Everything about today was off, which stinks since it was the only good day this weekend (rained all day on Friday, snow expected on Sunday).
I left the apartment at 10:48am, made my way down the hill towards Charles St and as I began eating my sandwich, I could see the northbound circulator zipping by the window. I thought nothing of it until I was finished eating and made my way around the corner just as the same bus was pulling away from the curb. Great, now I’m stuck waiting out here in the cold until…I checked my phone for “next bus” time (which, naturally, wasn’t working), and when I looked up again there was another southbound circulator pulling up to the curb.
I arrived at Inner Harbor at 11:31am and the first thing I saw when I disembarked the bus was the westbound circulator passing above me on Pratt St. This time it really was a 15 minute wait (not counting my time walking to the stop), and, because they realigned the western part of the route and renamed some of the stops, I had no clue where I was going when I got on.
I disembarked at the renamed Mt Clare St (which was located in front of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, but now two blocks away with a different name) at 12:01pm just as the whistle of the departing 12’o’clock train blew. As you can guess by now, that was the train I was hoping to catch when I left this morning.
So I enter the museum and a young man sells me my ticket for the exhibits, holiday layouts and the train ride to Mt Clare House (the only reason I was visiting the museum today). I wander around the roundhouse looking at all the elaborate holiday layouts which all looked almost exactly like they did last year (to be fair, all S-guage layouts look like cheap plastic junk to me). Then I went outside, walked around their permanent outdoor layout and got a quick snack in their café before it was time to board the train.
I made my way to the platform, told the ticket taker I was going to Mt Clare and he told me to take the car on the right. The attendant saw the Mt Clare ticket, and he directed me to the door on the right. I walked about halfway through the first car until I found an open seat with an unobstructed window. I sat down and about a minute later the train whistle blew and we began our slow and initially scenic ride through west Baltimore. As the train passed into less scenic area of the route, Frosty made his way through the cars to wave and have his picture taken as his grumpy-looking handler gave out lollipops (just to the kids).
Ten minutes into the trip, the train stops for a minute or so and then begins moving backwards (technically forward as the engine was facing the wheelhouse as we left). I asked the conductor when they were letting people off and he hems and haws and eventually gets around to saying I missed back when we stopped.
So the train pulls into the same station it left 20 minutes ago with me still on it. I step off the platform the conductor pulls me and an older couple aside as he proceeds to wish the rest of the guests a good day. Eventually, a manager comes over gives the three of us was a halfway sincere apology and instead of a refund he offers us complimentary driving directions so we can drive ourselves there in our own cars on our schedules. This is, of course, really nice of him because if I take the 2pm train, I’d have no way of getting back.
That’s when I had to tell him about the accident that nearly took my life and how the state awarded me for my pain and suffering by revoking my license. I literally cannot drive so if I don’t take the train I cannot get there (unless I leave the museum, wait around for a cab, give the driver precise turn-by-turn directions, pay him for my time and tip them for the pleasure of their being rude to me). He then offered to “let” me ride again and they would make sure I got off at the manor (apparently, they run a special, unadvertised pick-up-only trip to the mansion at 3pm).
It turns out, when I was finished with the manager I checked my watch and it was 1:25pm so I had just enough time to use the restroom on the far side of the roundhouse before heading back to the platform. Oddly enough, now everyone was keen to direct me to the “Mt Clare car” (even though they knew full well where I was headed on my previous journey) which was empty save for one other family.
As I sat down in a seat with an unobstructed window, a worker with an orange\yellow vest told me I “couldn’t sit there” (no explanation given) and then leads me to the front of the car and points to a seat next to the other family. “Sit here,” he said pointing to a seat with an unobstructed view of an informational poster and then promptly left through the end door. If I wanted scenery, I could just lean my head really far back in the seat.
Fortunately, Santa arrived (with the same grumpy attendant from before) to take pictures with the other family but when he was finished with them the conductor opened the train door so all I got from the jolly old elf was a pat on the back and shove out the door.
The mansion, like the 15 foot platform the train drops you off on, was smaller than it looked from the tracks. Granted there were additions, subtractions, restorations and the excavated outline of its foundations (though very little is mentioned of the latter on their website). Like most historic homes, the rooms were roped off with a docent standing at the entrance to explain the purpose of each area. They even had a special wedding gown on display in the master bedroom (which I initially mistook for a part of the bedspread).
As nice as the grounds and period furnishings were, I was there for the “holiday open house,” and I was sorely disappointed with what I saw. I liked how they had musicians in the foyer playing live carols, but the house was barely decorated. Yes, there was a Christmas tree in a corner by the entrance, but most of the wreaths\greens were shoved off into a side room with a plain handmade sign that read “for sale.” Even with the room by room tour, I was in and out of the house well within time to catch the train back to the museum.
I disembarked the train just in time to hear the announcement about closing “promptly in 30 minutes” which was just as well since I was leaving anyway – a full hour behind schedule. I made my way two blocks west on Pratt St to the new circulator stop, and was surprised to see it come around the corner as I arrived at the stop. Naturally, the driver turns to us and says he’s off duty and we’d have to wait on the bus until his “relief driver” arrived (about ten minutes, but at least the bus was heated).
I took the circulator to Pratt\Howard and just as I was coming off a man was standing there telling me he needed change for the light rail. Could I please help him? I considered crossing the tracks and slowly making my way over to Fell’s Point for the boat parade and lighting of the Christmas tree, but it was way too cold to stand around so I headed over to the ticket machines. Besides, I knew I’d probably run into more panhandlers as I approached the harbor.
A Penn-Camden train came around 4:07pm, but it was full. Ten minutes later, another shuttle train arrived – and it was nearly empty. When the train arrived at Mt Royal station, I disembarked without being hassled for change, but finding out that the Starbucks behind the station had closed – an hour ago.
I didn’t get a hot coffee, but it was still warmer back in the apartment than it was outside…