I still remember standing out on the deck of the USS Hayler for the first time as we pulled out of Norfolk Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia. The year was 1996, and I was in for some of the most memorable experiences of my life. During the course of my ten years in the US Navy, I was able to visit forty-seven different countries and spend a total of almost five years out at sea. There is nothing like the very first time we pulled away from the pier and headed out to sail the ocean. The ocean to me represented escape from what I thought was a boring childhood, new beginnings, and a life of adventure. I found that the ocean heightens my senses and rejuvenated my spirit. What wonders or adventures were we going to experience on this cruise? Would the sea of dark blue and sometimes unforgiving, powerful, and relentless waves claim our ship or cause any sleepless nights while we sail on them? The sea never disappointed me, and provided many fond memories during the course of those ten years; nevertheless, they and the places I visited during this time will not be any of the places I choose to write about for this essay.
The three places I chose to write about are three places that hold more than just a great memory of fun and adventure. They are life changing or altering places. These places are types that when you go there, visit, and participate in the activities, it will change you deep down inside your soul. While there, you have to take a pause, look all around you, take a deep breath, and take it all in basking in the atmosphere of the location with its surroundings. For this reason, I have decided to write and share these places with you. I hope that one day you will have the opportunity to experience it and you will be touched like I was. The first place I have chosen is Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium for a DC United soccer playoff game. There are very few sport stadiums like RFK during a playoff game. From the time you get on the metro that is filled with tall or short, fat or skinny, regular or diehard, and drunk or about to get drunk fans, to the time that the whistle blows for the start of the game, the atmosphere is electrifying and unforgettable.
Before the kickoff, you feel the hair on the back of your neck and arms standing up due to this force. You can smell the aroma of hot dogs, pretzels and nachos along with beer reach up inside of you and make your stomach beg for you to purchase some and devour it all leaving nothing left over. You hear the deep pounding of drums and the fans chanting “Ohhhhhhhh Ohhhhhhhhhhh” while jumping up and down where they stand. You feel the ground underneath you spring you up and down due to the fans all being in unison as they chant and jump. The fans next to you stare at you like you are some lunatic if you don’t join in and experience it. You can’t avoid not doing it as this electricity reaches over to you and you find yourself chanting and jumping up and down also. When the ball crosses the goal line, you scream with all your might “GOOOOOAAAAALLLLLLL!!!!!!!” Your turn to the fan next you and with such excitement, give him countless high fives and celebrate the score of the home team.
You experience the overwhelming emotion of hope that your team may have a chance to be crown champion as if you are one of the players actually playing the game itself. When you leave the stadium, you feel like you were part of something great. Like your will and excitement were the ingredients that put the home team over the top and because of you and you alone, the home team won. You have been hooked, and you will not want to let your team down by not being there the next time. So you will go again because after all, you don’t want to be the reason why they lose their next game. What will this great and memorable experience cost you? Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium for a DC United soccer playoff game will cost you approximately $50 dollars per ticket and you can’t pass it up (“DC United”, n.d.).
You can get cheaper tickets, but would only recommend ones close to the field and near the center. This allows you to see the whole field of play, and also allows you to really experience the playoff atmosphere and the red and black attack fans love for their team. The second place I will be choosing is Central Park in New York City on a cool summer day. If you are a movie watcher, this location is perfect for you. Some of the greatest movies either have central park as a backdrop or part of the story has scenes in central park. When you take your first step into this vast sea of green, you instantly are at a loss of words due to just how large this park is. You know New York City is large; after all it is a city, but a park that lives within one of the largest cities can’t be that large. You continue to walk the pathways that are lined with laughter of children, people walking by, and wait, what is that smell? The smell of food from local vendors that are selling food along the outskirts of the park.
As time continues to move at a fast pace and the hours continue to pass by, you realize that not only are you still in the park, but that the park is like a maze and you can easily spend all day inside of it. The green ocean of trees makes you feel like you are in a forest and brings a smile to your face, and at the same time somehow makes you forget that you are still inside of a city. While visiting Central Park in New York, you should stop at Central Park Bicycle Shop and rent a bicycle. They hold a large selection of bicycles to satisfy any type of cycling activity you want to perform in central park and even around New York City. They will give you a bike, map, helmet, lock and a bell. On a nice cool day in central park, riding a bike through the huge and vast forests of central park is a remarkable activity that provides both exercise and fun. If you don’t reserve the bike online the cost is $25 for three hours. If you book it online you can get it for $18 dollars for three hours which is a great price (“Bike Rental”, n.d.).
The third place is Niagara Falls, NY. This is where my wife and I spent our honeymoon. After arriving, we took the maiden mist to the center of the falls where our breath was taken away by the power of these falls and the astounding scenery. As you stand out on the deck, you feel water spraying all over your face as if you just walked in a cold sauna. This mist is coming from the power of the water as it runs over the fall and hits the bottom of the fall before gushing and spraying a fine mist all over anything that is near. The captain of the boat takes the boat as close as you can get safely, placing you in the way of this powerful force of water. As you turn to your left and right, the scenery is just as astounding. The walls of rock that have been carved out by this powerful force is covered by beautiful greenery of pink and white blossoms along with the traditional pine trees.
You hear the captain of the boat tell you all kinds of interesting facts, some of which will stick into your head for many years to come. One such story is about the last man who decided to take a barrel over the fall. As you stand there listening, your mind wonders how such an near impossible feat could be survived. You look up to the top from the bottom, it seems like you are thousands of feet down and the gushing sound you hear would tear you apart if you survived it. The atmosphere and the view are self-explanatory, and you have no doubt why this breath-taking wonders is one of the natural wonders of the world. The Maid of the Mist, which is a boat tour of Niagara Falls, starts off at one of the calmest parts of the Niagara River, close to the Rainbow Bridge, and takes its passengers past the American and Bridal Veil Falls before having its passengers get sprayed by a dense mist inside the curve of the Horseshoe Falls, also known as the Canadian Falls.
The tour is available starting from either side of the river, the Canadian or American, before returning to the starting point in each case (“Maid”, n.d.). This boat tour of Niagara Falls is a must do when visiting because it gives you a bird’s eye view of the falls and allows you to enjoy the falls from a safe and up close spot that while there seems very dangerous. Cost is $15.50 for an adult which is anyone over the age of 12 (“Official Maid”, n.d.). All three locations each have their own and very unique memories for me.
They each appeal to all five senses and reach down to your soul. They each in their own way speak to you and leaves an impression. What type of impression do they leave? Well, for me they are lifelong impressions that make me yearn to go back to them and experience it all over again. They have forever changed me and despite spending ten years in the US Navy and my love for the sea, I would never trade any of those experiences for a chance to visit any of these three locations. The sea may be adventurous and provide wonder, but these locations are impressionable and long lasting.
Bike Rental Central Park | Bike Rentals NYC | Central Park Bicycle Shop. (n.d.). Central Park Bicycle Shop Online. Retrieved November 28, 2012, from http://www.centralparkbicycleshop.com/bike_rentals DC United Playoff Tickets (n.d.). Tickets at StubHub.com. Retrieved November 28, 2012, from http://www.stubhub.com/dc-united-playoff-tickets/ Maid of the Mist. (n.d.). In Wikipedia.com. Retrieved November 28, 2012, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maid_of_the_Mist Official Maid of the Mist Website. (n.d.). Official Maid of the Mist Website. Retrieved November 28, 2012, from http://www.maidofthemist.com/en/
Courtney from Study Moose