Fun in Philadelphia…

7 minute read

April 28, 2015, 11:29 PM

Back at the end of March, I went up to Philadelphia with my friends Melissa and Elyse.  We had a list of things that we wanted to do, and we did as many of them as we could.  We had a blast, plus we got to meet up with my cousins Mike and Tara for dinner.  This trip was also a proof of concept for how my various little outings might go now that I routinely work late nights, since my typical workday runs from approximately 4:00 PM until just before 2:00 AM.

Logistically, it worked out this way: Melissa met me at Glenmont station around 11:00, and then we traveled up to Howard County to get Elyse.  Then from there, up to Philadelphia via I-95.  Then in Philadelphia, everything that we were planning was transit-accessible, save for one thing, but we worked it all out pretty well.

Our first point of interest was the non-transit-accessible one: the SS United States.  This would be a quick look-see for some photos, and then move along to other targets.  We parked at the IKEA store across the street, and then Elyse and I walked over for a look (Melissa stayed in the car).  Here are pix:

The SS United States in Philadelphia

The SS United States in Philadelphia

The SS United States in Philadelphia

The day was gray and the openings in the fence were small, so that cut down on my usable angles quite a bit, since it was nearly impossible to get decent shots without having parts of the fence in the photo.  That or I had to reach up to get the camera above the fence, which I could barely do.

Then Elyse got a couple of shots of me:

Say cheese!

Reaching over the fence to get a clear view.

So next time I go to photograph the United States (on a nicer day, mind you), my plan is to bring some sort of ladder with me.  I’m not interested in jumping the fence or anything like that, but I definitely want better pix, and to do that, I need to be able to see over that fence.  And if anyone complains, it’s a public sidewalk, so… meh.

Walking back over, we reunited with Melissa and made a quick pit stop at IKEA.  Spotted this inside:

A yellow Wheelock MPS for an emergency door release!

This was an unusual find.  This is a Wheelock MPS pull station, painted yellow and marked for an emergency exit release.  Normally, these things are red, say “FIRE” on either side of the key, and have the system manufacturer’s name at the bottom (i.e. they look like this).

Following this, we caught the Schuylkill Expressway and headed over the Walt Whitman Bridge into New Jersey.  We weren’t done with Philadelphia, but we were now positioning ourselves for the transit-accessible part.  I was also impressed with how I was able to navigate this area without GPS.  Apparently all those trips to New Jersey paid off.  I took the exit for Route 30, and boom: there’s Victor’s Liquors.  Then from there, it was just a few miles down White Horse Pike to Lindenwold station, the eastern terminus for PATCO.  Perfect.

After fumbling around for cash to do PATCO, we were on our way.  Note to self: Philadelphia-area transit systems don’t do credit cards, so bring cash.  SmarTrip has spoiled us when it comes to credit cards.

PATCO was pretty awesome, since it hasn’t really been updated, style-wise, since the 1960s.  Here was our train:

Our PATCO train arrives!

And this was the interior of car 223:

Interior of our train

Holy 1960s, Batman.  And the door chime was very simple: a bell.  Yes, just a telephone-style bell.  No electronic “please move to the center of the car” type of message.  Bell rings, door closes.  Simple as that.

Then when we got to 8th and Market, we departed:

Leaving PATCO behind, we headed over to Chinatown.  Unlike in DC, where gentrification has taken hold, Philadelphia’s Chinatown neighborhood is still very Chinese.

In heading through Chinatown, I noticed something: Ho Sai Gai, where my parents used to eat in the 1970s, and where we went a few times in the 1990s, has come full circle.  There is now only one Ho Sai Gai, and it’s in the original location on the corner.  The “new” Ho Sai Gai up the street, where it was located in the 1990s, and the one that I was most familiar with, is now a different restaurant:

The "new" Ho Sai Gai, now Spice C

A restaurant called Spice C is now housed inside.  Walking past, they remodeled the space from when it was Ho Sai Gai.  Based on their website, it doesn’t look half bad, specializing in noodles.  Might be worth a visit next time I’m up there.

Otherwise, we found our way to the “pet store”, which got its name from a trip we made in 1997 or so with friends, and one of the kids saw this store with all sorts of live animals in it like frogs and such and thought it was a pet store.  We had to let him know that no, these weren’t pets, but rather food.  But here are the frogs:


I suppose that if you wanted to get one for a pet, they’d still sell it to you, but these frogs are definitely here as food.

Otherwise, Elyse got one of those Chinese-style baseball caps (I’m not sure of the exact name for these, unfortunately) at one of the stores:

Elyse and her new hat

I have one of these hats as well.  Very comfortable, and unlike most hats, it fits on my big head.

As we made our way out of Chinatown, heading down Race Street towards Race-Vine station, we spotted a Chinese line dance being performed on the sidewalk:

Continuing down the street, we passed the parking garage where we used to park when we came up this way in the 1990s.  I showed Elyse, as an elevator enthusiast, the elevator that they had there.  It’s probably quite old, but it does the job.  Basically, you hop on a step and hold on while you ride up and down on the continuously-moving system, which makes it more closely resemble a paternoster than an elevator.  And at the bottom is a little friendly reminder: get off:


And then that yellow item near the bottom of the photo is one of the steps.  Pretty neat.  I’d love to ride a paternoster one day, but they’re increasingly rare anymore, and I also don’t think any full-on paternosters exist in the United States.  This sort of thing is probably the closest you can get stateside, and you probably can’t safely ride this over the top.

After this, we headed into Race-Vine station, with the intention of riding over to Love Park.  There, we discovered that SEPTA doesn’t take credit cards, either, and the station attendant, where you buy fare media, doesn’t provide change.  We ended up scrounging around for enough smaller bills to ride, but ride we did, heading one stop up to City Hall station.  And we got movies:

Love Park was a brief stay, owing to the fact that it was raining.  Nothing like when Anonymous visited back in 2009, and we took a bunch of photos with the “LOVE” sign.  But here it is:

Melissa commented that it looked smaller in real life.

After this, we hit up a nearby 7-Eleven to break some bills for the subway, and we headed over to 15th Street station to start heading back to New Jersey.  The plan was to take a Market-Frankford train to 8th Street, then transfer to PATCO to head back to Lindenwold.  Heading into the station, we got our tokens:

SEPTA token

A token.  That’s something that you don’t see much anymore.  WMATA used to sell tokens for the bus, but they have since been discontinued, though they are still honored.  I’m told that SEPTA wants to phase out tokens for a new fare system, but that has apparently not yet happened.

Then Elyse and I got video of our Market-Frankford train departing when we got to 8th Street:

I love the sound of those Adtranz motors.  You don’t hear that sort of sound in DC.  Though if you want to hear Alstom ONIX motors, DC has those in spades.

Then heading down to the PATCO level, we got more movies of trains:

We ended up riding in the last car, sitting at the railfan window at the end of the train.  PATCO has a really awesome railfan window, too, as you can sit right up next to it.  The operator has a half-cab.  I got this movie out of the window, showing the train leaving Woodcrest station:

When we got back to Lindenwold, we met up with my cousins Mike and Tara, and we all had dinner together at Stratford Diner, located across the street from Lindenwold station.  That was a lot of fun.

Then from there, after saying goodbye to Mike and Tara, we headed back to Maryland.  We took 295, going over the Delaware Memorial Bridge.  And just like earlier, I got us out without GPS.  I was probably most impressed by my ability to navigate in South Jersey without the help of GPS.  Apparently I’ve learned a thing or two from various trips to New Jersey.

And that was that!  I’d say we had fun, and Elyse, Melissa, and I make a great group, as we all have a blast nerding out together.