We spent the night in New Jersey at the airport hotel, and fell asleep somewhere around 4am after a silly sprint around the city returning the rental car, finding the hotel, moving our luggage and finding a place to pull out some cash. To make matters more interesting, New York was then experiencing record high temperatures and it was 104 degrees that day, with a projected new high in tomorrow. To our endless surprise, everyone we met in Jersey was helpful, friendly and wonderful. We expected the opposite for some reason.
In the morning, we grabbed a sandwich from a small shop, took the free shuttle from the hotel to the airport, and then took the airport tram to the Amtrak-operated line that connects Newark with New York. What follows is no exaggeration, and my firm loyalty and love for Amtrak was put to the test that day.
We boarded the Amtrak train and it left some ten minutes late. “ok, not bad.” But, with our 70lb backpacks, a ukulele, my camera bag and mike’s laptop case it was a very long ten minutes. We boarded, tossed our bags at our feet and watched sweat roll over our eyeballs. We didn’t know that could happen. The record 105 degree temperature was made hotter by high humidity and a fully booked train. We made it one stop down the platform before the train broke down. A cynical and wholly unhelpful man came on the intercom and explained that we should all get off. We did so, which broke Mike’s bag in the process. So, there we were, running short on time, short on energy and extremely dehydrated. We stood on the platform with our bags for a few minutes, no easy feat I’ll remind you, before the same man came on the intercom and asked us to go to another track. We went underground, down the steep steps crowded with grumpy New Yorkers, and up the steps on the other side. We stood there dripping sweat, looking like Angel Falls was pouring over us. Five minutes later, as I felt my tendons start to give, the announcer asked us all to go back to our original track. We went back down the stairs, back up the other side, and with angry city folk all around us we looked off into the distance truly exhausted. The train came some while after the bags started to slip off our shoulders from all the sweat. We nabbed a seat and gave sympathetic looks to the poor huddles who had to push past our giant bags to find a seat.
We arrived at Penn Station still alive, which was more than we had come to expect. It was easy to find the connecting subway we needed to reach Brooklyn, so we took the metro to the southeast. When we reached the final station we got out and asked the attendant how to reach the docks. She said it was a fool’s errand to walk in the heat, but when we insisted she pointed and we scampered outside. Heat really can hit you like a slap in the face, and this slap was so hot it felt like it was delivered with a recently-used frying pan. We strapped on our bags and set off…. In the wrong direction.
I’ll spare you the Brooklyn saga, but suffice to say we finally reached the cruise terminal by 2pm. A good two hours after our check-in time. We had missed lunch on board, and we were desperate to find some water. Nevertheless, we were in high spirits when we walked into our inside cabin and found a bottle of complementary champagne waiting for us. I’ll tell you one thing about going through a trial like the one from Jersey to Brooklyn by public transportation—when you get to the other side it sure is a beautiful thing. We drank some champagne, changed into clean, sweat-free clothing and rushed up on deck to survey the ship and say goodbye to the USA. When we were up on deck with our drinks waving, it looked like Lady Liberty waved back.