The Ultimate Road Trip: THE SILVER SNAIL : A solo woman's full-time RV adventure
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New York City

RV camping at Gateway National Recreation Area

New York City by RV. Ha! Sounds crazy, right? Well, the campground at Floyd Bennett Field was literally just a half hour drive from Manhattan. Before these RV sites had opened up this year, you either had to park much farther away, or pay NYC prices at the RV park across the river. On the site of NYC's first municipal airport, much aviation history has been made here...and now WE were making history here too, by being a part of the first wave of RVers camping overnight at the waterfront. And even though camping at Floyd Bennet Field was nothing more than a designated place to park your rig on an old cement airport with no hookups, it ended up being perfect for our budgets and surprisingly awesome.

rv camping at FLoyd Bennett Field

I didn't pull my trailer here. Harley and I joined Jason, Kirby, and Suzy in their 35' motorhome, newly dubbed the Silver Caterpillar. We had both been killing time in Pennsylvania and since NYC was temptingly close, we decided to tackle it as a team effort. With his Harley-Davidson in tow, we figured we'd spend a few days there and use his bike to get around. We ended up staying two weeks, thanks to the glorious boondocking capabilities of the Silver Caterpillar.

RV camping at Floyd Bennett Field

This was not only a great chance to really see NYC, but to also see what it was like to travel in a motorhome and see how I would enjoy the benefits and luxuries of teamwork. Up until now I had been traveling solo, doing everything myself. Now someone else was doing the driving and I could fix myself a cocktail while he drove! ...but I didn't totally abandon Jason. I navigated and helped keep the dogs calm...and I think I did a pretty good job of helping Jason negotiate the heart of Brooklyn on a busy Sunday afternoon, when cars were triple parked for Sunday services and people were moving about everywhere. We followed the directions that suggested, since motorhomes are not allowed on any NY parkway. We made it with only one slight mishap - somebody every-so-slightly rear-ended Jason's bike. It's was just the slightest tap...but it put a little buckle in the rear fender. Oh, and it's important to note that there are some low-clearance bridges on the route they suggest you take - as low as 12', so some motorhomes or fifth wheels probably want to find a different route.

Double decker dogs

Boondocking at Floyd Bennett Field felt like living in a post-apocalyptic urban wasteland...and we came to love it as our spacious waterfront Brooklyn home. Overgrown with trees and weeds, the old airport feels isolated and remote. There is space to move and no crowds to compete with. It's got a ton of recreational resources (indoor ice rinks, basketball, football, soccer etc...), nature trails and the largest, most beautiful community garden in the nation. And you can see the horizon from here.

For many nights, we were the only RV camped on the edge of the lot and we took full advantage of the super-mega-awesome spotlight on Jason's rig to illuminate any suspicious activity, which frequently occurred. In the evening, nobody is supposed to be there except registered campers. But nearly every evening somebody was up to something out there in the middle of the night at the edge of the water. On a number of occasions we called the cops. They've got a headquarters on the property so they always came quickly and I think the park service might have even appreciated our interest in the late-night goings-on of the park, since they haven't had a history of people staying overnight in this lot. Since we were secure within The Silver Caterpillar's protective forcefields, this actually made for interesting evening activity. However, if we came home late at night on the bike, I always asked Jason to do a perimeter check of the parking lot and around the rig with the bike's headlight before stopping and putting things away.

Gateway NRA

The beach. Um... yeah, I didn't come back to it.

Community garden at gateway NRA
Community gardens


Since we were camping at the southern edge of Brooklyn, Coney Island was practically in our backyard. We made that our first destination and parked on the Brighton Beach end to walk the boardwalk. It's easy to know when you are in Brighton Beach - all the storefronts have signs in Russian, there is an unusually large percentage of people wearing track suits, and the Russian language floats around you as you stroll. As you get loser to Coney Island, the Cyclone roller coaster looms large and frightful, while the Wunder Wheel gently becksons all ages. A word of warning - the Cyclone is a very rough roller coaster, and if you love roller coasters, by all means go!! But be prepared to get jerked around HARD. The Wunder Wheel is the best ferris wheel ever - you must go twice - once on the moving cars for the most fun, and once on the stationary cars on the outside, for the best view. THEN go get a hot dog and some fries. Nathan's famous hot dogs got its start here, and there's something really good about eating a messy chili cheese dog on a seaside boardwalk bench with seagulls hovering about, strategizing their perfect dive bomb.

Coney Island cyclone

Coney Island Wonder WHeel

If I ever complained before about not having enough time in NYC, I can tell you after 16 days in it - I STILL haven't had enough time in that city. I just love it. You could experience a 'round-the-world journey in a day and never leave the city. There's a general climate of acceptance, resourcefulness and creativity here and you have the sense that everybody's got an interesting story to tell and is most likely chasing a dream. So much life and vitality!

We packed a lot in and explored a lot of neighborhoods, my favorite of which was around Cobble Hill and Caroll Gardens in north Brooklyn. DUMBO ain't so bad either...but they gotta do something about that name. We packed our freezers with food from Brooklyn's Trader Joe's (when the line wasn't wrapped around the store twice) and I discovered my favorite sushi restaurant ever: Hibino Japanese. Besides out-of-this-world sushi, they make their very own tofu daily and if you think you don't like tofu, try theirs. I also now know that when I can find it, I would very much like to have my very own bottle (or two or three) of this sake: BORN Tokusen Junmai Daiginjo. After an amazing Japanese dinner, it was a short walk to The Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, where you can sit at the counter and have an authentic chocolate egg cream made properly by a proper soda jerk with Fox's U-bet chocolate syrup. And then it was back on the motorcycle to negotiate the city and the Belt Parkway back to our home.

Brooklyn Bridge

Greenwich dogs

We explored nearly every neighborhood and had some great luck in finding good places to eat and drink. Here's the short list:

* HIBINO JAPANESE * Cobble Hill, Brooklyn: BEST SUSHI, TOFU and SAKE ever.
* DON PEPPE'S * Queens: Excellent Italian - linguine with white clam sauce - delicioso. Very close to the airport.
KATZ'S DELI, Lower East Side: A mountain of excellent pastrami on rye and matzo ball soup.
TWO DOOR TAVERN, Williamsburg
SAGGIO, Washington Heights on W. 181st
THAI ROCK, Rockaway Beach- Pad Thai, Shrimp dumplings, lychee martini, fried banana. Waterfront deck, under the bridge.
ANGEL'S SHARE, Lower East Side- secret bar serving craft cocktails. Tough to find, because it's a secret...and there lies the attraction.
WHITE HORSE TAVERN, Greenwich Village: Dylan Thomas frequently visited here and is said to have had his last beer here, before inviting death to his door. "And Death Shall Have No Dominion."


At the northern tip of the island, The Cloisters sits on a green hillside in a hushed medieval castle. It houses art from the middle ages with the highlight being the very unusual Unicorn Tapestries. These celebrated tapestries depict the hunt and capture of the unicorn. Woven in Brussels around the year 1500, there's an aura of magic and mystery woven into them. Near Washington Heights, it was also a glorious to day to walk across the George Washington Bridge on the 178th St. side.

view from GW bridge

We got half-price tickets to see Mamma Mia! at the Winter Garden Theater and took the Staten Island Ferry from Staten Island to to the southern tip of Manhattan. The ferry is FREE both ways...but if you need to park a vehicle, or even a motorcycle, on the Staten Island side, it's $8 for that.

stateu of liberty

Battery park

We stopped at the Wooster Street Social Club - a tattoo place that is also the home of a TV show, NY Ink. I didn't know anything about this place or the show, but Jason told me about it and later we watched an episode. The best part about this show is the opening sequence, where they play Ace Frehley's New York Groove.

Of course, we did a lot of walking and didn't miss crossing the Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge. And like every good NYC tourist, we went to the top of Empire State Building, and wandered through Times Square. It happened to be an excellent evening to be in Times Square, as the Metropolitan Opera was broadcasting it's opening night. Our evening soundtrack was opera and the square was filled with red carpet patrons. Eventually, we wandered around Rockefeller Plaza and saw the windows where gawkers plant themselves in the wee hours of the morning to show up in the background of the Today Show.

Time square red carpet crowd

Times Square Police

Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station

Empire State night view
From the Empire State Building

Katz's Deli
Katz's Deli

Manhattan Bridge with Harley Davidson
Under the Manhattan Bridge


Washington Square Park
Washington Square Park

And of course, the High Line. What a fantastic space. Above the fray of the Meatpacking District below, the High Line is a garden of calm. What was once an old railroad track that used to bring food into the city is now a peaceful alternative to the sidewalks below.

High Line NYC


When we were ready to depart from our post-apocalyptic paradise in Brooklyn, we decided NOT to take the route we came in on, but instead went further east into Long Island so as to situate ourselves closer to the interstate. We stayed three nights at Smith Point County Park on the Fire Island National Seashore to decompress seaside, and aside from the crazies that were our neighbors, it was a good place to breathe before the ride back to Penn Wood.

SMith Point COunty Park


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