Heading for home

You get a lot of interesting experiences when being on a road trip. Some may think that you do not have time to see anything when you drive as much as we do, but it's not correct. Even on transfer days, we always see and experience things. One thing I've even seen for the first time on this trip was described in the previous article, namely a gas station without a restroom. This second to last day in USA I was to experience something else I've never experienced before, and it occurred at the supermarket that has everything, Walmart. Moreover, it turned out that even if the restaurant where we had dinner the day before was located in Bridgewater, as the girl had told us, it appeared when I got the hotel bill, that the hotel, which was 500 yards from the restaurant, was in the town of Raritan - it illustrates my view that cities here have grown together.

Getting a suitcase - or not - or...

We started the day with the great repackaging. Everything was taken out of our two suitcases and the extra bag we had bought. Something had to be thrown out, such as brochures and other information that we had gathered along the way, and that we would not carry home. Something had to be wrapped in clothes, not to be broken during the flight, or rather during the handling of our luggage at the different airports. We managed to make room for everything, and we actually both had extra space in our suitcases. The new bag was filled, however, so that no more could be stowed in there. Then came the big moment when our previously acquired suitcase-weight came into action. The new bag passed the test allright, as it weighed only 29 pounds (allowed per item was 47). However, it turned out that despite the superfluous room, both Tim and I had 10-11 pounds overweight in our ordinary suitcases. So there was only one thing to do - find a Walmart and buy another bag or suitcase - as we were allowed two peaces of luggage each as long as it didn't amount to more than 47 pounds each. The restaurant where we had our dinner the day before, was in a mall with a Barnes & Noble bookstore, so we thought that there might be a Walmart as well, but no. We decided to visit the bookstore one last time before the trip home and spent about an hour here, but both left without buying anything.

Next stop was to refuel. There was a gas station near the mall, but we thought that the prize was too high, so we drove 5-6 miles further down the road without passing any gas stations at all. We therefore drove back to the one we had originally avoided and on the way Tim puzzled with our very tired GPS and got it to work long enough to find a Walmart about 4 miles in the opposite direction! After having refueled, we headed for the Walmart, we had found, and that was in a neighboring town named Manville. Here we found the Walmart without problems, and then came the day's first surprise. They had no bags or suitcases! We have never experienced that in a Walmart before, not because we have bought many bags, but they usually have several shelves with them, and we have seen them often. But here there was absolutely nothing but a computer bag and some fishing bags, both of which were too small and too expensive. Not even a sports bag could be found, and the employee we asked thought that they never had any.

So there was nothing for us to do but to return to the car and see if we could get the GPS to work again one last time. And once more, after some fiddling Tim found another Walmart in the town of Piscataway 13 miles from the first Walmart and completely in the wrong direction, but it was the closest, so we chose to drive there, and here we got our suitcase, and at reasonable cost. We, however, agreed that we would not re-pack again until we reached Jamaica. Although this Walmart was some way distant to our starting point it happened to be close to Interstate 287, which we could use to get back to I-78 towards New York.

One bridge too far

To get from New Jersey to New York City, you have to pay. Either you must pay to cross bridges or you have to pay to go through a tunnel. We chose a solution that would lead us to Staten Island and on to South Brooklyn and our hotel in Queens. This meant that we had cross three toll bridges, so we controlled our cash money, which amounted to $ 10.35, all in coins. With the normal price of 1-3 dollars to cross the toll bridges, it was plenty. The first bridge, we had to cross carries I-78 from Newark, where we had passed the airport, to the district of Bayonne. It turned out that this bridge, which is known as the Newark Bay Bridge or Vincent R. Casciano Memorial Bridge, cost $ 2.45 to cross. Although it was more expensive than what we were used to pay, there was still enough money for the next bridges ort so we thought. Well, on the other side of the bridge, we had to go south through Bayonne, on New Jersey Road 440. Four miles later we got to the next bridge, which was just called Bayonne Bridge. Uninteresting name, right? The bridge crosses the strait called 'Kill Van Kull' (a far more interesting name), which separates Bayonne and Staten Island. The bridge is an arch bridge and when it was built, it was the longest of its kind. There! Now you know that quite interresting fact!

When we got to the toll booth, we got the second surprise of the day, after the experience of not being able to find a suitcase in Walmart. It turned out that it cost $ 12 to get across! At that time we had only just under 8 dollars left, so I presented the man in the booth with my MasterCard, but unfortunately they took no credit cards. I explained to the guy that we had only $ 8 in cash, and he said that he could take a picture of the license plate and send a bill. The bill was probably sent to Hertz Rentals, and I have not yet been charged anything. We continued south on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Expressway until we reached I-278, which we should take east to Long Island. I do not know how many roads, bridges, etc., we met on this trip, which was named after Dr. Martin Luther King, but it was a lot. When we reached I-278, we left the freeway, to find an ATM where we could get some cash. With a price of $ 12 to cross the Kill Van Kull, we didn't know what to suspect to get across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, which was somewhat longer.

We found a gas station with an ATM, and I got $ 60 to be on the safe side. Then we returned to I-278 and onwards to the bridge that connects Staten Island with Brooklyn. However, we could have saved ourselves the effort, as even if the bridge is a toll bridge, you only have to pay when crossing from east to west, ie TO Staten Island, and if you do the price is $ 13. As it turned out when we got home and investigated the matter, also the Bayonne Bridge payment is charged only in one direction, that is, when you drive to Staten Island, not from there. There are two more bridges from New Jersey that leads to Staten Island, Outerbridge Crossing and Goethals Bridge. Also along these two bridges, it costs $ 12 to get to Staten Island, while it is free to drive in the opposite direction. No wonder if Staten Island is depopulated slowly when you have to pay to get there, but it's free to get away :-). For the record, I should just mention that you can go there free by ferry from Manhattan.

Church in QueensWhen we got to the other side, we continued along Shore Parkway, going south around  Brooklyn and past Coney Island with its famous beaches and theme parks. At JFK airport, we switched to I-678 north again, and in the district of Jamaica we left the freeway at Liberty Street, where our hotel was situated. It was only 1.30 pm, so the room wasn't ready yet when we arrived. We therefore went outside to the parking lot and repackaged our bags, so some of the weight was transferred over in our newly purchased suitcase, and finally they were all under the magical 47 pounds. Then we went to see a little more of Queens,  a part of New York I had never visited before. We tried to get to see Billy Jean King Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, where the U.S. Open is played, but even if we drove around it and could see it in the distance, we never managed to get close. Also Citi Field, home of the baseball team New York Mets, we saw in the distance, but without being able to find the way to neither place. Our troubles with finding the right way, could be caused  partly by rush hour, and partly because it rained cats and dogs, which it had done for about an hour. It was actually so bad that when we abandoned the project, and wanted to return to the hotel, highway I-678 was closed due to flooding, so we had to take small side roads. We got to see a part of Queens that we wouldn't have seen otherwise. Before we returned to the hotel, we drove back past JFK to find out where we had to return the car the next day.

When we got back to the hotel, we got our room and we asked the lady at the front desk if she knew where there was a gas station - the car should be full when we returned it - but she didn't. She couldn't even tell wus here we could find a place to eat, as there were none nearby. On the road between the freeway and the hotel we had, however, seen a Subway, so we drove over and bought some sandwiches and went back to the hotel and along the way we stopped at a deli where we bought some "goodies". It was a fitting end to the holiday, to complete our American meals with food from Subway in the same way as we had started the tour four weeks earlier; see article Thar she blows. The rest of the day we relaxed in the hotel, so we were ready for tomorrow's flight. The weather also indicated that it was time to return home. It was cloudy and rained almost all day. Temperature-wise it was not too good either. Only around 70, when it was hottest, and on the other hand as low as 55 when it rained most.


It is always sad when a vacation is over, but it's also nice to get home and digest all the experiences. I do that myself by writing a diary that later turns into articles like this. During the writing proces I come to remember many details that I have not noticed while under way, but they me to thet surface when I am writing. Also when I look at pictures from the trip and see pictures, I can't even remember that I have taken. Yes, it is nice to come home again, but unfortunately it means, too, that work is just around the corner.

Everything was packed and ready. We should therefore only make ourselves ready and then go to the airport. We had to take off at 2 and thus check in at noon at the latest. Since we didn't have anything to do in the room, we left the hotel already at 9 and half an hour later we had returned the car. It went quite easy, we parked, a lady scanned a barcode on the windshield, and the scanner printed a bill for the fee of $ 500, which we had to pay to return the car in New York instead of in Seattle, where we had rented it. Then we took a train running around between the terminals and a few other stations nearby, to terminal 7, from where Icelandair leaves. It was only 9.45, so we were in really good time, but unlike when Dorte and I returned home from JFK in 2008, this terminal had chairs where we sat and relaxed while we emptied the last bottles of water from the cooler, which we had discarded at the hotel.

Fortunately check-in opened very early, so already at 10.15 we could get rid of the baggage and go through security, which went smoothly. Upon check-in we had been told that our tickets gave us access to British Airways Lounge (Icelandair doesn't have a lounge in JFK), so we went up there. I spend the waiting time reading while Tim used one of the lounge's computers to access the Internet and check the world situation. At 1.30 pm we boarded the plane, where we once again got really good seats, and it was very nice indeed. The flight was as usual pretty boring and at 11.40 pm local time we landed in Iceland. When we got into the terminal, we had 40 minutes before boarding for the final part of the flight, so I just had time to buy some Icelandic cream that I had promised my neighbor. But no, the shop where they sold Blue Lagoon stuff was closed, and not just that, but also everything else was closed as well. We couldn't even get a cup of coffee. At 0.30 Icelandic time we went on board and had another uneventful flight (thankfully), and exactly at 6.00 am Danish time, the plane put it's wheels on the runway in Copenhagen. It took some time to get the luggage, but it arrived at last, and we could go out into the arrival hall, where we were picked up by the same neighbor who had to look far for her cream.

15 minutes later we were home, and at 7.30 Tim walked over to his grandmother to pick up his car, which had been parked in her garage for four weeks. He returned with the car and picked up his luggage and drove home to himself to relax a bit. He was visiting some friends later in the afternoon and he had to go to work the next day, while I had one more week off. Later Tina arrived with my car that she had borrowed while we were away, and when I had taken her home again, I could finally relax, and I managed to hold out until 11 pm, before I went to bed. Quickly getting into normal routines is an excellent cure for jet lag, and I didn't feel any at all.

The price

One of the not so pleasant things about holidays is the economy. Holidays in Amkerica are expensive, and so it was this time, but actually not quite as expensive as we had expected. From the previous USA tours, we only had a reasonable idea of ​​what the trip had cost us. This time I had made a detailed accounting all the way, so I know exactly what each thing had cost, from  a single cup of coffee to hotel rooms, gasoline, tourist attractions and so on.

It was the longest trip I've ever been to the United States. 29 days from departure to arrival in Copenhagen. It was also the trip where we driven most: 7,870 miles in 29 days against 7,003 in 25 days in 2010. But in fact we had on this trip driven an average of 17 miles shorter per day than in 2010. The longest single daytrip was the 604 miles from Wilkesboro, North Carolina to Raritan in New Jersey, but even that day we had seen a lot. Also from Wall to Colorado Springs was far, namely 553 miles, but again we experienced a lot that day as well

And what did it cost us? As mentioned we had 100 % control of the costs this time. The largest single cost was hotels, followed by airline tickets. We also used a lot onfood and gasoline, and of course the various tourist attractions. In total we spent a little over 72,000 kr (around $ 13,000 ) for two people in four weeks, but that is including the things we purchased to bring home, like clothes, gifts etc..

So it was expensive, but definitely worth the money - and now we are looking forward to this year's trip, that will take Tim, Tina and I back to the western parts of USA, combining parts of our trips from 2010 and 2012.

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