Last week, my wife said, "what do you want to do today?" It was a nice Saturday, and after thinking of some alternatives, I said, "Let's go to Philly!" We were getting tired of going downtown and walking around thge Baltimore harbor.
So we were out of the house by mid morning. We parked in the lot on Lanvale St. behind Baltimore Penn Station. (It's a bargain on the weekend, $2 for the whole weekend.) We walked into the station jst as they were making last call for the Northeast Regional. As I was planning to use a Companion Coupon, we could't just run down to the train and buy the tickets from the smartphone app while waiting for the conductor to come by. (Believe me, I've done that now and then.) We had to go to the ticket office and do things the old-fashioned way. As we had an hour wait for the next regional, and there was an Acela coming by in 25 minutes, we decided to take the Acela up. You don't what to know what the walk up fare was, even on a Saturday. Even the return Regional fare was a little stiff, considering I used to make this ride when I was a kid and it cost $4.50.
The Acela came in on time, and the ride to Philly was about as long as my usual MARC ride down to DC. The only odd thing was that the conductor didn't come to lift our tickets until we were almost in Philly. I was a little concerned that if our tickets didn't get scanned, we'd be considered no-shows, our reservation home cancelled, and we'd be put off the train in Wilmington.
Upon arrival, we ascended into the great hall of 30th St. Station, scene of many boring waits for trains during my youth. The Solari board is still running! I thought I heard they were replacing it. It must be the last Solari board in any Amtrak station. Of course during my youth, they didn't mess with that newfangled stuff, hand written notices on a chalkboard worked perfectly well.
Up the ramp to the SEPTA tracks. It might be nice if they had an indicator of which track the next train to Suburban Station, as there are tracks on two separate platforms. I seem to recall that years ago, they did have something like that. In any event, we figured out which track had the next eastbound train, and went up. We got a Silverliner V and went to Jefferson (formerly Market East) Station. Getting to the street was a pain, because they've gutted the Gallery and are rebuilding it, so we had to work our way through a construction site on 10th st.
What we eventually did was walk down Chestnut St, to 2nd, then over by the Society Hill Towers along the route where I used to walk the dog when I was a high school student, then up South St. to 4th and over to the Famous 4th St. Deli, where Mom would send me with a long list of stuff to buy for Saturday night dinner. Surprisingly the deli hasn't changed too much from the 1970s, except that there's ore tables and waiter service that didn't exists then. The pastrami was OK, but there was so much in the sandwich I had half of it for dinner later that evening. We then walked up by our old house, and I got a reminder about how great and walkable that neighborhood was.
Our next destination was to pick up some printer ink at Staples, which was at 16th st. Back in high school, I would have just walked there. But we were at 5th and Market, and went into the subway to ride th Market Frankford Line. We found out that if you're over 65, the ride is free. I didn't quite make it, but unlike some transit agencies, there was a live person to take cash and make change. The train came after a while, and it was certainly better rolling stick than what they had in the 70s, the cars were air conditioned.
We got off at 15th st., found Staples, then went up Walnut St. to Rittenhouse Square and sat there for a while enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. Then, across the street for some coffee and people (and dog) watching. Finally, back to Suburban Station, where we got another Silverliner V to take us up to 30th St. (in fact, all I saw on the SEPTA tracks that day were Silverliner Vs.)
Back at 30th Street, we looked the place over again, and then went up to the Club Acela to wait. And we needed to wait, because, for some reason, our Regional was 30 minutes late (it was coming down from Boston). When it finally came in, we were shown the elevator that takes you down to track level, and when the train came in, found seats in the front cars. There were no further delays, and we were back at Baltimore Penn in the usual time. Back to the parking lot in the dark, and we were soon home, where I finished the other half of the pastrami sandwich.
All in all, a nice day. It was pretty nostalgic for me, and the trains ran pretty well, even if the return ride was late.