I think most people have a memory from their childhood that is magical. For me, it was my first major league baseball game. When I was very small, I loved the Baltimore Orioles. One day my parents put my brother and me in the car and told us that they were taking us to a surprise. They tried to see if we could guess where we were going, but we had no idea. I think we guessed a toy store and then we thought we might be going to see my aunt and uncle who lived in Baltimore. I don't think we ever managed to guess. At any rate they took us to see an O's game at Memorial Park. I don't remember much about the game itself, just that it was an amazing and fun surprise for us.
Having a fun memory like that for Doug is important to me. Last week we decided rather spontaneously to take Doug up to Strasburg to see Santa on the train. We'd done it the year before and Doug loved it. I was a little apprehensive about the 6+ hours in the car for us, there and back. I was exploring our options when I recalled the Red Caboose Motel which can be seen from the train. I checked it out and it was pretty reasonable. Moreover, sleeping in a caboose was going to blow Doug's little mind. We decided not to tell Doug where we were going, to make it a surprise.
Doug wasn't really able to guess what we were up to. He had decided that we were seeing Santa. I'd told him earlier in the week that we'd see Santa at my high school. Because of the trip, we ended up not going. In addition to Santa, Doug was also convinced that we were going to see some animals. I have no idea where he got this idea. Luckily for us, The Red Caboose Motel has a petting farm.
Doug was very excited when we pulled up to the motel. Jeff went in to check in and Doug was begging me to stay in a red caboose. I told him that I had no power to make that happen, but we lucked out and got a red one, thank goodness.
When we woke up Saturday we had breakfast in the Motel's dining rail car. The hostess wisely seated us next to the window so we could have a view of the tracks and the Strasburg station. Doug was quite pleased because he got to see the railroad crossing signal go down three times while they coupled the engine to the passenger cars. He also got to see quite a few Amish buggies go up and down the road. FYI, according to Jeff, an open buggy is an "Amish convertible".
We decided we'd buy tickets for the train ride when we got to the station. The first train ended up being sold out, but we were able to get on the second one. We attempted to go and do some shopping in the railroad themed shops, but Doug would have none of that. He insisted on being outside to watch the train. It meant he wasn't begging us to buy things, so I couldn't really complain. He really has a one track mind.
Doug was absolutely delighted by the train ride. An interesting aside, Strasburg runs two Santa trains at the same time, half an hour apart. So at one point, the trains meet and stop so one can pass the other. When this happened, Santa had just walked into our car, and then he was gone! He had evidently ducked into the bathroom. We noticed that Santa couldn't be seen on the other train either. Evidently to protect the Santa story, the Santas hide, so that the children won't see two Santas at the same time or Santa on the other train. I thought that was well done!
Doug got to meet Santa and had a wonderful time. Even though we'd told him many times we were going home, he was still disappointed when he realized we were almost home and wouldn't be sleeping in a caboose again. I fear that no other hotel shall live up to the caboose. I hope we were able to create a memory for him to cherish.