Train train

The weekend after I got back from my solo Ohio trip, I had scheduled a surprise for our family. (This was a bad idea; I’m even worse at planning surprises than I am at keeping them.) I wrote the melodramatic message “Make no plans. Board the dog” across the calendar weekend of December 10th and waited for Scott to notice.

It involved a giant topiary moose

I actually did a very good job of waiting, since I bought the tickets towards the end of November, and he didn’t notice until the day before I left for Cincinnati. He was adding a kid therapy to the calendar and asked “What plans aren’t we making next weekend? Why are we boarding the dog?” And, the kicker, “Doesn’t Caroline have Nutcracker practice?”

And that, my friends, is why I know better than to go off and plan something without consulting my better half. Of course Caroline had Nutcracker practice. It wasn’t a dress rehearsal, but the show was only a week away, so it was a full cast run-through, and she really wasn’t supposed to miss.

This old caboose is actually the ticket office

I had to delay coping with this until I got back from my trip. Then, the following Monday, I asked Caroline, “next weekend, would you rather have a sleepover with a friend if I can arrange it or…”


“Don’t you want to know what you’ll be missing?”

“I want a sleepover!”

“OK, but only if I can figure one out for you!” So I scrambled around and located a saint of a grandparent who was willing (nay, enthusiastic!) to have Caroline come spend the night with her granddaughter (who is one of Caroline’s best friends) AND take her back and forth to Nutcracker practice. And Caroline wasn’t even moderately disappointed when she found out what she would be missing.

By then, Scott and Caroline knew what was coming, and I knew I wasn’t going to get Sam on a four hour long car ride without some serious bait, so let him in on the fun as well.  I asked him, “Do you want to come on a Santa train ride?”

“Oh YES!”

No coatAnd so, on December 10th, we dropped Caroline with her friend at the mall and drove four hours to north Georgia to ride the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. We were in an open air car, it was around 30 degrees, and Sam did not want to wear his coat.

We didn’t fight it. We were running late by the time we got to the station, we almost missed getting onboard, and we were still better prepared than one mother, whose children didn’t even bring coats. To her credit, she had been told the same thing I had. The website clearly states that the cars are open air. But when we called the ticketing booth to reserve, the lady on the other end of the phone said, “Oh no, they have roofs and everything. It’s the middle of winter!”

If ever a more literal minded person I meet, I will be astounded. Yes, the cars DID have roofs. And walls. But there were no windows meaning they were absolutely as ‘open air’ as they had been advertised to be. We had dragged our coats from the car, even if Sam was refusing to wear his, because this particular railway actually goes somewhere. It takes a scenic tour from one town to another, lets passengers disembark in a little town for an hour and then takes them back.

We snuggled him between us and he didn't get really cold.I had already been looking forward to taking train pictures. But then, when I got my awesome camera while up in Cincinnati, my very first thought, before even the baptism and wedding I was attending up there, was “Oh my GOD the train pictures just got incredible”. And that was before I snapped photo one.

Mommy has HER coat on Sam, don't you want YOUR coat?

The open air car only increased the picture quality. I captured shots that I had been dreaming of since our Amtrak honeymoon. If I could have gotten just ONE photo like these ten years ago, I could have saved myself rolls and ROLLS of film.

Everybody loves the sound of a train in the distanceI’m pretty sure that when we went over a narrow bridge and the conductor announced on the loudspeaker “everyone please remain completely in the car until we have completely passed over the bridge” it was entirely for the benefit of myself and a couple of restless kids who kept sticking various body parts out the window.

And then, the world’s coolest Santa Claus came down the aisle. It takes a LOT to cool me out over Santa, and this guy totally did the trick:

Less Santa more Golden Compass, yes?I love the victorian vest and ruffled shirt. And that thing in his hand is a silver sleigh bell. (Yes, we got one for Caroline, too.) Of course, those things made it that much harder to watch the bastardized version of the Polar Express that Disney puts on. (And yes, it was that night after we got back to the hotel from the train that it showed up on our room TV.)

And he posed for pictures!Anyway, once we reached our destination and got off the train, Sam FINALLY realized it was cold and let himself be stuffed in his jacket. We wandered around the little town, got a hideous meal at a local pizza place (So what if it sucked! We were in love!), and bought me a hat, because the temperature was rapidly dropping and my coat lacked a hood.

Hood and reflectionThe next time we go, Caroline has made us promise to take her, too. I don’t think she’s going to have to wait for next Christmas, either, because all of us were completely enchanted, and I don’t think we got to see even half of what was available.


12 thoughts on “Train train

  1. Wow! Some really nice pictures!! I chose to get Jess a camera because of her abilities as a photographer. I have some ability myself, but amazingly have never bought any equipment. My camera and lenses were all given to me. It’s nice. I wanted Jess to have the same experience. Also, I ignore my photographic abilities with glee. It thrills me to not take pictures for months and never to spend money. My reason is that my musical abilities absorb, and have absorbed, every waking moment and cent I’ve earned since I was a teenager. And that’s a thrill as well. But I always wanted my family to have more and unfortunately they suffered right along with me. I don’t think any gift can undo that, but Wow, not only can the girl write…she can shoot!

  2. When Jana was 6, she and I took a birthday train at Christmas fron Connorsville IN to Metmora IN. It was very memorable. The following year, we took Jenny & Stephen. On the return trip back to our hotel – the train de-railed just out of the station. School Buses were called to pick up the fathers and take them to cars. The girls & I waited 1.5 hrs with the smell of Italian sausage/onions in the immediate air. I now HATE that smell. Fun Trip!.

    • Oh my GOD- it DERAILED!!! That’s amazing. Strong food smells for any length of time are icky. Also, by the time you got to an hour and a half, I’m just guessing you had two very BORED kids!

    • Yes! This is a train ride our whole family has been DYING to take for some time. (Even without the Santa component. But boy he was sure amazing.) Even freezing to death in the dark on the way back was gorgeous. The moon has never looked so clear.

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