When I hear about other families traveling to Puerto Rico, Disney World, or the Rockies, I think "We don't get out much." As a family we have travelled to Indiana and Maine, and we've lived in Virginia and visited all the Mid-Atlantic states. Oh, and we're going to Vermont in June.
But let it not be said that we aren't a venturesome bunch. In our first two weeks living here, John and I took the 109 bus to the 69th St. Terminal. We were the only white folks on it, and the quietest ones. It was like a party. Laughter and gossip encircled us. For a whole hour. Yes, that's how long it takes to get to 69th St. from our house on the 109. The only socially acceptable form of public transportation for us white middle-class people to take is the Regional Rail. There's also the Route 101 Trolley, which is more multicolored than the bus, but decidedly lower class than Regional Rail. And cheaper than the train. Many of its passengers are people who can't afford cars, people who are weary, dusty, and hardened by life. When we looked at houses our realtor said we wouldn't want to take the trolley because it "travels through rough neighborhoods."
She has no idea what a rough neighborhood really is. I guess she never rode her bike through the Richard Allen Homes in North Philadelphia on her way to class at Temple University. (Yes, I know that was dumb, and after a rock and then a full soda bottle were thrown at my head, I went back to the good old safe subway. My head is fine; they missed.) What I'm trying to say is I'm not a public transportation snob.
Anyway, Will and Jack, as I've mentioned, are train buffs. Trolley geeks. Bus schedule savants. Will had been begging to ride not just the 101 all the way to the 69th St. Terminal, but also the creme de la creme, the Route 100 Norristown High Speed Line. So I promised him we would do this on Saturday. And lo, that is what we did. We rode the 101 all the way from Media to the Terminal, then got on the 100 and rode it all the way to Norristown. Except for a dissipated old guy in the back, we were the only white folks, again.
More than twenty years ago I had a job in Bryn Mawr and lived in Center City, and rode on the 100 every day. Riding the rails with Will reminded me of those days. Everything looked almost exactly the same, which was oddly reassuring. Will pointed out all the Market St. El cars resting in the sheds. (The line is being renovated.) Fleets of idled buses waited for repairs. As we moved farther from the Terminal, swim clubs, golf courses, Main Line mansions, ancient tiny rowhouses, the Villanova University Stadium, all passed by us. We saw a large quarry near Norristown, shortly before crossing over the Schuylkill River on a high trestle. At the Norristown Transportation Center we even got to see the R6 train at its station, and then rode on a really long escalator.
Then, back to the very same trolley to ride back. The driver had moved to what was now the front of the car, which had been the back. I love the compactness and efficiency of trolleys. They can stop on a dime. Half the seats face forward, half the seats face back, no matter which direction you're travelling. Then at the Terminal we got back on the 101 for another ride. (Each leg of our ride took about 30 minutes.) Will began to flag a little, and started sitting on my lap. Still, he was observant all the way. We drove past Monsignor Bonner High School and its sister school Archbishop Prendergast, and the huge dirt swath promising a new building. We hurtled past Drexelbrook Apartments, where Will's "girlfriend" from school lives, and stopped at the all-important Drexel Hill Junction. That's where you can take the 102 to Sharon Hill.
Finally we stopped at the Springfield Mall before hurtling under the Blue Route and through the woods of Pine Ridge, and then into Media, passing only a few yards in back of the Acme. Then we were at our stop. We got off, my back a little stiff from all the sitting. "Maybe he's gotten that out of his system," I thought. But the next thing I heard, as Will clutched my hand and jumped up and down, was "When can we ride the 102?"