Adventure: 1 dad, 2 boys, and lots of trains

April 23rd, 2011

Terah and I recently decided that each of us could use a “day off” of not having to do work or supervise boys. Yesterday I had the day off work so that was mine. I took my Kindle, along with its Gutenberg copy of War and Peace, which yes, I’m reading for fun. I slept in a bit, then got breakfast and sat down at Botanica, the Wichita Gardens with the Kindle for awhile. That was a nice way to spend the morning.

Today was Terah’s day off. Initially I thought of taking the boys to The Cosmosphere, one of the world’s premier space museums, or to the Kansas Aviation Museum. But then I realized that the Midland Railway, a historic excursion line in Baldwin City, KS, was having their first train trip of the year. And it’s the Easter special: you take the train a few miles out of town, get off, the kids do an Easter egg hunt, then also get to get their picture taken with the Easter bunny. Kid paradise, right? What could be better?

So this is how my alarm came to be set for 5:15 on a Saturday morning. Oliver woke up early, but I had to get Jacob up. He was groggy, trying to cover his face and ears, and annoyed at me for trying to wake him up. Until I said, “Jacob, it’s time to get ready for the car trip to the train ride. Can you go get dressed for the day?” Silence. Then about 5 seconds later, he jumped up, said, “OK dad, I will do it,” and he did.

We drove our 2.5 hours. I had set out a non-dirty breakfast in the car for them the night before, so they munched while we drove. Then had to wait in a huge line for our tickets. An hour later we had them — got the last 3 tickets for the first departure of the day, 10AM — and ran to get on the train before it left. Jacob and Oliver both got very quiet. Sometimes Jacob especially does that when he’s very excited about things. He doesn’t always look it right then, but I knew I’d be hearing about it later. He had his face almost pressed to the window the whole way.


Oh, and yes, he dressed himself and I didn’t check to make sure he had the correct shirt, or that it wasn’t on inside-out, until it was too late. Oops.

We rode in an ex-CP car built in 1936. One of the cars on the train was built in the 1890s — quite some neat equipment.

Anyhow, next came the hunt. There were two large lawns covered in eggs, separated by age group. Jacob and Oliver were in the younger group, but still only got a few eggs (there were lots of other parents, uhm, “helping” their kids by picking up eggs the kids were too slow to get and putting them in baskets…) But they were thrilled with the experience so that’s what counts.

They moved the locomotive to the other end of the train for the trip back using an adjacent track. Lots of the kids watched them couple it back on. Jacob and Oliver were particularly interested — nothing could have distracted them from watching that train — though they didn’t particularly like the noise of the horn.


On the way back, someone in an Easter bunny suit was on the train for pictures. I took the boys there. They usually refuse to sit on laps of Santa and such, so I didn’t figure much success. They actually agreed to do it. And despite their expressions in this photo, Jacob later told me over and over how much fun it was to be with the Easter bunny.


After we got back, we headed for the car. Jacob insisted on carrying his own Easter bag, and predictably wound up carrying it upside down for awhile. So his bag had some grass in it from picking the candy back up. Oliver discovered some rocks by a ditch and had fun throwing them in to make a splash, so we paused for that for awhile. By this point it was about noon.

So at this point, what does a dad who has managed to keep two active boys in line for an hour, help them with an egg hunt and giant rabbit, and keep them from falling into the ditch they’re throwing rocks into, do? Say that it’s time to eat lunch and then head for home so we can be there in time for supper? Or go for MORE ADVENTURE?

I said, “Jacob, how would you like to eat lunch inside a big train station in Kansas City?” Pause for a couple of seconds to think. “YEAH! I have never had lunch in a train station before! Let’s go! Shall we go NOW?”

So I gave them the leftover breakfast to eat during the hour drive on towards the beautiful Kansas City Union Station. It’s one of the few grand American train stations that survives intact, and is just stunning.

Jacob and Oliver both fell asleep on the way there. We parked, walked inside, and Jacob just froze. “Dad… WOW! That ceiling is SO HIGH! I can’t even reach it!” He then raised his hand as high as it would go and said, “See dad, it is so high I can’t touch it!” (Most ceilings are, but this one is indeed much, much taller than most.)

We ate lunch in the second level of a restaurant right in the Grand Hall, which Jacob really enjoyed. Here’s Jacob, annoyed that I pulled out the camera again:


Then we went exploring for an hour. Jacob talked about his “adventure”. We went up the elevators and checked out the balconies. Then we found the “Model Railroad Experience.” And oh my. The boys were visibly the most excited they had been all day. Oliver just froze at the spot he walked through the door, not caring to move and see the rest of the exhibit because he was so fascinated by what he already saw. There was a huge layout in the middle of the room, and smaller ones in adjacent rooms. We finally made our way there, and Oliver just ran round and round one of them, following a train, excitedly yelling “There it is! There it is! There it is!” Here’s a photo from the big layout:


Jacob cried when it was time to go, but I had promised them some dessert before we left, so after a bite of ice cream we were on our way. On the way home, every 15 minutes or so, Jacob would make a remark like this:

“Dad, the train ride was SO fun!”


“Dad, I really liked Kansas City Union Station!”

and so forth, naming every highlight of the day for him several times over: the Easter bunny, the egg hunt, train ride, and everything about Union Station.

On the way home, we stopped at our favorite restaurant in Emporia: BobbyD’s Merchant St. BBQ. This is always a hit for everyone in the family. A down-home place that has excellent food, is not far off our path, and never seems to have a wait. Yum.

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  1. Christian Perrier

    Great story, John.

    And, I’ve been there too (KC Union Station): great place for kids. I probably have pictures of mine (in 2002, so they were 10, 12 and 14) in some of the attractions there.

    I’ll be happy to meet with you guys again at DC11


    John Goerzen Reply:

    Sadly it looks like DC11 won’t work out for us this year, but I do hope to make it to a future one again!


  2. Jeff Cutsinger

    Thanks for sharing these stories. It’s cool to see this come through the Planet Haskell feed, and cooler because it’s close to home. I live in Overland Park, just 20 minutes or so away from Union Station. I’ve only been twice and haven’t eaten at the restaurant there, but it’s a pretty awe-inspiring place.


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