A lack of planning means you have to think on your feet, or "Transfer at Bridgeport".
Early Sunday morning, September 25th. At 1:30am I depart SPX to catch the Metro Red Line to Union Station, where I catch the 3am departure to New York's Penn Station. Mull about the empty train station until boarding, then find a seat and try to get a little sleep.
6:30am and I awake pulling out of Newark. The sun was rising, coming up from behind the now visible Manhattan skyline. Within 15 minutes I'm in the bowels of Manhattan, train disgorging me into Pennsylvania Station. I'm tired and in no mood to deal with much of anything. On cue, New York acts the stereotypical asshole part, the one made famous in movies like the Out-Of-Towners. I'm confronted by a crazy guy with spit in the corners of his mouth who really wants to use the stall I'm going to use, and I end up somehow paying three dollars for coffee and a donut at Dunkin' Donuts (a good dollar over what it should be.) Thanks, Big Apple.
I was a bit grumpier than usual because I had to make a change of plans. Originally, the reason I was getting off in New York was because I was going to stay in New York for a few days. But all my options for crash spaces turned up negative. I knew that things were uncertain when I booked the tickets, but I figured I'd somehow wing it. Hey, I've been winging it for great portions of this trip, why stop? And I figured I would run into people at SPX who lived in NYC, whom I could crash with. Well, guess what? That didn't work out either. My friends weren't directly running back to the city, and fuck, I was expecting a lot for the last minute.
So at the 11th hour I regrouped and decided I would go straight to Connecticut and stay with my mom. I was planning on getting up there around Wednesday, now I would be there a few days earlier. I would come back down to New York next week.
I thought about getting my ticket adjusted so I would get off in New Haven instead, but there was a glitch: Because I knew I wouldn't be using my bicycle while I was in DC, I had it checked to New York from Champaign. So I had to get my bike, which I easily retrieved. But now how to get to Ansonia, Connecticut, where my mom lived?
The answer: Take Metro-North. Metro-North is the commuter rail service running north from the City into the Hudson Valley and into southwestern CT. It meant I had to ride over to Grand Central Terminal, a fifteen-minute bike ride north. New York's streets were eerily quiet, I guess the city does actually sleep at 7am on a Sunday. I was expecting "the big hassle" at Grand Central since I had a bike, but it was actually no problem. The conductor put me (and a couple other bicyclists) in the deserted bar car, and I tried to get a li'l shuteye on the way to the Valley.
When I opened my eyes, I realized I was back in my home state of Connecticut, as the corporate towers of Stamford whizzed by. Ah, Connecticut, the place I spent almost 25 years of my life, the place that made me who I am. I wasn't really feeling it, maybe because it was too early, maybe because of the month on the road.
At Bridgeport I got off the "New Haven Line" train and transferred to the "Waterbury Branch" which would bring me to Ansonia. The New Haven Line trains do the job, but they're a bit dingy, being maybe 25 years old and overworked on mainline service. And if the New Haven cars are dingy, the Waterbury cars are downright disgusting. But the Waterbury Branch is a lightly used line, lucky to still have service. I know the state has made threats of cutting funding, which would end the over 150 years of continuous passenger service on the old Naugatuck Railroad. Gotta be lucky with what we have, because we sure aren't Europe or Japan, where people wouldn't let shit like that happen.
The train ambled along the Housatonic River, and the landmarks we passed were all too familiar, burned in my head forever. We soon entered the comfortable confines of the Lower Naugatuck Valley, and within minutes I was dropped off with my bike in downtown Ansonia, the panorama one that I could probably draw from memory. It was 10am so I dialed mom and asked what was for breakfast, hoping for something good.