That's a hell of a journey to start off with. So, last Tuesday I flew from Heathrow to JFK in New York. I used the Hail-O app to schedule a taxi, and it arrived in the right place on time. I had been a bit concerned that with my air-cast on, I'd be a bit hampered getting around, but I wasn't at all. I negotiated the Heathrow Express
quite well, and arrived at Terminal 5 with ease. This is where it gets teejus.
I stood in a queue for the check-in agent, as all those ahead of me had tremendous problems and I, of course, always choose the wrong queue to stand in. After check-in, I was told to go from Area B to Area G to wait for my wheelchair…the podiatrist told me to request wheelchair transport in the airport.
So, I toddled over to Area G and sat there for more than an hour while others who had earlier flights got transported to their gates. When it was my turn, a very nice lady porter got me into the wheelchair and wheeled me to security. I had some doubts about security, of course, but they were set to rest. I was wheeled through, avoiding the metal detector, and without standing up I held my arms out and got a pat-down from a very pleasant security person. No shoe removal, no cast removal, very pleasant.
I was wheeled to the gate, and got the lift down to the plane. The wheelchair left me at the door of the plane and I toddled down to my seat.
I had to take the air cast off and substitute a shoe for it; the very nice stewardess helped me do that and stow the cast in the overhead. When my seatmate arrived, she found another seat for her so that I had no neighbour and could get in and out. Very very lovely person: British Airways, you have a great stewardess.
Food was crap: chicken with 3 mushrooms, cole slaw (I think), a roll, and chocolate mousse. Oh, well. The flight was uneventful, and I arrived at JFK on time. I put the air cast back on and the wheelchair was waiting for me at the plane door.
I got through Immigration in the wheelchair lane. The agent was, of course, pretty snarly. Is there any way they could be severe, do their job, and yet not seem like they really wished I'd go back to London? Got my baggage very late, no problems with customs, and now for the first hitch.
I'd booked a coach ride to Westchester where my friend Fr. Jerry was to meet me in White Plains. No coach was in sight. I tried to call their 800-number, but my UK phone couldn't get through. So I called Jerry and asked him to call the coach company. He got through and the coach arrived. Cue a long boring ride to White Plains.
When I got off the coach Jerry appeared behind me and said, "Hi!", scaring the bejesus out of me. We dined at Outback, and I went to stay with him. Met his pastor, who was quite a nice guy, and got the 10-cent tour of the church. I did little or nothing the next day except post some packages to various friends and lunch at Chat Restaurant in Scarsdale
. Next day I had lunch with a seminary classmate, John S., at the same restaurant. Wednesday I had their meatloaf, which was extremely good, and Thursday I had the burger, which was also very tasty. It was nice to catch up with John after so many years (35, I believe!).
Thursday evening I bade farewell to Jerry and trained it down to 125th Street, and got a cab to my friends Chaz and KK's place on 106th and First Ave. I booked a cab down to Penn Station and the dispatcher told me that to get there in plenty of time to take a 7:15 train I had to leave 106th Street at 5:30 am. I was dubious but not in any state to argue. So I was a bit apprehensive about standing on 106th and First with two bags and a shoulder bag waiting for a taxi at 5:30 am, but the cab was right there and delivered me to Penn Station at around 6.
I scanned my booking reference and got my ticket printed (great service, by the way) and got to the waiting area, where I was bombarded by "Be Careful!" videos from Amtrak. A lovely woman who sat next to me was from the Economist, oddly enough, and we had a long conversation about living in London, Rasa Sayang restaurant in Chinatown
, dual citizenship, and working for the Economist. She gave me her card and I shall email her the link to Rasa Sayang. A red cap got me to the train for Buffalo.
I do recommend taking the train to Buffalo, by the way. Sit on the left hand side and you'll see great views of the Hudson. However, bring food with you. The turkey sandwich I had was perhaps the worst one I'd ever tasted. And, at $8.95, it should have been heavenly.
At Buffalo Exchange Street Station I got off, and was waiting for my friends Jeff and Michael to pick me up. There was a nice waiting room, but the agent said, "Closing in 10 minutes" so I went outside and sat on a concrete block to wait. A lovely woman was waiting there to meet someone from the next train, so we had a long conversation about Buffalo, Trenton (where she was from), and the stupidity of Amtrak in not opening the station until the last train arrived.
Jeff duly arrived a while later and we went to Anchor Bar
, the originator of Buffalo chicken wings. What a disappointment. (If you follow the link, there's disappointment there too, as there is lots of noisy Flash animation.) The spicy wings weren't, and the blue cheese dressing had had some old cheese waved in its general direction. The cole slaw wasn't very tasty, and the beef-on-weck sandwich Michael asked me to try (roast beef on a special bun) was dry as dirt and very tasteless.
Onward to Niagara for the falls. They were OK at night from the American side, but overrun with tourists and the sight of the Las-Vegas-style casinos on the Canadian side at night was pretty grim. But, onwards! Immigration Canada was gruff but we got through OK, and ended up in the Radisson
. I got out of the car, put my hand out, and said, "It's raining!" No, I was told, it's the mist from the falls.
Next day we visited the falls after an IHOP breakfast which was a bit too much for me. The observation area was crowded and rainy from the Falls, which are spectacular. A picture of me with a Falls-produced rainbow behind me was duly taken and I'll see whether I can post it when I get back to London. But there was too much tourist and rain for me, so after a visit to the souvenir shop, where a T-shirt, a stuffed moose toy, and a hat left with me, we went on to Toronto.
We landed at the Town Inn Suites hotel
, near the gaybourhood. I went out to dinner with Chris Ambidge, and we got each other up to date on issues and things. Jeff and Michael went out with their friends, and I didn't see them until much later that night. The suite was great: two bedrooms, a large living area and a kitchen.
Next day, back to Buffalo. We had dinner at Outback, including a blooming onion, the second outback meal of my trip (with one more to come in Marblehead), and Jeff and Michael brought me to the hotel in Buffalo: Best Western
. The front desk lady was really nice, and the room was quite comfortable. Jeff and Michael saw me to my room and left after a big bear hug. I'm really grateful for their companionship and their driving skills throughout a lovely weekend.
Next morning I went down to breakfast and had a bagel and coffee. But what made me do a double-take was the waffle maker! I'd never seen one in a B&B before. No waffles for me though.
I took a taxi to Amtrak Depew Street station. It was $40! Jeff had recommended it and I thought it was close to the station, but it was close to Buffalo's gaybourhood instead. I had no interest in nightlife.
I already had my ticket, so I sat down and shot the breeze with two Canadian truckers on their way to Springfield, Mass. to drive some trucks down South. Nice guys, very good to have someone to talk to, since the train was 1-1/2 hours LATE. What a pain. Freight has priority there and the Ford plant on the other side of Buffalo needed its empty car carriers more than we needed to get to Boston.
Once on the train, I found myself in a carriage with an Amish or Mennonite family. A big family. Must have been around 20 of them. Some of the younger guys were quite yummy-looking, actually, but the kicker was the baby. A three-month-old girl, dressed in black swaddling clothes and a veil and wimple! I felt for it, until it started to cry. And cry. And CRY. All the way to Boston. 12+ hours. I was beside myself.
The train was held up a few times more for freight, so we got to Boston an hour+ late, even thought they'd made up some time on the way. Night had fallen just after Pittsfield, so no scenery to speak of after the Berkshires.
My sister's friend Linda was to pick me up, but we had trouble connecting. We finally found each other, and I got to Marblehead around 11, and shot the breeze with my brother until 1am.
Tuesday was slow. Stayed at home all day watching TV and decompressing. We went to an Italian restaurant for dinner (with my sister), and the waiter managed to misunderstand "Macaroni and cheese" as "pepperoni pizza". He must have been new. He did see me injecting my insulin and we had a conversation about being diabetic (he's Type I). Home and to bed.
Today we're waiting for HWMBO to arrive this evening at Logan Airport. The rest of the stay will be catching up with friends. But, after this entry, I'm bushed. Off to get ready to face the day.