Wednesday, September 14, 2011

All Aboaaarrrddd!

Viaduct Park, while hunting down some letterboxes. =)
I'm finally doing it--posting about an event I attended. It's like this--I find the going-ons about far-flung events interesting, and I've always liked the idea of posting about the ones I attend for everyone to enjoy. Not unlike my Great Adventures, really, except these aren't quite so ambitious in nature. Not for me, at least! =)

But then I never seem to get around to posting about them. Oh, there are features on AQ I can work on instead. There's always the catching up on e-mail and posts that seems like a never-ending battle.

But today.... TODAY! I will post about All Aboaaarrrddd! The Letterboxing Express!

It started like this.... many moons ago, I saw the word "train" and I thought, "Yeah, I have to do that." You see, I love trains. =) So I immediately signed up for the event in Ohio. I signed up under an alias because, why not? What if I couldn't make it after all? What if flights were full? What if, what if, what if...? Nobody really had to know we planned to attend.

Amanda and I left Seattle Thursday night, arriving in Cleveland the next morning. We couldn't check into our motel until 3:00, so we spent the morning and early afternoon letterboxing.

Butterfly in Viaduct Park
That evening, we headed to the Spaghetti Warehouse for the Evening Before the All Aboard Event--an event I managed to overlook but fortunately Amanda caught. =) Safari Man organized this particular gathering at the last minute.

We ate, we laughed, and ate some more, then laughed a little more--not necessarily in that order. =) We got exchanges "out of the way"--saying that like it was a chore, but it really wasn't. Tomorrow there would be a lot more people, almost none of which I've ever met, and I knew I'd be plenty busy exchanging. Knocking some of that out early seemed like the prudent thing to do. Our secret arrival was no longer a secret--so I thought. The Big Event wasn't until the next morning and I figured someone would have posted about our attendance on the Ohio message board, but surprisingly, nobody did. I wasn't even trying to keep the secret anymore, but the Ohio board was suspiciously quiet. (Lesson #1: Never trust a suspiciously quiet board--especially if it already has about 25,000 posts!)

Then, the next morning, was the Big Event. Amanda and I pulled up to the train station early and was impressed with the steam engine chugging along the tracks. A steam engine! I didn't realize we'd be riding in a steam engine! Way cool! Then the train left without us and a regular train arrived. Nope, the steam engine wasn't our train. That's okay, though. From inside the train, you can't even see the engine anyhow. Really, to appreciate the beauty of a steam engine, you have to be outside of it. =)

The Spaghetti Warehouse gathering
The hosts, Anne Bonny and Paisley Pineapple, were as surprised at our sudden appearance as the other attendees. Paisley Pineapple wasn't surprised this morning since I had seen her the night before at the Spaghetti Warehouse, but apparently she kept my arrival a secret from her co-host, tormenting her with rumors about a "you'll never believe who's here!" but not elaborating further

I have to admit, I enjoyed surprising Anne Bonny. I've seen her in the AQ chat rooms countless times over a period of the months--the last time was just a few days before--and she was going on about the event and all of the time and effort she put into planning it, and how excited she was about it. And the whole time, I quietly listened, never hinting that I had signed up for the event and would be meeting her face-to-face in just a few days. And more than once, I caught her looking at me, shaking her head in wonder. Or maybe dismay. It's hard to tell sometimes. =)
This is the steam train we thought we'd be getting on.....
This is the train we actually got on....

Then it was time to board the train where the stamping frenzy continued.

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad would run right through the heart of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, following along the Cuyahoga River which is most famous for catching on fire in 1969. It also caught fire in 1868, 1883, 1887, 1912, 1922, 1936, 1941, 1948, and 1952--but it was the fire on June 22, 1969 that grabbed the nation's attention. Time magazine wrote that August about the Cuyahoga River:

The Cuyahoga River... on fire!
Some River! Chocolate-brown, oily, bubbling with subsurface gases, it oozes rather than flows. "Anyone who falls into the Cuyahoga does not drown," Cleveland's citizens joke grimly. "He decays". . . The Federal Water Pollution Control Administration dryly notes: "The lower Cuyahoga has no visible signs of life, not even low forms such as leeches and sludge worms that usually thrive on wastes." It is also -- literally -- a fire hazard.
The river today is quite scenic and while I may not be willing to drink out of it without treating the water, at least it looks good! It's hard to imagine how bad the river had become and the transformation it's undergone over the years.

But when you see what happens when you
dip your hand into the river, it's not really all
that surprising that it can catch on fire.
The train stopped in the town of Peninsula, a cute little town bursting with letterboxes. I completely forgot to bring any rain gear at all, and it was raining enthusiastically when we first arrived, so Amanda and I wandered around a bit looking for somewhere to buy ponchos or cheap umbrellas. We found ponchos in a small store and Paisley Pineapple loaned us her umbrella, so we were set. Amanda immediately went in search of all of the bookstores in the area. =)

We ended up only finding one letterbox--mostly because we found a "suspicious pile of people" at one business and joined in on the stamping frenzy--on our way to the bookstore.

Afterwards, we stopped at the Winking Lizard for lunch, dining with 2-2 wheelers. Then it was back to the train for the rest of our ride. =)

Anne Bonny and Paisley Pineapple check in
jeeves for the event.
The cooties came out in force by now, and even the train conductor was not spared. Who got pictures of that? I know some people claimed to have photos of that, but I didn't get one. I did, however, cootie a baby, and it was so easy and fun, I did it a second time. Not long thereafter, the phrase "as easy as cootieing a baby" came into being. =)

The most fun of the whole trip, however, wasn't cootieing a baby. Nope, it was watching Amanda plant a series of virtual cooties on letterboxers passing through the train. She'd lightly tug the back of their shirts and jackets so the person would assume they had been cootied. They'd feel all over their back for the imaginary cootie, try to pull their shirt around to see it, and in one case, flip the bottom of their jacket over their head in an attempt to get rid of the imaginary cootie. They'd wonder around the train asking other letterboxers to please remove the cootie from their back, and would grow increasingly frustrated when they were told that there was none. I don't think our laughing helped--that seemed to make them certain that there was really a cootie involved (why else would we be laughing?) and the search for the elusive cootie would continue. Perhaps it's not funny if this sort of thing happens to you, but wow, it was hilarious to watch. (And as a side note, I do not ever recommend turning your backs on Mn8X either.... They seemed rather inspired by this idea.)
When I boarded the train, I turned around
and took this photo of everyone
behind me. Quite the crowd!

As all good things must come to an end, so did our train ride. Amanda and I headed off to find some more letterboxes before retiring for the evening.

The next day was for ourselves. We letterboxed, we went to visit the home of President James A. Garfield, during which a Civil War encampment was taking place, then moseyed closer to Cleveland to visit his grave. Garfield is Amanda's new favorite president because he once gave a commencement speech on the wonders of leisure and preferred to read books rather than attend meetings and other important things presidents are supposed to do. =)

Then it was back to the airport, where we took a dizzying series of flights from Cleveland to Charlotte to Philly and finally back to Seattle to take a vacation from our vacation. Well, I did. Amanda almost immediately had to fly back to Philly again to work.

Never a day's rest in this household. =)

Thanks to all of you who made us feel so welcome, and special thanks to Anne Bonny and Paisley Pineapple for creating this event!

The Cuyahoga River today looks a bit muddy, but I don't think it'll catch on fire anymore!
Scenes from a passing train....

We didn't get off at this stop, but the train did stop for some
people to get on and off the train.
It's as easy as cootieing a baby....
Union soldiers drill for battle at Garfield's home.

The home of President James A. Garfield. He ran using the "front porch campaign" by
giving his speeches from his front porch--the first president to do so.

Garfield's mausoleum is about as big as his house! Unfortunately,
it was actually closed when we arrived, so we weren't able to go in. =(

John D. Rockefeller is also buried in the same cemetery.

There are over 104,000 graves at this cemetery, and would you believe it--
someone had to go to the exact grave by which we were
looking for a letterbox. Come on--the guy died in 1905! "Quick, Amanda,
take some pictures!" (We came back later and couldn't find it--we
suspect it's probably missing.)


Anne Bonny said...

I must say that this is BY FAR your best posting yet.

Steve, Christa, Emily, Meghan, Charles & Elizabeth said...

Ryan, have you ever been to the Illinois Railway Museum? I think you would really like it.

Rabid Quilter from California said...

Good to hear about your escapades no matter what it is you'd doing! Keep it up!

Girlguides said...

You should check out Crooked River Burning by Mark Weingardner. Novel about Cleveland between WWII and the 60's. Fascinating.

Spakinois said...

Thanks for coming to our city and taking the time to meet all of us. It was a great day all around and great time meeting you. Awesome pictures too by the way. Spakinois

Zoma said...

The Minnesota annual Fall gathering is coming up October 1st (MN Fall Gathering: Rock Around Elk River!) If you are in the neighborhood, come on by! :-)

JazzyQ said...

It was great to meet you and Amanda while you were here! And glad you enjoyed Viaduct Park, too!

Anonymous said...

Ryan, it was great meeting you and Amanda. It made the event a truly memorable one for me. On behalf of the Ohio family, you're welcome to one of our family reunions anytime!

The Cats Meow

Housepitality Hostess said...

There is a MOMENT on that trip I will NEVER ever forget... ;-D

The Ohio boxers were GREAT,too! Thanks Anne Bonny & Paisley Pineapple for all of your hard work!

Anne Bonny said...

Also, wanted to say that every time I was shaking my head, it was in disbelief NOT dismay! lol