SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - February 2022
Updated: Dec 4, 2022
This trip was my first adventure in 26 months thanks to the pandemic and several health challenges. It had a false start in the previous month due to a storm that meant the two-day turnaround on the PCR test Puerto Rico required was deemed impossible. I didn't expect anyone to show up to administer the test or anyone to be in the labs to process the sample. We are talking about Atlanta in bad weather. So the trip was cancelled with a steep savings on airfare that was nearly consumed in rebooking the same hotel.
The day began with an escort to MARTA at 6:45 am for a 9:40 flight. Some long term friends of more than 35 years from my swimming days generously offered a ride to the airport that was turned into a ride to the train and a MARTA pickup on return. After all, this was another subway adventure that needed to be started properly.
This was the first time travelling with liquid meds and the pumps. The TSA experience wasn't all that bad except for the 20 minute wait to have a a body search that the agents hate doing and the security personnel keeping my glasses. Thank goodness I always travel with a spare pair. I was in for a rude awakening in getting a replacement backup. The CVS in San Juan wanted to charge $36 when the local CVS sells three pairs for $18. Needless to say, I took my chances going without a spare set.
Delta was gracious enough to offer an upgrade to their Comfort section, which was no great prize considering the seat was a bulkhead with more leg room, but the inconvenience of everything in overhead storage. The tray table in the arm rest also makes for less width room than a conventional coach seat. Thank goodness my plus sized days are history. The bulkhead seat was payback for laughing at a woman on a previous flight who had purchased the Comfort seat and didn't fit it comfortably. Karen tried to convince me to trade with her and didn't like that it wasn't gonna happen.
San Juan weather was the greatest with reasonable humidity and temperatures between 80° and 85°F. The goals for the trip were to test TSA experience, photograph subway stations and get some aerial shots from the helicopter. Both of the latter objectives were successfully accomplished.
San Juan has an abbreviated one-line subway with 16 stations. Two stations are underground, with a third also underground, but opened at one end. The remaining stations are either elevated or constructed in open cut below grade. No system visited since Moscow and St Petersburg from 3 years ago has compared to their lofty standings. The San Juan architectural styles employed were simple, but interesting. Three standouts were the Martinez Nadal station, Deportivo station and Universidad station.
Martinez Nadal station is constructed in open cut with elegant floor tiling, Deportivo station is elevated, serving Coliseo Rubén Rodriguez (basketball) and Estadio Municipal Juan Ramon Lubriel (soccer) sports venues. The station is decked in sports themes and has outstanding lighting. Universidad station, serving the University of puerto Rico, is below ground with a long escalator constructed in an interesting enclosure.
Normal operating procedure for these trips is to contact the transit agency to obtain permission to photograpph if the policy isn't clearly stated on its website. The transit agency website disappeared. Hence no prior contact. Photos we taken at each of the stations although I encountered personnel from the private security firm the transit agency employs and was reprimanded by two transit employees.
My computer automatically updates to capture local time. The cell phone does not. A loss of awareness of the time nearly resulted in missing the helicopter flight. Fortunately, the local airport was close to the hotel and their operating schedule had slipped. The most exhilarating part of the flight was viewing Jesus Izcoa Moure Bridge, a cable-stayed bridge, crossing Rio La Plata between the towns of Toa Alta and Naranjito along Highway 5. I'm stll figuring out what was photographed from the air.
The only thing bad about my time in San Juan was using its unregulated taxis. The same trip costs $12, $17 and $21 while the bus ride after getting acclimated cost only $0.75 and took about the same amount of time. The food was tasty and the people were friendly. I had no concerns walking about at night.
For more information and other photographs on San Juan's Tren Urbano, visit Urbanrail.net