Missing Basil

First Trip (In Practically Forever!)

As a result of the meds I took this summer during a prolonged medical problem, I have had to avoid crowds and stay well clear of anyone obviously ill.  I’m finally getting close enough to the end of that period that I’m beginning to venture out a little bit, albeit carefully.

My first venture into the world, post-issues, was on a train. By choosing my hours carefully, I was able to ride in essentially empty cars, and also explore a little bit, off-train, when there were relatively few people around.  (I do carry anti-viral masks in case I find myself in a situation I can’t readily leave. Also, portable anti-bacterial alcohol for hands is my new best friend.)

SEPTA’s newest train  cars have lovely large windows at the front of each carriage; as a result, the view from the very first car is a train-lover’s dream.  (Though perhaps it’s some people’s nightmare!)  The engineer sits in a cab across the aisle; unlike the one in front of me, that window has a wiper blade, I was pleased to note.


A gentle rain gave a pointillist touch to the scenery, which I rather liked.

I discovered that I was riding in a Hyundai; it seems that SEPTA’s new train carriages were made by the Korean car company; nice job, I have to say.  When Hyundai automobiles first hit North American shores, they had a terrible reputation for reliability, which has largely changed since.  These are quite nice  train cars, though hardly traditional; I’m hoping they prove to be as sturdy and well-built over time as the automobiles have done.

I haven’t traveled anywhere for three months, a most unusual state of affairs for me, and I  have rarely been on a train without Basil, my Brompton, since he first arrived.  Taking a rail trip without Basil felt most peculiar — as if something were missing. Which it was, of course.

But this wasn’t missing something of the handbag sort, or a misplaced magazine, a hat, or gloves.  I felt a bit empty, actually, and no wonder: Basil has been my constant travel companion, and such a satisfying one, that I’ve nearly forgotten what it felt like to travel without him. I missed his company, and the certain knowledge that we were on our way to yet another adventure, together.

When changing trains, then,  I was  especially delighted to spot one of Basil’s kin. You’ll have to take my word for it that this bicycle really is a Brompton, since I wasn’t quick enough to snap the distinctive Brompton profile before the cyclist unfolded and rode off.  (Gotta love that speedy Brompton fold/unfold!)  It was an  S-type, and, if I remember correctly, black.  In any case, a lovely, sleek, creature!  I admit that the sight made my heart sing, just a little bit.

On the other hand, I felt a pang when passing beneath this bridge; I’m quite sure that Basil and I have ridden over it, more than once.  Thanks to my general geographic incompetence, though, I can’t be sure exactly where it is, other than “near (or in?) Philadelphia”.

While passing the Merion station, I saw this roof ornamentation up close for the first time.  I’d always though they were fleur-de-lis, but these are bifoil, not trefoil.  They are angled in ranks of three across the lower edge of the station roof.  Are they purely decorative?  Or perhaps some kind of snow guard?  Merion station is a designated historic building (built in 1914, restored in 2007);  maybe these small devices are just a bit of historical whimsy.

Owing to the vagaries of the SEPTA schedule, I changed trains at Narberth, and was fascinated to see the ranks of bicycles waiting at the station.  Ridership seems to have exploded through this region in the last few years.  I’m still not used to thinking of this area as one where people ride much; that may have to change.

I was lucky enough to end up in yet another Hyundai carriage on the next train.  The sun was fully out by this time, and the view from the front seat clear and beautiful.

I reflexively took this shot of an Amtrak train going other direction.  I wonder why it’s so thrilling to see a train passing?  Is this the legacy of lifetime  loving model trains?  (Those miniature landscapes are so thrilling and busy when there are trains continually passing!)  Or is it just that the notion of trains crossing speaks to a love of wanderlust?

Though I’m also thrilled with metal bridges, and/or any arched bridge.  Wonder why that is?  This one looks too low for a train to pass under, but that’s an illusion, of course.  (This may be why some travelers really don’t want to be in that first carriage!)

I’ll be traveling a lot without Basil in the next few months, but he won’t be far from my thoughts.  As I’m able to venture further afield, I’ll be roaming with an eye to explorations I may be able to have with him once I’m able to ride again.  I’ll be asking myself where he and I might be able to go by train as the prelude to cycling adventures next spring.

That’s not the same as traveling with Basil, but this approach does look forward to our future together, so I’m going with it.  Neither Basil nor I want to end up on a couch watching telly together, so one of us had better be out there making plans!