Just letting everybody know that I’m back home safely in Chicago.
My week in Philly was very productive. As I’ve already announced here, I’ve accepted a nice job offer from Kitchen & Associates (how’s that for a name?), a 50-person architecture firm located in a converted schoolhouse in Collingswood, New Jersey. I also got registered for classes at Drexel; I’ll be taking two classes per quarter for the next four years or so to finish my undergrad degree in architecture.
I’ve also settled on a place to live. There’s an apartment complex called the Village of Stoney Run in Maple Shade, NJ located on highway 73 between highway 41 and I-295. The apartment complex, while located in the midst of suburbia, is secluded back off the highway amongst a heavily-wooded area. If figure if I can’t live in the city, then my next choice would be to live in the woods. The apartments are very spacious, and have most of the amenities that I was looking for. My paperwork is still being processed, so we’ll see whether or not I get approved. (I also have backup plans in place if I don’t get approved.)
On Friday, I met up with Jersey Mike at 30th Street Station, where he had just arrived from Connecticut for a weekend home from school. We didn’t do much railfanning, but we rode the Regional Rail from 30th Street to Market East, and then transferred to PATCO to Haddonfield, NJ. I gave him a ride home from Haddonfield and met his parents before we parted ways.
Saturday, I headed up to New York City. I drove up I-295 to Hamilton, NJ where I parked my rental car (a nice 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix) and waited for the New Jersey Transit train to Penn Station. During my wait on the platform, a couple Amtrak trains pulled by AEM-7’s roared through the station at 125 MPH. Impressive.
Once in New York, I wandred around a bit on my own before meeting up with the SubTalk crowd for lunch. While wandering around on my own, I took a (3) express from Penn to 72nd on a train of R-62’s, where I grabbed some breakfast at a nice little bagel place at 77th and Amsterdam. From there I walked to 86th, where I waited in sweltering heat about 20 minutes for a (1) local to Times Square. By the grace of God, the R-62 I eventually boarded was as cold as a meat locker and not as crowded as I feared. At Times Square, I transferred to the Shuttle to GCT, where I wandered around a bit and browsed through the Transit Museum gift shop. After grabbing an iced coffee at a nearby Starbucks, I boarded a train of Kawasaki R-142’s to Bleeker Street. My first impressions of the R-142’s are generally favorable, although I think the R-62’s have a much cooler sound, and that stupid “Mr. Ed” voice is annoying as hell. Due to some sort of delay, it was announced that my train would be skipping Bleeker and a couple other stops, so I had to get off at Union Square and wait for the next train. This was my first time at Union Square, and those platform extenders are by far the coolest I’ve seen! After a short wait, I boarded another train of Kawasaki R-142’s to Bleeker.
I walked eastward down Houston Street hoping to browse through the cool surplus store near Broadway-LaFayette, but for some reason it was closed. (Their posted hours indicated that they should have been open.) Having about 30 minutes to kill before lunch at Katz’s, so I browsed around a bit in the local shops before heading over to Katz’s. After a short wait, I met up with Kevin Walsh and Francis Sibilla. After spending an eternity in line, we finally grabbed a table near the back and chowed down. I barely made a dent in my sandwich, and to be honest, I’ve had better reubens here in Chicago. My meal seemed to be more about quantity than quality, and several flies buzzing around didn’t help my impression. Katz’s was okay for just one visit as a tourist, but I wouldn’t make it part of my regular rotation of favorite restaurants.
After lunch, Francis parted ways, leaving Kevin and I to our own devices. During intermittent periods between downpours, Kevin led me on a marathon walking tour of lower Manhattan. We covered the Lower East Side, parts of Chinatown, South Street Seaport (where we took a much-needed rest), the financial district, Ground Zero, TriBeCa, and SoHo. I feel like I walked about 30 miles, but it was well worth it. I saw plenty of cool things that I had never seen before, and of course one can’t have a better tour guide than Kevin Walsh. Back up at Houston Street and having walked a huge circle around lower Manhattan, Kevin and I caught a northbound (6) train to GCT. Once at GCT, we parted ways; Kevin headed home on the (7), and I waited for a northbound (5) train so that I could experience the Dyre Avenue… And I waited, and waited, and waited… Finally, I boarded a northbound (6) train, where it was announced that the (5) was running as a shuttle between 125th and 149th, and then in another section betweem 149th and Dyre. So, ruling out a six-seat ride to Dyre and back, I rode the (6) to 125th, where I grabbed a very crowded (4) train to 149th, then transferred to a (2) train to 96th/Broadway, and then finally a (1) train to 86th.
Once at 86th, it was about 9:00 PM and I had about 30 minutes to kill before meeting up with David Greenberger, so I headed over to the Starbucks at 86th and Columbus for some much-needed rest and refreshment. 20 minutes later, I finally forced myself out of the comfy chair and walked back down to 86th. I met David just outside fare control, and we took the next southbound (1) train to Columbus Circle. Once at Columbus Circle, we poked around a bit and scoped out some signs of an closed-off crossunder below the IRT tracks before meeting up with RIPTA42HopeTunnel. From 59th we headed northbound on a (C) local train of R-32’s — my only venture to the B-Division all day — to 168th Street, where we transferred to the IRT once again. This was my first visit to the super-deep stations on the West Side IRT, so this was quite a sight. Due to some sort of delay, we ended up waiting quite a while for our southbound (1) train, even watching one (1) train breeze through the station without stopping before ours finally showed up. Somewhere along the way — it may have been 96th Street — we transferred to a (2) train of Bombardier R-142’s that had been diverted to the express track, and was making express stops only to 34th. I got off at 34th, as I was pretty exhausted and eager to head back to my hotel room, and we all parted company there.
Back at Penn Station, I waited about 30 minutes for the next NJT train to Trenton, which left around midnight. After a screaming child and his parents mercifully got off at Newark, the rest of the ride was quiet and uneventful. As the train was approaching my stop at Hamilton, a passenger seated a couple rows behind me was carrying on a conversation with the conductor about NJT new bi-level trains. I joined the conversation and mentioned that I was visiting from Chicago, where bi-levels rule the roost. The NJT conductor feared that the introduction of bi-levels would induce mass confusion while boarding and alighting on NJT trains, but I told him that Chicago commuters have been using bi-levels with no problems for many years.
The passenger and I both got off at Hamilton, and continued chatting. Turns out he works for the NYCTA (I forgot exactly what he does, but he had been a conductor for some years before), and we chatted for a while on the platform about trains and such. He’s even familiar with nycsubway.org and SubTalk. Before parting ways, he gave me a little MTA booklet outlining “Operators Rules and Regulations” for OPTO. It’s been a pretty interesting read so far… Thanks, mystery MTA employee!
I finally got back to my hotel in Maple Shade at around 2:00 AM, and promptly crashed.
Sunday and Monday found me running around and finding a place to live, and I suddenly found myself bored on Tuesday afternoon. So I decided to head out to Atlantic City to see what that place is all about. The thought that came to my mind was: Daytona Beach on steroids. Tacky as hell and brimming with massive casinos and blue-haired ladies sitting in front of slot machines, Atlantic City was just about what I had expected. There’s a neat little amusement part on the pier near Trump’s Taj Mahal Casino (where I had parked), and the boardwalk itself is a cool place to watch people. Later that day, I made one last visit to Jim’s Steaks at 4th and South Streets for yet another big fat steak hoagie. I flew back to Chicago this afternoon, and I’m now preparing to pack all my belongings into cardboard boxes.
I start my new job on Wednesday, September 4th. That prior weekend (Labor Day weekend) will be spent packing up boxes, loading up a U-Haul truck, driving to New Jersey with my car in tow, and unloading said U-Haul truck in New Jersey. Wish me luck!
Thanks to Jersey Mike for meeting up with me in Philly, and thanks to Kevin Walsh, Francis, David Greenberger, and RIPTA42HopeTunnel for meeting me in NYC. Special thanks to Kevin Walsh for the very cool walking tour of lower Manhattan! Watch for some photos to be posted soon.
We’ve got a nasty thunderstorm bearing down on us now, so I’d better get offline.
(originally posted on the SubTalk forum at nycsubway.org)