With 4 days remaining on my 90 day visa waiver, we've finally left USA.
It felt nice to end our USA trip back in New York, where we started all those days ago, so it was with the same excitement, this time tinged with a little sadness that we drove back into New York at the end of our epic 9 week road trip. We've driven nearly 12,000 miles (19,000km) through 28 states, ticked stuff off our bucket lists and spent lots of quality time with family and friends along the way. But now, it's on to the next stop: Mexico!
Arriving back in New York
We parked the car directly opposite Loren and Carol's apartment, delighted that we managed to find such a good spot. We unloaded the car and had a blissful reunion with Carol, Loren and Manny (their dog), and settled in for a low key dinner. Halfway through dinner, Loren figured out that we probably parked too close to a fire hydrant and might get towed, so he and Zev headed out to repark. Thankfully, Loren is an old hand at New York parking, so they managed to find a spot within a few blocks of the apartment, and it took less than an hour to find - yippee!!
Saying goodbye to Rogue
After 9 weeks of loyal service, we returned waved goodbye to our lovely rental car. Naturally, I was a nervous wreck, certain that they were going to find all sorts of things wrong with it to charge us for (including the chipped windscreen - whoops). Of course my sleepless nights and lack of appetite were all for nothing. They signed the car in and we were on our way.
We spent the afternoon doing LOTS of catch up on the blog, since we'd got so far behind while we were on the road. We also took advantage of Loren and Carol's kitchen, and baked some cookies!
That night, we had another family catch up. Zev's Dad's cousin Joe and his wife Anya, and son Michael came around and joined us for a lovely dinner. It was a great night, effectively extending the family reunion.
A spot of shopping
Knowing that our time in the US was coming to a close, we decided to indulge in a bit of last minute shopping. We headed to Barnes and Noble not just to hide from Loren and Carol's terrifying house cleaner - we also stocked up on some bits and pieces for the rest of the trip. With the afternoon, we headed to a board game store to add a couple of new ones to the collection: Hive, and Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective, and spent the evening learning to play them.
After our dinner plans fell though, we decided to catch a last minute Yankees game. The subway dropped us right at the door, and we joined the queue to march in with all the other fans. For a somewhat meaningless game against a not-too-strong team, I couldn't believe how many people were there. The 54,000 capacity stadium must have been close to 80% full. We found our seats and settled in just in time for the first pitch.
The Yankees were playing the Texas Rangers. I asked Zev if they were any good, and he looked them up - they weren't having such a good season. The game got off to a slow start, with neither team scoring any runs in the first 3 innings. That all changed in the 4th, when the rangers scored three runs, including one home run. That was the beginning of the end. What followed was a barrage of runs, with four more home runs, and a finals score of 12-7 to the Rangers. While the home crowd wasn't exactly loving it, we had a great time!
Catching up with Kiwi friends - again
We got a pleasant surprise the next day when we heard from our friends from New Zealand, Sim and Taki (who we met up with in Vegas). They were in New York with some other frisbee players who used to live in New Zealand, and wanted to catch up for dinner. It was really fun to see them all again, and enjoy a meal and a catch up before Sim and Taki headed back to New Zealand.
Watching frisbee, and soaking in some culture and history
We were enjoying our lazy days in New York, we managed to catch the final of the American Ultimate Disc League, a professional ultimate frisbee league in the US. Our favoured team, the Madison Radicals, won, but the game still left me unconvinced as to the merits of professional ultimate after seeing what I would call some fairly unspirited play from both sides.
That evening, we were back out to catch up with Joe and Anya, who had kindly invited us to a musical and dinner. The off-Broadway musical was called Comfort Women, and it told the story of young women and girls (mainly Korean, but not all) who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War. The story is told by way of the stories of a handful of girls, and it was incredibly moving. We followed it up with a delicious Korean dinner, and then said goodbye until we see Joe in New Zealand later this year.
With the remaining days on my visa waiver slowly disappearing, it was time to put off our procrastinating. We needed to figure out where we were going from New York. The process was a disaster.
We searched flights to Cuba. It looked like it was going to set us back around $600, plus another $400 to go on to Mexico. After some research and debating, we decided to give Cuba a miss...
Instead, we managed to find some cheap flights to Mexico. We hit book. They disappeared. We searched for ages, trying to find them again, but they were gone, and the remaining flights had doubled in price. We started to look around, trying to decide where to go next. For a brief moment, we even considered heading to London on some super cheap flights we found, but then the Mexico flights reappeared. So we booked! We saved around $200USD by flying out of Philadelphia, so we booked bus tickets to Philly, extended our travel insurance, and booked some accommodation for our arrival in Mexico. We finally had a plan!
Our last day in New York
With our flights out booked for three days' time, we had some loose ends to tie up. We spent our last day in New York running errands - posting stuff home, picking up some last minute supplies, and generally enjoying the neighbourhood. That night, we cooked dinner for Loren and Carol to say thank you to our incredible New York hosts.
New York to Tulum over three days
The next morning, we were up early to say goodbye to Loren before he headed to work. Later in the morning, we said goodbye to Carol and Manny, and headed down to the bus stop to head to Philadelphia. A painful couple of hours later, we alighted in Philadelphia, and headed back to the Eisner's for a night. We dropped our bags and went out for one last last (I promise this is the last) restock (this time it was tee shirts) and a final cheeseburger, and headed home for an early night.
Day two of travel was hell. Flying anywhere is hell, but in the US it's particularly bad. We checked in, were interrogated by the check in lady about our proof of onward travel, paid too much money to check our bags, and queued for 30 minutes for our security strip search. Finally, we made it to the gate (2.5 hours early, because I am an anxious traveller), grabbed some breakfast, and waited.
Once we were finally on board, the flight was delayed by 15 minutes or so, and as the flight wore on, I started to panic. I hadn't realised that our layover time in Dallas was so short. It was 1425, we were 15 minutes away from landing, and our next flight was due to depart at 1505. After 10 solid minutes of panic, I realised that Dallas was an hour behind New York, so the time difference would save us. Idiot.
Obviously, from there on out, it was smooth sailing. We made our flight in Dallas with plenty of time, and customs and immigration in Mexico was a breeze. There were no lines, our bags were among the first off the plane, and we got ourselves into an airport shuttle in no time. Thank god for Zev's Spanish ability, because otherwise, life would have been very difficult.
Driving through Cancun was like driving through Vegas - everyone was a tourist, almost everyone was from America, and most people were drunk. We were grateful for our decision to only spend a night. We checked into our Cancun hostel, and went into our dorm room, which I had decided would be a good idea since we were only spending one night. When we returned from dinner and I had a headache, and two of the guys in our dorm sprayed a full can of Lynx on each
themselves (including one of them literally spraying it into his underwear), before inviting in two girls who weren't staying in the dorm to spray perfume everywhere, I changed my mind about the dorm being a good idea.
This morning, we sorted out our phones and jumped on a bus to our real first destination in Mexico: Tulum!
Lots of love,
S & Z