For Love of Trains part 2

 

As we travel in our Rv, our trips always include some sort of train activity.  It is a given, a necessity for survival when your autistic son lives for all things train.  As we plan our trips we include train rides or visits to train museums to ensure  harmony along the way.  These plans give us locations to see, and something for our son to look forward to, as he puts up with activities he might not otherwise enjoy.

In the small Northern California town of Dunsmuir, there is a small Amtrak stop, and the Union Pacific yard.  We happened to be camping in the area and decided to go to Dunsmuir for lunch and to watch for whatever train might arrive. Andrew brought his small video camera so  he could film the trains.

We parked nearby and headed toward the Amtrak stop. Looking at the schedule, we found that we would not be seeing Amtrak – it makes its pass through town very early morning.  Andrew knew, however, that other trains travel this route all during the day so it was only a matter of time.  As he set up his video camera  we noticed some workers on the other side of the track.  We didn’t have long to wait before the horn of a train could be heard, and the shout from Andrew “here it comes!”

Pulling in to the station was a Union Pacific train.  The train pulled in slowly and stopped at the small station.  As we watched, the 2 workers we had seen on the other side of the track  picked up their bags and headed to the cab. At the same time, the 2 workers that had just arrived on the train, grabbed their bags and climbed out. This  was a simple crew change,  exchange in a normal workday of some train employees. We didn’t speak to the workers but what came next was so kind- an act of generosity that  reminds me there are great people out there.

The new crew climbed in the cab and suddenly one of them leaned out of the cab and called to Andrew to come closer. Andrew walked  closer, and the employee  opened the side cab door and leaned out, handed him a  lantern!  As he handed it to Andrew, he claimed he didn’t need it anymore.   Just like that, this man gave a boy something he always wanted. As quickly as he came out of the cab he went back in, told Andrew to cover his ears, blew the train horn and they were off. Andrew calling for them to drive safely.

We watched as the train disappeared down the track, another day in the life of a train lover..

 

 

 

 

For Love of Trains part 1

Andrew LOVES trains. That is a fact that is obvious the moment you meet him, almost as obvious as the fact that he is autistic. For us, this love affair is part of our family experience, it is a daily staple. It is woven in our conversation,our travels and yes our home decor. The love he has for trains however, has brought opportunities and has brought out the kindness of people that is so incredibly heartwarming. Two recent incidents, with regard to trains, have touched our family in such a warm way.

We travel in our RV as often as we can, summer being the longest trips for obvious reasons. This year we had a few trips already so our summer trip was not as far or long. It was however, one of the best we have had.

Part of our trip took us back to Portland and the Oregon Rail Historic Foundation (http://www.orhf.org/), home of Andrew’s favorite train, the 4449.  Visiting this museum and seeing his favorite train, was all he talked about for most of our trip. The day came to visit the train and you would have thought it was Christmas.  We had been to the museum before so Andrew knew just what he wanted to see. As he walked around, you could see the excitement in his eyes, his love for these big machines just radiating from his every pore.

While speaking with the gentleman in charge that day, I commented about Andrew being autistic- he said he knew- has a son on the spectrum as well.  We finished our conversation and then he looked at Andrew and told him to follow him. They walked over to the 4449 train and he told Andrew to go ahead and climb up in the cab, ignoring the please keep off sign, then he called over one of the workers to climb up with him.  Here was a sudden kindness to a young boy from a man who could see the thrill this small act provided.  The thrill that he was IN the cab of his favorite train, the thrill to “drive” that train-if only for a moment even if it never actually moved. We can’t thank him enough.

 

 

 

 

Indian Head Saskatchewan Canada

As with anything, long trips aren’t always filled every moment with grand adventures. Sometimes it’s the basic things of the day that bring great joy.

After leaving Calgary we headed East. We stopped one night in Maple Creek Saskatchewan at a very nice campground. The park was quiet, clean and had an indoor pool!

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maple creek, Saskatchewan Canada

It was nice to relax and swim after a long drive and I  forgot to take a picture of that pool.

 

After Maple Creek we continued our journey East. The drive was rather plain, low rolling hills but not a lot to look at.

summer  2014 364 As we neared our campground, we came upon a long stretch of road construction, and rain. After the smooth driving we had for most of the day, this rough patch was rather jarring. When we arrived at the campground, Mark went inside to check in, and I walked outside to stretch a bit, and that’s when I noticed….. one of the ramps for our car dolly was missing. The strap that tied them down had broken. Seems the rain and constant bouncing had frayed the buckle and it came off. We checked in and drove to our spot. A nice large spot- but with the rain the back-end of the spot had quite a bit of water, so was a bit soggy.

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We hooked up water and electric and then asked the camp host if they had a piece of wood we could use for a temporary ramp for our car. Luckily they had a nice wood post, which we ended up buying from them- we were going to need it for a while! At least until we can replace that ramp.
This inconvenience clearly didn’t bring us much joy, more like frustration, and phone calls and e mails. We don’t know exactly when we lost that ramp, and sure hope it didn’t damage another car behind us. What we did find at this campground, was that the train tracks were just down the road. With Andrew’s love of trains, this made up for rainy weather. We would walk down the road and watch for the train to come.

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heading to watch the train go by. Andrew likes to collect world flags and was thrilled when he had is USA And Canadian flags.

 

Not knowing the train schedule, we seemed to miss it when we were waiting by the road, but would hear it when we were swimming or at our RV.

This campground had a real nice play area- though rather soggy from all the rain, and a nice pool, always a bonus.

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As we relaxed, I watched Andrew, and thought how these small adventures, the walks to watch a train or an afternoon of swimming, were just as exciting as any grand adventure we might come upon.

 

Gold Spike NHS

 

 

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While planning our trip, it was always understood that we would go to Salt Lake City area to see Gold Spike National Historic Site.  With Andrews love of trains, and his desire for over a year to see this, it was automatic.

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The drive there, as previously noted, was rather uneventful, if not boring.  To be honest, Nevada and Utah on highway 80 are not exciting at all, but we  muddled through and reached our destination.  The first night was just set up in the campground and rest. The next morning—-THE PARK

I don’t think I have ever seen such an excited boy, as Andrew was, to finally see his dream spot. We no sooner pulled into the parking spot and he was out the door, heading to the entrance, knowing his two favorite trains waited for him just on the other side.

Gold Spike NHS is the spot where the transcontinental railroad, the Union Pacific and Central Pacific met in 1869, uniting the country by rail.

We spent four separate days visiting this Historic site. Each day Andrew was as excited as the first

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We were able to get up close to the two trains- the Jupiter and the 119, exploring and asking questions of the park rangers. We were fortunate to also watch a reenactment of the meeting of the 2 trains.

The park staff were so pleasant and made us all feel like friends. After seeing us each day for 4 days, they never got tired of our questions and were always pleasant

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For being about 30 minutes from our campground, Gold Spike NHS is an interesting site, and a must see for anyone interested in the history of trains, and how they united our country.

Before we left the area we stopped in Brigham city, and the Brigham city train depot. This is a small depot/ museum. There are many artifacts of the late 1800’s. As Andrew spent time on the telegraph machine, the proprietor commented how enthralled Andrew was with the machine. I told him how Andrew had asked me for a telegraph system not long ago. With that, he looked at his wife and asked if they still had that “old one” well they did, and he presented it to Andrew, who was beyond thrilled.

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It has been those little things on this trip that have made me smile. Gold Spike NHS and the person involved in the reenactment helping Andrew drive the spike in. The folks running the train depot museum giving him a telegraph. Each small act of kindness has made our trip special.

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About Time

Day 1

DSC_0126   started very early, with still much packing to do, but with the days temperature climbing to 106 degrees, it was draining. Packing for a 2 month trip, through different time zones and climates, makes for a challenge to be sure we have what we need. I suppose if we don’t have it we will make do. We were able to get on the road by 3:45pm, later than I had thought we would but it was ok. We drove and by the time we reached Fallon Nevada, we were pretty tired. We found a rest area and pulled in next to the big rigs, for a night of sleep. Even with the low rumble of the big rigs idling, we were able to sleep quickly. When the sun began to peak, the big rigs fired up and began pulling out- that was our alarm clock for the morning,
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was not so exciting, long drive through the desert of Nevada and the blinding snow like landscape of the Great Salt Lake Basin of Utah. Nearing Salt Lake City, I called the campground to get the exit information. As I looked at our calendar, I realized I had made a mistake. Our reservation didn’t start until the next day. Somehow I got our travel days wrong. I called and they did have a spot for us, but not the one we had reserved, so for the first night we had one spot then would move to our reserved spot for the rest of the time. When we pulled in and I saw our reserved spot- occupied for that day- and the temporary spot- we would be in, we asked if we could just stay in the temp spot, it was nicer. Sorry, no , it’s reserved for the weekend, so we had to move. We settled in, and anticipated a good nights sleep; 8am, the train rumbled past and     DSC_0141

made its presence known by the mandatory whistle. Not long after, the campground was coming to life.
Day 3 Up with the train and Andrew was ready to head to Gold Spike National Historic Site DSC_0214 DSC_0148 We managed to have some breakfast, and explain to Andrew that we need to be back before 2pm to move the rv which meant this trip was just a check out. Our trip to Gold Spike NHS was fun. As we got closer Andrews excitement became electric. The joy for him to finally be here was magical to see. We spent as much time as we could before we had to leave, and Andrew, knowing we would be returning, was ok with that. Back to the campground to move the rig.
Back at the campground we moved our rv to its reserved spot, and got settled in. Andrew and I took Henry for a walk, and when we came back, Mark was on his knees wiping up a water leak from under the kitchen sink. Oh great! After some investigation we discovered it was the sink drain pipe connection. It’s accessible but in order to repair it will involve some work. For now we have it sealed and not leaking, but will need to keep an eye on it and get it repaired properly once we return. Andrew wanted French fries for lunch so we got out the fryer, Mark put the potatoes in, and the oil bubbled up and over! Great, a mess. We got that cleaned up and made lunch. Later we realized we had the wrong hose for the propane for the bbq grill, so the steaks we were going to have for dinner would have to wait, we had grilled cheese sandwich instead.
As the night wound down, Andrew went to bed,

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Mark and I sat outside talking and enjoying the evening, By midnight or so, we decided to get some sleep.
Day 4- started at 2:390 am and then 4:30 am with the trains making their pass trough town. We did wait until about 7 before we actually got going. Andrew was again excited to go the Golden Spike NHS, as this would be his day to spend as long as he wanted. We enjoyed our second trip the park, on the way back we stopped at Gold Spike Burgers. Andrew was so tired he was falling asleep. We had our lunch and headed back to the rv for a nap. After a nice nap, Andrew and I went swimming. The campground has a pool area with hot spring pools and a water slide. Andrew and I swam a bit then he went down the water slide. While he went on the slide, he had the Gopro camera, and took a video of his descent.
Day 5 Henry woke me at 430 because he had to go out. Ok, but I couldn’t find his leash anywhere! Finally found it, it had fallen on the ground outside the rv door. Took Henry out and came back to bed. We didn’t get up until 9am. We had some breakfast, then headed back to Gold Spike NHS for the hand car ride day. When we got to the park this time, they were doing the reenactment of the hitting of the spike ceremony. After that ceremony and Andrews ride on the handcar, we headed back to the rv. We made a side stop to a company called AtK that has a rocket display. This company recovers the boosters of the space rockets and refurbishes them for the next mission. They also test other missiles. Quite an impressive display of rocketry. Stopped at Wal Mart for some propane, for the grill. Back at the rv for the evening, it has been just a relaxing evening. We went for our evening walk, and will soon head to sleep.
 

 

 

 

 

Perspective

I listen every day as my youngest son chatters on, and on, and on.  From the moment he wakes up, until the moment he falls asleep, he talks.  There was a time, until he was about 4 1/2, that he didn’t talk at all. To listen to him now, many would not understand him.  He tends to talk in movie, or you tube video clip sentences. Not exclusively, but quite a lot.  Being Autistic,  for him, this is one of his “things”  Those first years were  a struggle for all of us.  I so wanted him to talk, to be able to interact and share his thoughts and wants, and view on life.  I found, though, that words aren’t the only way to communicate.

We try so hard to have people think, or communicate with us the same  way we do, that when they don’t, we feel they are the ones doing it wrong.   Rather than expending all that energy to have them change, first we need to understand how they might view things, and tailor our communications in that direction.

I had a revelation about that when my son was about 4 years old or so.  One day he had my little point and shoot digital camera.   As he was playing, he liked to take pictures of things, mainly his trains.  At the end of the day, I happened to look through the pictures he had taken, and started to delete them to free some room on the camera.   At 4 years old, you don’t expect to see great photographs, and they weren’t great, but it suddenly became clear how he views his world.

I began to see what he saw, how he viewed things, what he thought.  A simple event of letting him play with a digital camera, gave me insight to my son that I might never have had.

At one point he turned the camera to himself and took a picture.

This  is what I saw.

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There is a park nearby that borders the train tracks. My son loves the trains so yesterday we went there to watch as the train went through.  As I often do, I took some pictures of him. DSC_0681

After the train passed by and we talked about how fast and loud it was, he decided he wanted to take some pictures. I gave him the camera and he took a picture of the tracks.

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He paused and looked at the picture he just took, and decided he wanted to turn around and take a picture  of the tracks going the other direction.

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What struck me as he did this last picture, was he crouched down to get a different perspective.  His view, how  he sees his world, what is important to him.

I don’t know that he could explain why he crouched  down, or even realized that he did it; but it made me stop and realize, again, how he looks at the world.  It may be different from you or I, but it’s clearly not wrong, just different.