Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Re-entry is a b&*ch!

It took all of about 40 minutes to feel like I hadn't left. And daily it is getting worse because classes are starting next week, the traffic is horrific, and the invaders are gravitating back. We have a love-hate relationship with the students. If they mostly behaved like the adults they are supposed to be, well, it would be fine. However, when the bad driving, urination in parking lots start again, well, you quickly forget the positives.

Each year when we take some time off, we make an accidental trip to somewhere. By accidental, I mean we are actually going somewhere else, and the plan falls through. This year we were headed to Steeler Camp, but a late start, and road construction season here in PA conspired to make the trip not worth while (that day). So about 15 minutes west of Altoona, we decided to turn around, and spend the day in Altoona, and maybe go to the Curve game in the evening. Must. Be. Flexible.

Well, we got off an exit on I99 to turn around and there was a sign, "Horseshoe Curve 7 miles". For the uninitiated, the Horseshoe Curve is mecca for train enthusiasts. (And the Altoona Curve is named for this engineering wonder.) During WWII it was on a Nazi sabotage list.

I am making it my business to go to places, in my own backyard, that I've never been to, and that visitors come to all the time. Visitors actually stay at a nearby inn just yards from the train tracks so they can sit on the porch and watch trains. They set up serious looking cameras to take pictures. It's amazing.

So when we saw the sign, we said "let's go". The best times turn out to be those that are unexpected and unscripted. I'm sure of it.

It was a hoot!! We were there nearly 3 hours, and I would never have believed that watching freight trains would be so entertaining. Seriously. (I grew up with a dad who had about six complete sets of the original Lionel trains, that he set up in a room sized display. As a kid my brother had the "train bug". I forgot that it was probably in my genetics.) So we walked up the nearly 200 stairs to the observation park, brought our lunch, and watched the trains wrap around us, going both east and west. It was So. Much. Fun. (Keep in mind that I'm easily entertained.)

This is the view from the park looking east. We had to walk up the steps because the funicular wasn't running. There was a sign in the window of the gift shop to
alert customers to that fact.

A view of the funicular from the top.

Didn't think you were going to get away without seeing a train or two did you? This shot shows a locomotive coming up hill from the east and shows the curve. You are actually standing in the center of the horseshoe, and the trains run around you- up and down the mountain.

The engineers usually wave to folks standing by the tracks....which led us to the discussion of what do modern day train engineers actually do? Neither of us have any idea. (If you click to full size you can see the engineer waving.)

This is the train running past the curve, and heading west.

It was a grand time, and I am still kinda stunned by how much fun this actually was. And to leave you with my favorite train car....

Seriously...this is not an animal carrier, so who knows what this is supposed to mean......

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