Narrow Gauge from Durango, Colorado to Silverton, New Mexico, or the Cumbres & Toltec. Both are a fascinating ride through the Rockies on part of railroad history.
The Royal Father, overgrown kid and model train buff, just had to take the Cumbres & Toltec -- and of course, we were all along for the ride in the summer of 1979, along with two of my Dad's friends.
A coal-fired locomotive chugged us through the scenery while someone narrated the various points of interest over the scratchy PA. Black smoke puffs from the front the way it used to before people started caring about pollution. Choo-choo and whoo-whoo. It's all there.
Part of our journey also involved a chuck-wagon style lunch. The train pulled to a stop at a place where long benches stood and we all got a meal of beef and beans. I think it was beef and beans. I don't know. I think the Queen Mother packed a peanut-butter sandwich for your wee servant, and I ate it on the train -- which was just as well. Can you imagine the gas leaks?
That wasn't our problem, though. One normally associate the Rockies with snow. But on this day that started out sunny and mild, a summer thunderstorm opened up over the picnic lunch. The Royal Father dove under the table. Maybe a few others joined him. Try as they might, the Queen Mother, Royal Father and friends all ended up soaked down to their underwear. One of our friends went to the on-board snack bar and bought t-shirts so they could at least have a change of top clothes.
Rain has always thrown some interesting curveballs into our vacation itineraries. At Disney World, we just put up with it, darting inside the shops until the thunderstorm passed. At St. Augustine, Florida, we saw wall clouds forming off in the distance and knew we needed to get moving. We had to dart into a hotel lobby to stay dry before making it the rest of the way to our car. Some other people got the same idea, and we had to have pity on the desk attendant who thought he had just scored some big business only to see it wash out with the storm.
Watching the rain can fascinate you. It can irritate you. Severe thunderstorms, however, can scare you. On the way home from our east-coast swing in 1986, we drove straight into one outside St. Louis, Missouri. It greeted us with a threatening formation of icicle shaped clouds hanging down from the sky, like mini tornadoes suspended in the air.
We drove right underneath them.
You're supposed to drive at right angles if you're on the road and you spot a tornado, but this wasn't a tornado, and we didn't see barns and trailer homes flying around in front of us. That constitutes an acceptable risk, at least for Dad.
This post has been updated to correct which railroad we rode in 1979.