Friday, November 23, 2012

All Aboard part 2

Our tour bus was the first group to pull into the little train station.  In fact we were an hour and a half early.  Imagine our joy in 100 degree weather.  Thankfully the bus driver left the air on and we were free to sit and visit or wander around the field surrounding us.  Finally we were allowed to board the train.  We excitedly clutched our tickets and promptly got into the wrong line...  the VIP line.  When we realized our error, there was nothing more to do but make no eye contact and stand aside while those with reserved seating were ushered inside.  At last we were able to enter the train and troup to the back of the train where our party was assigned.  Naturally, we had to trudge through the VIP cars where champagne was flowing freely.  We, on the other hand had to wait for our waiters to come and take our orders.  When the train lurched foward with a jerk, it was surprising how much it swayed from side to side.  People walking around to the gift car had to struggle to stay on their feet. 
The tour was an hour and a half of gazing out the windows, hoping to see some wildlife as promised in the brochure.  Mostly it was miles and miles of sagebrush with occassional antelope and prairie fowl.  We passed through several Ghost towns and heard the history of those little towns who were once so important to Eastern Montana.  During this time we enjoyed a wonderful Prime Rib dinner with green salad and yummy desserts. 
The first trestle came out of nowhere.  I heard someone gasp on the other side of the train and leaned over to look out my window.  The ground immediately dropped out of sight and my stomach literally hit the floor.  I went instantly into panic mode and gripped the skinny little dinner table like it was a lifesaver.  Everyone else was enjoying the trip, but all I could focus on was the Trestle is a hundred years old and 1,884 feet long.  The cows grazing below looked like ants.  I tried to hide my terror, but other passengers noticed and had a lot of fun at my expense.  In retrospect it was embassingly funny to remember yelling at someone to stay on her side of the train so we didn't tip over.  Or telling my friend to stop talking because she was using up oxygen and I needed it.  sigh.
When we finally got back on land, I actually gulped in air and began laughing at my own silliness.  That is, until I noticed the second much longer and much high trestle approaching at an alarming pace.  I had lots of time to panic while I watched it grow closer and closer.  I found myself staring at some cowboy's boots, trying to ignore what was looming in front of me.  When we crossed that trestle reasonably safe and sound, I began to relax.  I do have to admit the Judith River Valley and rolling prairieland were spectacular (when I wasn't yelling at people) and the mountain ranges in the distances were beautiful.  Next came the Hoosac tunnel.  It was so eerie going along.  They turned the lights on in the train but I still began to suspect I am uncomfortable with enclosed spaces as well as heights.  The tunnel is an impressive 2,014 feet long.   When we reached the town of Denton, Montana, the train came to a stop and the engine unhooked and went to a roundabout to reattach to the other side of the train.  It was at this moment when I realized I would now be going backwards through that tunnel amd over those historic trestles...but to my surprise I handled the trestles reasonably well and even leaned over to take a couple of pictures.  The tunnel was another story- this time they left the lights of the train off and I hurtled through space...  enclosed space... in total darkness.  It was an eerie feeling.  2,014 feet of eeriness.
When we emerged into daylight we approached the Ghost Town of Ware, Montana there was a sudden burst of gunfire as cowboy bandits raced along the train, forcing it to stop. The bandits came aboard collecting the fake money we were given and any other treat we chose to give them.  Dance Hall girls also boarded the train, and left bright red lipstick prints on bald heads and cheeks.  They posed for pictures and then took off with their loot.  Outside the train, we were treated to a fun drama as the cowboys began fighting over the money and the girls.  Finally one cowboy was left and he swooped in with the money and the girl and they rode into the saloon. It was a great day - one we will remember for a long time.