Thursday April 28


We had the car packed and the dogs loaded up by 8:15 a.m.  After a quick drive across the city to drop Blue and Jake off at their grandma’s house we got underway!


The sun was shining brightly and we were both beaming with delight . . . it’s been so long since we’ve been away!


We were one minute behind schedule when we pulled way from Granny’s at 9:01 but I put the pedal to the metal and got us back on schedule before we got to the freeway!

We pulled off the highway and crossed the Thousand Island Bridge at 9:33.

At US Customs there were two simple questions . . . “Where are you going?” and “Are you bringing anything into the country?”  Then she said, “Have a great day!” and we drove off . . . you gotta love those Nexus cards!


It was a wonderfully uneventful drive as we made our way south on Interstate 81.  Nothing much happened . . . and that’s good!  There was construction here and there but nothing that slowed traffic.  We made great time!


We made a quick stop at Watertown New York to gas up and grab our last Tim Horton’s coffee for a few days!  Our next stop was in Syracuse where I bought a few new shirts at JC Penny.  Carol did a quick lap through the Disney Store and came out empty-handed.  That doesn’t happen too often!


We pulled off at Whitney Point NY about 1:30 and had a less-than-mediocre lunch at McDonalds.  We should have known better, but it was handy!


It was drizzling when we left Whitney Point and it continued to rain all afternoon.  The rain was hard enough to clean all the bugs off the windshield, but not hard enough to slow traffic.  It worked out perfectly!

We left New York State behind and crossed into Pennsylvania at 2:15.  About 35 minutes later we left I-81 at Scranton and followed I-84 to I-380, to I-80 and then drove on Pennsylvania Highway 33 as we made our way south through the Pocono Mountains.

By 4:00 we crossed the New Jersey State Line on I-78.  We enjoyed the greenery as we sped along on I-78 and I-287 toward our destination.  The trees and flowers here are at least two weeks ahead of what we see at home . . . Carol and I are both anxious to see our plants at home catch up!


Traffic finally came crashing to a halt just four miles short of our hotel.  The last few miles took a half hour, but we pulled in at the Comfort Inn at 4:45.


After checking in and resting for an hour or so, we headed back north on I-287 on our way to nearby Bridgewater.  Dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in Bridgewater has become a Thursday night tradition when we’re here for a pin trading weekend!


After a nice meal we headed home and enjoyed a quiet night of television before hitting the hay early.  We were both tired after a day on the road!

Friday April 29


It was overcast and dreary when Carol and I woke up at 6:45 a.m.  We relaxed over a few cups of coffee in the room for a while and double-checked the weather forecast before heading out on our way to New York City.

By 8:30 we were on our way . . . first stop was at the complementary breakfast offered in a room just off the hotel lobby.  We met Dave and Janice Lavender on our way in to breakfast . . . Janice is one of the chief organizers of the Central Jersey Disney Pin Trading events.  We had such a nice time chatting with them that our “quick bite” of breakfast evolved into an hour-long discussion.  While we were enjoying breakfast with Dave and Janice another friend, Gabe, dropped by and gave Carol three little Orange Bird figurines he picked up from California.  He knew that she’d be thrilled to add them to her Orange Bird collection!

It was 9:30 before we left the hotel on our way to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. Naturally, we were sidetracked by shopping . . . there were a few things we just had to pick up at a nearby K-Mart.  I ended up with a few new shirts but the process ate up another hour.  It was 10:45 before we got on the highway heading to Staten Island and 11:30 when we pulled into the ferry terminal.


Yikes!  There was no parking available.  Last year we parked in a big outdoor lot right beside the terminal building . . . but this year that parking lot is a gigantic hole where they appear to be building some sort of skyscraper.


We drove back to the small commuter lot and lurked, driving very, very slowly around in circles as we waited for someone to pull out.  After a half-hour only two people had left and each time another car beat us to the empty spots.  We left at noon, quite disappointed.  No trip to the Big Apple today . . . next time we'll be sure to take the train!


Carol thought that some more shopping might help improve her mood and suggested that we head to the Staten Island Mall.  She had been there years ago but had no idea where it was or how to get there.


I decided that the only logical thing to do was ask for directions!  And who could be a better source for those directions than the man installing new windows in a house not far from the freeway?  He knew about six words in English and I know zero words in Spanish.  But when I tossed the six French words I know into my questions and we began to wave our hands with wild abandon some sort of understanding was achieved. 


He pointed in the direction we had just come from and said something like, “Go up there to Victory Street and turn left.  Take Victory as far as Richmond and turn left again.  The mall will be on your left.”


Then he added that it would be quicker to take the freeway a few miles to the Victory exit, then left on Richmond.  We would miss a lot of traffic lights.


Since we had just left Victory Street a few minutes prior I decided to skip the freeway and stick with a route I was "sort of" familiar with.  After all, how many traffic lights could there be?


Plenty as it turned out.  Victory took us through several miles of a busy commercial zone.  It was like the main street in a small town, a narrow street with a red light every two blocks and the car in front of us seemed to have to turn left at every light.  A four mile drive took about 40 minutes . . . we should have taken the freeway!


We pulled into the Staten Island Mall at about 1:30 and had a burger for lunch at Red Robin.  Another poor dining choice!


I waited in the car reading my book while Carol scoured a few shops.  She enjoys shopping a lot more when I’m not underfoot!  I was quite surprised when she arrived at the car empty-handed.

We drove directly back to the Comfort Inn where she grabbed her pin bag.  By 3:00 p.m. we had joined a small group of pin traders who had congregated in the breakfast room beside the lobby.


I visited with everyone there for about an hour then headed up to our room.  Carol chatted and traded until 5:00 p.m. when she came to get me . . . it was time for dinner.

We wandered across the road to Ruby Tuesday where we had a very nice dinner with friends Susan, Jen, Ann and Mike.


By 7:00 p.m. Carol had hauled her pins back to the big meeting room and was busy yakking and trading while I jotted down a few notes for this trip report!

I popped downstairs a few times during the evening and babysat Carol's pin bags while she searched the room for pins; she always does some of her best trades on the first night! 

By 10:00 p.m. I had had enough and called it a night.  Carol joined me back in the room about an hour later, pleased with the 24 new pins she traded for.

Saturday April 30


Today was all about pins!  Nothing but pins!


We were up at 7:00 a.m. and had our first cup of coffee in the room, then once my eyes were fully opened I went down to the breakfast room to bring some better quality coffee back to the room.


By 8:30 I was back in the breakfast room enjoying a fresh Belgian waffle and orange juice.  Carol joined me just before 9:00 a.m. and had a bowl of oatmeal for her breakfast.


The hotel treats the pin traders very well.  Not only do they give very attractive group rates for the guest rooms and provide a complimentary hot breakfast, but they allow the group to bring in their own snacks and beverages.  All the traders bring along cans of soda or bottles of water, chips, cookies or some other snack to add to the communal stock of food and drink.

By 9:30 Carol was all set up in the back conference room.  I spent much of the day babysitting her three pin bags while she scoured the three rooms filled with traders, looking for the pins she has on her “wants list”.

The traders are an interesting group.  They don’t seem to be competitive, they seem genuinely interested in helping other collectors complete the sets of pins they’re trying to acquire.  It’s amazing how well things can work out when people are cooperative rather than competitive!


As I sat there people would come by, flip through the three bags full of trader pins and then say, “Tell Carol there are three pins in there that I’d like to trade for.  My pins are right over there; she can have a look when she gets back.”

The traders come from all over; in the parking lot there were plenty of cars with Disney stickers, decals or vanity plates.  Those cars came from Ontario, Ohio, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and of course New Jersey.  There are probably other states represented here that I missed.  By mid-afternoon 76 pin traders had checked in and paid the modest registration fees.

At noon lunch arrived, a ten-foot turkey sub, a five-foot Italian sub, two salads, pickles and some desserts.

During the day the organizers staged a number of games for everyone.

There were Crossword and Word-Search puzzles, Bingo, Name That Toon, Disney Trivia and a 50/50 Pin Game.

There was even a raffle for some terrific Disney prizes!


By the time the dinner break rolled around at 5:00 p.m. Carol had traded another 32 pins and 2 Vinylmations.  That’s a pretty successful day!

Our friends John and Cathy, who live about an hour away, arrived just as we broke for dinner.  We relaxed with them in our room and had a few laughs as we spent an hour catching up with each others busy lives.  At 6:00 we walked across the road to Ruby Tuesday’s and carried on our visit over a leisurely dinner.


After dinner we spent another few hours in the hotel, laughing and reminiscing with our good friends before saying our goodbyes at 10:00.


Carol went back down for some more trading while I relaxed in the room.  (Snore!)  Carol was back home at 11:30 to rest up for a travel day tomorrow!

Sunday May 1  Happy birthday to me!  Happy birthday to me!


Carol surprised me.  We were both up and enjoying our first cup of coffee at about 7:15 when I asked, “Are you going to do some more trading this morning?”


“Nope,” she replied, “I’m all done and I miss my dogs.  Take me home.”


So I did!


We were all packed up by 8:00 a.m. and stopped in the breakfast room for another coffee and a quick bite to eat before we pulled away.  We chatted with the organizers and thanked then for a wonderful weekend before we pulled away to begin our 372 mile trek at 8:30.


It was a chilly gray day and it drizzled all the way home.  The windshield wipers on my Dodge Journey developed a squeak . . . every time they swiped across the glass it was like someone scraped their fingernails across a blackboard.  Ouch!  It was annoying.  Occasionally the rain would lighten up a bit and I could use the intermittent setting on the wipers – then there were only about ten screeches a minute – but most of the time it was continuous.


As soon as we get home I’m getting new wiper blades!


In spite of the rain traffic moved well.  We stopped to stretch our legs at New Milford in northern Pennsylvania at about 11:00 a.m.


By 12:30 we had made it to Syracuse New York where Carol wanted to pick up a few groceries at Wegman’s.  As we approached the grocery store I spotted a KFC Restaurant.  I’m not a KFC fan but Carol enjoys it so I decided to treat her.  I turned in and we had a nibble of lunch.  It truly was a nibble . . . that was one KFC Store that would not make Colonel Harlan Sanders proud.  Just minutes after we left the restaurant Carol’s chicken began having a hoedown in her digestive tract; her stomach was upset the rest of the day.  We decided that KFC would join McDonalds on the list of fast food chains we will never again visit south of the border.


After Carol’s shopping was complete I topped up the car with gas (it’s about 30% cheaper in the USA) and off we went to the border.  We were back in Canada by 3:30, picked up the dogs at Carol’s mother’s house and were home unpacking by 4:30.  It sure felt good to shut off those windshield wipers . . . they had given us each a headache!


The next pin trading excursion will be in August when Carol heads south for the annual Pin Celebration at EPCOT.