Perfect skies in Philly, then on to New York!

5/17/22

Today was another lovely day, with some relaxation and some travel.

Eileen and I relaxed this morning, as the sun came out onto a beautifully warm day. She saw me off around noon, and then I spent about an hour ambling around by bike to get to the train station, enjoying a short stretch of the Schuylkill Banks path. I loved the blue sky and puffy clouds, and the cool eagle sculptures with light posts.

I made it to the train station in plenty of time, but once again had some challenges with the rig. In this case, no staff gave me any kind of a hard time—they seemed very happy to let me board—but once I got in line, I found I had to take an escalator down to the platform, which was awkward and could have ended in an injury if I hadn’t been lucky!

Once I got to the platform, there were no staff waiting at the doors of the five coach cars. (This Keystone line offered only coach seating, and not even a café car.) So I did my best to guess which would be the best car to board. It turned out they were pretty much all equally difficult. Not as bad as Charlottesville, since the train was flush with the platform here. But even so, the doors were narrower than the trailer, so once again I had to turn it sideways and do my best to huff it onto the train and then find a spot for it. (No baggage car on this train, either, and it appeared to me that everyone boarding had huge bags. I was really worried for a moment that I simply would not be able to find a spot for my belongings.)

I ended up stowing the folded bike in one exit doorway, and the trailer, balanced upright, in the next one. There was no conductor or attendant to be seen. I knew they would not allow me to keep the items this way once the train started moving. But I stood there, hanging onto a rail for balance, until the doors closed and the train did start moving.

Eventually the conductor made his way to my car—the last one—to scan our tickets. Fortunately, he seemed entirely unperturbed when I showed him the situation, and he just told me to put them in an empty area at the front of the next car. (The area with a sign that reads—paraphrasing—“don’t put your baggage here; this area is for people with disabilities.”) I’ve found myself in this situation before.

I felt awkward about putting my things there, but the seats were almost all full and the train was in motion, so clearly no passengers needed that space for at least the first leg of the trip, to Trenton. I figured if someone got on—in Trenton or Newark, the only stops before New York—I could move my things again somehow.

In a two-step process, I once again awkwardly hefted both items down the short-but –jiggly hallway and stowed them, then went and found one of the few remaining open seats.

The 90-minute journey passed quickly and without incident. I managed to heft everything off the train at Penn Station, with a bit of help from a conductor.

When I disembarked, though—and spent about five minutes putting the rig back together and then finding the elevator and squishing myself and the rig into it—my ears were assaulted by the loudest sustained sound I think I have ever heard. It was overwhelming. I think it was the roar of a train engine. It felt like a hazardous decibel level, and I was shocked that it was even legal to expose all the passengers to it. I was very relieved when the elevator whisked me up above it.

The bike ride to my new host Noah’s place, in the Lower East Side, was about three miles. I couldn’t have asked for better weather, but navigating my rig through Manhattan streets was a first for me, and kinda harrowing. Noah—who travels by bike regularly, and one time biked most of the way across the US on a folding bike himself—remarked that the bicycle infrastructure now is much better than it used to be. I had been aware of that, I having followed national bike news on the bikeportland.org blog for many years, but even with the improvements, New York traffic is unlike that of any other place, with people in all modes running lights, weaving all over, honking, etc.

But I did make it to my destination, and enjoyed a wonderful home cooked vegan meal with Noah and his son, followed by a spirited game of Monopoly.

Tomorrow I’ll be meeting a friend in Midtown for lunch, and then probably exploring more of Manhattan on the bike (without the trailer!) I’d like to go back to Central Park. When I was last here, almost exactly three years ago, I visited Central Park for the first time, and it blew me away. I was on foot then, and I walked the entire length of the park—south to north—in the course of six hours. (The last five or so of them took place in a gentle but soaking rain.)

I think it would be fun to experience the park again—in the sunshine—with the option of traveling a bit faster.

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