02. February 2016 · Comments Off on Colorado Discoveries 47: The Royal Gorge Route Railroad · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,
We got a nice photo of the family before boarding. I wish Dave's Dad was more visible.

We got a nice photo of the family before boarding.

As you might imagine, being the wife of a train guy, I’ve been on a lot of trains. From the Amtrak Auto Train to dozens of tourist railroads, we’ve experienced rides that range from luxurious to utilitarian, with lengths from just 15 minutes to 7 hours.

We have been driving past the Royal Gorge Route Railroad depot for the past couple years on our numerous day- and weekend-trips to Monarch Mountain. We kept telling ourselves “We need to check out that railroad.” but hadn’t gotten around to it for a while. The Royal Gorge takes a 20 mile route along the Arkansas River that one can only see via this train or whitewater raft (or the Royal Gorge pedestrian bridge at the park).

In 2014 we tried to get tickets for a ride, but the Holiday Train route we were interested in was sold out. The boys are too old for the Santa Train that dominates the holiday season, and besides, it didn’t take the complete route. Dave would have wanted the complete route.

Dave’s parents visited during Christmas week and we got tickets for everyone for a daytime Holiday Train for the day after Christmas. We got the tickets nice and early (around Veteran’s Day) and were very pleased with the number of options available to us. We choose to do a 12:30pm trip so that we could see the beautiful gorge. More »

30. August 2014 · Comments Off on Colorado Discoveries 38: The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , ,

Did I mention I love our camera? This is the money shot here…and we were glad we were towards the end of the train so we could get these views of the locomotive.

Dave had been telling me about the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad for many years. Okay, perhaps over 20 years. It was the highlight of a Colorado trip he had taken as a teenager, and he was excited for a chance to share the experience with the boys and me. So we made sure to include this on our southwestern vacation.

In the summertime, it’s important to get the tickets well ahead of time. I visited my local installation tickets and tours office at the Air Force Academy and received discounted tickets about 4 weeks in advance. I also made sure to secure nearby hotel reservations. On a whim I made the family a reservation at a cowboy supper show for fun. I’ll write about the Bar D after this post. More »

09. September 2013 · Comments Off on Colorado Discoveries 10: Cumbres & Toltec Railroad · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , ,
The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad takes you through otherwise-uninhabited parts of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.

The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad takes you behind a steam locomotive through otherwise-uninhabited parts of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.

For Dave’s birthday, our family took an overnight trip to the quiet town of Antonito, Colorado for a trip on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad.

More Americans will have heard of other Rocky Mountain tourist railroads, such as the Rio Grande Scenic, the Royal Gorge, or the very-well-known Durango & Silverton. I personally haven’t been to any of those other tourist railroads, but they’re all located in bigger cities/towns/communities than the two endpoints of the C&T: Antonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico. The Cumbres & Toltec is a narrow gauge railroad and is absolutely spectacular and takes you through some VERY uninhabited parts of southern Colorado and northern New Mexico.

More »

11. July 2012 · Comments Off on Jacob’s Visit to New York · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , ,

Jacob got home on Wednesday from a 3 week visit to New York with Dave’s parents.  He had a very nice — and busy — visit.  He had the chance to go with his Grampy to a classic car show in Stony Brook, he visited the Statue of Liberty in New York City, went to a Long Island Ducks minor-league baseball game, visited the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad in Pennsylvania, and he ate filet mignon at a restaurant not once, but twice!

The filet mignon particularly tickled me because he’s alway so picky about the fat on steak.  Wouldn’t you know, filet is now his favorite cut of steak.

That’s my high-stakes boy!

Here are a couple of pictures from his trip that Dave’s Mom took.  He had a wonderful time!

Here’s J on the ferry ride to the Statue of Liberty.  I couldn’t get over his needing a hoodie on the same day that we were sweltering in the upper 90s down here in Florida.

My mother-in-law got this fantastic picture of Jacob jumping in the sprinkler on a hot day in the backyard.

20. June 2012 · Comments Off on Road Trip 2012 II, Part 1: Driving North and a Train Day · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , ,

As I’ve mentioned in 2008, 2009, and 2011, our family makes a trip to Pennsylvania every year for Dave’s family reunion in Lancaster County.  I didn’t go in 2010 — Dave flew to PA with the boys while I did some reserve work — so I didn’t write about it.  To be honest, I haven’t written much detail about the reunions themselves.  I guess I just say “We’re going” and that’s about it.  It’s mainly hanging out drinking some Yuengling, eating Hammond’s Pretzels, catching up with the others from Dave’s Dad’s side of the family.  The folks are all wonderful and it’s especially fun to see how grown up the younger family members become year after year.  This year, some of the youngest family members when I first went to a Vollmer reunion in 1994 are about to become seniors in college!!!!  Wow!

We also pay a visit with several loved ones from Dave’s Mom’s side of the family.  Some of them drive in from Philadelphia to Lancaster County to visit with Dave’s parents and our foursome and we’re always flattered and humbled by their efforts.  Each year Jacob seems to top himself with how much he can eat: this year it was a foot-long chicken parmesan sub sandwich!

Enjoy some pictures from the first couple days of our adventures.  We try to spend a day at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and the Strasburg Railroad, and this year we even adjusted our travel time so we could keep a day ahead of the Strasburg Railroad’s “Day Out With Thomas” event that is always over Father’s Day weekend.  It’s usually a nightmare of toddlers and preschoolers, with families coming from as far away as Connecticut and Massachusetts for the chance to ride behind a REAL engine made up to look like Thomas (and not non-operational Thomas that’s actually pushed by another locomotive, which is what we experienced in Nebraska in 2009 — don’t get me wrong, the Fremont, Nebraska experience is the best-ever Thomas ride we’d ever had out of 5 venues and about a dozen rides!)

The kids have officially outgrown Thomas <sniff sniff> and didn’t mind not riding with him this year.  Some of my favorite memories of my little boys will always be with that useful engine….

We took a detour on the drive northward and took some of Skyline Drive in Virginia's Shenandoah National Park.

We took a detour on the drive northward and took in some of Skyline Drive in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park.  Check out that stunning view!  We only drove the southernmost 40 miles, from mileposts 105 to 65 or so.

More »

26. December 2011 · Comments Off on Alabama Discoveries 1: The Santa Train and Zoo Lights! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , ,

We had a fun couple days sightseeing and enjoying some of the local holiday traditions.  Dave’s finally getting his “travel legs” back after his surgery and on Friday withstood about 4 hours in the car, to and from the Foley, Alabama area.

We live about 1 1/2 hours from the Wales West RV Park…and Tourist Railroad.  Yes, if you can imagine the two businesses coexisting, that’s what we have.  It’s tucked deep in a rural town in Alabama, east of Mobile….

Okay, an aside here: I’m not sure what you officially call that part of Alabama that’s due west of the Florida Panhandle and has the Gulf of Mexico as its southern border.  I always thought of it as a “stem”.  I did some cursory research and determined it could be either “South Alabama” or “Lower Alabama”.  Wikipedia didn’t offer too much help.

…anyway, this RV Park offers Welsh Narrow Gauge train rides on weekends, and in December they had an adorable Santa Train experience.

After dark, the train takes riders throughout the extensive RV park, which is brilliantly lit up.  You ride to the far eastern side of the park, where you’re dropped off: Santa Claus is waiting for the kids in his “North Pole” workshop.  The kids meet Santa, photographs are free, and Santa gives each child a wooden toy train to decorate in a craft section at the workshop.  What a wonderful way to meet Santa!

After returning to the main train station on the west side of the RV park, the riders get cocoa, cookies and entertainment.  There were a traveling petting zoo on hand, and a snack bar/gift shop area.

The facilities were well-kept and the holiday decorations were beautiful!

After the train, we headed over to Foley, AL to a touristy restaurant called Lambert’s Cafe.  They advertise that they’re the “Home of Thrown [sic] Rolls”…and that’s precisely what they do: fling the HUGE yeast rolls across the dining room to customers.  The boys enjoyed catching them for us!  Sadly, I tried and tried to get a picture of the young man just as the roll was leaving his hands.

The menu is “comfort food”, like what you would expect at Cracker Barrel, and the portions were ENORMOUS!  Dave and I should have share something!

The kid was too fast for me to catch the roll flying through the air.
Look at the size of these rolls!  Still warm, too!
There’s a paper towel with fried okra in front of me.  Servers came around with “pass arounds” all throughout the meal.

On Saturday evening, after Christmas Eve church services, we headed to the Gulf Breeze Zoo for the “Zoo Lights” event.  We had a nice time seeing the lights, and even got a sneak peek at many of the animals at night!

Unfortunately, I left the good camera at home and most of my iPhone pictures were pretty lousy.  This one was nice, though.  The kids were being silly in the foreground.

15. August 2011 · 3 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , ,
This is officially called “The Confederate Memorial on Stone Mountain”.  It’s the largest relief carving in the world…at least until the Crazy Horse Monument is finished.  We all know who the guys are…who knows the horses’ names?

As I’d mentioned in yesterday’s post about The Varsity, the only truly scheduled activity we had coming into Atlanta was a Sunday afternoon Braves game.  So we had the entire city of Atlanta at our disposal for sightseeing.

What to do…what to do…

Most families staying in downtown Atlanta would have considered the Georgia Aquarium, the CNN Center tour, and/or the World of Coca-Cola.  Zoo Atlanta would have been a good option too…if it weren’t for the incredible heat.

Dave, in his typical train-fan fashion, knew of a tourist scenic railroad in the area.  So that’s what we sought to do.  We decided to grab some same-day tickets to the Saturday night Braves game, and then headed out for the day to Stone Mountain Park which is about 15 miles east of Atlanta.  We weren’t quite sure what to expect — several folks at the hotel breakfast area told us we’d have a good time and that there was “so much to do!”.

Those folks were right!  Stone Mountain Park is very beautiful and there was no shortage of things to do!  We didn’t quite dress for hiking up the mountain (and Dave’s back wouldn’t have been to happy with it either), but we were able to enjoy the scenic train, the skytram right to the top of the mountain, a ferryboat ride, and a fun — touristy — lunch where our yeast rolls were thrown to us by our servers!

Dave and I really enjoyed the Civil War history that’s been memorialized at the park — of course there’s the beautiful bas relief sculpture of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson (and their horses!).  There is also an antebellum mansion to tour, and a Confederate Museum.

One could visit the park and make a complete vacation experience out of it — from campsite to the Stone Mountain Inn, you can stay on the property.  If you want to do outdoor activities, there’s hiking, biking, golf and boating to be had!  If you prefer indoor air conditioned stuff, there are the museums, the shops and lots of exhibits and demonstrations.

Stone Mountain is a fascination in and of itself: the dome of cooled magma, which soon became granite rock, poked up over the surrounding geology, rising over 800′ above the surrounding area.  There are gentle rolling hills around Atlanta, but Stone Mountain sticks up pretty high…

While you could pay individually for each of the activities we did, we instead took advantage of the one-day “Adventure Pass”.  This let us do just about all the theme-park activities (there’s this “Ride the Duck” attraction that wasn’t included, but that’s okay).  We had a military discount of $3 off each ticket, yay!

Perhaps because it was August in Georgia, who knows?  The park was not crowded at all even on a Saturday, there were little-to-no lines for any of the activities we wanted to enjoy.

First, the 5 mile train ride around the base of the mountain.

The engine that pulled us.

This is the walking trail up to the top (as seen from the train) — it’s straight up the sheer rock surface so it can get quite dangerous if it were rainy.

Next we enjoyed a touristy Southern comfort food lunch at an in-park restaurant called “Miss Katie’s”.  They’re known for throwing the yeast rolls at you.  I didn’t get a picture of this gimmick, but here’s a picture I found off the web of a Miss Katie’s server throwing a roll, from the Epicurean Family Blog:

We enjoyed southern fried chicken and chicken and dumplings for lunch.  Along with free tossed rolls, fried dill pickles, fried sweet potatoes and free fried onion petals…we were glad we ordered 2 entrees and 1 kid’s meal for the 4 of us!

The lunch was yummy, but unfortunately was priced for tourists and our lunch for 4 was over $50.

After lunch we visited the air conditioned Yogi Bear’s 4D Adventure.  This was merely a stitching-together of 12-minutes worth of scenes from the 2010 movie Yogi Bear…the 3D version.  But we were in a theater that added in real water and wind effects.  We had seen Yogi Bear this past spring but it was fun to experience the water and wind effects.

This is what I usually get from Jacob these days when I say “Smile for the camera!”

Next we visited the Summit Skyride, which was the gondola ride to the top of the mountain.  The gondola has a capacity of 13,000 lbs., and when we were loading up, it was rather freaky seeing the load weight – displayed in tons – get higher and higher.  Luckily, everyone fit on board at 5.1 tons.

We enjoyed the views from the top of the mountain.

Can you see the Atlanta skyline out there?  Trust me, it’s out there!

I have a lot of peak pictures of Dave: here and here.  I have one of him on North Carolina’s Grandfather Mountain too…but that’ll have to wait till I get home and dig into my photo archives.

I think this is the very peak of the mountain.  But I could be wrong….

Timmy was very curious about these circular depressions in the granite.  It’s from rainwater “soaking” some of the softer minerals in the rock…when the water evaporated, the dissolved minerals would go with it.

This is the very pretty — and very rare — Confederate yellow daisy.  There’s a festival in September to celebrate it’s full bloom, but they were just starting up about this time of year.

Jacob took this nice picture of Dave and me…I like the rainshower on the left side of the picture, in the background.

This black swallowtail butterfly was fluttering among the yellow daisies.  Way up on top of the mountain.  Love how my 12x zoom captured even the detail of the granite of the mountain top.  There was a tiger swallowtail, too, but he wouldn’t land anywhere for me to photograph him.

We cooled off at the air conditioned Memorial Hall Museum, which has exhibits about the geology of the mountain…and a lot of the Native American and early American artifacts found nearby, as well as exhibits about the making of the bas relief sculpture and the Civil War history in the area.

Did you know?  The original sculptor of the Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial was Gutzon Borglum…his design wasn’t used due to differences the artist had with his financial backers in the mid-1920s.  Borglum smashed the models of his designs and left Georgia in anger in 1925.  He went to Mount Rushmore, South Dakota to design and oversee its construction from 1927-1941.

The Memorial Hall Museum.

A view of the “Memorial Lawn” – laser light shows are held every night at 9:30pm during the summer.  We’d have loved to have seen one; apparently their lightshow rendition of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” is pretty well known.

Finally, and by this time we were all tired and sore from the walking around, we ended our day at Stone Mountain Park with a ride on their riverboat Scarlett O’Hara.

Dave might actually be sleeping here…we were all pretty tired by this point.

View of Stone Mountain from the riverboat.

We were very glad we chose a day at Stone Mountain Park over the more common tourist destinations in Atlanta!  It was nice to get some fresh — albeit hot — air, and learn more about Georgia’s nature and history.

09. August 2011 · Comments Off on Happy Birthday Dear Husband! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

Who knows what that is on his cake??? Hint: it’s supposed to look like that…

29. June 2011 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve never done a “Wordless Wednesday” before, but I thought we’d have a good time with these pictures Dave and I took of Amtrak’s 40th Anniversary exhibit train at the Strasburg Railroad in June, pulled by a P40 locomotive.  Considering these to decorate Jacob’s room, since he’s a fan of Amtrak.

02. September 2010 · Comments Off on A Thomas-Themed Scrapbook. Really? Yes, really. · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

How crazy are we?  My next scrapbook project is to use this lovely Thomas-the-Tank-Engine-themed scrapbook I got many years ago as a gift (I honestly don’t remember where/when I got it).  I opened it up recently after several years of it sitting with my other unused scrapbooks…and counted TWENTY available pages.

Could I possibly come up with 20 pages of Thomas?

To quote our favorite former Alaska governor: “You Betcha!” (insert wink and thumbs-up here)

We’ve been to enough Thomas-themed events, had enough Thomas-themed birthday parties, and gotten enough Thomas-themed toys to make a fun 20-page scrapbook.  Over the years I’d slowly accumulated Thomas-themed decorative papers, stickers and die-cuts.  I’d also accumulated generic-train-themed items.  It was time to put them to use!  My boys have attended Thomas events every year since 2003!  I also have plenty of pictures of Thomas birthday cakes (3 of them), Thomas toys, and a photo collection of the Thomas-themed clothing they have…to include Grandma Fox’s homemade pants and the Vans-style slip-on shoes she got in Hong Kong.

Yesterday I chose about 100 pictures from my photo files and sent them over to Walgreen’s for developing.  I knocked out 6 pages and it was so much fun going down memory lane!  I predict that my boys won’t be wanting to do this for much longer — Jacob already has outgrown Thomas and sticks to “prototype” toy trains.  Timmy still is enthralled with the magic of Thomas, and lucky for us, we found a TINY little narrow gauge tourist railroad in Alabama that hosts the event in the springtime if Timmy’s still interested.

Here’s the cover of the book — it’s a cool 3-D chipboard Thomas.

From 2010 09 01 Thomas Train Scrapbook

And here are the pages so far.  4 years, 4 different venues.  The next page I’m doing is from 2007, not a Thomas train ride, but our trip to “Thomas Live!” in Raleigh:

This is my favorite Thomas picture!  I believe this was 2006, based on Timmy’s shoe’s.
From 2010 09 01 Thomas Train Scrapbook
2003. The 3 pics on the left are our attempts to get J to look at the camera!
From 2010 09 01 Thomas Train Scrapbook
From 2010 09 01 Thomas Train Scrapbook
Trying out my new “Toy Train” font in the title.
From 2010 09 01 Thomas Train Scrapbook
In the upper right, J’s laughing hysterically, not crying or screaming.
From 2010 09 01 Thomas Train Scrapbook
From 2010 09 01 Thomas Train Scrapbook