We left Sunday morning from San Diego Intl. to Dallas DFW and then to Newark, New Jersey. Van rocked it out on both flights - which were about 3 hours each. He was a huge hit with nearly every desk agent, TSA guard and flight attendant. Traveling with a 5 week old baby is the best. They let you board first, treat you nice. Best airline flying experience I have had in a while.
From Newark we grabbed a rental car to Morristown, NJ where CAE SimuFlite is located. Kenny did five days of training (M-F) while Jen and Van hanged out in the Homewood Suites hotel room. (ask Jen about how much she loves the Homewood). The second night we were in New Jersey, we were able to get in touch with some friends that we met on our China trip in January. They lived about an hour and a half south of were we staying. It was fun to get to see them again - and get a free dinner! John is a great cook and whipped out a tasty steak and potato dinner with apple pie and ice cream to finish.
We did manage to find some recreation time after Kenny's simulator sessions (6:30 am - 11:30 am Eastern) and managed to take Van for his first geocache and consequently his first FTF!
Friday was Kenny's check ride (which he passed with flying colors - pun intended) and then we headed south for Philadelphia. We had Pricelined a room for $62 and when we showed up, we were shocked because we had to pay another $30 to park. Oh well. We valeted the car, unpacked the stroller and hit the streets of Philly.
We saw Independence Hall, where they signed the Declaration of Independence, as well as the Liberty Bell and the US Mint. The best part was the level 5 thunderstorm that hit the city while we were walking around. We wanted to pass the time in a dry location and we were hungry, and so, thanks to Jolene, we found a great Philly cheese steak place and weathered out the storm there. The cheese steak was quite delicious as well as the Italian hoagie sandwich.
The storm broke and we headed home to the hotel. A quick stop in a bakery secured us a creme brulee and chocolate tort that were half priced due it being the end of the day, and then we were back.
Saturday morning - we grabbed a few geocaches, another cheese steak and then hit the road for, well, somewhere closer to Niagara Falls than Philly. We made a small, time consuming detour to Cabela's in Hamburg, PA and saw this lovely nature display.
After Cabela's, we made another stop, this one in Scranton, PA - where CBS's the Office is supposedly based. We tracked down Poor Richard's Pub where we grabbed a bacon cheeseburger, another Italian hoagie, fries and soda - all for only $12! Yeah, we spent more than on lunch at McDonalds earlier that day. From Scranton, we decided to press on and continue northbound.
Jolene gave us another helping hand, and we ended up Syracuse, NY for another Priceline hotel. We arrived about 10:30 pm, checked in, got our rooms keys and headed up to the 15th floor. We found room 1509, slid our card into the slot, opened the door and found ourselves in an occupied room! We promptly exited the room and headed back down to the front desk. The lady tried to give a room with one double bed - ah, no. We finally ended up with a room that was unoccupied, had a king bed and warm shower - good enough for us.
From Syracuse, we headed out Sunday morning to Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, about a 2 1/2 hour drive. The drive went smoothly and we made it without incident.
We spent Sunday afternoon and Monday on the Canadian side of Niagara. On Tuesday, we left Canada, saw the American side of the falls and then drove to Buffalo near the airport for our 8 am Southwest Airlines departure on Wednesday.
A few highlights of Niagara Falls:
welcome to Las Vegas.
another rain storm and taxi cab.
a terrible Hampton Inn.
vomit attack at Tony Roma's "all-you-can-eat" ribs.
fireworks show over the Falls.
night lights on the Falls.
attack elevator at Hampton Inn.
Lake Ontario and Niagara on the Lake.
our first Canadian geocache.
Little Red Rooster Restaurant.
the wonderful 27th floor "Falls View" room at the Embassy Suites.
Maid of the Mist.
Cave of Winds.
After dinner, we made our way back to the hotel. After finally drifting off to sleep later than we really wanted (about 11:30), we were jerked awake by an alarm going off. Van actually let out a small scream. Kenny was beating the alarm clock and was one step away from yanking it of the wall when the alarm announced "bwwooop, bwwooop, this is an emergency. Please proceed to the designed meeting place. bwwooop bwwooop. This is an emergency..."
Kenny remained calm and phoned the the front desk.
"Yeah, we have an alarm going off in our room. Is the alarm legitimate?"
"Sir, yes it is. Please leave your room immediately."
So, Jen and Kenny calmly get dressed, grab our back packs, a laptop, and Van, and proceed out. Unfortunately, we were on the 9th floor and had to hoof it down all those stairs. By the time we arrived at the designated meeting area, the fire trucks were already leaving. It was a false alarm. Jen was surprised at Kenny in that he took the time to check each door for heat before opening it. Dwight would have been proud.
Wednesday morning came way too early after our midnight fire drill, but we managed to make it to Buffalo Airport on time and then, just as we are about to check in for our flight, Van rocket vomits all over everything within a four foot radius. We manage to get everything mostly cleaned up and re-attempt to check-in only to get the RUDEST, MEANEST, UGLIEST (okay that last one took it too far, but the first two were completely true) Southwest Airlines gate agent ever. Just in case you were wondering, her name was Brenda and her badge ID is 37014. Brenda checked us and our baggage in and we were off to TSA screening. Fortunately, Brenda was the worst of the day and we actually had the best TSA agents, SWA gate agents (one guy actually bumped a person off the flight so we could have all three seats to ourselves) flight attendants and pilots ever. The pilots even wanted to meet Van. They saw us getting off the plane and thought he was the cutest kid ever. The pilots were also curious about Jen's unusually large neck pillow.
All in all, it was a great first family vacation and we cannot wait to drag Van on many more.