Dylan isn’t much on presents, but he likes experiences and he loves road trips, so to celebrate his 13th birthday we gave him several options for weekend trips.

He mulled it over for days and finally chose to go to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library in Atlanta.

After six weeks of anticipation, he and his dad set out for Atlanta and a few hours later Dylan called me, all  excited, and said, “Guess what I just saw!”

From the background noise, I could tell they were still on the road. I’ve been to Atlanta many times, and while I love it, I couldn’t remember anything that interesting that could be seen from the interstate.

“What?” I asked.

“The Empire State Building!”

Um. Excuse me? 

“Where are you?” I asked.

“I’m in New York,” he said.

“You were going to Atlanta,” I replied.

Then all nonchalantly, he said, “Oh, we changed our minds.”

It turns out when they got to I-95, they just decided to go North. I wish I could be spontaneous enough to just change my mind at the last minute and go to New York City instead of Atlanta.

He has always, always wanted to see New York City. So I was happy for him. Really happy. Still, they had packed for Atlanta weather. They had researched the hours of operation at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, and tours for World of Coke and CNN. They were prepared to go to Atlanta. They were not prepared to go to New York City.

I was nowhere near them and was nervous as a cat.

They drove straight to Poughkeepsie (with no hotel reservations) so they could visit the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Museum first thing the next morning in neighboring Hyde Park.

There they spent most of the day seeing all sorts of fascinating documents and items related to FDR’s presidency including his handwritten revisions to his famous speech to Congress following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This was my favorite living-vicariously photo from the museum:

message to congress FDRAnd also, at the Roosevelt home, still hanging in the closet was the cape he wore in the famous Yalta Conference photo taken with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Leader Joseph Stalin. That was Dylan’s favorite part.

“Yalta Conference (Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin) (B&W)” by US government photographer

He also got to see (and touch) a portion of the Berlin Wall, on what turned out to be the 25th anniversary of it coming down.

Dylan at Berlin WallThat night they drove back to Jersey City (no reservations again! Argh!) and stayed on the Hudson River where they could see One World Trade Center and the Empire State Building from their hotel.

view from hotel NYCThat night they traveled on the subway (accessible from the hotel they didn’t have reservations for) into Manhattan where they ate real New York pizza, and perused Times Square and all the surrounding fun places nearby.

NYC collage

The next morning they drove a couple of miles to Liberty State Park and caught the ferry over to see Lady Liberty. (They did have reserved tickets for that, thanks to a certain someone who was at home having a cow over all this spontaneity).

Statue of Liberty collageI’d say it turned out pretty good, after all. And I bet Dylan will never forget his trip to “Atlanta”.

And, for the record, I will never forget his cold, red nose in the photos from Times Square. Hello! ATLANTA wardrobe in NEW YORK CITY!

Happy birthday, Dylan.

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