of history to my girls, particularly Naomi who can remember the lyrics to any song but struggles to memorize information through traditional methods. Being able to see some of the places in person will further cement these historical events in her mind, and it’s one of the reasons we’re taking this trip, to show the girls history where it happened.
Although the actual location is tough to visualize, we envisioned what it must have been like for Hamilton, Nathaniel Pendleton (his second) and the doctor to row their way across the Hudson to meet Burr and his second, William P. Van Ness for a duel that would alter history in profound ways. Hamilton, the genius architect of the financial system in the United States would die way too young at the age of 49 and no longer be an influence in American politics, and Burr, who rose to the office of second-in-command would live the rest of his life as villain, constantly on the run and no longer a viable candidate for any public office, although he did attempt to start another independent country, was charged with treason and fled to Europe before returning in 1812 to practice law and eventually die in scandal and deep debt in 1836 at age of 80. That duel, which is still hard to imagine occurring, was the turning point for these two titans of the era of independence from Britain and the birth of our new nation.
We continued driving along the shore of the Hudson until we found a great little spot for lunch, Veterans Field Park, on the banks of the Hudson with some ball fields, play structures, fitness area and picnic tables. None of us knew what we wanted for lunch back at the RV, probably a symptom of the sugar-rush from earlier in the morning, so we threw in some lunch meat, cheese, peanut butter, jelly, pretzels, veggies, hummus and some drinks thinking we would figure it out when we sat down for lunch. We all made what we wanted and enjoyed lunch by the river with the best weather we’d had in New York: sunny, low-70s and a slight breeze. We spent that time talking about the trip and what were our favorite things to see so far, and we each had something different. One thing I love about our family is our ability to talk, to laugh and to have fun together. As a homeschool family with a work-from-home dad, we are so blessed to get to spend so much time together, and even more blessed that we love it! I wouldn’t have it any other way.
After lunch, we packed up our stuff and walked over to the fitness area at the park. Naomi wanted to try out each one, acting as if they were a ride at an amusement park. We don’t do a lot of physical fitness in our family, as none of us are playing a sport besides dance (and golf, if you count that), so our exercise is usually limited to walks, riding bikes, stretching and occasionally doing some calisthenics. I guess in order for us to do some more exercise, I need to invest in a fitness park in my back yard, because I couldn’t get the girls off the different pieces of equipment. What was really cool to see, and something I hope eventually happens with the girls, was how excited they were to hit certain numbers of reps. It’s so important to find something you enjoy that will help keep you in shape throughout your life, and it’s safe to say we’re all still trying to figure that out.
We took a short walk along the Hudson, capturing a beautiful view of the George Washington Bridge in the distance, one of five historic bridges into Manhattan, but the only one from New Jersey. With its central span right at 3,500 feet, it’s the fourth longest suspension bridge in the United States behind the Mackinac Bridge (MI, central span of 3,799 ft.), the Golden Gate Bridges (CA, central span of 4,200 ft.), and the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (NY, central span of 4,260 ft.). This feat of engineering makes the trip from New Jersey to New York a simple three-minute drive, but it will cost you anywhere from $16 for passenger cars and up to $130 for semi-trucks to drive across it.
We jumped back in the car and drove further north along the Hudson to see the small towns along the cliffs overlooking the river, and then we made our way back to the RV where Tammy & I ended up taking a long nap while the girls watched a movie. I’m usually not a napper, and I had plans of watching the back 9 of the Rocket Mortgage Classic, but instead I logged a 3.5-hour bomb on the couch, which my body apparently needed. After we woke up from our respective comas, we ate a few leftovers and then made our way down to the main part of Jersey City, a little under a mile away, where all of the shops lived.
We found a cute little ice cream shop that had a unique way of making ice cream cones, so we were game to give it a shot. Milk & Cream Cereal Bar allows you to choose an ice cream flavor, either vanilla or cookie dough, two cereal toppings and a syrup flavor. They then mix it into a concrete/blizzard consistency and then finish it off by shoving it into a waffle cone. I wasn’t too sure about it when we got there, but after my first lick, I was sold. It may have been the best ice cream cone I’ve ever had, certainly the most creative, no doubt. If you ever find yourself in Jersey City, be sure to check it out.
After returning to the RV park just a few minutes before sunset, it was time to find our spot to watch the fireworks, which were scheduled to be launched from one of the piers in lower Manhattan on the Hudson. It was great to see everyone in the park getting out of their RVs, setting up their chairs to celebrate together this most cherished of holidays – truly the reason our country began. And the show was pretty good, although a few buildings between us and the Hudson were a little in the way, but it was still a great show and a great way to end the weekend.