After a breakneck and busy workweek, it was finally the moment of truth. Shut down my computer, backpack on, locked up the office and swiftly headed out the back door to hustle the block and a half over to the Broad Street Subway. Swiped my transpass and excitedly danced down the steps toward the sound of the incoming northbound, visions of coaster trains racing in my head. I hopped on, and quickly shot off a text message "running errands. then headed your way", before hopping off at the next stop. Pop in Rite Aid for some travel-size toiletries, make a hurried bank deposit, and a quick reload of my transpass, before heading back underground to catch a second northbound train that would take me to another train that would get me over to 30th Street Station. I had plenty of time before my 6:50pm departure, an Amtrak that would take me to NYC's Penn Station for a brief layover before continuing on to Poughkeepsie, NY for a 10:20pm arrival.
I was to spend the weekend with Coasterbill and his main squeeze CoasterBritt, while they showed off the finest the New England area has to offer: Lake Compounce, America's older continuously operating amusement park and the home of what many consider to be the finest wooden coaster on earth: Boulder Dash, as well as Six Flags' #thrillitup #boowoop coaster capitol of New England containing the legendary Intamin masterpiece Superman: The Ride and the wickedly insane RMC monster, Wicked Cyclone.
This trip has been more than a few years in the making. As some of you know from my posting here, I've been a coaster fan my entire life, but only delved deep into this community four years ago, when I began regularly visiting my local parks, and occasionally traveling to check out what else this great green Earth has to offer. My uncle & his girlfriend were ACErs in the late 90s/early 2000s and traveled extensively at the time, often gushing to me about incredible rides they got to experience at faraway places. I admired their explorations and enjoyed their stories. They talked about parks like Cedar Point and Magic Mountain and Busch Gardens and how I need to come with them to check out some of these magical places for myself. One of the rides they raved about was a gargantuan steel coaster up in Massachusetts themed to Superman.
Over a decade later I discovered TPR, Youtube coaster POVs, RCDB, etc etc when that ride returned to my consciousness. I watched a POV at some point around then and the ride shot to the top of my bucketlist. A year later, the park announced plans to have Rocky Mountain Construction rework their classic Riverside Cyclone wooden coaster, transforming it into a wood/steel hybrid with inversions and other extreme elements. I didn't know much about the original Cyclone, and RMC had modified and revamped other coasters prior to this, but this was the first RMC conversion I actively followed and paid close attention to. We got plenty of updates that winter since the ride sits right next to a public street, allowing for plenty of photos to surface during the transformation process. I now had a second reason to visit this park, all in spite of overwhelmingly negative opinions enthusiasts had about the park. I vowed I would visit the park in the rides opening season... which came... and went. As did another season.
Last month Bill and I started exchanging on ideas about a weekend hanging out. We went back and forth for weeks occasionally texting some sort of plan and eventually picked a date. Finally last Thursday night I pulled the trigger and booked a train ticket for Friday.
If you've never been to Philadelphia, 30th Street Station is our main transportation hub where our local public transit (Septa) links to Amtrak and NJTransit. Its the closest thing we have to a Grand Central. When I arrived here I still had a bunch of time to kill so I first checked out this new interactive/public use art exhibit The Porch
, located right outside the station.
The exterior of the station is currently getting a facelift, and I'm sure you don't want to look at photos of scaffolding, but the inside looks, albeit dated, as grand and stately as it always has.
Once inside, I stopped in the food court and decided on Wendys for a sad and overpriced excuse for dinner, and by the time I was finished scarfing down my meal they had announced my track number, so I hurried into the line which briskly moved right down to the platform to board. Now, I'm pretty thrifty and normally would have taken the much cheaper and slower way up via Septa to NJ Transit, etc etc. This Amtrak ticket was definitely splurging. But with only a little over two hours of actual travel time (compared to almost six if I had gone cheap) and a nice comfortable train car, it was worth it. It felt more like flying to this cheapskate! My first leg to NYC was completely uneventful. I shut off my phone, plugged my good headphones into my iPod to blast a bunch of new music I recently downloaded for the trip, and gazed out at the blurred landscape toasted orange by the setting sun on the horizon. It felt like we got to NYC in no time.
Upon disembarking the train I headed upstairs and accidentally found myself on the street instead of still inside the station, but it was nice to pop my head out of the ground in the middle of Manhattan, just to cross the street and head back down underground and out of the city.
In true New York City fashion, I immediately encountered one of Penn Stations resident crazydudes, who was hulking around shouting about everything and nothing amidst the crowds eagerly watching the train-board. Then suddenly, a perfectly well-dressed businessman complete with suit jacket, tie and briefcase excused himself before asking if I had any money he could have. The NYC vibes are thick tonight. It has been a while since I've been here, but I was kinda feelin’ it. Such an appropriate reaction from the city to my very brief stopover.
Before I knew it I was on the 2nd leg of my journey, in an equally cozy second Amtrak, but while I was now lucky enough to have two seats to myself, I was sandwiched between an elderly man in front of me who immediately reclined his seat completely into my lap and began loudly snoring and occasionally moaning (more awkward than entertaining), and a gaggle of loud Midwestern middle-aged women behind me who'd befriended a drunk, flamboyant, southern-accented man across the aisle, and they proceeded to have a contest to see who could talk the loudest for entirety of the trip, at one point delving into a deep yet hilarious discussion about the sounds and snoring patterns of the man in front of me, and how serious a condition sleep apnea is. Needless to say, the ride was fast and funny, and before I knew it I was hopping in the back of Bill and Britt's shiny red Prius and darting around the dark, hilly streets of Poughkeepsie, recalling the highlights of my journey.
They had just come from a baseball game so we stopped for some late night munchies before heading back to their place where we sat up and had a few beers and some laughs. Such gracious hosts they had set me up in their cozy guest room where I eventually retired to in order to rest up for a big day at the Coaster Capitol of New England. So of course I pulled out my phone to browse TPR before I drifted off to sleep…
Stay tuned for part two...