Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Day (And Night) Out

As we get older and really don't need anything, it becomes harder to find and give meaningful Christmas gifts, gifts that aren't simply a placeholder beneath the tree.  This year we all made lists.  Because this is a family of avid readers, most of the lists included several books.  We are also a family of foodies so many of those books were cookbooks; along those lines, there were also a few kitchen sundries on various lists.  Though Weber did ask for a few books, his list was primarily things that he did not want - namely clothes and anything that had to be put together and then picked up and put away.  His one exception to the clothes rule was socks.  Well, not actually sockS, but a sock; particularly the one to go with the one sock I gave him for his birthday a year and a half ago.  I am happy to say that he did indeed have one sock wrapped under the Christmas tree.   And one shall become two....the story about either socks or divorce.  Back to the sock...one sock, no matter how long you have been waiting for it, does not make for a very exciting Christmas.

I wracked my brain trying to think of something that Weber would enjoy, that would be fun, that he did not have to wear or put together.  Because his father worked for the railroad and Weber grew up around "train people" I decided on a train ride.  Though a month or so touring the country on Amtrak would have been awesome, time did not allow for that so I settled for an afternoon's ride on the Grapevine Vintage Railroad.  The train route is from downtown Grapevine to the Fort Worth stockyards (about a ninety minute ride).  There is a two hour "layover" at the stockyards and then the train returns to its original point of departure via the same route.

We arrived in Grapevine about an hour and a half before our departure time.  Though Grapevine is most often thought of in relation to DFW airport and big shopping malls, it has a very quaint, old-time feeling main street, which is where the train depot is located.  Main Street is lined with all kinds of specialty shops. restaurants, and even an olive oil tasting place.  The street was all decked out for Christmas.  You couldn't help but smile at all of the holiday cheer.







The local funeral parlor had a Nativity scene out front.  I had to chuckle at how Mary and Joseph, or maybe it was the three wise guys, decorated their Christmas tree.


Thirty minutes before our departure time we made our way to the depot to wait for the train.  We checked in and were given our boarding passes.


Here's our car.

We handed over our boarding passes and off we went.


The train runs weekends from mid-February through Christmas.  Our trip yesterday was the last run for the train until February 15, 2014.  There are specialty events on the train throughout the year as well.  As you can see, the car is all decorated for Christmas.


I believe that one of the things that keeps us young and able to find joy in life as we get older is to be able to experience something with a childlike spirit every now and then.  There is no doubt that as the years pass and we have done more and more things and been more and more places, that becomes difficult.  It is not impossible though;  seeking out such experiences is something that we should all do more frequently than we probably do.

This is the face of a happy (little) boy :-)


The trip to Fort Worth took a little longer than normal because of traffic on the tracks.  Who knew there are enough trains in the metroplex to cause a train traffic jam!  We did learn that there is a hierarchy for train traffic if multiple trains are on the same track.  First priority goes to military trains.  Then Amtrak.  Next is freight trains.  And lastly, tour trains; that was us so we were delayed.  Several passengers were upset about our late arrival in Fort Worth because that meant we only had about an hour and a half in Cowtown.




Here's a question:  If your goal for an afternoon is to spend time visiting Fort Worth, why would you ride a train that takes probably twice as long to get there and is on a schedule?  Though we enjoyed a plate of fried pickles and a walk around the stockyards, that was ancillary entertainment.  We were in it for the train ride.  It is not surprising that this same group of people was upset when the return trip also took longer than expected.  The children on the train were much more patient and quiet than a particular group of adults.  Enough said.

To make the day a little more of a special occasion, we decided to spend the night at the Gaylord Texan, a big resort hotel that has many special attractions during the Christmas season. One of which is Ice, an exhibit of figures carved from tons of blocks of ice.  This year's theme was The Nutcracker and there was a bonus section of scenes from New York City.





The temperature in this exhibit is 8 degrees.  Each person is given a temperature appropriate jacket to borrow as they enter the hall.


It is amazing to realize that all of these things are carved by hand, that the artists have to carve in these 8 degree temperatures for days on end as the works of art are taking form.  Maybe they should take up butter carving at the State Fair!  At least the working conditions are not quite as frigid.

We enjoyed a nice dinner at the hotel.  One of the advantages to staying the night is the Weber did not have to be the designated driver and could therefore enjoy a beer.  Our meal was not fancy; we actually ate at the sports bar, but it was very, very good.  Just what we, who are not fancy people, wanted.

After dinner we strolled through the huge hotel atrium that was also heavily decorated for Christmas. There were lights, figures (not carved from ice) and model trains amidst greenery and an inside river walk.


We had a wonderful 24 hour respite between the busy-ness of our birthday and Christmas week and the return to work next week.


1 comment:

Weber B. said...

It was fun. There are so many short line runs that the large railroads gave up because they were not profitable. Some have become small independent raillines. We saw the Fort Worth and Western line for example. Others have been bought up to use like this train. Of course all of these were put in place to serve businesses and run through the industrial areas of town. Not always the most scenic route. If you have ever seen a true model railroad, rides like this take up a small portion of the display, The quaint towns serious modelers create are in their imaginations or the past.
But with a little imagination it is easy to imagine travelling like we did for a coupe of days, (yes days sitting up) across parts of the American Frontier.
You just cant let the rhythm of the rails let you forget the price paid by slaves, Chinese conscripted labor, and the First Nations people to "tame" that frontier,