The Rest of the Story…

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Well, our Greyhound bus to New York City finally made it. The lights were still out in most of NYC. Despite the news stories we had seen, I hadn’t expected the traffic to be quite that bad. Our bus driver was constantly on his radio, trying to find the best way into the city, and trying to find out where he was supposed to drop all of us off (the dispatchers changed their minds three times!). Our bus arrived about an hour later than scheduled, but we hoped we could still make our way to Penn Station in time to catch the 3:00 Amtrack train.

We rushed through the very hot, very crowded New York City streets, arriving first at the main entrance to Penn Station, which was taped off and guarded by police officers because the subways were closed. We asked for directions to the Amtrack terminal, which was 2 blocks further, then rushed there. We then entered a spookily dark Penn Station. The emergency lights were illuminated, so it wasn’t entirely dark, but it was eerie just the same. There was no air conditioning and no place to buy water (we started to regret our rush through the streets). There were very few places to ask questions — and long lines at those. We once again saw the news cameras interviewing passengers (how nice of them to all keep footage of our vacation!), but you definitely didn’t want to talk to these guys… they had a bright light that was directed straight at you if they interviewed you, which probably added another 10-15 degrees to the already-overheated station. Since there was no place to buy tickets, folks just rushed to get on board whichever trains came along, then paid the ticket-collector. We took the first train headed the right direction, and though we had to sit on the train about an extra hour, we finally made our way to Trenton. We were 22 hours late.

My brother picked us up, and we were glad to be in a car again. Mass transportation is nice in most circumstances, but times like these make you realize it’s nice not to have to depend on anyone (or anything) else. He took us to his house in Newtown, Pennsylvania, where we had enough time to clean up before our dinner reservations at Duck Sauce. The dinner was wonderful. I hadn’t realized we’d missed lunch, focused as we were on other dilemmas. It was nice to relax and eat again. My brother and his wife also took us on a mini-tour of Newtown. I hadn’t realized it was such a historical town — but it seems that whole area has so much history! They also showed us the various buildings used when the movie Signs was shot there. We mentioned we’d been meaning to see Signs, and they told us they had a copy. So we settled down in their basement/home theatre to watch it.

The next day was my brother’s surprise birthday party. Thankfully we arrived in Newtown in time for that, the main reason we came to the area. His wife had done an amazing job of planning the whole thing, and despite some last-minute concerns about slip-ups, my brother was indeed surprised. Of course, his birthday isn’t for another 4 months, so that makes it a bit easier to surprise a fellow… The party was a lot of fun. We had a delicious catered lunch and several games (with various incriminating pictures). Most of my sister-in-law’s family came back to the house to continue the party. She has a great family — not only did they stay up with us and insist on feeding us before our long journey back… but they also were kind enough to share a bottle of vintage port with us. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting and spending time with them.

When we planned our vacation, we used Priceline for the airline reservations. We ended up with a 6 a.m. flight out of NYC, meaning we’d have to catch the last train to leave Trenton at 1 a.m., a subway across town at 2 a.m., and a taxi to the airport. We knew ahead of time that this part of the trip would be hell. We just didn’t know we’d already be worn out from the power outage travel adventures. Fortunately, the trip went mostly according to schedule… catching a taxi at 3 a.m. in Queens wasn’t even as bad as I had feared (though there were a few unmarked “taxis” eager to give us a ride - scary!). The airlines were still backed up from cancelled flights during the power outage. Lines were long, our flights were delayed… the whole thing seemed terribly mismanaged. Our second leg of the trip included more mechanical problems (and, or course, a delay). Every single plane ride on our trip included delays, so we doubt we’ll ever fly American Airlines again. But thankfully we arrived home — home to our nice SUV without any dependencies on mass transportation, home to our air conditioned house, home to our cat and dogs and nice soft bed.

Overall, it was a great trip. We could have done without the power outage excitement, but being in the middle of such a historic event was interesting. I’m sure we’ll go back to the area sometime — there were things in NYC we didn’t get a chance to see, and our delay meant we didn’t get to do any sight-seeing in Philadelphia (we hear the Duck Tours are fun). But we’ll be sure we take a flashlight next time… just in case.