Anniversary Number 55

When I woke up, John said, :”I have something for us.” The shirts were lying on the bed so that I could read them easily.

“Oh! My goodness! That’s perfect!” I said. “What fun!

John thought we could find someone to take our picture together, but I wanted it immediately. I could text a photo to anyone who sent us greetings. There was no one to ask in the motel breakfast room and no one at the desk. Back in the room, I propped the phone against the microwave, and we did a jig to line ourselves up. Using a pen to tap the phone did not work. It had to be a human finger, and that finger had to be mine. What a stretch to get us both in!

John said he bought the shirts before Christmas. He purchased them half a year ago, remembered to pack them, and pulled them out on our anniversary. What a guy! As we drove along, I texted the photo to several people before realizing they were not going anywhere. Evidently Sprint had no cell towers on our route. I couldn’t send them out until we were in a motel that night.

Our major stop for the day was the Golden Spike Tower. What an operation! The tower overlooks the largest freight railroad yard in the world, Bailey Yard. There was an outdoor observation deck on the 7th floor. The 8th floor had windows all around the building.

Golden Spike Tower

There are 400 miles of track in that yard! It’s a place where Union Pacific does major repairs for diesels and running repairs on cars. Everywhere you looked, there were trains moving. I had a comfortable seat and could have watched the slow action for hours. It’s a place where cars are classified, meaning they are sorted to go to different destinations. There were two hump yards, one each for east and west trains. A car was pushed to the top of the hump (slight incline), where it was uncoupled and rolled into the bowl. Computers calculate the weight of the car, prevailing wind speed, and distance into the bowl the car must travel to couple to the cars already there. Retarders on the track slow the car down to the correct speed.

We ate our anniversary lunch at the restaurant in town named the Switch Yard. I chose the Train Wreck – grilled chicken, lemon pepper, caramelized onions, green peppers, and broccoli served over pasta. John’s lunch had a humdrum name – chicken alfredo – but it was delicious.

Later in the afternoon we stopped in a town park where a Challenger steam engine was on display. Two couples traveling together liked our shirts and offered to take our photo. One couple was married a year after us, and the other two years.

We stopped at Gothenburg, NE for the night. I guess the town was used to travelers, because the Pony Express museum was open until 7 pm. The building was an original station for the Pony Express, and was moved into town from a spot a few miles away. They think the station manager lived in it and took care of the horses. Riders changed horses there but did not sleep. Riders generally rode 100 miles, changing horses every eight to ten miles, depending on terrain. Can you imagine riding a galloping horse for 100 miles??? I’d call it a bum rap. It took 10 days for a letter to go from Sacramento to St. Joseph, Missouri. The statistic that hit me in the face was that the youngest rider was 11 years old!! The operation went bankrupt after 18 months, but it has fascinated Americans ever since.

John at a Pony Express station

At the end of the day, we counted our anniversary a great success.

Promontory

John always fanned whatever interest our family had in trains. When great nephew CJ heard we were going to Promontory, he and Lauren took the day off to drive us there. If you remember, in 1862 President Lincoln signed the legislation to build a transcontinental railroad. I remembered because John was telling me about it on a need-to-know basis. The Union Pacific started laying track in Omaha, Nebraska going west, and Central Pacific began in California going east. When they met, there was a Golden Spike ceremony celebrating the completion of a rail line going from coast to coast. Below is a photo taken that day in 1869.

Promontory Summit 1869

A few weeks ago there was another big ceremony at Promontory for the 150th anniversary of that event. John said 2,000 people attended. We were happy the place was practically empty when we saw it. The two reproduction steam engines moved into place, as the originals did 150 years ago. I have a photo from a distance and a closeup with John, CJ, and Lauren.

John, CJ, and Lauren

Lauren supports CJ’s interests, as a perfect wife would. Here is a sweet pose, when she was tired and he was caught up in train things with John.

Lauren waiting patiently

On the way back to their apartment, they picked up Lauren’s sisters, Kaitlin and Megan. Both are working at Deer Valley Resort. Kaitlin has moved to Utah, and Megan is working there this summer. A bit too late, we proposed to get take-out food, but Lauren had already started cooking dinner. It had been a long day for everyone. The meal was delicious – pasta with sauce made previously by Kaitlin and a lovely tossed salad. Kaitlin, CJ, and Lauren sat at the counter with me to eat and chat. We talked about our very first jobs, and I found it most interesting.

Megan and John sat on the sofa to eat, and they talked for a long time, one-on-one.

Megan listening to John. Was he talking about trains???

Someone mentioned wedding photographs the day before, and that’s when I found out Lauren and CJ did not have photos of their wedding. It’s a long story, and it’s not mine to tell. The fun thing is, I had the pictures I took that day on my laptop. In seconds, tech-wizard CJ was showing them on their big TV screen. If anyone reading this has photos of their wedding, could you please share them with CJ?

CJ, Lauren, and niece Chrissie November 2016

One of the pictures taken that weekend showed a group of us there for the wedding. CJ cropped the shot to show his cousin Anders, who is also our nephew. CJ said, “That’s Anders.”

He said it in such a way that someone asked why Anders was so special. CJ said, “Have you ever had a mentor that you really admired and wanted to be like? Anders is my role model.”

I think it was Kaitlin who said, “Yes. That was Lauren for me.”

We stayed later than we should have, because the evening was so special for us. The young people, including Zeb and Bri, went out of their way to do things with and for us. They are warm, outgoing, sensitive, and caring. I am so proud to be related to all of them. I’m including everyone, though it’s a mouthful to explain two are sisters of our great nephew’s wife. We love you all!

CJ and Lauren — Thank you very much for guiding us around and taking a day off to be with us.  Spending time with you was very, very special, and we appreciate it. 

Fabulous Family

Our furthest destination for this trip was Utah. We visited two of our great nephews who came from upstate New York, CJ and Zeb, They suggested we go to Dairy Keen (yes, it’s Keen), because they said John had to eat there. What a perfect pick! A train chugged around the ceiling, and the scenery depicted local places. I accidentally had the video running when I thought I was waiting to get everyone’s attention for a still photo. From left to right were CJ, his wife Lauren, Zeb, his fiancee Bri (pronounced Bree), and John. We had quick food – hamburgers, a grilled cheese sandwich, a corn dog, and French fries. They insisted we try their fries and dip them in fry sauce. That’s the only place they know where there is a special sauce for fries. I wish I’d rolled the sauce around my tongue to see if I could identify the ingredients. We also had sweet drinks to sip and thick shakes to eat with a spoon. It was so thoughtful of them to take us there.

Zeb was on his break and left after eating. We went to the pet store where he works, and waited for him to be free.

CJ, Bri, Lauren, and John

I loved the way Zeb shared his enthusiasm for his job. He drew us in by looking directly at us and talking about the animals. He was luring us in to love the pets as much as he did.

I was juggling my phone and camera, keeping both busy. The shots taken with the camera were for the blog, and the ones on the phone were immediately texted to the boys’ mother, niece Chrissie. It was great fun for me to share our visit with her sons, and she was showing them to husband Chris as they came in. The one showing the boys together was one that went directly to them.

We went to Lauren’s and CJ’s apartment to visit. Lauren offered to make coffee for us. We didn’t want her to stay on her feet after working all day, but she said she enjoyed doing things for people. Am I glad we didn’t talk her out of making coffee! She has a sophisticated coffee machine, a gadget for frothing milk, and a collection of pure flavors. She orders beans from a special shop and uses a fancy gadget to get just the right grind. My almond iced coffee was heavenly, and John enjoyed his plain black brew. I wanted a picture of Lauren making coffee and happened to catch CJ there, too.

After Zeb got home from work, we went to his apartment. He wanted to introduce us to the animals he owns. We didn’t stay long, because he had to work the next day.

Before we got in our car to go back to the motel, CJ showed us their garage. He was programming a light show for a performance coming up. He does all kinds of things such as teaching snow boarding, programming games, repairing phones, and being a disk jockey. His technical knowledge knocks my socks off.

To be continued. The next day CJ and Lauren took off from work to go with us to Promontory Point.

I’m Awake NOW!

I stayed up way too late. Before he went to bed, John said we had an easy travel day. I could sleep as long as I wanted to. Morning came earlier than was comfortable, and shortly after I woke up, John said he couldn’t make the shower work. The controls looked like the standard motel model, but we could not pull out the knob. Normally, pulling the knob turns on the water, and you control the temperature by turning the knob one way or the other. John dressed to go to the motel office, and I went back to bed. Another hour of sleep would be most welcome. I didn’t know how they were going to solve our problem, but I was certain it would not be quick.

Only minutes later there were sharp raps on the door. I assumed (sorry John) that John had forgotten the key and needed me to open the door for him. Much to my surprise, there was a big, burly man in overalls standing there. He quickly apologized and said he had come to fix the shower. I was wearing a nightgown, so I stepped behind the door and let him in. At that moment I heard John’s voice, “I didn’t know you’d come so quickly!”

In seconds we heard the water gushing from the faucet, and the man came out of the bathroom. He carefully avoided looking at me while apologizing profusely.

John told me what happened in the office. He said to the woman behind the desk, “The shower won’t turn on in our room. Can you send someone to fix it?”

The woman said, “Are you in room 210? I told them to keep that room for last, because the shower is broken. We are waiting for a part to come so we can fix it. I’ll send someone up right away.”

John and I knew we had to take our showers immediately while the water was running. The repairman applied great force to pull the knob out, and we weren’t going to risk pushing it back in until we were through. John said he was sorry I didn’t get my promised sleep. I laughed andsaid, “Well, I’m awake NOW!”

Our next stop was to visit people we had never met. Years ago a man named Michael read about the Long Island Live Steamers, the train club for which John was the secretary. They corresponded, and Michael joined the club. He read the newsletter and renewed his membership every year, yet he never once went out to the track. John knew he lived in Manhattan, taught at Julliard, and drove a camper to Colorado every summer to be in Aspen for the music activities there. The camper was stored in New Jersey. Michael did not have a car, it being a hindrance in the city. Time went by, and he and his wife Sandy retired to Colorado. When John said we would be in the area, they graciously invited us to drop by. I took a photo of them on their balcony, trying to show the view of a snow-capped mountain to the left of the building. I should have focused on them alone.

Since we have always been interested in music, we were dying to know what Michael taught at Julliard. He answered readily that for much of his career, he taught music theory. The last few years he taught electronic music, which of course, was on the cutting edge. Sandy also worked at Julliard as a music librarian. We sat on that lovely balcony and talked about trains, New York, knee problems, two train clubs, and birds. What a delight it was to chat with them and have a tour of their spacious apartment! We laughed that we both did not downsize, as so many people do, but moved to larger homes on retirement. As we were leaving, Michael pulled out a folder in which he kept his correspondence with John. What an organized man he was to be able to put his hand on it immediately! We envied that as we said our goodbyes.

The Wedding is Over

The morning after the wedding, many of the guests gathered again for breakfast. After eating, everyone scattered.

We drove around Leadville for a while, waiting for time to go to church. The web site said the service was at 11. Hearing someone talking, we tiptoed in and sat in the last row. As we walked out a few minutes later with the rest of the congregation, John explained to the pastor that we were there for the 11 am service. He didn’t realize the published time was not correct. Here are photos of three houses I liked. The older homes in town were very colorful.

There was no landscaping to speak of. You can see where the house meets the dirt. I saw only one house that had a few scraggly shrubs around it.

We saw no homes with decks or huge windows in Leadville. I liked the house that had a fence made of skis. Most appropriate!

When we met strangers on the street or in the motel, everyone said hello. We concluded people from Colorado are not wavers, only speakers. In driving around, we noticed the houses away from the town center had no curbs. There were signs warning of dips in the road, and we assume that was for rain water and melting snow. Everything was on a slope, so water had to find its own way to the sea.

The scenery leaving Leadville was gorgeous. None of my photos show it well, but I’ll include one for the record.

Several times we went over a little creek getting to the wedding venue. John explained that it was the beginning of the Arkansas River. From the interstate, I took this view of it after other streams joined it. I found it hard to believe that some of that water would end up in the Gulf of Mexico. Not long after that we saw a sign that we were passing the continental divide.

There were some tight spaces between mountains, and we found they were called canyons here. In North Carolina, we’d call the same thing a gorge. The space was so tight in several places that opposing lanes of the interstate were stacked on top of each other. I tried to get a photo of that, but the only thing I have is one showing our side of the highway. The other side was under us.

There are more travel stories for that day, but we are on a tight schedule. I must have some sleep before we set out on a train adventure with our great nephew and his wife in Utah.

Wedding of Anna and Eddie

Can you imagine the parents of the bride preparing breakfast in a rented condo for family, friends, and neighbors on the day of the wedding? Carolyn and Eric did just that. They are amazing. The biscuits were baked, and Eric was scrambling eggs when we came in. Along with fresh fruit, they had a bottomless pot of coffee always ready.

Eric and Carolyn preparing breakfast
College friends, neighbors, and family

Anna and Eddie share their wedding date with Anna’s aunt and uncle. Kirsten and Jay married June 8, 1968, and I was blessed to be there.

Kirsten and Jay — June 8, 1968

Although I’ve heard of it before, this was the first time I’ve seen wedding photos taken before the ceremony. They picked the spot so that the mountains would be in the background. I was lurking behind the photographer and failed to zoom in on the faces. These two pictures show the couple with their respective families.

Bridal couple with Anna’s family
Groom’s family

John drove us lame people across the road for the ceremony, while the others walked. My family graciously let me sit on the aisle, and I took my responsibility seriously. Hopefully they won’t be disappointed. This was my favorite shot – Anna and Eddie listening to the words of the minister before exchanging vows.

They rushed down the aisle as a married couple, moving faster than I expected. Both are runners, hikers, skiers, and rock climbers. It’s no wonder my camera couldn’t keep up with them and cut off their heads. Surely you can see pure joy radiating from their faces.

The reception was held in a former railroad freight station. I don’t think it’s nice to hound the newlyweds, but I dashed before them to take a quick shot. They graciously smiled. That’s what they did all day long – beamed spontaneous smiles.

Anna’s dad, Eric, gave the first speech. He’s a college professor and used to addressing people. Everyone laughed when he said that his normal limit was 55 minutes. His talk was tender and touching.

John’s first cousin Eric, father of the bride

Eddie’s mom recounted a bit of his history with some amusing stories from his young years. Her love for her son was plain for all to see.

Eddie’s mother

The friends who spoke shared their joy in knowing the happy couple. I was behind a beam and did not have a clear view of the speakers, so I set the camera and nudged John to take it and press the shutter. This was the one that turned out the best. I’m sorry I don’t remember his name, but he was most amusing.

The first dance of the newly married pair was dramatic and tender. Twice Eddie tilted Anna back, almost to the floor, and kissed her. The crowd roared with delight. The acrobatics should not have surprised me from these extreme sports enthusiasts. I caught only the tender moment. A fairy tale would call them a beautiful fair maiden with her handsome prince charming. And they lived happily ever after.

May God bless you richly, Eddie and Anna

Day Before the Wedding

Colorado is gorgeous, especially with the sun shining on the snow-capped peaks as you drive to a wedding.

We went straight to the old freight station in Leadville, where John helped set up for the reception. I took a nap in the car, trying to recover from an altitude headache. This took me by surprise, since being in Denver twice had not been a problem. Someone said Leadville is the highest city in the US. I woke up hearing a train whistle and got out of the car in time for a shot of the engine. I should have known that John would sense it. He said someone took his photo as he watched the excursion train go past.

We went out to lunch with the parents of the bride, Carolyn and Eric. John and Eric are first cousins; their mothers were sisters. It was wonderful to have a special visit with them at this busy time.

As we left the restaurant, Carolyn pointed to a mountain and said that was where the bridal couple were. Anna and Eddie started hiking up the mountain at 6 am with friends. They hiked up and came down on skis. I suspect lots of people were relieved they all got down without breaking a leg. I don’t remember the name of the mountain, but it is the highest peak in the state.

The East coast relatives got here in time for a very short nap before we went to the rehearsal dinner. The New Yorkers had gotten up at 2:30 in the morning, and the ones from South Carolina at 4:20.

Carolyn said 150 people were coming for the wedding. As far as I know, not a one was local. The bride and groom picked Leadville because they had many happy memories of doing their extreme outdoor sports in that area. It was wonderful that the meal drew all of us together. As the crowd gathered, the cousins posed on the deck. Look at how the mountains tried to photo-bomb the shot!

Jay, Eric, Chris, Carolyn, John, Thom, Kirsten, Barbara

After the meal, everyone sat inside to enjoy hearing friends of the couple speak about them. The question was, “What were your thoughts and feelings when you heard that Anna and Eddie had gotten engaged?” There were many comments about their meeting on an airplane, but that is where the romance began. As the friends talked, we began to get a mental picture of the couple. They are loving, caring people who have many friends and admirers. It was marvelous to be caught up in the love surrounding them.