It’s Good To Get Away, But Nicer To Be Back Home

A weekend in and around New York City is enough to either drive you crazy, or leave you wanting more. I am in the latter category as I love New York!

We saw a ton of sights, including Chinatown, Little Italy, SoHo, Times Square, Fifth Avenue, the MOMA, and more!

DSC00728The worst part of flying out to the East Coast is the high air traffic. Our flight out on Thursday was delayed about an hour but we miraculously made it to Newark on time. Our flight back was delayed more than a hour…

Without giving you all the boring details, I’ll just talk about some highlights…

Our first foray into The City took us to the Staten Island Ferry to get a close look at the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

DSC00746Then we went into Chinatown , Little Italy and SoHo, which is where we found The Cupping Room Cafe. There were a lot of eating choices in the area but we decided on the Cupping Room because their menu looked like it had the best choices. The nest item, according to Vikki and Rick was the pesto DSC00751mayonnaise. I enjoyed my burger and their fries were out of this world: cut in-house and fried to a nice crisp…not too dry and tons of flavor. A little like Cobo fries if you’ve ever had them in Detroit…or like Penn Station fries.

The second day, Saturday, we headed for The City and walked around Times Square until showtime (more on that later)!

If you’ve ever been to NYC and Times Square, you know how many people there can be walking around. For a little respite and peace and quiet, our group stopped in Colony Music and had a good look around. They specialize in sheet music but also had a lot of CDs, DVDs, commemorative plaques and even karaoke discs! LIke any other place that specializes in all things music, there was plenty of Michael Jackson memorabilia and such.

DSC00769 The real reason we were in Times Square that day was to see “Rock of Ages”, the new-ish Broadway show that features the music I grew up with…Hair Metal!!!! Songs form Poison, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and more. The story is one of love, urban decay, eminent domain and, of course, everyone learns their life lesson by the end of the show. It was campy and didn’t take itself too seriously, which can’t be said of other Broadway shows.

After the show, we headed for the upscale Utsav, which serves Indian cuisine in a bright, comfy space not too far from Rockefeller Center. Our food was awesome and the six of us shared and delighted in trying each other’s dishes and feasting on bread and desert. What a great place!DSC00784

On Sunday we ventured out into the foothills west of NYC and found the highest point in New Jersey, marked by a Washington Monument-like obelisk. Built in the early 1900s, the monument features a wide patio for viewing three different states and two distinct mountain ranges.

You can see New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania and the Poconos and Catskills mountain ranges. And what a view…


Here’s the wife and me, with a view of nearby Port Jervis, New York.

DSC00822 Our last day in The City was spent at the Museum of Modern Art, where we fond some very interesting displays and kitschy artwork. The most prominent display was of a Chinese artists take on the packrat; his mother kept everything, from food containers to rusted out car parts and even the wood frame from her old house.

We had a a lot of fun hanging out in NYC and can’t wait to go back. Next time, we’re thinking we need to hit some of the other boroughs to get a better feeling of the vibe in the rest of The City.

My cousin’s husband, Rick, had a Honda Ridgeline which reminded me of the Cadillac Escalade, without the luxury and with a lockable trunk not found in the GM products:

2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT

What a $50k luxury truck should be

by James E. Bryson

If you are someone who is a little short on stature (altitudinally-challenged?), then almost any 4X4 can be considered a monster truck. But trucks come in many shapes and sizes, as well as configurations; short and long beds, extra/king/extended cabs with or without four doors, quarter-, half-, and three-quarter-ton and towing options for anything from a small flatbed trailer to a mobile home. And, of course, many different variations on which wheels are driven: 4X2, 4X4, full- or part-time all-wheel-drive and a few variations in between.

As most large SUVs go, they don’t get much bigger than the Chevy Suburban/GMC Yukon XL. Sure, Ford has Excursion, but the Excursion doesn’t have the history or heritage of the General’s twins, which dates back over half a century.

There’s nothing like piling all your gear into the cargo hold of one of these beasts of burden and heading out of town to the campsite or a week’s worth of travel. And don’t forget that boat or camper ’cause you got to have some fun while you’re out and about.

While we smile at the fun we could have with the Suburban/Yukon twins, we are reminded that they are but one example of the ingenuity of the General’s engineers.

As a matter of principal, the design prowess of GM engineers is what drove us to a frothy mouth over GM’s more recent big, bad truck; the Avalanche.

Once Chevrolet let the Avalanche out of its cage, it became the baddest of the bad: The mid-gate design is a world-leader; a tonneau cover that can support up to 250 pounds is worth its weight in gold; and clever packaging ideas like using the rear fenders as a storage area is pure genius.

Chevy had the coolest, most domineering truck in America…until Cadillac decided to enter the foray with its own version: the 2002 Cadillac Escalade EXT.

The EXT is a luxurious vehicle by anyone’s standards. It coddles its passengers like no other SUV (outside of GM) can. With many of the same features as the Avalanche (including the near-famous Mid-Gate) the EXT offers more luxury and bigger bragging rights derived from the Cadillac emblem on the grill.

Our first impression of the EXT was one of awe. We loved the stance and lack of body cladding on the EXT. The black on black paint job was exceptional and intimidating all at once.

The EXT’s clean exterior flowed into the interior as well, with comfortable seats all around, luxurious appointments and an air of class that the Avalanche could only dream of.

Our few minor complaints centered around the exquisite interior accoutrements; no person in their right mind is going to open up the cargo hold to load anything dirty for fear of getting the nice leather and carpeting dirty as well.

There is also no convenient bumper step set on the rear corners like that Avalanche. This deletion says volumes about the EXT’s target customers, who will most likely not need to hop up onto the tonneau cover to secure cargo or what have you. Also, speaking of the rear of the Escalade EXT, we seemed to have trouble getting the tailgate closed on a few occasions. On one particular ride, the darn thing actually fell open, startling us into thinking we ran over a VW Beetle or something.

In the engine compartment sits a muscularly tuned 6.0-liter V8 with 345 horsepower and 380 pound-feet of torque. That bests the 285 horses found with the 5.3-liter in the Avalanche and the 300 horses found in the Lincoln Blackwood. This is Corvette territory, folks!

And, unfortunately, this large engine sucks the gas like there’s no tomorrow. But, if you’re part of the target group for this truck, that probably won’t matter much to you. (But 12 city and 15 highway miles per gallon really strikes a sour chord, don’t it?)

By now, you’re asking yourself “why is the Escalade EXT $15,000 more than the Avalanche?” Well, we’re pretty sure a lot of the extra cost has gone into noise deadening material and to making all the doors and tailgate close with a reassuringly quiet ‘thunk’. Also, noise from the engine and road are discretely subdued, only coming into play at highway speeds and full-throttle applications. The interior is filled with rich, supple leather, Zebrano wood trim and nice touches for everything from the many storage cubbies to the heated seats, which are almost mandatory with the leather seating surfaces.

It is the Cadillac of trucks and it will not let you forget that easily.

Our Escalade came with no options to speak of; everything was standard from the six-disc in-dash CD changer to the ultrasonic rear park assist. This thing was fully loaded with not much room to spare. The as-tested price of this vehicular behemoth came to $49,990.00, including a rather large destination charge of $745. The only thing we could have wanted in this truck was a DVD player, but that could always be added on later, which Cadillac engineers might have had in mind since our truck had two sets of headphones in the rear center armrest.

As Cadillac’s go, this is one bad mama-jama that should help keep the Cadillac brand alive with the possibility of attracting a younger clientele. As trucks go, the Escalade EXT is king of the ranch; a title the EXT will likely hold on to for a long time.

And the car of the day:

The Pontiac Solstice Coupe!

pontaic_solstice_hardtop (3)

Take away the convertible top and add a distinctive superstructure behind the seats and you get an attractive, well-designed small car.

pontaic_solstice_hardtop (5)

One of the coolest features is the removable “targa” top. The biggest drawback of the “targa”top? No way to stow it in the car!



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James E. Bryson

Cars make the world go 'round!

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