Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Santa Train

I am not quite sure how we happened upon it, but sometime in November, we found out about a train ride with Santa on the New Hope Valley Railroad. We've ridden the train before, but never with Santa. And because we do everything we can to stay away from malls during Christmas, this seemed like the only opportunity to introduce Luke, Will, and Matt to Jolly Old St. Nick.

The train was scheduled to depart from New Bonsal at exactly 11am. We knew that we had a 45 minute drive to get there. But despite all of our best efforts to leave early, we got out the door right around 10:15am. I figured that I could make up time on the highway... only it took forever just to get to the highway! We. Hit. Every. Single. Light. On. Creedmoor. Road. And remember what I said about avoiding the mall? Well of course we had to drive right by Crabtree Valley Mall to get on the highway! Lots of Christmas shoppers driving into the mall around 10:30am, just two weeks before Christmas...

Ugh. I was not a happy driver.

We cruised down Rt 64, and seemed to be making pretty good time. We got off the highway at the New Bonsal exit... and wouldn't you know it, we got stuck behind a peloton of bike riders. I wish I was kidding. By this point, all we could do was laugh. It was 11am on the nose when we rolled into the parking lot, so I figured that we had missed the train.

We got everyone out of the car in record time. The diesel train engine was cranked up and ready to roll. Happy passengers were anxiously awaiting the train to start. Nate ran one way and I ran the other to try to figure a way onto the train. I had Matt strapped to my front, and was pushing Will in his wheelchair when I ran into a gentleman from the railroad who angrily asked me if we had tickets for this train. He repeatedly told me that I was late (no kidding, angry dude, does it look like I am running around, having a good time here?) and that I was making the train late too. Gee thanks.

Finally we found the train conductor and he calmly told angry dude that he had extra space inside the caboose as long as we didn't mind sitting inside. Perhaps I didn't mention that it was barely 35 degrees outside on Saturday, had started to rain, and the train cars have no windows! Inside sounded good.

They helped us load Will's chair in the caboose and we all climbed in. Luke immediately started asking where Santa was. Because we were at the back of the train and Santa was slated to start at the front and work his way back, we had a while to wait. That didn't seem to matter though, because once the train started, both Luke and Will were completely enthralled. Will loves the motion and Luke wouldn't stop staring out the window. It was awesome! And we didn't miss being outside one bit.

The hour-long trip went by in a snap. We seriously had the best time. Everyone was so happy and relaxed. It was fun to be in the caboose and be able to look out the back of the train. The conductor kept walking past us to check on Santa's progress through the train cars and reporting to us where he was. Luke enjoyed looking for Santa and was so excited as the man and his belly got closer and closer...

But as it turns out, Santa's arrival was a bit of a letdown. Luke and I had been working all week on what he was going to say to Santa. But when the big man entered the caboose, he shook Luke and Will's hands, asked me if I wanted a picture, sat for a photo, and then was off to see some other caboosy kids. Luke and Will didn't really mind, but there was no sitting on the lap and being asked if you had been a good boy. Santa's elf handed out candy canes, and even gave me a lump of real coal! I didn't figure out that it was real, though, until I had already had it in my pocket for a while and my hands were covered with coal dust. I digress. And did laundry.

So we got some good pictures, (briefly) met Santa, and had a fun time as a family once we finally got onto the train. Despite my best efforts to dissuade Luke and talk up reindeer and sleighs, he now thinks that Santa rides a train to the North Pole. Oh well, I suppose there are worse things! The event clearly left an impression of both he and Will, and they're both ready for Christmas. It is really going to be a fun holiday with them!

Oh, and angry train dude apologized for yelling at us once we got back to the station.

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