Catch us if you Can

Cruising the C’s and Catching ‘T’ Fever

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Our first C stop was Capen St., which is on the Mattapan Trolley line in Dorchester. Riding the Mattapan Trolley, which opened in 1929, is like stepping back in time and I found it historically fascinating.

The 10 trolleys that run this 2.6 mile “high-speed line” (named as such because its route is only intersected twice by city streets) were built in the mid 1940’s, and are said to provide more than 4,600 rides on weekdays, running about every five minutes during rush hour. Every time a breakdown occurs, the MBTA machinists reportedly have to either make their own replacement parts, or contact museums for spare parts. I actually love that they still exist, although I’m not sure I’d feel the same way if I had to ride them crammed like a sardine at rush hour, as the local residents probably have to do.

We also managed to get a ‘re-do’ shot of Butler, which had been a big disappointment on the night of our disastrous Bleeping B’s excursion (see Part Two post) when it was freezing cold and too dark to get a picture. That made us both very happy.

Riding the Mattapan trolley was interesting and fun and I was enjoying our excursion on this warm, sunny, early February morning. I had also decided before we left that I needed an attitude adjustment. It’s all in your attitude! I heard the voice inside my head say, just like I would say to my own kids.

Just 10 days after the very bad B’s, I received an email from Alex planning our ‘C’ excursion day. The careful plans he laid out and communicated were impressive (remember, he’s age 11) and I felt guilty. Here he was trying to share the joy of his favorite hobby with me, and although I had let him lead and had gone along, I wasn’t in the right mind-set during our B excursions. And I hadn’t made them very much fun.

Here’s the email he sent, exactly the way he wrote it, with no edits:

Hi Mommy,

This is an update since I will tell you the route I want us to take and why.

To get into Boston, I don’t care what way we take, as long as we don’t take a car. Again, the most likely stations will be North Station, Haymarket, and Wonderland. From Wonderland, I want us to take the blue line in to Bowdin (As Usual) But get off at STATE. The reason is so we can take the orange line. Since the orange line stops at North Station and Haymarket, it isn’t a big deal. Here is why:

1. The orange line is slightly faster than the green line.

2   We haven’t taken it barely in our other excursions, and this one too.

3   It is closer than Government Center on the blue line and is closer than park st to Ashmont.

Then we take the red line to Ashmont and hop on the Mattapan line. Ride to Capan St. We wait for a train going to Ashmont and ride to Central Ave. Repeat 1 more time to Cedar Grove. Next depends on weather.

We either walk if the weather is nice (If we feel like it)

Or we take another train to Ashmont (if the weather is not nice.)

Then we take the red line to Alewife. We get off at Central. Unfortunately, I looked into the station, and you can’t switch sides without paying. So we switch and ride to Charles MGH. While we wait for the next train to Park St, we go to the lobby and chat “Where could they make the Blue line entrance?” When the train comes, we ride it to Park St. Then we hop on a Green Line D train to Riverside. Here we pass by 4 Stations in a small amount of time. We ride it to Chestnut Hill. Then we switch sides and ride the train 1 Stop To Resevior. We walk up north on Central Ave, passing by Cleveland Circle. Once we get to Central Ave, we walk to Chiswick Road. Then we hop on a B train to Park St. We get off at Bolyston and get something to eat in Chinatown. Once we are done, we hop on an orange line train to Oak Grove and ride it to Community College. Then we switch directions and ride it to Forest Hills. We get off at Roxbury Crossing and take bus 66 To Coolidge Corner. Then we hop on a C train to North Station and ride it to Copley. Then we get out of the station and walk to Back Bay. Hop on a commuter rail train to South Station. Ride the train to South Station, and use the silver line to get to Courthouse. To get home, we walk to State, and take either the Blue Line or Orange Line.

My favorite part is when he planned out that we could “go to the lobby and chat ‘where could they make the Blue Line entrance?’”  at Charles MGH station.

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There is currently no Blue Line connection at this station, but Bowdoin station is very close by and a tunnel entrance could easily be created connecting the two underground. Personally, I had never thought of this before, but he was right. And so, when we changed platforms that day, we did stop at Charles MGH and we discussed where such an entrance might be. Maybe at the bottom of these stairs here?

We also had lunch in Chinatown. This was definitely a highlight and treat for me because I finally got to have dim sum again, which I thoroughly enjoyed. And I loved every minute with my handsome lunch date.

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Something else I was starting to really enjoy were the unexpected surprises we’d discover when entering some of these stations or neighborhoods. I had worked near the Courthouse Station when they were building it about 12 years ago, so I knew it was a newer station. But I had no idea when we disembarked the SilverLine bus here, at our last stop of the day, that we’d be transported into a future dimension. We arrived at the station at 3:44pm and it was empty and glowing so I snapped this shot from my phone:

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Our C excursions went exceptionally well due to Alex’s excellent planning and my new attitude. We cruised through them all and even managed to catch an unexpected new way back home to Salem. Bus 459, just a 2 minute walk from Courthouse, took us directly home to Salem at about 5pm.

We celebrated the C’s that night with popcorn and a couch viewing of “The American Experience; The Race Underground” on PBS, which had aired a few nights before. It was all about how the Boston subway system—the first in America— was built in the late 19th Century. I had finally caught Alex’s T fever because I found the documentary really fascinating too. It was the perfect ending to a great subway excursion day. We crushed the C’s.

Riding the C's

The *Bleeping* B’s; Part Two

Why are there so many B subway stops?

There are 19 ‘B’ subway stops on the Boston MBTA, which is double the average. Why so many? Is it a British thing from colonial days? I wonder if the Brits have lots of B stops on the London Underground?

These are the thoughts that ran through my head when I boarded the 450 bus with Alex to Haymarket from Salem on a very cold afternoon late December. I took a half day off work during his winter school break to complete part two of the B’s.

After Boylston on the Green Line, we traveled the orange line to Downtown Crossing and Red Line to South Station. Alex was excited to be able to ride the commuter rail and we bought a ticket and boarded the Kingston/Plymouth train that departed at 2:47pm. We arrived at Braintree at 3:07pm.

My log read as follows:

  • Walked over to Red Line platform and left Braintree at 3:12pm. Transferred to Green C line at Park St. Arrived at Brandon Hall at 4:30pm.
  • Walked 5 minutes in Brookline to bus 66 after stopping for a bathroom break at a Mobil station. Bought a snack and boarded Bus 66 for Brigham Circle at 4:42pm.
  • Arrived at Brigham Circle at 5pm and took the Green Line E to Copley Square where we took bus #9 to Broadway. Arrived at 5:40pm.

Surprise! Broadway station on the Red Line is Art Deco awesomeness. Who knew I’d see my son shining under the lights of Broadway tonight? For once, I was more excited than he was.

Broadway Station Redline

We entered the Red Line at Broadway station heading to Brookline Hills on the Green Line, after transferring at Park St. I was pleasantly surprised again as we walked to Brookline Village down Davis St. through a very charming neighborhood. I made a vow  to myself that I would come back some day.

We decided to eat at a Turkish Restaurant in Brookline Village. As soon as we sat down to eat at 6:35pm, we realized we had a problem. We knew we had to get from Brookline all the way to Butler station in Dorchester, and then back home to Salem, but we were running out of time. Alex started to get nervous, but he had a plan. We rushed through our kebabs and optimistically left the restaurant at 7pm knowing that if we timed everything just right, we’d be able to accomplish our goal of completing the B’s that same night.

Then everything went wrong. Alex tripped in the dark on our way to the bus station and he skinned both knees and his hand. Luckily he was only slightly bleeding because I didn’t have any band-aids. Then we discovered that the bus stop we were heading to was closed due to construction. I tried to convince him that we should take the T instead, but when we looked up times and route possibilities, they had us returning to Salem too late. Alex got upset and started crying. We checked Google maps one more time and found an alternative bus stop. We quickly sprinted to the stop, with Alex limping the whole way.

But we made it. We boarded bus 66 at 7:15pm and transferred at Malcom X bus stop to bus 28 towards Mattapan Station. I noticed the changing demographics in passengers as our bus traveled across Boston into Dorchester, and our faces gradually became the only white ones. Alex doesn’t even notice these things, as he’s too interested in the bus stops along the way.

We arrived in Mattapan at 8pm. The Mattapan trolley looks like something straight out of a 1940’s Depression movie. It’s amazing that these historic trolley’s still run so regularly. We waited 9 minutes in the cold, dark station. It felt like an hour. Finally, the trolley came and stopped at Butler. Our plan was to have Alex hop out for a second so we could take a picture, but the Butler station sign was on the other side of the tracks! It was pitch black outside, so we couldn’t see the sign anyway. We both felt a bit defeated. All that drama to get to Butler, and it was too dark to see or snap a photo. We ended up taking a picture of Alex on the dark trolley, pointing to Butler on the map.

We then boarded the Red Line at Ashmont to start our long trip home. It was 20 degrees on this chilly December night, and a guy got on wearing no shirt, while loudly and passionately arguing with himself about politics.

We had been so worried about running out of time, yet ended up 20 minutes earlier than the scheduled bus back to Salem anyway. We rode elevators at Haymarket station to kill time. Alex loves elevators, (I’m not a fan, especially in subway stations where I have to hold my nose). Neither of us wanted to wait outside, so it seemed like as good a plan as any. The bus finally came and brought us back home around 10pm.

I collapsed into bed that night, but fell asleep with a smile on my face.

All 19 *bleeping* B’s were done.