My daughter wanted to visit the Museum of Natural History before she started her summer job. So we, including my wife, did.
I’m not crazy about day trips to New York City, which is too much a compression of time. But what tipped the scales for me to go is that my daughter’s beau, Tee, had never been on a train. In fact, he’d never been to The Big Apple, only 150 miles away.
I tied ordering the tickets online. But the Amtrak site, which I’ve successfully navigated several times before was cranky. So I ordered by phone, which involved leaving my phone number until I got an automated call 90 minutes later. I was able to finish the transaction EXCEPT that they were to call me back in “15 minutes” to get my email. They needed to send me not just the tickets but information about COVID protocols, such as wearing a mask in the station and on the train.
OK. This trip meant getting up at 5 a.m. That’s five in the morning, not my natural habitat. Check my blood pressure, then feed the cats earlier than they were expecting; felines, it’d better last you for a while. Pick up Tee, go to the train station, which is not in Albany, but in Rensselaer, just across the river.
The train station is decent, WAY better than the hovel that existed on the site little over a decade ago. As for the trip between Rensselaer and NYC, this article, which I happened to get in my email after the trip. “Winding its way along the pretty Hudson Valley, you’ll appreciate why so many people choose to commute to Manhattan rather than live in the city.” It is a lovely trip, the only civilized way to go to Manhattan.
Oh, the OTHER station
We arrived at Penn Station. Apparently, the brand-new Moynihan Train Hall was across the street, but we never saw it on this trip. For sure next time.
Walking up to Times Square, some vendor guy, unsolicited, put a bracelet on my daughter’s wrist, then wanted her to give him $5 for it. This was a good lesson in negotiating the fact that she did NOT have to buy something just because a stranger foisted on her. A few minutes later, she and Tee were talking at the location where we believe the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.
We take the B train to the Museum of Natural History, west of Central Park. I’m quite good at the subway, even though I use it infrequently. My wife had made a reservation for a noon entry, and we got there at 11:30. It was already a long line when many of us were directed to an alternate entrance because that line was “full.”
We’re in line for nearly an hour, wearing masks. Those zigzag lines give one the false impression that you’re closer than you are. Here’s the really weird thing, though: even people with both a reservation and paid-for tickets STILL had to stand in this interminable line to get a physical ticket.
There were lots of cool displays, though some required an additional fee. We did see the North American mammals, dinosaur fossils, and the forests. The Teddy Roosevelt display is recontextualizing the role the 26th President played in the environment and the culture.
The large whale had a band-aid, maybe a reflection of the COVID vaccine campaign taking place while we were there.
The others in my party decided to return to Times Square. But I headed directly to 34th Street to get back to Penn Station. I’m only two avenue blocks away when I got caught in the pouring rain. The umbrella I had kept in my backpack was of little use. Then the lightning started.
Fortunately, at 34th and 7th, I could go into the entrance for the LIRR, Long Island Railroad. The walk is just as long, but it’s drier. Eventually, I meet up with the others, and we returned home.
The trip back took longer because Amtrak has to share tracks with Metro-North (train from Poughkeepsie to NYC, among other routes) as well as freight lines. Having finished my reading, I pulled out my laptop and checked my massive amount of email. The Wifi was occasionally spotty but generally usable.
After dropping off Tee, we went home after a very long day. I’m glad we went, but I hope not to take another day trip again for a while. And even more happy that we left when we did, for the subway system flooded later that afternoon.