December 22, 2013: Long Day Getting Back Home

I was up at eight and by a quarter to nine was down in the kitchen with the family. Our plan was to be on the road at nine but we ended up stalling too long and not actually leaving until a quarter till ten. It is a lot of work to get the two little girls ready, get the cars packed, get everyone fed and out the door.

Dominica drove the girls in the Acadia and I drove dad in the Volvo convertible. It was so warm this morning I contemplated putting the top down for a minute but figured it would be too cold once we were really out on the road. We really got lucky with a warm weekend. It is in the mid fifties today and it hit the low sixties last night. That is incredibly warm for this time of year.

The drive went just fine. We hit some small patches of very heavy rain twice, once in northern Ohio and once in Erie, Pennsylvania. That only slowed us down by a few minutes, nothing noticeable. It cleared up very quickly and we made good time out to Buffalo.

On the way we made a few stops. Luciana requested a “cheese sandwich” by which she means she wants a sub from Subway. Both girls are addicted to those. Thanks goodness they are cheap and you can get them anywhere. The two little girls ended up eating an entire eleven inch sub between them, even with Liesl originally stating that she was not at all hungry and did not need any food. Dominica and I went to Sheetz to get our food instead, we don’t have Sheetz in New York nor in Texas so we like to take advantage of it when we can.

It was about two thirty when we arrived at the Buffalo / Depew Amtrak Station. Nearly an hour before my train. It is really too bad that we had not gotten out of Ohio on time, I might have been able to make the earlier train and been home two hours earlier. The parking lot at the station was completely full, not a single space left let alone the two that we needed. I ran in, printed off my boarding ticket and checked on the train status. Then I went outside and said my goodbyes to everyone. It’s really only one day that I will not see the girls. It is afternoon now and I will not see them tomorrow but I am driving straight to Frankfort from work on Tuesday afternoon so will see them most of the evening. I have no idea yet what time we might be able to leave on Christmas Eve. Might be a full day, might be quite a bit less.

I passed the hour pretty quickly at the Amtrak station. The train, the 288 Empire Service, was right on time. I got a row to myself and settled in for the long eight hour trek down to Croton on Hudson.

The train ride was pretty nice, but almost completely in the dark so I got to see nothing out the windows. At least I avoided all of the driving on flooded roads that Dominica and dad had to do to get back home. I just had to ride along. I had my iPhone and iPad with me and Amtrak has WiFi now on the trains (but app downloads, YouTube, Audible and other obvious uses for it are blocked so be sure to have what you need with you before you go!!) So I was on Facebook, FourSquare, email, etc. the whole time.

I have been reading Peter Ackroyd’s “Venice: Pure City”, a history of Venice and the Venetian Empire. By the end of the ride I had made it through about three quarters of the book. I also started, but only made it a little ways, into “Lolita” in my attempt to read much of the critical literature that I have never made it through. I ran my iPhone all the way down and nearly managed to completely recharge it during the ride.

We got held up slightly near Schenectady, which is normal, and were running a little late coming down the Hudson Valley. We were just late enough that I missed the late Metro North train by ten or fifteen minutes and it was going to be more than an hour until the next one. Even if I took the Metro North up to Peekskill it would still drop me two miles from home with the big hill in the way so I would have a long walk even after waiting over an hour for the next train and riding it up to Peekskill. It would be about two in the morning when I would get home going that way with most of the time just sitting around doing nothing.

When I got off of the train I looked around to see if there were any taxis available but I did not see any at the taxi stops at the train station. Likely because it was getting so close to midnight none were waiting there, it is a Sunday after all and there were not that many people departing at Croton Harmon station. I weighed my options, no matter what I am not getting home before two in the morning. So what is the best option?

I opted to use my time to at least get exercise if I am going to just be waiting around anyway. I am all packed up for taking a hike this evening since I had to hike up the Peekskill hill anyway tonight and it is not raining and is decently warm. A good a time as any for a long walk through Westchester.

I set out and got up to 9A and was so warm, just getting to the first road, that I had to take off my fleece and shove it into the backpack and roll up my sleeves. I was starting to sweat and there is a lot of hill climbing to be done.

It was a very long and quiet (and dark) walk. The entire route was new to me. I’ve been to Croton Harmon station many times but have always driven in or out on Route 9. So immediately exiting the station I was covering new territory. The distance from the station to the house was nearly nine miles. A very serious walk and the terrain was continuously up and down the hills. There was almost no flat ground for me to walk over. Very exhausting. I had a somewhat heavy backpack on (filled with clothes, some documents, a Blackberry, an iPad 2, a camera and some small stuff including my fleece) as well as my CPAP back which is so awful to harness that it is easier to just carry by hand. Then I had my iPhone in my shirt pocket too so that I could easily check the map as I went. I had one bottle of water from the train which was really good as everything was already closed everywhere that I went. I did not see one open store the entire walk. No open business of any kind. I actually only saw one person and one dog the entire way but nearly a dozen whitetail deer.

Overall it was actually a pretty nice walk. It was very quiet and I decided to not even put in my earphones and just to enjoy the solitude and silence. There was no traffic. I would estimate that I saw fewer than ten cars the entire way! It was very dark. Very overcast with rainclouds above blocking out the sky but reflecting the light pollution from the towns back down so that gave me some light. But most of the time I had almost no visibility onto the ground so was having to walk extra carefully to ensure that I didn’t step on anything or into anything.

It has been a while since I have had a chance to take a nice, long walk like this. Very good exercise and the weather was perfect. No rain at all although it was pretty humid. At times my glasses would even fog up. The entire walk was either along the Hudson River or through the deep forest heading up towards Peekskill. It was quite remote.

Walks like this are great for getting to know the area. I have a much better feel for where I live now than I have for the five years that we have owned this house. So odd that I’ve never gotten around to walking the area before.

I measured the trip on Google Maps so that I would have a comparison that I know better. The trip was, almost exactly, the same as walking to my father’s farm from the top of Court Street in Downtown Geneseo – up by the light at the top of Main Street by the Catholic Church and the village buildings. Similar elevation changes too. No wonder it seemed like such a long walk.

It was three thirty, I think, when I got to the house. My feet and ankles were very soar but the rest of me was doing just fine. I was awake for probably forty five minutes, letting my body relax, before getting into bed. I still had problems getting to sleep but eventually got a little. It is hard to relax after exercising for that long. Had it been flat ground I would have fallen asleep in half an hour, but with all of the hill climbing I really got a workout and my heart was really working.

Tomorrow I am going to be quite soar from the walk and very tired from the lack of sleep. It is going to be a long day.

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