Thanksgiving with friends in Bristol

Bristol Travel Blog

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My married friends from Bristol, Dave & Lisa, had invited me over for Thanksgiving.  They’d agreed to pick me up at the train station in Waterbury, so I planned to take Metro-North from New Haven.  In preparation for my tip, I looked up the train schedules online and checked the prices.  The 4:50pm train made the most sense because I’d arrive in Waterbury at 6:51pm.  I left home just after 4pm and started my 2.1-mile (3.4 km) walk through West Haven to Union Station in New Haven.  Having left early, I was free to stop a few times to take pictures of the garbage that litters the marsh along my path.  I arrived at the station and went inside to purchase my ticket.  The fare was $4.75 for one-way to Waterbury (with a change in Bridgeport).  I asked the cashier where I had to go to catch my train.  He directed me downstairs and told me to check the board.  I looked at the board, saw my train number was 1524, and went down to the tunnels to find my platform, but there were no signs other than track numbers, so I asked a couple of workers how to find my track.  The second explained how to read the board and reminded me that I had to look for the train to Grand Central.


Back upstairs, I checked the board again and I saw that 14 was the track I needed.  The board also indicated, however, that the status of my train was already “departed.”  Doubtful, but concerned I ran back through the tunnels to track 14 and up the stairs to find a nearly empty platform.  There was one employee in a yellow vest, so I asked him if I was on the right platform for the 4:50 train to Bridgeport.  He informed me that I’d “just missed it.”  Confused, I showed him the time and said that it wasn’t supposed to depart for another four minutes, but he said it departed on schedule at 4:45pm.  Aggravated that the schedule online had listed incorrect times and cost me my ride, I returned to the ticket window to complain and to explore alternative options.  While I stood at the window waiting for the cashier to reference the schedules, the attendant in the yellow vest came by.  He asked where I was headed and advised me to check the CT Transit kiosk for the J bus schedule.  Furthermore, he suggested I might even get there faster on a bus because it goes directly to Waterbury.  Heeding his advice, I discovered the man was right, so I returned my unused train ticket and caught the next J4 bus.  Not only did the bus shave 20 or so minutes off of my travel time, I also saved $3.50 on the cost of the ride.


I noticed a woman sitting in front of me holding a cell phone in her hands and asked her if she might allow me to make a call to update my friends on my new arrival time.  She nodded an uncomfortable “No.” and turned away in her seat.  Then I broadcasted a general request, “Does anyone have a cell phone I can use to make a call within Connecticut?”  Kindly, another woman on the bus volunteered hers and I was able to leave a message for my friends.


As we entered Waterbury, I approached the driver and asked which would be the closest stop to the train station.  He replied, “I’ll take you there” and after the final regular stop on the route, he drove a few more blocks to drop me off across the street from the station.  Within a few minutes, my friends pulled into the parking lot and we were on our way back to their house in Bristol.  We had a tasty dinner that Lisa had prepared earlier and caught up while we watched TV.  Lisa and Dave went to bed before I did, but the few beers I’d had helped me feel sleepy earlier than usual and I was in bed by 1:30am.  It was a comfortable night’s sleep in a real bed (rather than my air mattress) for the first time in six months.


On Thanksgiving morning, I woke up early, had a few scrambled eggs for breakfast, took a shower, and then Dave and I took a ride to my brother’s house to pick up some of my things that were in storage there.  My brother was happy to have an opportunity to show off his completed renovation projects and got me to help him carry his old oven from the second floor down to the basement.  His two dogs were persistent and annoying, but it was a short stay.


Lisa’s parents had arrived by the time we returned and the rest of their family guests arrived shortly after.  We all had a fun day with plenty of good conversation and laughs while we hung out in the kitchen sipping our wine.  Dinner was ready a little after 2pm.  We began with Lisa’s delicious pumpkin soup.  The rest of our meal included a moist nearly 22-pound (~10kg) turkey, fluffy mashed potatoes, fresh-made cranberry sauce, perfectly seasoned stuffing, warm dinner rolls, and cooked baby carrots.  There was also a turnip dish that wasn’t my favorite, but the women raved about it.  I was the last one eating as I finished my second full plate of food.  After we cleared the table and relaxed for a little bit, it was time for desert.  Dave was disappointed that he’d forgotten to include pumpkin pie on the menu, but the apple pie was very good.  I also took a slice of cheesecake.  I was unpleasantly surprised to taste the pungent, distinct flavor of peanut butter in my first bite, but I managed to distinguish the tainted portion and ate only the plane, sweet cheesecake in the middle.


Within the next hour or two, the other guests had gone and the house was quiet once more.  Dave, Lisa, and I sat around in the living room chatting and watching TV until it was time to go back to Waterbury for my train home.  Considering the better value and shorter trip, I’d looked into taking the bus back home, but the last one of the night was gone before we’d finished desert.  From the car, I called Metro-North to confirm that the 7:20pm train is the last out of Waterbury.  I also asked where to get tickets and the woman informed me that tickets from that station are only sold onboard for the standard rate.  My friends dropped me off at the platform around ten after seven.  We said our farewells and I grabbed my bags out of the trunk to board the train.


As we approached Bridgeport, a conductor announced over the intercom that it would be the last stop for the train and instructed passengers continuing to New York to stay on the same platform where they would be getting off.  When I bought my ticket from the conductor, I asked him where I’d have to go to catch the train to New Haven from Bridgeport.  He told me to cross underneath and go to track three on the other side.  I did just as he’d said and my train arrived a few minutes later.  When a conductor came around to collect tickets after the train pulled out, I handed him the one the conductor from my previous train had given me.  With his punch in one hand and my ticket in the other, he paused as he read it and asked me, “Where are you going?”  I told him New Haven and he replied, “Not on this train, you’re not.”  Ugghh!  It turned out I was on a train bound for Grand Central!  So I had to get off at the next stop in Fairfield and wait around for the next train going in the opposite direction.


The second conductor had given me incorrect information as well when he told me the next train would be there in 12 minutes.  For the first 45 minutes or so, I was the only person on the platform, so to passes the time and to try to stay warm in the plummeting temperature, I just paced from end to end on the concrete slab and tried to figure out what time the next train would come.  My wait had been about an hour by the time the 9:19 arrived and I was glad to enter the warm car.


I finally arrived in New Haven around 9:45.  As I began my hike, I realized I’d lost my directions home, so I had to retrace my steps by memory of Wednesday’s walk.  The streets in the hood were pretty quiet, so perhaps even the gang-bangers get sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner.  I was spent by the time I got home, but had to unpack my bags, find something to eat, catch up on my messages, and then got ready for bed by 1ish.  I slept well after my long, yet enjoyable holiday engagement.

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photo by: penxor