NEW YORK -- They saw homeless people, a preacher giving a lively sermon, an accordion player, a violinist, a man playing a comb wrapped in wax paper and lots of rats and mice.
But Charlie Redell and Roy Fox witnessed no muggings or drug deals during a three-day expedition through the entire New York City subway system -- which they say proves the subway is not the terror-a-moment adventure that some people expect.
Redell, 17, and Fox, 51, a family friend, set out Thursday morning to ride every inch of the 722 miles of subway track that wind through Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn.
They finished late Saturday, about six hours ahead of schedule, still riding on the $1.15 tokens they had put in the turnstyles Thursday.
Redell undertook the venture as a project for his humanities class at Townsend Harris High School.
"Many of my classmates live in Queens and have overprotective parents and they never ride the subway," he said. "My main goal with the project is to show that everything isn't as horrible as people say. Roy and I were never bothered once. I never saw a knife, and I never saw a gun."
Fox, a former radio talk show host who is now the caretaker of a city-owned 18th-century house in the borough of Queens, says he "wanted to see just how far a $1.15 token could go. Seven hundred and twenty-two miles, that's not a bad deal."
Fox says others have ridden every route in the subway system on one continuous trip, but as far as he knows, no one had ridden every inch of track. To do this, he and Redell went through many stations more than once, but on different tracks -- uptown, downtown, local and express.
In addition to the homeless people, musicians and vermin, their journey included two delays caused by a track fire and a power failure; a freezing ride in the middle of the night on an elevated section of track; a large woman dancing vivaciously to country music blasting from her radio; a man with a huge hole in the seat of his pants wearing no underwear; a man who kept threatening to slug his date; and a very drunk fellow named Walter who divulged his life story.
"All part of the free entertainment provided by the TA," said Fox.
The Transit Authority had provided them with a list of working bathrooms, scheduled track work and station concession stands.
The cuisine turned out to be a lot better than the candy and donuts they had anticipated buying. One night, Redell's mother met them at a station with dinner from McDonald's, which she served on her best china. A photographer who met them periodically when they beeped his pager brought broiled chicken and fruit, along with a table cloth and silk flowers. And a television camera crew gave them hot dogs.
They slept only a few hours during the three days, however.
When they finished, they looked like the homeless people they had shared cars with -- hands black with grime, 3-day-old socks bunched down around their ankles, blue jeans filthy.
What's next for the adventurers?
"A hot shower," said Redell.