Friday, June 29, 2007

On the road…

June 26, 2007 – 12:30 pm

I left Bob K’s house this morning at 8:00 in what is the first leg of the journey to the other Portland. Bob drove me to the Amtrak station in Wells where I boarded the 8:40 am Downeaster which arrived right on time. In less than two hours we were crossing the Charles and arriving at Boston’s North Station exactly on-time.

North Station, located below the famous Boston Garden has always been the wicked stepchild of train stations. Unlike its step sibling, South Station, North is really nothing more than a commuter rail station. But much to my surprise they have undergone some renovations since I was last here, expanding the waiting area with a new spacious hall. Still not of the grandeur of South Station, at least it’s no longer a dump.

A quick taxi ride to South and I checked my baggage and then reclined in the luxury of the Acela Lounge, a nice perk for those traveling First Class or who have a sleeper to Chicago. The Lounge is on a mezzanine overlooking the main waiting area. It’s nicely climate controlled space – a big advantage on this warm and humid morning – offering free snacks, drinks, newspapers and Wi-Fi. I did not notice the WiFi sign until it was almost time to leave, but used it long enough to gather some e-mails and check out some free books. More about the books later.

The funny story of the trip so far was an overheard conversation on the Downeaster. Two young women boarded in Dover, NH were walking down the aisle looking for seats when one of the women faced me and spoke, “Oh, half the seats are facing one way and the other half are facing the other way.” It was a rhetorical statement, no doubt, but being the instant comedian I responded to her that “we’re going somewhere else.” I of course was in one of the seats facing the back of the train.

A few minutes later the women headed back up the aisle when the one who spoke again rhetorically announced, “I think this half of the train may not be going to Boston, they are going ‘somewhere else.’”

I guess you had to have been there.

As a going away present to myself I bought a new MP3 player. My old one, a first generation SansDisk had never worked correctly and had committed Hari-Kari earlier in the week. I had contemplated making the trip without a MP3 player and relying on my laptop and some CDs. But the more I thought of it, the more I realized this would add more weight to the trip. So, I popped over to Sam’s Club and picked up a Creative Zen Vision: M. I did this literally hours before leaving for Bob’s so I barely had time to charge it and move some music over on to it. Today I played around with some of the features including the ability to view pictures and videos. It also has a microphone for podcasting and has an FM radio receiver which nicely was able to pick up some Boston classical stations.

The Zen had a free book flyer in the box announcing that one could log into some website and download two free books. What they failed to mention was the fact that one was required to sign up for the service for a year and pay $20 a month. No, thanks.


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