The big event for our work kamping job was this weekend. It is the annual Rails to Trails festival which both celebrates the Biz Johnson Trail and helps the local non profit make money to maintain the rail depot at the Susanville end of the trail. The event is a combination of numerous marathons on the trail, including a qualifier for the Boston marathon, and a local festival at the depot itself. Lee has been shooting video of the various activities leading up to the event, part for his demo reel and partly for Stan, so I knew I would jump in and help with our regular work kamping duties. Plus, I volunteered to give caboose tours the day of the event itself. All in all we planned for a full weekend, and I was pretty excited about the opportunity to pitch in and help. Since the events started on Saturday, Lee and I took extra care with the grounds on Friday night. We stocked the restrooms with extra supplies, emptied all the trash and added extra bags at the bottom, and walked all the way down to the depot taking special care with the “micro litter”. As a side note, Stan taught us the concept of micro litter which is little things like cigarette butts and gum wrappers that will add up over time if ignored. Lee and I have actually made a game out of it, where we each take a side of the trail going in one direction and on the way back we switch. For every piece of trash we find that the other person missed, we get one kiss. Yes, I know it’s goofy, but we both get kisses and it’s a fun way to pass the time!!
Saturday morning Lee left very early with Stan to take any bike riders halfway up the trail. They had a company coordinate the races and did a nice job of sharing the space between normal bike riders and runners by staggering the departure points. After Lee dropped off the riders he went to various points along the route and took some video of the runners. It really is a beautiful trail, waiting for the fall foliage to take my ride, and I heard several of the runners say how much they enjoyed the scenery during their runs.
I kept an eye on things back at the Hobo Camp, where the finish line was located, and around 10:00am walked the trail down to the depot. Unfortunately the horse riders had used that section of the trail in the early morning and there was a ton of horse poop right in the road which would have affected the runners for the short marathon scheduled later that day. Normally I don’t mind the horse poop so much, but this was fresh and right in the middle of several spots of the run. I didn’t really have to do anything about it, but since I wouldn’t want to run through horse poop, I grabbed a bag and cleaned it up. Not my favorite way to start the morning, but it I couldn’t just walk past it.
Afterwards, I made it to the depot where the chili cook-off crews were setting up and got the keys to the caboose from Louise the event organizer. I really like the chili cook-off concept, because local non profits and companies compete with chili and salsa for bragging rights. All the food at the festival was locally produced, so it was yummy and a good way for folks to make a little extra money. They also had some local craft booths and a couple of raffles. I paid $10 for limted raffle (only 75 entries allowed) for $700 worth of Cabellas camping gear. Although I didn’t win, I liked that they pulled the raffle tickets right in front of the crowd and everyone cheered for the winner. Small towns are cool like that
At 10:30 I went down to the caboose and opened it up for business. Stan had left me some information inside, and I quickly read up on the caboose. The story is that the local historical society wanted a caboose from the right era but they are pretty hard to come by. In 1989 a caboose with a cupola became available via a sale by another government agency and the complex negotiations for the caboose began. Finally the caboose was assigned to Susanville and was moved, via engine, to it’s new home. It was painted and restored and now resides in a fenced-in area. They actually had to fence it in because some homeless were living in it during the 90’s, so for the festival it needed to be moved out of the fenced area and down the track. Stan actually pulled it with a Ford 550 the day before, and when I arrived it was sitting all by itself off the main festival footprint. I didn’t think many people would come, but immediately upon opening I got a large family with three boys aged 12, 9 and 5 year old, Quinn, whose birthday it was. Let me say as the mother of three girls I understood conceptually that little boys liked trains, but had never seen it in action. I had a steady stream of 4-10 year old boys during my two sessions and they are fun, but a handful! Since the inside of the caboose is designed to be lived and moved in all of the metal rods are extremely sturdy. I let the boys climb and hang as much as they wanted, and just stood by in case anyone got too crazy. I will be honest, I got more questions on the inside toilet than anything else (which unfortunately was not covered by the material provided) and mainly just had fun talking to the parents. One mom, Melissa, I really enjoyed in particular as we bonded over having the experience of having three kids.
Between my tours I had an opportunity to go to the Chili cook-off. For $7.50 you get a small cup and are able to go try all of the different chili and salsa. We got a kit for free since we were volunteering, but it would have been a good deal either way. By the time we got around the tent we were pretty full and had definitely decided on our favorites. Lee loved the combination wild turkey, venison, and moose chili the best. I enjoyed a more traditional one offered by one of the non-profits. Those who paid got to vote and at the end the crowd favorites and judges favorites were presented with awards and of course bragging rights. The awards were really cute wooden spoons with engravings along with some plaques, and again, the winners got big cheers from the crowd. Throughout the day, hand car races were taking place along the railroad track. Lee was particularly interested in shooting video of these and our A.C.E. volunteer group, decided they would participate. These kids know how to work, they got up early as usual, and spent the morning clearing trails, and then came over in time for the festivities. I was delighted when they won second place. I thought for sure they would have a significant disadvantage to the locals, but they killed it and their time was overall second place. They got an award to take back to the main office and medals which was really fun.
After the second tour I walked the path back, checked the restrooms, and changed into some shorts. A little while later Stan was kind enough to come and get me so that we could move the caboose. He had pulled it slightly uphill before the festival and now the kids and I were going to get to ride it back to it’s home within the fenced in area. That was a lot of fun and Lee got some great video. Unfortunately,we were all so excited about the project that we forgot to swing the gates out to open them, so once the caboose was in the pen there wasn’t room to swing the gates closed. So, after we rolled it in we had to pull it forward then hand push it back to get the gates to close. We did get to use a really cool wooden tool to move it by hand though. You put it under the wheel and then push down. The lever moves the 55,000 pound caboose a few inches at a time, and one person can do it all by themselves. It turned out I was pretty good at it, with great form, although not so great stamina. We all took turns and can now say we pushed a train. Not something I ever thought I would get to do, but really a lot of fun!!
It was a really fun Saturday, and then on Sunday the real hardcore marathons were run. Lee went to the registration early to get footage of the runners checking in and boarding the buses, and then drove up the canyon ahead of them to get shots of the buses climbing the steep canyon hill out of town, and then on to the starting point 26 miles away. Stan was keeping an eye on the trail so I kept the main area clean. In between football (great Cincy/Seattle game) I checked the bathrooms and trash. People were pretty neat so I only needed to go down at 10, 12, and 2 so there was plenty of chill time in between. Lee had a much tougher physical day as he had strapped his camera bag and tripod on a mountain bike, along with another camera in a backpack, and drove from the starting point to the halfway point, and then rode the trail, stopping at numerous places to shoot video of the runners. He had a great time though, and got tons of really good video and pictures, plus quite the workout as he crisscrossed the last 7 miles of the trail. We all had a quiet evening, but then Monday we had a potluck dinner for the kids. I wanted to make them something homemade, and spaghetti is always my go to to feed kids who haven’t had a home cooked meal in awhile, and I really wanted to do it this time because we had three kids so far from home. Stan wanted to expand the dinner into a larger pot luck though, so I changed it to rigatoni which holds up better under pot luck conditions.
Lee shot interviews with all the kids to use as the background audio for the video, Stan cooked burgers, and Marissa (who is awesome) from his office brought lots of sides. She also brought her boyfriend who coincidentally is from Switzerland and Bettina had an opportunity to speak in her home language. I asked her later if it was nice and she said it was “weird”, because she has been speaking in English so much! I think a good time was had by all. Nice to know we can still throw a good party!! One of my favorite moments of the nights was when I was talking to Gina, who reminds me very much of my oldest daughter Kyrston, and spontaneously reach over and kissed her on the forehead and told her she was a good girl. She got all choked up, because she said it was such a mom thing to do, and it made her miss her parents in England. I can’t tell you how much we have enjoyed getting to know the ACE crew. It’s really been a gift to us and truly their parents should be very proud of them. Extraordinary young people!
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