A Small Comparison of NC Transit Systems @GoTriangle and @CatsRideTransit

Ah, what’s a man’s life without a little adventure? Especially mine, and after I had been (relatively) motionless for much of the preceding month.

As I vaguely alluded to in the previous entry, I am making moves to shore up affordable and hopefully usable transportation in the city of Charlotte. A place this size can be a bit challenging to navigate, and even more so when you live towards its periphery. But, after much consultation of Google Maps, I located a Charlotte Area Transit System (Cats) park and ride within easy Uber distance of my current residence, and as I needed both to venture to the transportation center to acquire my paratransit ID and to visit Queens University so I could work on a couple of things there, I opted to chance the bus.

Naturally, I found myself drawing comparisons to that I experienced aboard the GoTriangle buses that took me to and from work for just over four years in the (of course) much smaller Durham/RTP area. Note that I am not saying either has issues per se, just that they function a bit differently from one another.

First, the similarities: on boarding the 53X, an express bus that would whisk me to uptown Charlotte (it’s our downtown but we’re just quirky like that) I notice that they too have switched to the more comfortable upholstery that most of the GoTriangle buses now have. I guess that most have gone in this direction, eschewing the bumpy bucket-type seats of my childhood. This definitely makes for a lot less soreness for road-weary commuters.

I can think of few other similarities, interestingly. Their differences were more notable. First, I suppose Cats does not have onboard WiFi. I guess this is to be expected in a larger fleet, and it is not a big deal. Second, all of the buses I boarded still have stairs one must climb to board, rather than the flat surface you step onto when entering a GoTriangle bus. I think they still lower them though. One nice difference I noted: Cats has its automated system set to call out all of the stops, stating which locations each serves as well. This means I can follow along without use of my GPS unit for the most part, insomuch as I can hear it, which was less doable on the return commutes when the A/C was set to full blast.

And hearing is in fact the greatest challenge I face when riding the fixed-route system, not surprisingly. This is why I signed up for Special Transportation Service (STS) and will see how much use I am able to get out of them. I know though that, being as we are outside of their guaranteed 3/4 of a mile from a stop, there will probably be times when I cannot get a ride through them and might want to resort to the regular route. I would say I actually got to my points relatively well, but as one might expect there were a few, insignificant glitches.

The main issue was communicating to the driver where I wished to disembark. I could tell them the stops as Google had told me, but this did not always get the desired result. Actually, the first driver on the Express route took me all the way to the transit center, and the second had no issues notifying me when I had arrived at Queens. The third told me, I think correctly, that I could catch the return Express route at the transit Center rather than doing so on 4th Street as the map suggested, but relented and let me off at the latter location. This was good, because there is a little bit of a walk from where the locals arrive to the Express routes at that very loud facility.

In the end though, I certainly was able to reach all of my intended destinations without notable difficulties. As I more fully come to understand the system, and especially the route to Queens I should have an easier time communicating exactly where I am going, but these things come in time. I am one who does not and will never mind the learning.

The Charlotte Life: Settling In

Every day, I adjust a little more. It’s small things, like figuring out a sensible, and slowly cheaper and cheaper, way to get where I need to be. Becoming used to basking in the rocker out front for a while as I read my Braille display, which at the rate I’m going I will completely lose shortly, then shifting to the low metal table with two chairs to break out the Mac for some work. It’s adapting to the relatively late dinner schedule in here, meaning I learn to consume such that I am not too hungry once mealtime arrives. It’s discovering the many entertaining Netflix series that, along with the aforementioned reading, help pass long summer days that feel like a second dose of childhood.

At some undefinable point, these little changes continue until suddenly, I have made myself a temporary home. This is my longest stint in the Queen City since eight years ago, and it amazes me how different things are, and yet how the same some other things remain. Certainly my tech, and let’s be truthful, especially my iPhone are aiding in the acceptance of this new period. I can pretty much remain in my comfortable room/nook up here in the nice house and stay out of the other folks’ hair unless they are inclined for conversation. I think that this makes the situation more tenable.

Not that I am silly enough to just remain in here all of the time, of course. I am, in fact, looking for some kind of work. If all goes as I would like, I will find a position that moves me forward. To that end, I am working with a career counselor at Queens who will help me clean up my resume and may give me some ideas on what I can pursue. I have also come across an interesting opportunity on Twitter about which I will have to inquire tomorrow. See? Social media can be useful sometimes. I will definitely hit this hard for the next little while, and see if something can come to fruition.

And even as all of that unfolds, along with my working to complete grad school, the wedding preparations begin to ramp up. The main thing that will happen in relatively quick succession is acquisition of my passport, so that we can leave the country immediately after the ceremony. We figure once that document is gotten, after dealing with the bureaucracy required to do it, we may as well notch some other countries in our belt someday soon as well. So we’ll see on that. At the moment though, it’s just going to be trying to get everything funded and to not go crazy in the midst of all of this change! It’s incredibly exciting because we so rarely get the chance in life to really reset and try to get things more right, but it is also nerve-racking because my decisions and choices are tied into the fate of someone else. I just pray everyday for the wisdom to make the best calls possible.

So here I am, firmly into what I’m calling my middle transition: Chapter XI as it were. I believe that today was one of the happiest I’ve had since abandoning my Durham residence (well other than spending time with the lady in Williamsburg of course) and that things are really looking up. (I have learned from the past not to say “can only look up,” because that’s daring stuff to slide sideways, but optimistic, I’m gonna be optimistic!) Till next time, I bid you adieu. But I invite you to check out this great interview turned blog post that BookShare did with me (thank you Laura for that). Heck, that thing told me more about what I’m trying to do now than I could probably have articulated. Amazing. Back soon.

Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Busch Gardens

Ah ba-humbug. My initial idea had been to accompany this post with photos, but as you might figure it is difficult for me to keep reams of them straight. I will learn to do this someday! But first I have to come up with some kind of labeling scheme so that I can be certain of what I am posting. In the meantime though, I guess I’ll stick with what I know and write, write, write. So enjoy a (relatively) quick summary of our entertaining and educational trip to Williamsburg Virginia.

We set sail for (ah ok drove to, although that might be an apt metaphor given the amount of rain we encountered on the way) this historic Virginia town on Wednesday at 12 PM, a couple hours later than intended but after some much-needed sleep. Mostly things were sunny, but when we did enter those two or three downpours I stayed quiet so that she could concentrate on keeping us whole. We popped out of the other end of the tube around 3:30, arriving at the fairly decent Courtyard by Marriott, Busch Gardens Area located at 470 McLaws Circle and within a mile of that iconic theme park. You’ll notice that of late I’ve been staying in Marriott properties, because I’m trying to stack up rewards points. They say I’m only 9 nights away from Silver status, but if I understand correctly you only get one night for every three.

Bags down and a little more rested, we schlepped off through the horse-poop-filled streets of colonial Williamsburg. Unfortunately by this time, all of the houses and such were closed, but just smelling the smells was enough to conjure up a feeling of what life might have been like there. And I got firsthand experience of what life could have been like if I were to be punished for being bad, as she good-naturedly placed my head inside of a stockade, (guillotine?) and took a hilarious photo. This device forces you to sit on your knees and makes the head nearly immobile. It’s brutality, made real. That bit of silliness done, we strolled by houses noticing a prominent name of Bruton (this guy had a Parrish church and a house apparently).

That trip out was relatively short, though we still logged at least two miles of walking. This added to the three miles or so we’d traversed the previous day leaving and returning to the car for the fireworks display (which was also fun as we snagged good seats that gave me an unusual sound experience). Anyhow, needless to say we got our exercise in this week.

Off to Cracker Barrel for dinner, where our inexperienced server neglected to provide the biscuits we had requested. I was ok though, as I greedily consumed my meatloaf, Mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, real lemonade, and later, a piece of delicious chocolate cake.

After that kind of start, it was surprising that we actually rose earlier than expected for the trip to Jamestown Settlement, a fascinating replica of the first established colony there. Afraid of both the rain and crowds, we arrived as it opened at 9. I think this contributed significantly to my great time learning there.

As we left the cool of the visitor center for the nearly dripping moisture beyond, I immediately felt a separation from modernity. The first thing we did was enter what the Tap Tap See app says is a Tiki tent? I hadn’t known what they were called, but the huts where the Powahatan Indians would have lived. I really couldn’t help wondering how one lives like that, but at the same time that sort of spartan existence kind of appeals to me. The natives did little inside of those huts but sleep and stay warm, even preparing food outside at private fire pits. Even so, they were so tiny that I, and most people I would imagine, had to duck to enter and exit, and could barely stand up inside.

But then there was the most interesting part, where we were able to board replicas of the ships that sailed from England. Constantine, the largest of the three, would have had 71 persons onboard, which I find mind-boggling! After walking around two of the decks of that and the other two vessels, I know that if I were to try and survive the four-month crossing from England to the colonies I would probably be half dead on arrival. I mean what did they eat? I am reading a book set in Jamestown now, a fictional tale called Dark Enough To See The Stars of a Jamestown Sky by Connie Lapallo, wherein the author states that it is based on the true story of her ancestors’ arrival there. So I anticipate getting a sense of just those sorts of questions.

After making our stumbling way up from those depths, we sauntered over to a table full of what would then have been classed as medical supplies, but actually resembled a toolbox). The woman at that exhibit showed me the crude splint, forceps, and other what would now be considered dangerous items used to operate on people, and especially soldiers, during that time. It was quite interesting.

And after a tour of the mostly inaccessible indoor gallery, she and I had a random stranger snap us standing in front of a fountain as some kid inadvertently intervened. The sound of rushing water was pleasant, if not enticing in those temperatures.

The rest of our day in town mainly consisted of a respite in the hotel from 1 to 3 after enjoying burgers from Sonic, as we did on our Charleston trip. Then off we went to Busch Garden.

Happily for us, the suggested rain showers did not come at all. But the humidity was such that, as previously noted, we still sweat buckets anyway. We also rode in a bucket of a ride that flung us around a bit, one that reminded me of the Wild Bull at Carowinds as it rocked us back and forth aggressively, a giant swing, and the one roller coaster I could get her on. Our final ride was the mach Tower, analogous to Carowinds’ Dropzone, where we rise way up and are flung to the ground. We then retreated into a German restaurant where some sort of live band was playing for the few patrons inside. Then after a boat ride called Cruising the Rhine, she said she needed to go ahead and call it a day. This was clear as we ambled about, trying to find a way out of that monstrosity but getting turned around a time or two. It is an amazing place, divided into countries such as Italy, France and Germany where those cultures are highlighted. I hope to visit again someday.

And that about sums up Williamsburg, in probably the longest entry I have ever written. We had pondered eating in a local spot called The Whaling Company, but a quick look at the prices changed that. They did have some pretty good sounding seafood though. So it was back to our trusty Cracker Barrel, where this time I had Chicken-fried Chicken with the same sides. Hey, you can never go wrong with that! Back with the good stuff whenever the next adventure happens.