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New York Road Trip Part One

I had a "New"-filled winter break: I went to New Orleans with family; Buffalo, New York for a wedding; and New York City for New Years. I will postpone writing about New Orleans until my father sends me the pictures he took and instead write about the awesome road trip to New York State.

Me, Alejandro, and Josh driving to Buffalo

To Buffalo!

The trip began on December 28, the day after I got back from New Orleans. I did not even have to unpack my duffel bag. Three UIUC computer science friends and I set off for Buffalo to attend the wedding of Lyndsy—another CS friend—and her longtime boyfriend Dave.

Josh drove and agreed to pick up Alejandro in Urbana, me in Indianapolis, and Zack in the backwoods of Ohio. Lucas would meet us in Buffalo.

For Christmas, my parents gave me a Garmin Nüvi 350 GPS receiver. The timing was perfect for the road trip. That amazing glowing screen led us over winding country roads directly to Zack's front door, across Pennsylvania and New York to Lyndsy's house (where we wished the bride good luck), and through Buffalo to the hotel where we spent the night. Along the way it also pointed us to upcoming gas stations and restaurants. In Ohio it led us to a small country restaurant that we would have never seen or thought to stop at.

Country restaurant menu

We even gave the GPS a name: Marie, after Alejandro's mom. From that point onward, the trip became thick with "your mom" jokes, none of which I can repeat here.

Overall, the drive was uneventful. We didn't get to see much since it got dark early and rained nonstop.

The Wedding

I have attended several family weddings, but Lyndsy and Dave's was the first in which two of my friends got married. I am reaching the age that I can expect many more to come.

The wedding was much more traditional than the other weddings I have attended. There were several bible readings, a full sermon, communion, and guitar-backed hymns. Pretty normal stuff, I suppose.

Lyndsy walking down the aisle with her father (Josh's picture) Lyndsy and Dave at the altar (Josh's picture) He now pronounces them husband and wife! (Josh's picture)

The one surprising thing is that it got a group of CS nerds to dress up nicely in suits and ties.

Lucas and Josh adjusting their ties Alejandro, Josh, me, Zach and Lucas looking snazzy (Josh's picture)

After the wedding we had an hour of limbo until the reception started. None of us realized this until we reached the empty and darkened banquet hall. The employees setting out nametags and placesettings gave us some strange looks.

Eventually the reception got under way. First a delicious buffet, then people descended on the bar and dance floor. No, I didn't dance. In fact—and this in no way reflects poorly on the quality of the reception—I fell asleep in my chair at one point.

Meanwhile, Lyndsy and Dave orbited the room, chatting with guests and posing for pictures.

Group with bride (Josh's picture) Group with groom (Josh's picture)

Indeed, there were many pictures.

Cameras

Thanks, Lyndsy and Dave, for inviting me. I wish you the absolute best as you start your life together. Also thanks to Josh for letting me use some of his pictures.

Niagra Falls

The next morning we repacked the car and set off for New York City via Niagra Falls.

Marie almost led us astray. We were driving toward a bridge and would have crossed it had Alejandro, who is from Guatemala, not exclaimed, "Stop! We're going into Canada! My visa says I can't leave the country!" We turned around to his relief and Marie's confusion. We set a different route to the United States side of the falls and were soon back on our way.

Interestingly, the only way to enter Niagra Falls State Park is through the gift shop. After navigating that and a short trail, we found the American Falls.

The American Falls

There, we took the obligatory "tourist" shots:

Alejandro "flying" over Niagra Falls Josh, Alejandro, Lucas, Zach, and me in front of Niagra Falls

We crossed the pedestrian bridge to Goat Island on the opposite side of the American Falls.

The American Falls Bridge and river

Many areas were closed due to ice, including the platform closest to the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. Unfortunately, I was unable to get a good picture of the Horseshoe Falls, but we did have some fun with the warning signs and ice on the guardrails.

Caution! Slippery Walkways Alejandro with ice Lucas with ice

To New York City!

We walked the trails some more then returned to the car to resume the drive to New York City. Along the way we hit the first and only snow of the entire trip. Nasty, wet, slippery snow. It is interesting that we hit snow only after leaving Buffalo.

Around 11, Josh and Alejandro got hungry. Not much is open at that time, but Marie led us to a fast-food joint that was still open despite the snow. The restaurant was out of everything except burger patties and small buns. We learned that it had only 26 buns remaining for the night. As soon as they sold, the manager would close the store. Alejandro desperately wanted to buy them out, but held back because there were other customers behind him in line. Only four buns remained by the time we left, but the manager had already closed the kitchen, shattering Alejandro's dream of buying all the food in a restaurant.

After another hour or two of driving, we passed into New York City. Once again Marie led us directly to our hotel, located in a particularly sketchy part of the Bronx. The streets were deserted, and all the surrounding stores were closed with steel shutters and covered in graffiti. The only light came from scattered street lamps that threw jagged shadows through the elevated rail line directly in front of the hotel. We quickly unloaded the baggage and removed anything of value from the car.

The inside of the hotel was slightly less sketchy than the surrounding neighborhood. The cable box didn't work and shocked Josh when he tried to fix it; I found cigarette burns in the comforter on my bed; and the entire room shook whenever a train passed along the rails 20 feet from our window. Obviously there was no internet. To the hotel's credit, though, the room was very large and the maid was very helpful.

In the next installment, I'll write about our trip to the Statue of Liberty and our amazing New Year's Eve in Times Square.

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