I rode the train by myself yesterday. The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
I was late (and almost missed it) because I chatted with the parking lot attendant too long about how locals with season passes should get free parking….my idea, not his.
I was assigned boarding section 5 and when I asked someone where that was they said:
Well it’s after 4….and if you get to 6 you’ve gone too far.
I never got as far as section 4 because I was forced to board at section 3. I walked through all the train cars to get to section 5. When I reached section 5, the woman I sat next to was worried because an older man had just suffered from a heart attack as he boarded. I told her that luckily the hospital was on top of the hill next to us so he would probably be okay. She seemed relieved.
At the start of the trip, I bought the $10 book because the man on the train said it was the best thing I would come across all day. And it was. I sat and followed the map mile marker by mile marker. I slowly learned how to read a topographical map by matching up the scenery outside to what was in the book. Like this adorable gingerbread farmhouse:
I met a couple in their 70’s that were on their honeymoon. We had a discussion about hickory nuts and pontoon boats. I listened to the train musicians sing an amazing rendition of Rock Me Momma…but then spent 20 minutes contemplating what “rock me momma like a wagon wheel” meant. A lady with hot pink lipstick asked the musicians to play a song for the newlyweds. Her mother had matching hot pink lipstick.
At the train’s “intermission” point I ate a huge BBQ sandwich by myself at a picnic table. I threw an animated fit when I brushed a red ant off my neck and the red ant WENT DOWN MY SHIRT. A couple next to me stopped sipping their cold beers for a second to ask me if I was okay.
I watched a little boy pretend to talk on a police scanner in a foreign language. He had a toy gun in his holster and looked ready to use it.
I refilled my Diet Coke and asked a couple if they would watch it for me so I wouldn’t have to take it into the bathroom. They looked like my grandparents….and the probability of being roofied at the Nantahala Outdoor Center is very, very low.
I asked three different people what time the train was going to leave. They each replied: when the horn blows. Well thanks for nothin’….
I walked by the Nantahala River and collected driftwood. I spotted a shoe that had washed up at the bottom of the rapids. I thought about the fact that Deliverance was filmed on the Nantahala.
I observed a man sitting on a rock in the middle of the river deep in thought.
I restyled my hair using the cool river water.
I walked along the edge of the train in awe of it’s underbelly. I wondered if anyone would survive laying on the track as the train rolled over (i.e. is there enough space for a human underneath). I was tempted to leave a few coins on the track to come back for later.
The train blew it’s 5 minute warning, and I definitely flinched. I hopped back on, in the wrong car again.
On the way back I eavesdropped on a conversation concerning Ferragamo shoes. They sounded very expensive.
I talked with the man who had been sitting on a rock in the middle of the river and learned he was a landlord in NYC. I also learned that he used to live in a bus year and years ago that he’d outfitted with a fireplace. I asked if he still had the bus (because I might be interested in a bus). He said he had just abandoned it and that someone else was probably enjoying a sweet bus right about now. (Hey Craig!)
The rocking of the train was so peaceful I thought about coming back one day for a nap.
As I got off the train, I saw a house for sale right in front of the depot and thought it would be a great place for a lemonade stand.
It took about 4.5 hours round trip. And that was that.
Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music – the world is rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself. -Henry Miller
I do forget myself…but I remember everything else.