Keepin’ it Lit on K’s & L’s*

Alhough this blog is tragically behind our actual excursions, we’ll try and update as best we can!

We had a few exciting things happen last spring. The first was on Tuesday, April 4th. It was a regular school and work day for both of us but I decided to surprise Alex with a unplanned excursion to Boston after school. He had no idea where we were going, or why. I had read in the news that morning that a mock up of the new Orange Line train would be on display for 3 days only at Government Center. He hates surprises but I kept re-assuring him that this would be a good one.

His eyes lit up when we walked inside the shiny new Orange Line car and he got to meet some of the engineers from CRRC MA and the MBTA and speak to them about the new cars. And the best part about this excursion is that one of Alex’s blog followers recognized us and introduced himself! Very cool.

The other fun thing that happened is that Alex got to explore another train and subway system in Munich, Germany! We were visiting friends and their 17 year old son was nice enough to take Alex out for a day riding trolleys, buses and subways on the Munich U-Bahn. He was impressed, but said he still likes the MBTA better. He’s very loyal to Boston, but they even have trains named named after him in Germany!


But here we were back in Salem on the first gorgeous spring day in May with the intention of getting the all the “K” stations visited. Even though there are not very many “K” stations, it was so beautiful outside that I honestly wasn’t too thrilled at the thought of spending it riding public transportation.

We caught the 11:20 AM train to North Station after Alex’s mixed martial arts class. At North Station, we boarded the Orange Line train and Alex decided to take the Winter St. concourse at Downtown Crossing to switch to the Red Line. Alex likes the Winter Street Concourse which connects the Red, Orange and Blue Lines at Downtown Crossing. Personally, I think it’s in desperate need of a face lift. It’s horribly neglected and dreary.


Our first stop was Kendall M.I.T. on the Red line. Kendall is a really interesting station because of the amazing Kendall Band which is a three-part musical sculpture and public art installation located between the tracks. It was created and installed in the late 1980’s by Paul Matisse, grandson of the artist Henri Matisse. Levers from the platforms were once able to activate the musical sculptures but, sadly, they no longer function and have fallen into disrepair in spite of efforts to restore them as recent as 2011. There are a few YouTube videos of the chimes while they were still working. Here’s one:

After leaving Kendall, we took the Red Line back to Park St. and changed to the Green Line while heading to Kenmore Square. We were on Green Line D, so we got out and took a photo and waited 3 minutes for the Green Line C which took us 3 stops to Kent St. We exited at Kent where we witnessed a large biking event that passed us.

Although our original plan was to make this day a short one and head back to Salem, I could tell that Alex was eager to continue and do the “L” stations as well. So I gave in, and decided to enjoy the nice weather as much as possible while exploring the “L’s.” My spring gardening could wait. We got out at N. Station and waited 16 minutes for the Lechmere train just two stops away.

After a photo at Lechmere station, (talk about a very dated looking station!) we boarded the train as it turned around and headed towards the opposite direction of Heath St. We got off at Boylston to get on the SL5 Silver Line. The bus came right away. We then headed down Washington St. through the South End to Lenox St. Alex used my phone to look up the next best route. We walked a few minutes to the Menela Cass Boulevard bus stop and boarded Bus 47 to Central Square. What an interesting area of Boston! I enjoyed reading some of the history of this neighborhood while waiting at the stop and admiring some of the historical architecture around us – like this beautiful church.


Our last two “L” stops were Longwood and Longwood Medical Center. Longwood was on the Green Line D which we got to by walking through the River Walk Park. We had never been here before, and now I was really enjoying the fact we had such gorgeous weather to walk through this beautiful park! Peppered with wonderful public arts pieces and historical structures along the way it was absolutely gorgeous:

After walking back through the park to the same bus stop and getting on Bus 47 again towards Broadway, we disembarked at MFA station and walked to Longwood Medical Center.

We finished at 3:30 and discovered we could catch the 4:30 train back to Salem. Unfortunately, no time to eat on this day but we rewarded ourselves with a big ice cream on the way back home.

*Keepin’ it Lit is a K & L reference to life with two middle-schoolers. Everything that was once “cool” (old people) is now “lit.”


How to get into Harvard 

Getting smarter as we rode the H’s and J’s.

How do you get into Harvard? It’s pretty easy if you ask Alex. Just take the Red Line.

Harvard is, of course, the subway stop in Cambridge on the Red Line which will bring you directly into Harvard Square and Harvard University.  And if you take the “T” to Harvard, you have the additional advantage of not having anyone ask you where you “pahked yah cah when at Hahvahd Yahd”  in a Boston dialect.

Here we both are at “Hahvahd.”


We were definitely smarter this excursion as we headed in to Harvard. Alex decided that although Haymarket wasn’t yet exactly in alphabetical order for “H” day, we’d still count it so we took an early morning bus from Salem directly to Haymarket. 

I was also able to purchase a one day “Link Pass” for the first time which significantly helped on costs for these excursion days. The link pass let’s you ride any T transportation (bus, subway or commuter rail) within Zone One for $12 all day long.

Did you know there are actually two Harvard MBTA stops? After Harvard on the Red Line, we headed to Harvard Ave on Green Line B.  Alex decided the fastest way to get there would be by taking the 66 bus towards Dudley from Harvard bus station.

H Stops on the MBTA: 

Alex likes buses, so we took the 66 bus and then got on the Harvard Ave Green Line B. From there, we boarded Green Line B again and got out at Boston University  so we could walk over to Hawes St. on Green Line C.  This was my favorite part of the excursion because although it was raining and a bit chilly, we got to take a nice long walk along Amory St. I marveled at the gorgeous architecture of the mansions that lined this street before it crosses Beacon St. Here is my collage of the “Doors of Amory St” for a taste of the amazing architecture we passed:

Hawes doesn’t have a T sign, so we had to take a picture of the closest street sign which crosses Beacon St.

Next up was Heath St. which was the end of the Green Line E.  We got there by taking the Green Line C to Coolidge Corner and then the 66 bus again to Huntington Ave and walking to Heath St. We got out, took a quick picture, and then right back on the 66 bus to Dudley Station where we were able to board The Silver Line SL4/5 which took us to Herald St.  We then boarded the Silver Line again to Mass Ave. and got on Bus 1 to Hynes Convention Center.  The H stops were painlessly completed before noon.

At this point we decided to reward ourselves with a big juicy burger at Boston Burger Co. followed by one of their humongous frappes.  This day happened back in March (I know, we’re way behind on the blog…) so they had the “Shamrock Special” which was a mint ice cream frappe covered in lucky charms and whipped cream with an entire slice of bailey’s cream pie on top.  I had a few bites but somehow my growing boy managed to eat a good portion of it.


Boston Burger Co. Reward
Shamrock Frappe

While sitting in Boston Burger Co. getting way too full, we realized that we would have plenty enough time that day to complete the J’s as well as the H’s. There were only two J stops so it seemed manageable – Jackson Square on the Orange Line and the JFK/UMass stop on the Red Line.

(What happened to the stops that start with I?  Well, it turns out there is no “I” on the “T!”)

Alex was very excited to discover the existence of  Bus 41 which had the perfect bus connection as it could take us directly from Jackson Square to JFK/UMass.  Only problem was that we only had exactly 12 minutes to get from our restaurant to Mass Ave Station where we’d be able to board an Orange Line train to Jackson Square JUST in time to catch that 41 Bus.  If we missed it, we’d have to wait another hour before the next bus.

Running for about a mile with my belly full of burger and frappe down Mass Ave as fast as possible to catch that next Orange Line train is not one of my favorite T excursion moments.  Although I understood his deep desire to catch that 41 Bus connection, I cursed myself  more than once for agreeing to this latest plan.  As we breathlessly arrived at Jackson Square it turned out the bus was delayed a good 15 minutes anyway, so I had plenty of time to recover (and figured at least I burned some of the calories I had just ate.)

Jackson Square is right in the middle of Roxbury.  I loved this colorful mural across the street depicting the diversity of the neighborhood:


The station is interesting too with lots of  large murals and artwork. A bit dated and worn looking, but still interesting:

When Bus 41 did arrive, it really was the most direct connection to JFK/UMass.  I had to give Alex credit once again for coming up the perfect plan as the bus was a much better option than if we had taken the Orange Line all the way back into downtown Boston and out again to JFK /UMass.

It was easy trip home after JFK/UMass back home to N. Station and the commuter rail.  As I rode home I realized I was starting to feel grateful for these crazy excursions.  I was really enjoying the time spent one-on-one with Alex.  My Mr. T.

H & J day






Catch us if you Can

Cruising the C’s and Catching ‘T’ Fever

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.


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.


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:


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