All Aboard!

Day 3 of our Branson adventure started out bright and early as we had reservations to ride the Branson Scenic Railway and needed to be there by 8:30.  We planned to ride in one of the scenic cruiser cars and figured we needed to ride the first train of the morning before those glass-top cars got too hot under the bright summer sun. Very smart, if I do say so myself! The a/c was just barely able to keep up with the heat even when the early morning temp was just in the 70's,  it rained several times and was overcast most of the ride. I'm sure they are unbearable during the heat of the day in full sun.

After getting our tickets and while standing in line with about 100 other fine folks, a favorite way to pass the time is people watching. Other than pretty females, I'm mostly drawn to the older folks. I like to try and figure out how old they are and what kind of life they've led; the things they've seen; the things they've done; the things they've had to endure. If the wait is long enough or the person or couple is interesting enough, I make up life stores to go along with them. Sometimes, if they are standing close, I'll try to strike up a conversation with them, add some truths to the story in my head.

Sometimes you see someone who looks like someone. Within the last few months I've seen lookalikes for Dustin Hoffman, John Goodman, Matt Damon, and a young Jeff Bridges. Most of the time it's "Hey look! It's that girl who was in that movie we liked and then she had a bit part in that television show that got cancelled after 4 episodes and then she did that feminine products commercial. Remember?" Behind me on the platform this day was the world's worst Elvis impersonator! What do you think? Maybe if you are really bored and squint your eyes just right?

Youngest-daughter and her dad riding the rails.
Besides the heat factor in the scenic cars, taking the first trip of the day is advised because there is a smaller crowd. The train consists of several "regular" passenger cars, a lounge car with seats that recline, 3 scenic cruiser cars with the ceilings made of mostly glass, a car with tables and chairs, and a dining car. All together there are about 350 seats. This is important to remember for what I'm about to say. I'll come back to it later. The trip goes south through the Ozarks and into the mountains and forest of northern Arkansas and takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes.  It really is a very pretty excursion. 2 adult tickets (1 with senior discount) and 1 child ticket costs $73.47. There were about 150 passengers on this trip.  We were in the 2nd group to board so had an easy time getting to the last scenic car and choosing our seats. I wanted a window seat so I could take pictures, youngest daughter wanted a window seat to see out easily, and momma-woman didn't really care so we ended up in the 2-abreast seats with the girls sitting together and me by myself.

If the sun is out, this car get's hot!
There were 24 seats in our car. When we left the station, there were 16 other people in the car with us - 19 people for 24 seats. The last 3 people who joined us just before we left on our journey were, well, there's no way to sugar coat it, they were big people. And when I say big, I'm talking really big; big as in Biggest Loser show contestant big. The wife wasn't as large, but Dad was well over 400 pounds and the 15-year-old son had to be at least 275.

Remember I said there were about 350 seats for 150 butts? Well, guess where the son chose to sit. Next to me, of course. Are you kidding me?! Is this some kind of cosmic joke? Is God up there going, "I feeling bored today. I think I'll screw with Ken. That's always good for a laugh or two." I may not be the most sensitive guy walking around, but I'm not a total lout and feel a level of compassion thinking about the health and social and personal issues overly large people face, but really, come on, all of these open seats and the kid has to sit next to me?!! If I sit as close to the wall as possible, suck it in and hold my breath and scrunch my shoulders so close together in front of me that they almost touch, then only the side of my ass is touching him. And he is sweating; profusely. Now I'm trapped. There's no way to get past him and change seats without him having to get up and let me out and if I do change seats, then he will know why and I will have hurt his feelings. He's just a kid, a really, really, large kid, but a kid nonetheless and kids need to be protected and guided and helped along on the road to adulthood so I resolve to stay scrunched up for a while, at least until enough time has passed that I can make like I'm going to cruise the rest of the train and leave the kid with his dignity.

Going over a bridge. It had just started to rain
 - you can see rain drops on the window.
Fortunately, it wasn't all that long before the couple who were sitting in the seats behind the kid's parents decided to go to a different car and he moved over there. I could breath again and my butt was no longer touching someone else's so life was good again. As the trip continued, I noticed the physically large family taking pictures of each other so I offered to take a picture of all of them with their camera. We started talking after that and they were very nice. He said he's a fire fighter, but there's no way he could be running in a burning building or climbing up ladders so I guess he must be a chief or something - an office job. By the end of the trip, several of us that stayed in that scenic car were talking, exchanging stories, and taking pictures of each other with their own cameras. If it had been a couple of hours longer, we would have been holding hands and singing campfire songs!

Riding the rails through the Ozarks
As it was, when the train pulled back into the same station we had departed from, we all exchanged smiles and have nice days and be safe in your travels pleasantries as we exited and made our ways back to our own lives and plans; lives and plans that did not include our new found acquaintances. So many people and most of us are pretty decent folks who just need a reason to meet and speak to each other for us to find out that most of us are pretty decent folks. For all of our differences, we have a lot in common.  We'll probably never see any of these people again, but for almost 2 hours we talked, we laughed, we shared and we now have a common experience. Who knows, maybe we'll see the very large daddy and son on Biggest Losers and we'll sit in front of the TV and say, "Hey, that looks like the guys who rode the train with us!"

More Ozarks scenery.
Crossing the Taneycomo Bridge just outside
Branson.