A Travellerspoint blog

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Lesson learned!


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When I woke up this morning yesterdays panic had disappeared. I discovered I couldn’t log in on my bank account when I was supposed to pay my bills before my trip! Real convenient just hours before travelling to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean… and while calling the bank customer support they demanded a personal code identifying me via the telephone… and of course I didn’t have one (but after this I will!). So I needed to get to a bank office in person to identify myself. Hmm… how are you supposed to do that when the bank opens at 10am and the train to Stockholm Arlanda Airport leaves at 9.30am??? After a lot of anxiety and thinking I eventually figured it out. If I got to a bank office along the way to Arlanda and then jumped on the train there everything would be solved. And thank heavens one of my brothers was able to give me a ride! Thanks dear brother!!! Though solving the problem wasn’t so easy. First they thought my log in device was locked somehow and unlocked it. But no! It was not that easy… next they switched the device to a new one… But NO! Same error appeared and my bank account was totally blocked. Now the bank had to phone their technical support and it took three different telephone calls before the problem was solved! Somehow all my bank accounts had all been frozen for some damn reason. I left the bank – so relieved having access to both money and to pay my bills! So I paid my bills on the platform while waiting for the train. I’ve never felt so happy paying bills… but the extreme situation with blocked bank accounts and my travel abroad might have contributed to that ;) While preparing my next travel I’ll check my access to my bank online like a thousand times – lesson learned!

First after getting on the train sitting down on my reserved seat I could relax. Finally on the way! The train arrived at Stockholm Arlanda Airport according to schedule (does not happen very often) and I waited for a while in Sky City. I ate the last of my brought sandwiches and checked for the eleventh time I had passport, money and tickets with me. The flight check-in opened at 2.30pm but I stood in line half an hour prior to that… soon enough I was going to spend 8 hours sitting in a plane so I needed to stand up for a while. Passed the security check and bought some food. Food at airports is so incredibly expensive! But what can you do about it?

The long waiting started. The flight was scheduled for departure at 5.35pm and my fellow traveler would arrive at Stockholm Arlanda Airport by 4 pm from Oslo. Only a few people were at the gate when I got there. But the closer to departure the more people came. And how was I supposed to find my friend in that mass? But at 4.30pm we found each other. By then they had announced our flight to New York was delayed and scheduled to 6.15pm. There was nothing we could do. We waited and waited… and finally we could board the flight. When boarding was finished the aircraft taxed out of the gate 1 and ½ hour delayed. Once again… nothing we could do about it ;) Perhaps it had something to do with everyone having to show both passport and boarding card three more times at the gate area before boarding? They probably looked for someone… but still, three times?

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The aircraft was a new Boeing 787 Dream Liner and I have to say both technological and comfort was really up-dated. The space for your legs were fair sized and on the touch screen in front of you, you had access to like everything. You ordered and paid (with your credit card), called for the flight attendant and even the light switch was on the touch screen. And to darken your window you just pushed a button. Mighty impressed!

After dinner, breakfast and slack of time onboard we finally could glimpse New York outside the window. Cloud free and with the full moon shining, you got the impression that all the lights below shimmered like golden pearls underneath you. Empire State Building and Chrysler Building which proudly distinguished out of New York Skyline made a beautiful view. We landed at JFK Int’l Airport only 1 hour delayed. After passing the boarding control and got cleared to enter the US we picked up our baggage. By the exit door all the cab drivers jumped on us willing to give us a ride, but since we were going to Newark Liberty Int’l Airport it would be too expensive! So we found a shuttle from JFK to Newark for $24 per person. Now we needed to pass through Times Square at 7pm on a Friday evening (!). I don’t know how the driver managed to pass crowded streets at Times Square at that time, but somehow he did. We got to Newark Liberty Int’l Airport at 11.30pm and we still weren’t at our hotel. I desperately suggested a cab since we were both tired and hungry. So finally we arrived at our hotel for the night and we tumbled into bed after a well needed shower each.

And for those of you who wonders why in the world we had booked room at Newark Liberty Int’l Airport (on the other side of New York) I can tell you we had another flight to our final destination Rapid City early the following morning.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged new_york traveling Comments (0)

New Haven Ranch


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Since the flight to Rapid City (stop-over in Chicago) departed at 6.05am from Newark Liberty Int’l Airport we had to wake up in time for our airport transfer at 4am. As we would miss the hotel breakfast the hotel staff had made us breakfast-to-go. We located the check-in desks and checked-in our baggage. But there were a lot of problems printing our boarding passes. The passes between Newark and Chicago weren’t the problem. It was the boarding passes between Chicago and Rapid City that didn’t print as they should. Clock was ticking and the stress was getting to us. But finally we had all our boarding passes. After security check we bought some more breakfast. But the young woman at the register wasn’t in a good mood. Highly pregnant with the corners of her mouth down at the floor, she did not enjoy the early morning as it was (5am). The flight from Newark departed as planned at 6.05am and we got to see a glimpse of a nice sunrise over New York and Manhattan Skyline. Due to a lot of air turbulence the aircraft had to fly at lower altitude than planned.

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We arrived at Chicago O’Hare Airport on time (7.35am) and we had plenty of time to find both food and restrooms before the next flight at 9.41am. On this distance they flew a minor aircraft giving a feeling of claustrophobia. But lucky us we only had to fly for about an hour before landing at Rapid City Regional Airport (10.59am). We quickly picked up our baggage and went outside to meet up our transfer to New Haven Ranch. Neither of us was prepared for the heat that hit us outside the airport. The heat broiled at +30 Centigrade which probably would have been much worse if it wasn’t for the wind. So the jacket came off and so did the warm sweater as well.

Two young German women waited for us in a minivan. But thank God all the talking was in English… I haven’t spoken German in years. First we drove to a mall. It had everything from Victoria’s Secret to western stores and a lot of food places. As I understood they brought all the guests here in case they needed to buy something they forgotten at home (western style). I actually bought a pair of flip-flop since my Converse shoes were too warm for this weather. What hit me the most was that all the cowboys were well accepted around here. A cowboy in complete western outfit (jeans, boots, shirt and hat) could walk right in to the mall like nothing else. Back home in Sweden you would get shocked if you met a cowboy in a mall or in e.g. Ikea. I think we were at the mall for about 2 hours before walking out in the parking lot and I realized… we were getting into that car again, that had been in the sun all time! I’m pretty sure it was like +100 Centigrade inside the van when we opened the doors. When it was human temperature again we sat down in the minivan and got to Wallmart. Here we could buy things like tooth paste or tooth brush but also the two German women had to buy groceries for the rest of week at the ranch. My friend and I bought a bag-in-box of white wine to share. Then we headed out for the car that once again had been in the sun and the temperature inside was everything but nice. Even though the car had air conditioning it was excruciating. But we couldn’t do anything about the heat. We left the state of South Dakota and crossed the border into Wyoming. The nature outside the car window changed from city-like to hilly landscape. The nature reminded me a lot of Montana which isn’t that strange since Montana borders to Wyoming. We drove for a while and the last kilometers were a curvy graveled road. And the further we got the more distance between the houses it became.

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But we finally arrived at the ranch. The ranch is a family-owned working cattle ranch near the Black Hills in northeastern Wyoming. Since 2003 they have been inviting guests to the ranch and nowadays four generations live and work there. New Haven Ranch is settled on the ground of an old ghost town and 150 years ago the first homesteaders came to the area. They had to deal with rough climate, hostile Indian tribes and the Depression in beginning of 20th century. Many gave in and left. Today hundreds of cows gazes the vast expanses belonging to the ranch every year. The old buildings and machineries have been left out in the domains reminding of old time we only see in movies nowadays. The guesthouse has five comfortable bedrooms with their own bathroom (all with hair dryer, soap, shower gel). During cold days the house is warmed up by boiler and wooden fireplace. For warmer days there’s air conditioner available. Bed clothing, towels and bath towels are included. Snacks and beverages are available 24/7. The ranch butchers their own cattle, lambs, goats and ducks and have also vegetables in the back yard that supplies the ranch with tomatoes, salad and squash among other things. After a ride the guests can sit down at the balcony with a view over Missouri Buttes, play pool or enjoy the Jacuzzi outside.

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After a warm welcome from the staff, cats, dogs (a black Labrador named Gauge and mixed breed dog Sip) and the other guests we went down to our room we had for the week. Except my friend and I there were three middle age men from Germany (we soon realized they barely spoke any English at all), a newly-wed young couple from Great Britain and an incredible happy and full of life lady (in her best years) also from Great Britain. My friend and I showered before dinner that was served at 7pm. Spaghetti Bolognese… Yummy! And ice cream for dessert. At 9pm we went to bed.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged horseback_riding new_haven_ranch Comments (0)

1st ride at New Haven Ranch


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Lance the wrangler

We woke up at 4am, a little jet lagged. Now time was 9am back home in Sweden… But we stayed in our beds until breakfast that was served at 7.30 am. It was pancakes today (American of course!), bacon, eggs, yoghurt and toast. Doerte (one of the ranch owners) and the wrangler Lance came by to visit us now in the morning to give out horses for everyone. First they asked what kind of horse we wished for and then about our riding skills. They thought Bailey was the right kind of horse for me, a light bay Paint Horse with blue eyes. Before leaving the guest house they handed out water bottles that they recommended us to fill with water and bring with us during the days. The ranch had its own water supply from a well nearby so we could actually drink the tap water. Otherwise the water tastes more or less like chlorine in the US, but here at the ranch it tasted just like back home.

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We got together out in the yard to try out what kind of saddle we would fit in. In western every cowboy/rider has their own personal saddle. It doesn’t matter what kind of horse you ride since you adjust your saddle to the horse back with different paddings. That’s a big difference from the English school riding where each horse has its own personal saddle. Then Lance told us about Parelli Natural Horsemanship and how we would practice that with the horses. We walked to the pasture and grabbed our horses for the day. Important is to simply show the horse you don’t want any harm and you’re in charge. For those of you that doesn’t know what Parelli Natural Horsemanship is – google it! You can apply the method on any type of horse… Icelandic horses as half-bred horses or quarters.

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Then we groomed the horses. None of the horses had horseshoes on due to the cattle (and the horses themselves) so they wouldn’t get hurt by accidently step on a lost one and get the nails in their hooves. Bailey was as cool as a cucumber. Maybe too cool? I didn’t want a lazy horse. After help saddling (western saddles do weigh a lot) and bridling the horses we first rode around in a small field. Lance watched us to see how skilled we really were. He explained that a lot of riders came to the ranch often (not always) bragging about being better riders than they really were. This meant that they had gotten horses more advanced than they could handle. So that’s why they always had a short ride in this field the first day to see which rider told the truth or not about their riding skills. Out on this field they had blocks, barrels, a small fence and a hill you could use to vary your riding. Bailey felt pretty safe to ride. Unfortunately he barely listened to any the neck reining and probably had been ridden by inexperienced riders that had torn his mouth apart time after time. So I got pretty disappointed of their choice of horse for me. The weather showed off from its best side. Sunshine and about +25 Centigrade and a cloud-free sky as far as you could see. So a thin sweater and SPF50 were necessary. After about an hour we unbridled the horses, feed them and all the riders went inside for lunch. Lunch was served at 1pm and about an hour later we gathered outside again by the horses.

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Now we were riding out on the properties. Out here you’re not riding tail to tail, you can pretty much ride as you like. As long as you could see Lance and hear his voice you could take off on your own. I liked that! You could go in between the trees, ride up the hills as long as you kept the wrangler Lance in sight. We also got to ride in steep hills. Bailey wasn’t too happy about that and walked very slowly downhill which was very annoying since everybody passed me and I got behind.

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Lances own dog Sip always came along during the rides. And today he marked for something in a bush (Sip was trained to mark for porcupines). Lance dismounted his horse and said that if it was a porcupine he would shoot it. The rest of us rode further away and waited. We heard two shots then Lance came back and said that it actually was a porcupine. The three German men got excited and dismounted their horses and dragged the porcupine out of the bush and as I understood their almost understandable English they had never seen one before. Lance explained the porcupines were a huge problem for the landowners in the area since they destroy the land. I bet you can compare them to the wild boar we have here in Sweden. And here in Wyoming you are allowed to wear a concealed weapon as long as you don’t have a criminal record. Lance ensured us that he even had a license to wear the weapon.

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When arriving back at the ranch we took care of the horses and let them out in the pasture again. After a well needed shower it was time for dinner at 7pm. Today it was ham and potatoes. It was nice and we had Cheese cake for dessert! After dinner we discussed horses for tomorrow. I told them I wasn’t happy with Bailey since he was too lazy for me. So tomorrow I was going to ride Chocolate, a dark bay mare with a more sensitive mouth and knew how to neck rein and with more energy than Bailey. Later we sat down at the balcony and watched this amazing thunderstorm far away in the distance. The lightning spread across and lit the whole sky up and it felt pretty safe to watch the whole thing from a distance. The thunderstorm did pass rather quickly though and the starlit sky and the moon took over in the dark night. I fell asleep pretty un-rocked that night.

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Cattle drive and Amish


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Breakfast at 7.30am with French toast, yoghurt, white bread and gratin from earlier day. The ranch staff saved all leftovers and served it the following day or cooked something else out of it. Since it was raining today they decided we were leaving for Crook County just west of Hulett. This was the place where the very first Amish families settled down here in Wyoming. The land was chosen carefully due to its fertility.

Facts about the Amish people and their believing…
Amish people, also called The Plain People, originally came from Switzerland. The founder of the religion was Jacob Amman who built the movement up in between 1693 and 1697. You get a member of the Amish people by baptize which is a demand for marriage and once baptized one can only marrying within the faith. Adult baptizing was at that time (end of 17th Century) a criminal act in Europe why the Amish people became martyrs. They were chased for their opinions and punished for their faith with deportation and death penalty. They were sentenced for heresy and many got burned or stuffed in bags thrown in the river. Because of the chasing in Europe the Amish people immigrated to the States during 18th Century. They settled down mainly in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana and some parts of Canada. They speak some kind of Pennsylvanian-German language among each other but to cope with the rest of the society they do learn English in school.
What distinguish an Amish is that he believe the technical development has gone too far and therefore live in a way the modern man consider to be an old-world. The Amish community endeavor to be self-supporting in most ways and the farming runs like farming in the 19th century. Amish only deals with cash since loans are prohibited. Insurances aren’t allowed but if you do get sick or hurt you can always count on getting help from your neighbors and friends. In communities where Amish lives among the modern society the cities has adjusted for everyone. In example, outside the bank office there is a parking lot for cars respectively horse carriages as well as water for the horses. The straitened logic in what an Amish can or can’t do is hard to understand. There are many examples… One is they can ride a kick-bike and even roller blades but cannot ride a regular bicycle. Exceptionally they can ride in a car as long as they don’t drive themselves.
The foundation of their culture and strict regulations is a highly fear of dividing the group why any forms of automatic forward operations of vehicles are banned. This means they are allowed to have a lawn mower where the motor cuts the grass as long as a human/horse pushes or pulls it around. Diesel compressors running different compressed air machineries inside the house are allowed as well as battery-supplied lightning on the carriages and butane gas systems for illumination inside the house. Another strong driving force is independency which makes connection to the power net not wanted. Though many Amish has secretly access to some kind of radio or and telephone in an outhouse near the boundary building site. The Amish woman never cuts her hair. She wears long dresses with a cape and apron. She also wears a white hat if she’s married and a black hat if unmarried. She does not wear jewelry. Men and boys wear dark suites and black broad-brimmed hats or straw hats. They don’t wear moustaches but allows the beard to grow once married. Their clothing is an expression for their faith.

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We first stopped at Lester Abraham Yoder. As an Amish son, you always get the father’s name as middle name which meant Lester's fathers name was Abraham. Lester is a saddle maker and we got to see some of his skills. It was fascinating to see how he worked the leather. He cut and carved out nicely flower prints in the leather with certain and precise movements, like a sketcher handles his pencil. While he sat there working we had a look around in his workshop. No electricity as far as you could see and work during evenings in the winter was made in the light of kerosene lamps. I don’t remember how long it took him to make one western saddle but he had just done his saddle no. 100 when we were there. And for the record Lester wasn’t that old either, I would say about 30-35 years. When we were all there suddenly two small adorable children came into the shop carrying a coffee thermos almost as big as them. It was Lester's two sons Nathan and Norman (2 and 4 years old). They were so cute. But they didn’t speak a word of English and were obviously a little shy. But that’s how their kids are raised, learning English in school, but also for the kids not to be seen or heard.

We left Lester and went to the next Amish farmer David Burkholder. David makes handmade bridles and harnesses for draught horses and sold homemade marmalade and juice. And whilst being there his young daughter Maria came into the shop. Wow, what a cutie pie she was in her little dress! We also visited his barn and stable. He didn’t only have his own horses but also other horses to break in. David breaks horses the old fashion way as they said. Meaning he mounted the horse and sat on it and wait the horse out during all the bucking and protesting. This method nowadays seem old and dated when other methods and horsemanship are very popular.

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When we arrived back at the ranch the rain had stopped and the sun tried to break through the clouds. Lunch was served at noon with Cheese toasts, tomato soup and leftovers. Finally at 1pm we gathered for some riding. My horse for today was Chocolate, a beautiful dark bay quarter mare with a few white signs. It was love at first sight! And she was very sensitive for both neck reining, leg aids and the seat. In the afternoon we moved the herd to another pasture. It was fun and exciting and all the horses loved it! Two girls and I got to herd the left side of the pasture. It wasn’t just to push the cows and calves in the direction you wanted. The cow mostly went in the direction we wanted but the calf often ran the opposite way. So we had to co-operate with the other riders to keep the cow and calf together in the right direction we wanted. After a while we had gotten the entire herd of 126 animals to the other pasture. But now the real work had to be done. I had noticed cow no 110 were limping pretty bad and I told Lance what I had seen and he told us she needed antibiotic. So Lance gave us the task to separate the cow and her calf from the rest of the herd and to herd her and the calf into a pen. Reluctantly the cow went our way and once near the pen she went crazy. But we did manage to get her into the pen somehow. And now Nick (ranch owner) had arrived with the antibiotic and gave it to the cow. Then we let her and her calf back to the rest of the herd.

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Before riding back home to the ranch we raced uphill on a long trail which was fun for both riders and horses. You could tell the horses competed against each other. When we arrived at the ranch time was 6.30pm and dinner was ready at 7pm. Broiled pork, potatoes, garlic sauce and white bread. During the evening we got into party mood and according to the staff it was the first time that year it had happened spontaneously because of great solidarity. We went late to bed looking forward to team penning and fencing tomorrow.

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Team Penning and Hair Pin Race


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Pretty easy getting up to breakfast at 7.30am. It’s strange how the body can adapt itself so quickly. After a few sandwiches and yoghurt it was time to go out getting the horses and groom them. My horse for today was Newt, a small quarter gelding in shining chestnut color and some white signs.

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The morning was dedicated to fencing. And it’s just what it sounds like… fences. We rode off to a fence that we took down and packed on our packing horse Poncho that we had brought with us. I can’t understand why they don’t buy more sticks and threads instead of taking it down and putting it up all the time? It felt like they didn't it so the guests had something to do.

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When we headed back towards the ranch we herded 11 cows/bulls/calves that we were suppose to use for the team penning later this afternoon. It was a small miscellaneous troop of animals in all shapes and colors. The one standing out the most was “the Beefalo”, a mixed breed of cow and buffalo. The Beefalo had long horns, was huge like a buffalo and had stripes like a tiger. So cool to see.

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By noon lunch was served, tacos with meat, cheese, salsa and pepper and some leftovers. We gathered by the horses by 2.15pm and got ready for Team Penning. They divided us into two teams and on time we were supposed to separate a specific cow from the herd and drive it into a pen. For each time the numbers of cows we were separating from the herd increased. It was easy in the beginning but the more cows we were herding the more difficult it got. I could tell my horse Newt was an expert at this game. If the cow didn’t move when approaching it and Newt got close enough, he actually snapped the cow at the back making it to move. And the last couple of times during this game we were able to be mean to the opposing team by chasing away their cows or just stop them in general from doing their thing.

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We finished the game riding with Hair Pin Race. Our wrangler Lance had never done this game with guests before so he was a little nervous. In Hair Pin Race you’re divided into two teams and each team rider rides as fast as possible towards their barrel, turns around it and then heading back to the team as fast as possible and touches the hand of the next team rider. We divided us up into girls versus the boys! We tried the game once to get the hang of it and know how to do it. Then it became in dead earnest – girls versus the boys. After two rounds it was 1-1 so it all came down to this third last round! Unfortunately the boys won but it was a real close call.

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When we all calmed down from racing we herded the animals back to their pasture. Dinner at 7pm. Chicken, macaroni, cucumber salad and white bread was served.

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It's all about fences...


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Breakfast at 7.30am. This morning we had freshly baked waffles! Yummy! And today I was riding Chocolate again. In the morning it was time for fencing. We divided the group into two groups since we were taking down two fences. My friend and I rode with Lance and we took down a fence along a steep hill. We had to tie up the sticks on our western saddles on the horses while Lance rolled up the thread. Later we gathered and rode to the other side of the properties and putting it all up again. It took a while and in the end the weather changed and it got cold. It could just be us being all hungry since time was way over lunch time too.

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We arrived at the ranch again starved to death and lunch was served at 2.15pm. At 4.15pm we went for another ride. This time we took turns of leading the group. Lance gave us “loose reins” to go anywhere we wanted. We got back at the ranch and had dinner at 7pm. It was a meat-carrot-potato pot. In the evening many of us joined in for a game of pool. Later that evening two German women arrived at the ranch. Hopefully they would be more social than the three German men that barely spoke any English.

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Cattle drive


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My friend and I woke up before the alarm clock since the two German women (had their room above ours) had been up walking around making our roof crack all night long. It was a little annoying. Breakfast at 7.30am and we had to be ready and mounted up on our horses by 9am. My horse today was Jack, an English thoroughbred gelding. Chestnut colored with only a few white signs.

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Today we were bringing the big herd of 126 animals back to the ranch for check-up and giving them their annual injections (can’t remember what the injections were for though). We all had to work together now to gather the herd and herd it towards the ranch. Both riders and horses (the horses could almost think of their own and help us riders) had to watch out for separatists taking off from the herd in opposite direction.

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Once back at the ranch we had lunch. Today only left over's was served. After lunch Nick gave all the animals their injections and checked all the calves. Many of us just stood there and watched the men working. Best to let the pro do their job and not be in the way. And while having the herd at the ranch they separated two cows that had ran away from the neighbor and joined this herd. It went fast and easy giving the injections and later we had to get the herd back out to the pasture again.

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Time was 5.30pm when we got back to the ranch. A delicious meat mushroom-potato-pot was served for dinner that evening with pie for dessert. Yummy!

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So what? We’re Scandinavians...


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Woke up and experienced somewhat brighter light outside the window. I screwed up my eyes and carefully pulled away the curtain and surprisingly saw a 5 centimeter snow cover on the ground. The feather light snowflakes descended from the sky. Hmm, we didn’t know how to dress for today. The weather forecast for Hulett had been sunny and +20 centigrade for several weeks now, so neither of us had prepared for any snow. Bummer it had to be snow the last day at the ranch. And I would be riding my favorite horse Chocolate one last time… so what could I do?

During breakfast at 7.30am our wrangler Lance came by and asked, “Are you gonna ride today?” and looked at us as if we were from outer space or something. We said; “Of course!” and laughed. Lance shock his head and said something like; “You guys are crazy!”. I answered him right back; “So what? We’re Scandinavians!” I mean a little snow doesn’t kill you ;) For those of you who read this need to know that Lance also lives in Florida and returns there when the winter ravages in Wyoming. So Lance thought it was freezing today.

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Also the horses weren’t too happy about being taken from the pasture. Neither had they grown any winter fur and were freezing. Chocolate did not want to be grabbed and walked away from me time after time. But after deceiving her I managed to put the halter on. After a quick grooming, saddling and bridling we mounted the horses. We drove a cow and her calf back to rest of the herd. Easier said than done, since the ground under the snow wasn’t frozen it was only muddy. And as mentioned before none of the horses had any shoes on. When we turned around and headed back towards the ranch you could feel neither fingers nor toes. And when we arrived at the ranch it started to rain. So all cold and wet we took care of the horses and rushed to put them back out in the pasture again. Then we all ran inside the guesthouse to warm up and shower warm after our little adventure. For lunch we got pizza, totally fine after a cold and wet morning out in the saddle. We got four pizzas to choose from with various toppings.

In the afternoon at 1.30pm it was time for shooting. The weather was still bad and it didn’t want to stop raining and now the rain was mixed with snow. But they opened up a barn so we could stand inside under the roof and shoot out from there. Lance had invited another cowboy who brought a whole arsenal with firearms. A .22 long, a semi-automatic .22 long, a 30.30 and a shotgun is what I can remember the names of. Furthermore he also brought handguns and we also got to try Lance's own handgun if we wanted to. I tried the semi-automatic .22 long and then I was done. Biggest reason for that were the three German men who were just all over the place and didn’t handle the firearms safely enough for me standing there right next to them. It was best to stay out of their way so to speak. Otherwise I would have tried the other firearms too.

By 5.45pm all the guests, the staff and the ranch owners drove off to Hulett for our last dinner at a restaurant and later visiting a pub. Personally I could have skipped that bar… because in the US you are still aloud to smoke inside bars and restaurants. And boy did the clothes smelled cigarettes when we came back to the ranch later that evening? During the evening a few of us visited the artist Bob Coronato who had his little art gallery just further down on the street. A small grown dark haired middle aged man welcomed us with a smile even though it was Friday evening. He told us about his art work with enthusiasm and if you ask me he is a great artist. Bob used a special printing technique in some of his art and also painted big oil paintings. The motives were horses of course, cowboys and Indians. He’s actually pretty famous within the cowboy world in the western USA and hired by a lot of magazines, editors and other clients. We got back at the ranch at 11pm.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged horseback_riding new_haven_ranch Comments (0)

Mount Rushmore


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Departure day. And after a quiet breakfast and final packing of our things we all hugged and said goodbye. The newlywed couple from Great Britain took their rental car and drove towards Yellowstone, the three German men left almost without anyone noticing and the fabulous lady (also from Great Britain) had left the ranch only a few days earlier. My friend and I got into the minivan for transfer to Rapid City. We were suppose to have left the ranch by 9am but got delayed.
We had reserved a guided tour to Mount Rushmore and had a pick-up at Rapid City Regional Airport at noon. But we managed to get at the airport only 5 minutes late. We said goodbye to Doerte and Sonja who had drove us and got into the van with our guide Russ. Another Frenchman was also joining us on the tour. The tour began with a drive through Rapid City itself. Rapid City is the second biggest town in South Dakota, but honestly the town didn’t feel that big. Along the main street statues are lined representing all American Presidents and in one of the city parks we passed a piece of the Berlin Wall. Russ told us most cities in America are built in square patterns along the railroad that runs through (or has been) the city, as in Rapid City. The streets in Rapid City were surprisingly strict arranged in a clear square pattern so you couldn’t miss it. From here you can see the Black Hills far away on the horizon. The Black Hills really looks black in a distance because of the pine trees (Ponderosa Pine Trees) that grows on the mountain. The pine trees needles are long and flat which makes them absorb the sunlight and gives the impression of a black colored mountain.

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After a lot of narrow turning roads we arrived at Mount Rushmore. Even though it was soon October a lot of tourists were here. I can only imagine how crowded it can be during the high season with thousands of tourists. We stopped for lunch in the restaurant at Borglum Court. Then we started walking along Presidential Trail, a small trail leading up to the famous Mount Rushmore.

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Facts about Mount Rushmore…
Mount Rushmore National Memorial was created as the memory of the first 150 years of America’s history by a 5 km2 large area in Keystone, South Dakota. Mt Rushmore is most known for its 18 meter high granite monuments representing the American presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. The monument was created by the Danish-American sculptors Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln Borglum together with 400 co-workers. The project started in 1927 on President Calvin Coolidge initiative and was finished in 1941 one year earlier than planned due to poor financing since America was preparing for entering the Second World War. The granite from which the monuments are created of is very hard and the erosion is estimated to be 2,5 cm in 10000 years. In other words, it will take another 2,7 million years before the sculptures has lost their facial shapes. When the faces were “sculptured”, 90% of the redundant granite was removed with dynamite while the rest 10% were drilled or hammered away by hand! Now that’s what you can call accurate work with dynamite!
The first idea was to create the monument in the Black Hills, but that idea was rejected by Gutzon Borglum because of the poor granite quality and strong protests from environmentalists and Native Americans. So they settled with Mount Rushmore which also had the advantage of pointing towards southeast for maximum sun exposure. Doane Robinson, who originally came up with the whole idea of this monument, initially wanted to image western heroes like Lewis and Clark, Red Cloud and Buffalo Bill Cody, but she was voted down by Borglum who decided it needed a more national focus. The work started in October 1927 and was thought to image the president’s from their head down to their waist. Due to embolism Gutzon Borglum deceased in March 1941 and when his son took over the project, it had to end the very same year in October due to cut budget. In a canyon behind the sculptured faces is a chamber 21 meters into the mountain with a vault containing 16 porcelain panels. The panels contain the texts of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, all memoirs of the four presidents and Borglum's own memoir along with America’s history.
During a 10-year period of time a visitor center was built with equipment for visitors, pathways and museums. On a yearly basis mountaineers monitors and covers cracks to preserve the monument. Due to limited budget the faces can’t be washed regularly to prevent lichen. Mt Rushmore is a controversial subject among Native Americans since the United States took the area from the Lakota Tribe after the Sioux War in 1876. Eight years earlier the area had been given to the Lakota Tribe for eternity. In 1971 members of the American Indian Movement occupied the monument and named it Mount Crazy Horse. They planned to erect a prayer column as a symbolic veil over the monumental faces and were suppose to stay up until the area was returned to its rightful owner. But the monument is provoking controversies. Some say the monument is about superior racism since the four presidents (that Borglum chose) were all active during that period of time when the Americans invaded the land of the Native Americans. And as a member of Ku Klux Klan, Gutzon Borglum himself contributes to controversies.

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So after an hour, after photographing the faces in every angle and a visit in the souvenir shop, we were ready leaving the monument. When we were almost done and were heading towards the van my friend spotted a Mountain Goat up on a stone in the woods. Unfortunately it was pretty far away so it was hard to get great photos. But now I’ve seen one IRL!

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Needle Eye and chipmunks

We gathered in the van and Russ drove us around to many different places in the area, Needle Eye among other things that you probably wouldn’t have found as a regular tourist. At one of the places that we stopped at had chipmunks running around. You know those cute little ones as Chip and Dale are. They were soooo cute ;) It was very difficult to get good pictures of the little ones. They were so fast. Even if you got the camera to focus on one chipmunk it had already moved away before you had time to push the button to take the photo. Later we stopped by a lake where a famous movie had been recorded (don’t remember the title though). And today when we got here an on-going wedding were on the beach. We joked around and said we should crash the wedding. Before returning to Rapid City Russ drove us to the Crazy Horse Memorial. We had not reserved that tour to Crazy Horse but he stopped quickly nearby so we could take photos.

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Cathedral Spires and Crazy Horse Memorial

During the drive back to Rapid City we got so tired. The tour we booked was only for 5 hours but after extra stops here and there we had been out for 6 ½ hours. Back in Rapid City we checked in at Ramada Inn by 6.30pm. The first thing that hit you when you came through the door into the hotel reception was chlorine! It smelled like swimming pools. And there was a large swimming pool next to the reception right in the middle of the hotel. The kids were swimming and playing around in the pool while the parents watched over them. It felt so weird standing there with baggage checking in, fully dressed while the kids and adults sat in their bathing suites just a few meters away. The hotel staff recommended the restaurant Alfredo’s for dinner since we got 10% off while staying at Ramada Inn. Great! We found the restaurant but the place wasn’t that spectacular, only OK. The food was mediocre, the waitresses service sucked and the girl at the register had huge problems with our 10% discount. She had a card to swipe in the register but it didn’t work. After a few minutes when the queue had gone long we gave up the discount – as long as we could get out of there! But when she swiped my credit card it didn’t work instead. So I couldn’t pay for my food. WTF! And I didn’t have any cash at the time. So my fellow traveler was kind enough to lend me some cash so we could just leave the place. OMG such fuss! When back at the hotel we reserved a cab to Rapid City Regional Airport tomorrow morning at 6.45am to catch our flight to New York!

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities mount_rushmore Comments (0)

New York – here we come!


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Up early to pack our bags and eat some hotel breakfast which was served at 6.30am. Our cab to Rapid City Regional Airport picked us up at 6.45am. The flight was scheduled to 7.45am and the guy (who booked our cab yesterday) said we would have plenty of time to check in our baggage and pass the security check and everything. But when we arrived at the airport and check in our baggage they told us to hurry up. So we basically ran through security check and towards the gate (the gate was like 30 meters away from the security check though) before realizing all the other passengers sat there nice and calm just waiting. Bummer the staff at the check-in had to scare us like that?! We had plenty of time to use the restroom and buy water. We sat and calmed down before boarding the flight. The flight to Denver was a small jet plane with 1+2 seats, almost claustrophobic. But it took only about an hour to fly down to Denver so it was OK. At Denver International Airport we had about 2 hours to grab something to eat and stretch our legs. We found an Asian restaurant with wok-menu. I ordered fried rice and chicken which tasted great.

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The flight to New York and Newark Liberty Int’l Airport departed at 11.13am and thank God it was a normal sized airplane with spacious room for your legs. Nice, since we had 4 hours before reaching our final destination for today. The screen in front of me didn’t seem to work (or maybe I didn’t get how it worked ;P ), but I had my mp3-player to listen to instead. When the airplane approached New York I had an amazing view of Manhattan and Statue of Liberty. Mighty yet beautiful! 5pm local time we arrived at Newark and we picked up our baggage. We managed to find a bus towards New York City that accepted credit cards (since I still hadn’t managed to get some cash yet) so we boarded the bus and got ready to pay. But the guy with the credit card machine told us it was broken. But what the f***! So we had to get off the bus and back into the airport to buy the tickets over the counter instead. Tired and hungry we walked out to the bus stop again and it felt like forever until the next bus arrived.

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The bus ride to New York City took about 40 minutes and we got off at Bryant Park. Our staying Equity Point Hostel @ Times Square was only two blocks away. We crossed Broadway and 7th Avenue and right in the middle of 41st Street between7th and 8th Ave we finally found the sign Equity Point Hostel. The reception was modern and esthetically designed. A short grown woman put up her head above the counter and welcomed us with a big smile. She had a weird accent so sometimes I had difficult to understand what she said. But I paid my share of the room and we got our room keys. The elevator took us to the third floor and our room was in the end of the corridor with windows towards the inner yard. That was convenient since we now could open the windows without hearing the traffic too loudly. We were relieved that we finally were here, being able to leave the baggage and just lay down on the bed knowing we had nothing more scheduled for today. We went down out on the street to eat something. We walked along the streets of New York and found a place that served warm vegetarian sandwiches that had to do for tonight.

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When we had finished our sandwiches it started to get dark and the streets were lighten-up by gigantic neon signs with big screens. We had arrived at Times Square! The ads and information almost overwhelmed the traffic chaos on the streets. Times Square had cut off all traffic for vehicles (due to road repairs) so the traffic around Times Square was chaos and then all thousands of people trying to get places. The New York City Police presence in almost every corner of the streets made you feel safe walking the streets. But as a Swedish citizen I have to say that the presence of the police made me nervous in the beginning, since I barely ever see the police back home in Sweden and if you do something bad has happened. We imbibed the sounds, the lights, the scents and vibrating life at Times Square for a few minutes and just were. Now we were really here! And it was hot, even though it was 8pm. The locals said it was Indian summer now in New York.

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We walked to Bryant Park and sat for a while. Towards south we saw Empire State Building piling up well lighten up against the starlit sky. We walked towards east, passed Grand Central and had Chrysler Building straight ahead of us with its art-deco style and well-known architectural structure. The top spiral was lit-up in the evening and we almost had to pinch ourselves to remind us we actually were here in New York! Close to our hostel were Madame Tussauds and one of Parsons New School of Design’s buildings (well-known from the reality show Project Runway). By 10 pm we were back to in our room at the hostel, full of new impressions, information and longed to discover more!

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities new_york traveling Comments (0)

Walking in Midtown Manhattan


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The breakfast was served daily between 7am and 10am and consisted of toast, yoghurt, milk, cornflakes and coffee. After breakfast we took off towards Rockefeller Center and Top of the Rock Observation Deck. We had pre-ordered tickets online and were scheduled between 10am and 10.15am.

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Facts about Rockefeller Center…
Once known as Radio City, Rockefeller Center is a complex of buildings formed during the Big Depression. The complex started out consisting of 14 buildings whereof 70 decks and the 256 meter high GE Building as the highest. It is the world’s largest private owned building complex – a city within the city appointed as National Historic Landmark. The area where Rockefeller is situated was once thought to be the new area for Metropolitan Opera. Then the area was owned by Columbia University and John D. Rockefeller got to rent the area for the Metropolitan Opera’s place. The complex design was created by the architect Benjamin Wistar Morris. Influenced by Grand Central Terminal he included a gardening landscape, opera house, high office buildings, malls and terraces. The buildings were linked together by bridges and pathways. But the stock market crisis in 1929 made the Metropolitan Opera abandon the project and Rockefeller came up with new plans to let the complex to include radio and television companies. And Radio City was born. One of the first buildings standing ready was RCA Building, nowadays GE Building, functioning as headquarters for Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and was designed by Raymond Hood.
The observation deck at the top of Rockefeller Centers GE Building, also known as “Top of the Rock”, gives the visitors a panorama view over Central Park and Empire state Building. A separate entrance at 50th Street leads to the elevators. In the elevator during the ride up, important historical events are projected at the ceiling. Totally three decks are open for public, including the top deck. The first is on the 67th floor and is completely covered, the observation deck on 69th floor has bid pane of glass while the 70th floor is completely open and offers the visitors 360° panorama view.
Lower Plaza is a lowered square situated in-between Prometheus Statue and GE Building. And it is here, on Lower Plaza, where the annual Christmas Lightning Ceremony has been held since 1933. A tall tree erects behind Prometheus Statue with thousands of Christmas lights that marks the beginning of New York’s Christmas celebration and the square is made into an ice rink. The Prometheus Statue is the most famous art at the Rockefeller Center and is made of gold covered bronze. It was sculptured in 1934 by Paul Manship and is floating over a fountain at Lower Plaza. Prometheus is returning the stolen fire to the humanity and is surrounded by a band in the Zodiac sign.

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We visited all three floors that were open to the public. The weather was perfect with sunshine and only a few clouds. The temperature was about +22 Centigrade but the wind up on the roof terraces made it comfortable. On the way out of Rockefeller Center we did go haywire but eventually found our way out to the Lower Plaza and looked at the Prometheus Statue. We then walked south and passed through a brand store having 90% off sale since they were closing the shop. We just had to look and we both realized that we needed to buy one suitcase each that we could fill up with all the clothing and shoes we planned to buy here in New York. And just like that we had bought a couple of suitcases. We walked happily back to our hostel and left the suitcases in our room and then got out on the streets again towards Empire State Building.

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Facts about Empire State Building…
Empire State Building took 1 year and 45 days to build and took in 1931 over the title as the world’s highest building from the Chrysler Building. Empire State Building kept the title in 41 years until World Trade Center’s north tower stood ready in 1972. Empire State Building has today senders for most of the television stations in New York on its tower. The building was designed by Gregory Johnson and his office Shreve, Lamb and Harmon which created the design within two weeks due to earlier constructions for Reynolds Building in North Carolina and Carew Tower in Ohio.
Empire State Building has 102 floors and is crowned by a 68 meter high mast and the building reaches 449 meters. The mast was designed to function as a mooring with a gangplank for airships. An elevator would take the passengers between 86th and 102nd floor. But after a few attempts it was considered difficult and dangerous due to up-winds created by the building. Empire State Building is designed in Art-Deco Style and has been designated as one of the seven wonders in modern time. The building was chosen as National Historic Landmark in 1986.
Empire State Building has an observation deck on 86th floor open for the public and is very popular to visitors. From here the visitors get a 360° panoramic view over New York. As a visitor and for an extra fee, you can visit the 102nd floor.
Over the years more than 30 people has committed suicide by jumping off the building, the first one happened before the building was even done after a construction worker had been fired. After five people tried to jump off the building within three weeks in 1947 a fence was put up around the observation deck to prevent furthermore attempts. The most famous suicide has to be the 23-year-old Evelyn McHale who jumped from the 86th floor and landed upon a United Nation Limousine. The photograph student Robert Wiles took a photo of her well intact body just minutes after her jump. The photo was published in May 1947 in Life Magazine and has often called “The Most Beautiful Suicide”. To get to the 86th floor you need to ride with one of the 73 Art-Deco elevators that have a speed of 427 meters per minute. So in total to go up the 320 meters to 86th floor, it takes 45 seconds. In clear weather you can see up to a 130 km away from up the 102nd floor.

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Our express tickets made us pass through all the queues all the way up to the 86th floor. Already from up here the 70th floor high Rockefeller Center looked small. Just an hour ago (while standing on the Top of the Rock) that felt very high up, but not anymore. We had also bought tickets for the 102nd floor (I mean why not go all the way up while you’re here) and wow you felt so small up in that tower on 102nd floor. But the view was priceless and in this perfect weather we could see miles wide. Manhattan, Central Park, Hudson River, East River, Flat Iron Building and Brooklyn Bridge were only a few attractions we could we from up here. When we got down back on earth again we started walking south towards Flat Iron Building.

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Facts about Flat Iron Building…
Flat Iron Building was originally called The Fuller Building since the Fuller Company once had their office on the 19th floor. But due to its resemble of a flat iron the building became known as the Flat Iron Building to the people. The building became one of New York’s Landmarks in 1966, initiated in National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1989. With its 22 floors and 87 meters high, the building was one of the highest buildings in New York when built in 1902. Flat Iron Building is situated on a triangular area and to use the extremely expensive site in Manhattan to its max, the architect Daniel Burnham drew the building just as big as the building site allowed it to be. The point offices have windows towards north and have a beautiful view towards Empire State Building.

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Later we started to walk north on 5th Avenue and visited Forever 21, GAP and Macy’s (with its wooden escalator) and Aerosol. I highly recommend a visit at Aerosol. A shoe store with super comfortable shoes and in this particular store the staff was very costumer friendly and served us like celebrities. So I bought a pair of shoes (that actually fitted my wide Nordic feet) that was sooooo comfy walking in. We stopped by an Italian restaurant and ate lunch before heading towards United Nations Headquarters down by East River. So after a long day out on the streets of New York and also shopped a ton of water on bottles we went back to our hostel to let the feet rest for tomorrow adventure in Central Park.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities new_york chrysler_building rockefeller_center flat_iron_building Comments (0)

Central Park


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Breakfast at 8pm. The TV was on and the United States Federal Government Shutdown was all over the news and as a tourist and not being familiar with the American politic system it took a while before you really understood what it was about. It was simply about budget disagreements between Democrats and Republicans and that the US had international loans over its maximum limit. But the news also focused on the so called Obama Care which means that 15% of the US population (otherwise completely uninsured) is covered by Obama Health Care Law. The Republicans wanted to revoke Obama Care to ease the already stretched economy but when the Democrats didn’t agree to that the Republicans put a spoke in Obama’s wheel and forced the government into Federal Government Shutdown.

Neither my friend nor I knew what that meant for us as tourists but according to the New York Times they had closed the Statue of Liberty… and we had tickets for Statue of Liberty for tomorrow! So we were hoping this would be a short thing (but now later on we all know it went on much longer). But today we had planned for a whole day in Central Park. We walked along Broadway to the southwest corner of Central Park. First we planned on renting bikes but you are only aloud to bicycle along the bigger roads in the park so we cancelled that idea. So if you’re planning on visiting Central Park – don’t rent any bikes. Walk instead. It’s worth it!

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Facts about Central Park…
Central Park is a 3,4 km2 green square (4 x 0,8 km) in Manhattan, New York. In 1853 the decision was made to build a green area, but the area needed to be “cleansed out” of its inhabitants before the project could start. Most people lived in small villages like Seneca Village, Harsenville and Piggery District and were poor white people, free Afro-Americans or residents with British or Irish origin. They estimate the residents in the area were about 1600 people before the villages were leveled to the ground to give place to Central Park. The park was opened already in 1857. It wasn’t as big as today and was then situated in New York’s northern outskirts and not until many decades later the park had become an oasis surrounded by skyscrapers. A competition was announced in 1858 to design and develop Central Park that was won by landscape designer Frederick Law Olmstedt and the architect Calvert Vaux.
The construction began the very same year and continued during American Civil War and was completed in 1873. The park has millions of visitors every year and became a National Historic Landmark in 1962. Central Park consists of several natural lakes but also founded ponds. The forest seems natural but is substantially planted and about 4 million trees are planted in the park. The park has extensive pathways that have become popular jogging tracks for the inhabitants of New York. Central Park also consists of bridle paths, two ice rinks and Central Park Zoo. You have the opportunity to rent a bicycle to ride along the larger roads or rent a boat for a tour on one of the lakes in Central Park. Strawberry Fields is the memorial in John Lennon’s honor, after being shot outside his home in the Dakota Building next to Central Park December 8th, 1980. So across from his home is the memorial Imagine in Strawberry Fields and fans from all over the world gathers to participate in the annual memorial.

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We entered the park through Columbus Circle in the southwest corner and walked towards east and passed Gapstowe Bridge and Inscope Arch on the way to the statue Dancing Goat, a playful bronzed statue near the Central Park Zoo. But we passed the Zoo and walked to the famous statue Balto instead. A portrait of the sled dog Balto a Siberian husky who was the leading dog in his sled team transporting diphtheria cures in Alaska in early 20th century. This achievement has led up to a sled dog race in Alaska organized every year.

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Then we walked towards Literary Walk, probably the most famous pathway in Central Park. A long alley lined by big maple trees, also called the Mall as I’m sure most of you have seen pictures on during the fall when the leafs changes color to an ocean full of red, yellow and orange leafs. Today it was about +25 centigrade and sunny so the fall seemed far away. Such shame since we were hoping to see some of the beautiful autumn colors.
We had a look at Eagle and Pray Statue standing close to the Mall. Then we walked via Navy Terrace towards the statue Alice in Wonderland. This impressive sculpture was given to all the children in New York and both children and adults are allowed to climb up on the statue. We then walked towards east and found Charles B Stover Bench which is a big bench made out of granite. It’s a special design that amplifies a whispering person’s voice at one end of the bench to the other person at the opposite end of the bench. My friend and I tried it and it did work! After that we headed for the Romeo and Juliet Statue but I must say it wasn’t that impressive compared to the other statues we already had seen.

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Time had passed by and we were really hungry. We left Central Park for lunch and sat down in Theodore Roosevelt Park and chilled for a while. The sun was broiling and it was hot even in the shadows. Back in Central Park we walked over Oak Bridge and the view over the Lake from this bridge is well-known around the world so that’s a must in Central Park! When we were walking along the Lake we noticed a small building down at the water’s edge. A trail led us there so we took a look. Inside a young woman prepared for a romantic lunch and had created a heart out of rose leafs. She told us she prepared for a proposal. So romantic! She also asked us if it was enough rose leafs or if she should spread some more. “All over the place!” we said.

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Then we headed for Strawberry Fields and John Lennon’s memorial Imagine. We sat down on the benches for a while listening on a street musician sitting there playing his guitar. After that we took a quick look at the elegant statue the Falconer. A bronzed statue sculptured by George Blackall Simonds. We then walked back to the Mall and sat down in the shadows created by the big maple trees. We sat there for over an hour resting and just being in the moment.

When we were finished with Central Park for the day we walked 6th Ave south towards our hostel. It’s amazing how many souvenir and gift shops there are in New York. Everywhere! And in the end they all sell the same things. When we got to Times Square we found a place selling Frozen Yoghurt. We just had to buy some! The heat and sugar rush made it irresistible. And it was sooooo good! After some food we took a power nap up in our room before hitting the streets again in the evening for some shopping. We bought a few pieces at least. We now had to fill up the suitcases we bought the other day before leaving New York ;) Before we went to bed we searched the internet like crazy to see if Statue of Liberty was closed tomorrow. And everything pointed in that direction. But we agreed we would go down to Battery Park (where the ferry departure from) and see for ourselves what was going on.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities new_york central_park Comments (0)

History, memories and more…


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We got up a little earlier today to be down at breakfast at 7am. On the news they were nagging about the Government Shutdown and Obama Care whether the president would give in to the Republicans or not. An hour later we took “the tube” down to South Ferry to find out if we could get out to Statue of Liberty or not. We arrived at Battery Park at 8.30am and walked to the ferry that was moored to the wharf. In fact there were already people lined up so we joined them. The crew on the ferry came and told us that the ferry wasn’t owned by the government which meant that the ferry would take us out on the water and just circle around Liberty Island even though Statue of Liberty itself was closed. We’ll take it! Since we had already paid for the tickets it was a fair deal.
So we embarked the ferry that was soon enough filled with tourists in hope of getting a view of Statue of Liberty up close, even though we wouldn’t be able to disembark Liberty Island. The ferry left the harbor going north on Hudson River and we got a magnificent view of Manhattan Skyline. The sun shined in an almost cloud free sky and made the buildings infinitely high. That was so impressive to see. Later the ferry turned around back towards south and Liberty Island and Statue of Liberty. The boat slowly passed the island so we would have time to take pictures but we didn’t get any closer than that. You could spot riot fences and barriers in the harbor at Liberty Island. Then the ferry made an extra turn in on East River and went in under Brooklyn Bridge before it turned back to the harbor. So we did get some value for the money anyway, even though we couldn’t disembark and visit the actual crown of the Statue of Liberty (that we had paid for).

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Facts about Statue of Liberty…
The statue was a gift from the French government to America’s 100-year-celibration of independence. The statue was designed by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, a young French sculptor who aimed for building a statue just as big as the colossal Helios that once stood on the Greek island Rhodos. The Statue of Liberty is inspired from the goddess Libertas from the Roman myths, with a glorious crown, attired ankle-length dress and slaveries chains by the feet. The Statue of Liberty’s face is told to be shaped after Bartholdi’s own mother Charlotte and the body is said being designed after a prostitute. The crown has sevens spikes which symbolize the Seven Seas and the Seven Continents which freedom was being spread. In the left hand she holds a board with the inscription “July IV MDCCLXXVI” (4th of July 1776), which is the day America was founded and the English colonies in North America declared independence from. In her right hand she holds the torch that symbolizes enlightenment.
The Statue weigh 225 tons, is 46,5 meters high and together with the pedestal (27 meters) it reaches a total of 93 meters. Inside is a stairway you can use to get up all 354 steps up to the crown. The statue was manufactured in France and sent over to the USA in 214 pieces. It took nine years to assemble the statue and during six of those years the torch was exhibited in Madison Square Park to gain interest and finance the construction of the pedestal that the Americans had to pay for themselves. In 1884 the Statue of Liberty stood ready upon Liberty Island. In 1986, about hundred years after the completion of the statue, the torch was replaced with a new one, but the original is still available to see in the monuments museum.

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Satisfied we disembarked the ferry and started to walk north to get to the Charging Bull. The Charging Bull is a 3,2 ton heavy bronze sculpture standing in Bowling Green Park close to Wall Street, Manhattan in New York. With its 3,4 meters height and almost 5 meter long the sculpture symbolizes an aggressive financial optimism and success since it’s leaning backwards on its hips and with its head lowered ready to attack. The bull is a popular attraction, which we experienced. Once we had gotten there several busloads with Asian tourists were at the site taking turns photographing them with the sculpture. After a few minutes we gave up realizing we would have to wait all day long if we wanted to have a photo alone with the Charging Bull. So we kept on going along Wall Street down to East River and headed for Brooklyn Bridge instead. When we got up on the bridge the temperature was close to +27 °C and the sun was broiling high up in the sky. The wind was almost non-existent so we had to stop every other meter to drink water and rest in the shadow (where there was one).

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Facts about the Brooklyn Bridge…
Brooklyn Bridge was built in 1869-1883 and linked New York and at the time independent city Brooklyn together. Brooklyn was founded by Dutch settlers during 17th century and was in the end of 1880 one of Americas largest cities. Fifteen years after the bridge was opened the citizens of Brooklyn voted for a motion that meant Brooklyn became a district of New York. Brooklyn Bridge is nowadays one of New York’s most famous landmarks. The idea to build Brooklyn Bridge was born when the German immigrant John Roebling took the ferry over East River and the ferry got stuck in the ice. Unfortunately John Roebling crushed his foot, got tetanus and died and never got to see his masterpiece finished. His son Washington Roebling took over the project. But when the bridge was opened May 24th 1883, Washington laid on his deathbed, severely sick in caisson disease after the pedestal work he had done on the bridge.
Father and son Roebling hadn’t just built a bridge that looked strong, its construction has proved to be just as strong. A network of wires is anchored into the ground to prevent the bridge to collapse whereof the strongest has a diameter of 28 cm. Even if the four strongest wires would break all the other wires would be enough to support the bridge. Roebling claimed the bridge would stand even without any wires. To disprove the people’s skepticism he let a caravan of circus animals – including a herd of 21 elephants – pass on the bridge in 1884. With its length of 1,8 km and a 486 meters span in-between the towers Brooklyn Bridge was the world's largest suspension bridge when it was completed. The most remarkable about the bridge should be the two stonewall towers which majorities of the wires are attached to. The two gothic arches reach a height of 84 meters each. Roebling claimed also that the memorable towers would make the bridge to a historical monument. And so it did. Brooklyn Bridge officially became a Historical Monument in 1964. During the years the bridge has had traffic of horses, trams and railways but today is only six traffic lanes for cars and an upper level for pedestrians and bicycles. The elevated pathway gives the visitors not only an opportunity to pass Easter River without being disturbed by traffic, but also gives a very nice view of the gothic towers and Manhattans Skyline.

So we walked almost halfway over the bridge before we turned around. Not that we didn’t want to but we had the Ground Zero or 9/11 Memorial scheduled and we wouldn’t make it if we didn’t turn around. After swirling around on the streets at Lower Manhattan (well posted signs though!) we arrived at the entrance. The queue was long and if you ever plan to visit Ground Zero you must consider 45-60 minutes only standing in line, especially during high season. The security level was high to get in, resembled of an airport security check. Guards checked your bag (water was allowed in though) and then you had to do a body scan for metal items before you could enter the actual 9/11 Memorial.

Facts about 9/11 Memorial or Ground Zero…
9/11 Memorial is the memorial of the terrorist attacks towards the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. The Monument, named “Reflecting Absence”, symbolize the area for the two twin-towers by two square lowered pools with eternal streaming waterfalls. Ground Zero opened just in time for the 10-year memorial of the attacks. The name of all victims from the September 11th 2001 and the terror bombings in 1993 are inscribed on the bronze panels around the pools. On-site are 400 planted trees and a underground museum (not yet opened during our visit though) that exhibit remains of the twin-towers from the terrorist attacks. One of all the trees that were planted on-site is known as “Survival Tree”. The tree, planted during 1970, was badly damaged and burned but was miraculously saved from all remains of World Trade Center in October 2001. N.Y.C. Parks Department took care of the tree and replanted it out on Memorial Plaza in December 2010.
The monument Reflecting Absence is built on the exact same spot as the two twin-towers were. The size of the pools and how they are placed are identical with how the towers once were. Along the pool sides streams waterfalls that can symbolize with how the towers imploded after the attacks. The reconstruction of the World Trade Center should be finished by 2020 and will consist of five skyscrapers. None of them will be higher than the two twin-towers. The tallest building “One World Trade Center” or “Freedom Tower”, with its 102 floors and 541 meters will be New York’s highest building. The height is symbolic since 541 meters (1776 ft) stands for the year America was founded, that is 1776. Freedom Tower shall be the most stable skyscraper in the world at the expense of 20 billion Swedish kronor. I remember exactly what I did that Tuesday September 11th, 2001. Soon after 5pm Swedish time the horror hit the news. Sweden and the whole world held their breaths. It wasn’t an action movie, it was for real. It’s hard to understand what the New Yorkers had to deal with that day.

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We got to the South Pool first and what struck me the most was the deafening murmuring from the waterfalls. The murmuring excluded Lower Manhattans busy city life and gave us visitors focus on the monument. The deepness of the pools was seemingly bottomless and no matter how long you stood there starring into the deep you couldn’t see the bottom. The mystery of the pools can resemble the consequences of the terrorist’s actions – just as deep and bottomless. I felt very small standing there looking down into the pools and realizing how fragile life is. I’m not a religious person in any way but I felt my life changed while standing there. About a month prior our trip they had broadcast the movie World Trade Center from 2006 with Nicolas Cage in the lead on TV in Sweden. So with that movie fresh in mind (with authentic pictures from the attacks) I just had to honor the victims with a silent minute.

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After the visit I felt kind of emotionally empty and the heat didn’t make it better. After a well-needed lunch we took the tube back to our hostel for some siesta. When we woke up we craved for some frozen yoghurt. Brain freeze! But it felt ok because of the heat outside today. I had googled a candy store close to Central Park named Dylan’s Candy Bar. It is actually Dylan Lauren (Ralph Lauren’s daughter) that owns the store! So it felt like a must when I was here in New York. We walked to 60th Street and 3rd Avenue and entered a total heaven for candy lovers. Two whole floors with candy and a third floor with a café. It wasn’t the cheapest candy you can buy but I did buy some anyway. On our way back to the hostel we shopped clothes at New York & Company on 5th Avenue. I found a pair of pants with 50% discount that I bought. Then we had to buy breakfast for tomorrow morning since we had to get up before hostel breakfast and catch our transfer at 5.10am for our day-trip to Niagara Falls.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities new_york statue_of_liberty brooklyn_bridge ground_zero 9/11_memorial Comments (0)

Niagara Falls


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Got up early as h*** to catch the transfer that picked us up at our hostel at 5.10am. A dark red van stopped outside and picked us up. We were the first being picked up so we had to go around half of Manhattan and pick up 10 more people before heading towards JFK’s Int’l Airport. We got our boarding passes, passed security check (and they just had to pick me out of all people to do an extra check up on) and then we waited by the gate. The flight departed at 8.08am and arrived at Buffalo Niagara Int’l Airport at 9.28am. We met our guide Eduardo that was waiting for us (originally from Peru). He took us to his bus we were riding in during the day and handed out name tags for everyone to wear with Eduardo’s name and phone number in case we got lost from the group. He told us people did get lost (not very often but it happened). Often because they didn’t listen carefully at his instructions or happen to join a complete different guided group (had also happen). It took about an hour before we got to the actual Niagara Falls.

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Facts about the Niagara Falls...
It was discovered in 17th Century by Louis Hennepin and consists of three waterfalls that are created by the Niagara River on the border between America and Canada. The falls are just in between the twin cities Niagara Falls (New York) and Niagara Falls (Ontario). The falls were shaped when the glaciers went back during the last ice age and water from the newly created Great Lakes carved its way through Niagara Escarpment and all the way out to the Atlantic Ocean. The clear green color of the water comes from dissolving salt and minerals and the total erosion per year is 30 centimeters and according to calculations the Niagara River will get undermined and cease to exist in 50000 years from now.
The Niagara Falls includes three waterfalls; American Falls, Horseshoe Falls (also known as Canadian Falls) and Bridal Veil Falls. Niagara Falls has a height of fall at 54 meters and is totally 1203 meters wide and apparently far away from being the highest waterfall. But the falls are wide and the total amount of water running through is high during the summers and regulated down to half in the winter. More than half the river water in Niagara River does not run through the falls but runs through turbines and provides electricity for the surroundings nearby in both Canada and the US. The Horseshoe Fall (Canadian Falls) belongs to Canada. The fall is 53 meters high and 790 meters wide. In October 1829 Sam Patch became the first to survive a fall down the Horseshoe Falls. He thereby started a long tradition of adventurous persons who tried the very same thing. Nowadays it’s illegal to try going down the falls without a special permit. The American Falls belongs to USA and is 320 meters wide. Height of fall is 21-30 meters depending on big boulders at the waterfall base. Bridal Veil Falls also belongs to USA.
From the American side you can see the American Falls from the pathway along Prospect Point Park, which also has an observation tower and a harbor for the Maid of Mist (the boat that takes all the tourists close to the waterfalls). Goat Island separates American Falls from the Horseshoe Falls and offer more viewing points over the falls and is available by a bridge over the American Falls. From the Goat Island you can reach the Cave of the Winds by an elevator that leads the visitors to a point under the Bridal Veil Falls. The Canadian side has also a observation tower (Skylon Tower) from where you can get a nice opposite view and as long as to Toronto. On the Canadian side there are also underground tunnels leading up to an observation room giving the impression of being inside the waterfalls.

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We embarked the boat Maid of Mist that took us all the way up to the falls. We stood on the deck in our blue rain covers (as provided) with the water falling around us. Foggy water drops were everywhere and even though we had those blue covers we got wet and moisture everywhere. The tour on the boat took about 15 minutes and after the tour we got 30 minutes of free time to explore and take photos. When everyone was gathered again we got onto the bus crossing the border into Canadian side of the falls. We then had a well-needed lunch. Lucky us it was a lunch buffet and you could eat all you wanted. And the desserts were delicious! When we had ate all that food we got on the bus again. I almost fell asleep due to food-coma but I just had to stay awake because we made stops for photographs all the time on the Canadian side.

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We saw the Horseshoe Falls, the Whirlpool and one water power station along the Niagara River. It was now afternoon and the early morning started to catch up on you. But we had the American side of the falls left to visit. So we got back onto American territory again and over at Goat Island, the one separating Bridal Veil Fall from the American Falls. We got an hour to walk around on our own. We were all tired and hoped that this was the last stop for today. But it was only one more stop Eduardo promised us. Then we were going back to the airport again.

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We arrived at Buffalo Niagara Int’l Airport at 7pm and our flight departure was 8.46pm back to New York. The flight took off as scheduled and we arrived at JFK Int’l Airport at 10pm. Then we ran around on the airport before we found our transfer back to New York and our hostel at Times Square. We arrived at our hotel at 11pm and we fell asleep pretty un-rocked I can tell you.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Canada Tagged waterfalls niagara_falls traveling Comments (0)

The High Line


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We recompensed ourselves with a nice sleep-in this morning. Today we were spending a whole day in New York without being in time to everything. The heat hit us when we came down on 41st Street. It wasn’t just hot outside but also muggy and this fog that had enwrapped whole New York City. That was a little uncomfortable since we were spending the whole day in the city… We walked to West 30th Street and 10th Avenue to take the stairs up to the High Line in its north end walking south.

Facts about the High Line...
Situated in Manhattans Westside, the High Line was an elevated railroad that was used from 1934 to 1980. On the railroad transportation of milk, meat and other products from the butchers in the Meatpacking District went straight into the fabrics and storages along the High Line through Chelsea District to 30th Street. In 1846 the railroad running along the streets of New York and Manhattans Westside was approved. Precautionary hired horseback riding men – the West Side Cowboys - were riding in front of the trains waving flags. But still accidents occurred between trains and other traffic so 10th Avenue became known as “Death Avenue”. After several years of public debates about all the accidents they finally agreed to improve the situation by the West Side Improvement Project, including the High Line among other things.
The High Line was first opened for trains in 1934 and ran from 34th Street to St. John’s Park Terminal at Spring Street and was back then 21 km long. The High Line was designed to go through the districts instead of above the avenues avoiding the disadvantages with elevated trains. The track connected the fabrics and stores by driving the trains straight through the buildings. During 1950ies the truck transportations between the states increased while the train traffic decreased all over the country. During 1960ies the most southern part of the High Line was destroyed along Washington Street between Gansevoort Street and Clarkson Street, which was almost half of the tracks length. In 2006 track restorations began inspired by Promenade plantée in Paris forming a rectangular park extending 22 blocks from 34th Street and down to Gansevoort Street. Total length of the High Line is 2,4 km (1,45 miles). The High Line has different opening hours that vary depending on which season of the year it is. The High Line can be reached by nine entrees and there are restrooms and refreshments along the way.

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We went up-stairs and started walking on the High Line. In the beginning it was almost unbearably hot, just about +30 Centigrade, foggy and no wind even though we were close to Hudson River. But it was nice getting away from traffic and just walking without being afraid getting run-over by cars or bicycles. The planted green areas made the environment relaxing and the trees gave well-needed shadows. We went the 19 blocks south as the High Line extends and we got down on Gansevoort Street. We got something to eat at a nearby restaurant. My fellow traveler got in contact with this Pierre who obviously had spotted her from across the restaurant. They ended up exchanging phone numbers and decided to meet later in the evening.

My friend and I decided to walk on our own for a while and meet up later at the hostel again for dinner. I wanted to go to this Ground Zero Museum (420 west, 14th Street at 9th Avenue) and I really had trouble finding the address but I finally found a small sign next to an entry phone. I rang and a super nice lady answered. She had a booked tour at 1pm but I was welcome to come up and visit the museum until then, in other words 15 minutes. So she did let me in and I went up the stairs to the museum. I got a little disappointed that it wasn’t bigger but there were still so many things to see. Artifacts and pictures from the terrorist attacks were displayed and you could buy books written all about 9/11. High up running all around the museum walls was a beautiful quote “Two bullets went into the World Trade Center but only love came out of it”.

Close to 1pm I left the museum and headed for the Swedish candy store “Sockerbit” (which means "piece of sugar" in English). It’s located on 89 Christopher Street in West Village and I had to walk around a lot before I actually found it. They have a lot of candy (with the Swedish names of course). They had all the typical Swedish candy there is. Not at the cheapest prices but what can you do when you’re craving for sweets? So I just had to buy some. Then I walked along 7th Avenue and window shopped all the way back to our hostel. Just further down on 41st Street they had frozen yoghurt. I bought two flavors; orange and strawberry. But the orange tasted strange and the color itself screamed artificial. Then I rested for a while at our room before my friend came back and we went out for dinner. We even bought breakfast for tomorrow since we were leaving early to Philadelphia and the Amish region.

In the evening we had pre-booked the Broadway show Mamma Mia! in the Wintergarden theatre. The show was awesome and the story had been mixed with a lot of humor and the actors were great. It became a lot of laughing during the evening. Unfortunately a group of Swedish (!) people sat on the row in front of us and blocked our view. My friend had been texting with Pierre and he was meeting us up after the show. We got to our hostel and sat down at the bar for a while. Later I felt tired and went up to the room. I wanted to be well-rested for the adventures in Philly tomorrow.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in USA Tagged cities new_york the_high_line Comments (0)

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