NYC to Natick, via Albany

5/28/22

It’s been a long day. Kinda stressful, too. But lots of beauty all along the way.

The stress started last night at 12:37 am, when I got an automated call from Amtrak that my Albany-to-Framingham (just outside of Boston, near Natick) train was delayed. The voicemail was not very detailed or helpful; it didn’t indicate how much of a delay there was, and simply instructed me to call Amtrak to adjust my plans.

Great.

I thought I recalled that Amtrak customer service lines were open until 1:00 am Eastern time, so I called and sat on hold until 1:00, when I gave up and hung up. (I later learned they close at 11:00 pm, but there was nothing in their “hold music” to suggest this.)

So I stewed and had a hard time getting to sleep, wondering what I needed to do. (Get a hotel in Albany? Stay longer in New York? Try to create a whole new itinerary to get to Boston?)

I woke up early so I could call Amtrak again. I waited on hold maybe ten minutes, and then the agent told me that the train would be delayed about an hour and a half.

Really? This was worth an automated call telling me to call them to change my plans? I can deal with an hour and a half delay! (Although I did feel bad for my Natick hosts, Kristi and Ray, who would have to have me arrive later in the evening than they had planned on.)

I said goodbye to Natchra, and biked nearly an hour on mostly pleasant roadways and bikeways, through Queens and then the Queensboro Bridge, then through Manhattan one more time, before I arrived at Penn Station.

I managed to find elevators as needed (whew! No more scary juggling of my rig down a crowded escalator to the platform like in Philadelphia) and loaded my rig onto the train OK. In fact, I followed another cyclist right into the railcar. (If you’re reading this, Cheryl, hi!) Cheryl and I did our best to put our bikes and gear in front of our seats, as directed by the train attendant. We ended up chatting most of the way to Albany, which was fun.

When we disembarked there, she made her way toward her destination of Troy, NY, and I decided to head into Albany briefly for a late lunch. It was my first time there, and it seemed really cute. I wished I could have stayed a couple of nights after all. Perhaps on a future trip.

I went to the all-vegan Wizard Burger for lunch, and got a vegan chicken sandwich.

Good thing I did, because when I boarded the next train, toward Boston, the café car was out of service. (The one from NYC to Albany—a different train—had also been out of service. I was grateful to Natchra for having sent me along with fig bars for the road!)

At the last minute this afternoon, I had decided to use one of my Amtrak coupons to upgrade to Business Class for this trip. I was able to do so smoothly, but overall I don’t know that it was the best idea. It was awkward to board into the Business Class car with my rig. The free beverage that the upgrade entitles you to was worthless, since they weren’t serving beverages (although they were giving out free bottled water and free snacks, and I did avail myself of some snacks).

But the worst part was that two passengers in the row behind me—who seemed to have just met on the train, and who were sitting on opposite sides of the aisle—kept up an unbroken streak of inane chatter for hours. They were not breaking any rules, nor being unduly obnoxious; their voices were not excessively loud. It would have been weird for me to complain to an attendant, or to directly request of them that they lower their voices. But their conversation took the edge off my calm enjoyment of the ride. (One example? They were reminiscing about Steve Miller Band songs—and even singing snippets of The Joker—but couldn’t remember his name, nor the name of the song, so this became another topic of discussion.)

After about two hours of this, I realized there was space available in the coach car behind us. I found an empty seat with a window, and enjoyed the blissful quiet in an almost identical car.

Ah, irony.

At the next stop, I walked back to visit the café car snacks again, and to my delight, both passengers were disembarking in Springfield. I had assumed they were both booked through to Boston. So I returned to my original seat, and enjoyed the setting sun in peace and quiet.

Both of today’s train rides were visually beautiful at this time of year. The first one in particular was amazing, following the Hudson River north: incredible geology, forests, and cloud-filtered sunlight.

Sadly, the delay increased over the course of the day, so I didn’t arrive at Kristi and Ray’s house until about 10:30. I felt bad, since they had had a long day, but Kristi greeted me graciously before retiring for the evening.

I’m looking forward to checking out the area tomorrow. Looks like there are some nice lakes nearby; I think a bike ride may be in order!

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