Saturday, July 9, 2011

Lesson 70: The Great Train Excursion

There are reasons I vacationed with my family recently in Titusville, PA instead of Tahiti.  They are called collectively, my children.  Titusville, PA for those of you who are happily unaware, is about an hour's drive south of the Lamp Post.  Yep.  60 minutes.  Long enough for Sam to ask, "When are we going to get there?, about five times."  Just long enough before I jumped from the moving vehicle.

Titusville, Slovenians, is pronounced with the long i sound for the first vowel. The rule in English is that when a vowel is followed by a consonant and then right again by another vowel, the second vowel goes back and makes the first vowel long.  My parents paid $16,000 in the early 1990's for me to learn that in college.  Thanks Mom and Dad for that useful information.  Consider it diplomacy.  Slovenians struggle with English and need our help.  My ten year old during a fit of mischievous boredom decided to tell Sam that the town's name was pronounced the way it looked, with the short i sound; tit (short i)- us-ville.  She only had to whisper it a few times that my super sensitive ears pricked up and I knew what she was doing to entertain herself in the back seat of the van.   Now Sam, in his booming voice, has been announcing to everyone that he saw the trains in Tit-us-ville.  Nice.  Try undoing that one.  Paybacks are hell, Ellen and the next thunderstorm I'm telling Sam that he will sleep much better with you in your bed.

Titusville was an oil town back in the mid 1850's.  A man named Drake struck oil in the hills of Pennsylvania on August 27th, 1859.  The cool part is that the town of Titusville uses that date 8-27 as the first three digits of the telephone numbers in their area.  Neat.  Drake's well still stands and it is a historic place that you can visit.

On the above slide show, if you can get past the dreamy, deep baritone of country singer Josh Turner, you will see a photo of my daughters biking the 9 mile path that begins at Drake's Well and runs along Oil Creek.  It is a beautiful flat ride through the woods on a paved trail.  We didn't make the whole nine miles, because frankly, to quote my mother, "if you've seen one tree, you've seen them all."  We turned back at the 5 mile mark.  We didn't kick out any deer, but we did see lots of chipmunks.  However, we did come across a deer getting a drink in the creek though which was pretty cool.  I took this photo, and the girls said, "Awwwwww!"  I could hear this little noise behind me that sort of sounded like a sneeze.  I turned to see Sam, strapped into his bike seat, making a pretend gun with his pointer finger and thumb, acting like he was shooting it.  I got problems.  The photo of the girls on the slide show is blurry because I was on my bike behind them and I realized all too quickly that it is a bit hard to take snapshots while biking along a creek ravine.  I was a bit wobbly, but I recovered in a graceful move before plummeting to my death.  Lucky for all of you because the blogs shall continue.

Sam is a train fanatic.  He is a Thomas the Tank Engine fan and loves to read my Dad's train magazines.  We took him on a ride through Tionesta.  He's the only one who never complains when we hit a train at the Walbridge Road intersection.  He likes to count the cars or shout out the colors of them.  We all got to ride in a passenger car, and also one of those open air cars along the back.  It was then as I was moving from car to car as you are allowed to do once the Conductor gives you the go ahead, that I realized motion is starting to get to me like it never has before.  I rode the new flying swings at the amusement park Waldameer a few weeks ago and wobbled through the park for about 15 minutes afterwards.  I thought it was an isolated incident, but the train trip bothered me a bit, too.  It must be why I can't help Sam count the boxcars as they go by while we are stopped at an intersection lately.  That makes me dizzy, too.  Unless it's the 40 thing.  Someone told me once all hell breaks loose once you hit it.  Could my new found motion sickness be part of the hell?

There was a retired teacher on board who served as a volunteer tour guide.  His name tag read Douglas.  When I watched him for the first part of the trip, I could tell by his mannerisms that he had been a teacher as his profession.  There were dead giveaways in the way in which he inflected his voice and held 2 to 3 second eye contact with the passengers as he spoke into his microphone with ease.  Nerds have a way of finding one another and I struck up a conversation with the white haired gentleman.  Teachers like to be asked questions, no matter how long out of the daily grind you are.  Douglas told me lots of cool new information about the town of Titusvillesmushed!  File that away for when you need it.  You never know when you may take a ride on the Cash Cab.  I may have just saved you your Street Shout Out or something.

I dissed my kids in the first paragraph there, but I am really only teasing.  They aren't THAT bad.  They are just kids being kids in the middle of the summer.  Natalie is the easiest to take places now, which is saying a lot about the kid who rarely left home for four years during her intensive therapy.  Once I redirected Ellen into thinking about something besides teasing her little brother, she was manageable.  Sam overall wasn't too bad.  I know we are giving him a complex, poor kid.  He can work it all out with his therapist later in life.  No one wanted to sleep in the motel bed with him because he's know for peeing the bed.  I drew the short straw.  He stayed dry but kicked me and farted the whole night.  Restaurant food doesn't agree with him apparently.  It does with Natalie, who manages to eat her menu choice, plus the remnants of everyone else's meal too.  She is truly a bottomless pit.  We had to come home the next day because I simply could not afford to feed them anymore.

What is your lesson for today, Readers?  Simply put, you don't need expensive vacations or to travel a great distance to discover something new.  We've been to Disney World once when the girls were young, and when you get there, you don't have to think.  Just sit back and let Walt and Friends entertain you and boy do they know how to put on a show.  But many of you are like we are and can't afford that type of trip every year, but that doesn't mean you can't find something fun to do.  We drove around a new town and discovered someone lives in a lilac colored house with dark purple trim.  We were intrigued as to why someone would paint their house in shades of grape, and we would have asked the person had we seen them out in their yard but no one was around.  It's left us all wondering about it, and maybe we'll be back for another train trip in the fall when the leaves are changing and we can ask then.  Sometimes questions go unanswered and once in awhile that is good because it gives you something to wonder about.  That means you are THINKING.  Thinking is good, otherwise you are just existing and JUST EXISTING is bad.

Speaking of questions, a couple came up about oil.  "If there is oil in Pennsylvania, why do we buy it from the desert then?" Ellen asked me.  That is kind of like the, "Where do the babies come from?" question she asked me a couple of years ago.  There is no easy answer.  If we go back to Titusville for another dose of Smalltowndom, I'll have to ask Douglas that one.  He's a retired teacher, so I bet he'll have an answer for me.  

In the end, you don't have to max out your credit card to have some fun with your family. An hours drive away and three $20's later you have yourselves a little vacation.  You just have to employ a little bit of creativity and you'll find a way to have fun---even in Tit-us-ville.

Until next time,

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