This is a throwback story. I have been trying to do a write up of my journey to North America ever since I came back from the States 4 years ago. But commitment constraints, it is only by today I am happy that finally I managed to finish this. Though it might not be the same travelog experience that it should be, at least I still have the entry on the moments that I have spent my time at the Midwestern state of United States of America. And the journey that we have made was to the east coast of the country.
Let me try to sum up my journey of summer holiday in 2015 from the state of North Dakota to Virginia which covering about 10 states in between.
My journey might not be the same as other travelers because I am traveling with my family consisting of 5 persons (2 adults and 3 children aged between 6 to 11 years old). So, I do hope that what I have written here won’t be compared to those who made a solo journey.
May 31, 2015:
It was a lovely morning when I already knew that the rest of my family is coming to USA. I have been living in North Dakota for the past 3 months with my one and only young exuberant kindy boy who attended McKinley Elementary School during the Spring Term. School holiday had just begun 3 days ago. Whilst, his two other sisters and father are on their way from Kuala Lumpur via Doha, Qatar and Chicago, IL before disembarking at Fargo International Airport, ND. I have been waiting for their arrival since 36 hours ago and had been following the flightradar report on their sky journey. Anxiously. They made it at last.
We rented a Chevrolet Impala. The latest edition I guess. Some car brand that never made it to Malaysia. But it was indeed a great experience that we could hire it.
I have prepared them some Nasi Berlauk for the meal on their arrival though they said they would prefer western dish since they were already from Malaysia. We had a couple of Malaysian friends coming over our place to welcome my small family. Had a welcoming chit chat and managed to find some additional groceries for their needs & necessities from the nearby Walmart in West Fargo.
June 1st, 2015:
It was my first daughter’s birthday. We went to celebrate it at Red Lobster in the city of Fargo. We were yet to do any travelling at this time because I was still bound to finish my task at the Computer Architecture Lab, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering of North Dakota State University. My visit at this country was as a visiting scholar and most of the time I was spending my time at this lab. So, I left my family to wander about around the city and the campus.
June 3 to 4, 2015:
I was officially on holiday starting today. A day earlier, I met my supervisor, thanking him for all the help and works that we have done for the past 3 months. Saying farewell to my lab-mates and other research teams that I have been working with.
Today, we went to two major attractions in the city of Fargo and they were the Red River Zoo and Bonanzaville. Like any other zoos, we enjoyed watching all kinds of animals not found in Malaysia. Especially the American Eagle of course. And the wolf was huge indeed. The peacock was beautiful and there were rare birds flying around here and there. Bison was indeed their major appeal.
Whilst, Bonanzaville is the depiction of earlier settlements of people in North Dakota. From a house that was made of logs, to the first locomotive ever connect them from rural areas transporting their crops and goods and the local pride in mobile, telecommunications and airplane inventions.
This has led us to visit Fargo Air Museum on the next day to find many real fighter planes that were exhibited at this center including the Global Hawk, Duggy, Wright Flyer and other War Transports. We took an early rest to prepare for our journey to the East on the next day.
June 5, 2015:
We changed our Chevy Impala to Chevy Malibu for easy drop off at the next Hertz station in the city of Minneapolis. Our luggage was packed in the car, I signed off the rental agreement for the apartment that we have been living for the past 3 months. Saying goodbye to our neighbors. Quite heavy to let go but we do hope to make a come back.
We took the route of I-94 and I-494. Its the major motorway and road from city of Fargo, ND to Minneapolis, MN. Just before arriving terminal, we made a quick stop at Albertville Premium Outlets just at the outskirt of the city. We reached the city of Minneapolis by night. The journey from Fargo to Minneapolis was about 5 and a half hours including the 2 hours of lay-over at the premium outlets. We retired at Country Inns & Suites, Bloomingtoon, Minneapolis, MN.
June 6, 2015:
We woke up rise and shine. Feeling energetic after a good night rest. Today, our plan was to spend the whole day at Mall of America. The Mall located just on the other side of the motorway opposite to our hotel. We took a shuttle bus to go there as it was provided by the hotel all day long. There was an indoor attraction of Nickelodeon Universe. A huge one with all kinds of roller coaster, rides, games, water rafts and ferris wheel. My children had moments with Nick characters including Dora the Explorer, Diego, SpongeBob, Patrick and Paw Patrol. We took time off to dine at Bubba Gump Shrimp. Enjoyed the seafood dishes at the premise and highly recommended. We continued window shopping around the Mall until the nightfall. We spent a second night at the Inn.
June 7, 2015:
After Fajr prayers, we checked out of the hotel, took a taxi and headed for St. Paul’s Train Station. We were heading East by the rail this time. We embarked on Amtrak Empire Builder Railway System. Had a long journey of more than 8 hours bounded for Chicago, IL. Stopped at major train stations including Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We even had a chance to watch somebody was giving Sunday sermon nearby the La Crosse Station, WI when the train made a stop there. The weather changed quite significantly that I started feeling unwell. We managed to arrive in Chicago, IL but we were lack of energy to enjoy the scenes. Perhaps due to our diet of Halal, Kosher and Vegan meals, it has affected our enthusiasm of exploring the states.
June 8, 2015:
The journey for this one was quite challenging. After we hanged out at Chicago Train Station for the past less than 8 hours, we embarked on another train serviced by Amtrak Lakeshore Limited. Today, we were bound for New York. This journey was almost tripled the time taken from Minneapolis to Chicago. More than 20 hours we were seated in the car train. I got different people seating next to me, come and go.
At one time when the train was in the state of Ohio, there was this guy came and sit at the empty seat besides me. Got tatoos all over his body, but I was OK to whomever wanted to sit besides me. It was already night time and I hardly seen what he was doing by my side. But it seems that he was trying to find a friend to talk to. Maybe due to the long journey, but his accent was not familiar to me, I hardly understand. I just nodded to whatever he said. I only managed to hear him saying that, he preferred to sit next to people like me (an Asian woman that wear scarfs) because he knew that we would sit at our own boundaries. We won’t bother our neighbors and he could enjoy taking a nap at his own seat too. He also told me that he has been on this train for the past 3 days from Seattle, WA and was taking the whole course of West to East train for this trip. It took him 5 days to reach NY. I was astonished by his story but then, I dozed off.
The journey from Chicago, IL to New York, NY had its course via three other states i.e. Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The stops also include major towns and cities between these 5 states. When we arrived New York-Penn Station, we had nothing much to think about except to bump on to a nice bed and have a good rest. We took the NY yellow cab from the station to Queens where our hotel located, named Ramada Inn, Flushing. Empty stomachs indeed but unlike Fargo, when I searched for Halal outlets by using Zabihah apps, there were more than 180 restaurants it has returned. This time, we settled with chinese food as our supper.
June 9, 2015:
This is the starting day of our 3 days 2 nights package tour of NY-PA-NJ-DC. We engaged with Taketours Bus provider. Early morning we checked out of the hotel and waited for our tour bus just a block away from the inn. For the next three days, it was expected that our trip would be upon scheduled and we just follow its course. From Flushing Queens, we ran down the Flushing Meadows where the movie IronMan3 was shot. We enjoyed the ride on the Queensboro Bridge overlooking the Harlem river and beneath us were networks of road quite complex to our eyes. We entered Manhattan to view the metropolis and all of the major buildings on this island including the World Trade Centre and Broadway Theatre. We made our way towards New Jersey by coursing along the Holland Tunnel underneath the Hudson River. We were greeted by the scenic view of Statue of Liberty on the Liberty Island once we were already in the state of New Jersey. We continued our journey passing by all of major cities in this state. The bus took a quick stop nearby Turnpike, NJ. We were heading to Philadelphia in the state of Pennsylvania.
In less than 2 hours, we arrived at the Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Our guide gave us about two hours to explore the areas around this Hall. There was also Liberty Bell at the field-side of the Hall, historical boards here and there and electronic boards to display the related stories behind the monuments that we were facing. We hardly got the chance to enter the Hall because of the long queue so we have decided to take our morning break at the nearby food outlets.
Our trip continued to the south. From Philadelphia we went to Washington, DC and to get there we had a scenic journey through the state of Maryland. The city of Baltimore was quite a distant sight to be seen from our course. Once we have arrived Washington DC we were brought to Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Like most of other museums, the exhibits were prototypes and meant for historical facts and figures. Educative and enlightening especially in the areas of outer space and airplanes. History of war and fighter transports were also depicted as part of its narrative.
Other than the Smithsonian, we went to Madamme Tussauds Gallery of Presidents, US Capitol front view from the Union Square photo taking area, The White House, The Washington Monument (memorial to George Washington) and Lincoln Memorial. We stopped at each monuments and pictures were taken for memories. The drawback to our visit this time was the fact that it was summer holidays. Thronged of people here and there with school excursions and children from all over the States were coming for their educational trip too. You just cannot get a decent photo without having someone else photobomb into yours.
By the end of the day, we were quite exhausted. We departed the bus to our next destination but able to see the scenic view of Washington DC as a whole and the Potomac River. The bus tour took us for dinner at one of the Chinese Restaurants by the highway, but we hardly took any. Fortunately there was a small pizza parlour outside the restaurant and we took away a couple of vegetarian and seafood pizza. We met an Indian Muslim while buying the food and learned that there was a nearby Masjid from where we stood. He just came back from his Maghrib prayer and the population of Muslims in this state was about 400+ people.
The bus tour stopped for an overnight at The Garden Plaza Hotel of Hagerstown, MD.
June 10, 2015:
From Hagerstown, MD, we headed North. We were bound for Niagara Falls in the state of New York. We stayed in the bus most of time because the journey from MD to Niagara Falls was about 7 hours. We made a quick stop at the following attractions though; the Corning Museum of Glass and Watkins Glen State Park. Both were in the state of New York. We did nothing much at the two attractions except following the course. The Corning Museum was meant for exhibits of corningware and glass making. Whilst Watkin Glen State Park was a beautiful gorge and waterfall attraction with 500 steps that we made from the top of the park until its rendezvous area. This park was founded by Samuel Watkins.
At the end of the day, we arrived at the city named Buffalo, NY and we spent overnight at Comfort Inn University.
June 11, 2015:
This is the major attraction day of our tour package. A visit to Niagara Falls. This place located in the city of Buffalo, New York and is bordered by the city of Ontario, Canada on the other side of the Falls. We entered the Niagara National Park in the morning after checking out from our lodge. The place was thronged with people and children coming with school trip. There was a Hard Rock Cafe Niagara Falls that we made our stop to buy memorabilia. Prior to visiting the Falls, we were brought to the area of Niagara River where some tourists had taken the ride of Whirlpool Jet Boat. Later of the day then we had the chance to enter the Niagara Falls Theatrical Hall to watch the historical and legendary facts of the Falls. We managed to enter the Falls at midday by riding the Maid of the Mist. The experience was amazing, the Falls was certainly a wonder, the volume was astounding, the ride was overwhelming, nothing compares to this nature. Priceless. The visit was worth every second of it. It made us appreciate about water, nature, environment and life ever more.
By late afternoon, we took our lunch and ready to head home to New York where the trip had started since three days ago. Another 8 hours journey by bus via Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Once we arrived in New York, we stayed at Radio City Apartment on 49th Street W.
June 12, 2015:
After a good night sleep, we woke up healthily today. We have just one more day to spend in New York city before our flight bound for Kuala Lumpur. Early in the morning we took the Subway MTA from 49th St to Rector St. We disembarked at this station with the intention to have a glimpse of Statue of Liberty. We thought to get a ride on the boat to Ellis Island, but it would take the whole day to really enjoy the scene. We ended up watching the statue from Downtown Manhattan in the area of Battery Park. We saw the World Trade Centre building too from this area. After a quick stroll at the Battery Park, we went back to Times Square for souvenir shopping and checked out from the hotel. It was a sweet but short visit. We hope to come back to NYC for more. We have yet to visit hundreds more places around this city and state. We rented Ford Escape Titanium from Hertz and headed south to DC.
From New York, NY to Sterling, VA, it was a 4 hours drive with several stops including Maryland and Delaware. We arrived at a friend’s house in the neighborhood of Vienna, Virginia. Fron dinner to supper till late night we were chit chatting. We forgot to check in our reserved hotel. So we just stayed a night at their place.
Just 13, 2015:
It’s our departure day bound for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia today!! But before going to the airport, we made our last quick stop at Leesburg Premium Outlets, Virginia. We spent a couple of hours here shopping and strolling around this area. By noon, we went to a nearby Turkish Diner to feed our empty tummy. It was a nice meal combination of the Turks and Greeks managed by a Muslim Greek. After the lunch, we headed for Washington-Dulles Airport, Virginia. It was in the late evening that boarded the plane to Kuala Lumpur via Istanbul, Turkey on a Turkish Airlines.
We are grateful for each and every bit of this journey, from the beginning to its completion, from its initial effort of coming to the States through J1 visa of my role as visiting scholar to the North Dakota State University until the graduation of my PhD. Everything is as sweet as it is.
Some quick facts:
For the past 10 days of travelogs,
From Fargo, ND to Sterling, VA.
10 states + DC were involved.
2 types of car rentals were used.
2 rail systems were occupied.
1 tour bus was engaged.
13 attractions were visited.
2 premium outlets were visited.
Prior to that, more than 100 days of lifelong learning experience were embraced while we were in Fargo, ND.
It won’t stop there.
And I am thankful to be given this opportunity. I am delighted to see people inspired by this journey too and would encourage anybody to follow suit.
May you find the answer to your life journey too!
Take care dear readers.