I woke with a start. Having forgotten to set my alarm the night before I knew I'd woken up late before checking my phone for the time. This was going to be a problem, it was a 31 mile run to Princeton, and even if I caught the train at Princeton Junction into the Borough, I'd needed to be up at 6AM to start. I fumbled with my backpack, shoving items in willy nilly. By the end it looked more like a tinkers bundle than the neatly packed rucksack I'd started out with. I listened at the door, knowing that the viewing was over given the late hour (10:00AM). Heading downstairs, I heard a voice call up.
"You awake up there? Are you decent?" Asked the disembodied voice.
It gave me a bit of a start, I'd expected that the funeral director would be out by now, heading down the pike with the rest.
"Yessir, I am both awake and decent, I managed to screw myself rightly by sleeping in." I replied.
I popped my head around the corner, seeing a grey haired man smiling back from the bottom of the stairs.
"Oh so you're the walker, how'r your feet? Do you need anything?" He asked.
I sat at the top of the stairs, pulling on my socks.
"My feet are just dandy sir, I'd given 'em a bit of a shredding North of the Rhode Island border, but now they're right as rain. Hey you wouldn't happen to know a good way to get to Princeton would you?"
A contact via couchsurfing.org had gotten a hold of me, expressing an interest in hosting me and talking about my journey. He looked at me, and seemed a bit taken aback by my question.
"There's not really a good way to get into the town on foot, and I'll be honest, that's not an area you want to walk through." I thought about his response for a minute, tying my shoes and rearranging some of the items I'd half hazardly thrown into my pack.
"I got into Bridgeport, CT okay, and the south side of Providence and Boston wasn't too bad..." He interrupted me.
"I'd hide you in the trunk and give you a ride down the road if I could, and you can take my advice or not, but I'd take the train if I were you."
As it turns out that sentiment was echoed by nearly every local I spoke to after leaving the funeral home. Stopping into a store to pick up some papers, and grab a cup of coffee, I asked the woman working behind the counter the best way to skirt Elizabeth and head South West. She immediately told me to take the train saying,
"You really don't have any business walking through there, and with that pack you'd be a nice target for anyone looking to pick up a fix."
Considering I'd heard the same thing from Richard the night before, I figured if the advice came in threes it was time to compromise again and take the train. I was nearly two weeks behind on my blog by this point, and unwilling to risk the chance of being robbed, losing my pack, or getting shot (no joke) I knew I had a choice, but I figured on taking the safer one. I walked four miles down, following the tracks, when the number of salons/ barber shops and pawn shops started out numbering any other establishments that was my cue to hop the train.
Stopping at the ticket kiosk, I purchased a pass to Princeton Junction, figuring I could walk from there to Princeton, NJ. No such luck, as soon as I got off the train, I started asking directions to town, universally folks pointed at the two car train waiting on the spur just up the hill. I asked if there was a way to walk into town, they shook their heads and bustled off. Grinding my teeth in frustration, I purchased a ticket to town handed it to the conductor and sullenly boarded the "Dinky".
On arriving in town I immediately plugged in the address for the public library into my GPS. It took me across campus into the Borough of Princeton. I posted up at the library and got to typing about my experiences thus far. Knowing I was skipping details and leaving things out, it was at this point that I vowed to publish my account as a book once all was said and done. My notes, receipts, the carvings on my walking stick all provided reminders about where I'd been, but I knew that it would take some stewing and reflection to really catch the nuances of my journey. They let me stay for a full two hours, getting a ton of work done. When I'd typed myself out, and grabbed another cup of (stupidly cheap) coffee at the cafe near the entrance, I meandered out into the town.
My host wasn't out of class yet, so I headed up to the nearest consignment shop to see if I could find a cheap watch. I would be in Trenton next and I wasn't too thrilled with the idea of diddling with my phone every time I needed to check the time etc. They directed me up the street to another shop, and I landed a wicked nerdy "prime numbers" watch for $15.00. The cash had stopped flowing when I left, and I was biting into my savings with every dollar I spent. Knowing that I didn't need the watch, but feeling more secure with it for some reason, I shelled out the money and went on my way.
Having gotten a message from my host that she was on her way home, she texted me her address and I rolled back across campus. Walking across the place was nothing less than intimidating, although I will say this, if you're in Princeton, NJ people assume you're supposed to be there. Once I arrived at my hosts place, we ordered a pizza, sat down and chatted about our "real lives". She works in "biology" studying how biological systems work together and with their environment, one example was the behavior of a flock of birds, or school of fish. We talked a bit more and she asked if I wanted to attend a group meeting with some of her friends from the graduate college and seminary. Thinking "this should be interesting" I agreed and we headed out around the golf course to the Princeton Seminary School.