Train adventure: 48 years to complete the round trip

posted in: Blog, Speaking | 1

When I was 8, my Cub Scout troop in Corvallis, Ore., took a 40-mile train trip from Albany to Eugene, where we were treated to what, at the time, was the 2010 equivalent of Disneyland: being on the Captain Shipwreck Show. (OK, so our standards were low.)

The year was 1962. The Beatles were still an unknown band playing the pubs of Liverpool. John F. Kennedy was living his last full year. The Columbus Day Storm drew Northwesterners together in a way that no other storm has since.

And, of course, there was Captain Shipwreck, a guy with a beard and sailor’s hat who hosted a weekday cartoon show that aired — black and white, of course — in much of the state.

Once the show was over, once we’d basked in the glory of being shown on TV — real, live TV! — to tens of thousands of households from Eugene to Portland, some den mother drove us back to Corvallis.

We returned to our hum-drum lives. And I never got to complete the round trip.

Until last Saturday morning. With my two grandchildren. Eugene to Albany. One way.

But, in some ways, the completion of a circle. Never mind that it took 48 years. That, in the meantime, I’d become a father of two, then the grandfather of three. (One still too young for trains.) That when I took the south-bound trip I was only three years older than my grandson Cade is now. That the north-bound return trip included a movie (“Free Willy”), an unheard luxury back in ’62, a time in which seat belts were big news.

As I watched Cade, 5, and Avin, 2, enjoy the trip, it was enough to live the adventure through them. As if I were completing the childhood adventure by proxy, quietly pleased that though this wasn’t Space Mountain or The Matterhorn, children still find a certain thrill in taking a train ride. Or as Cade would say: “Cool!” And who would have thought we had an entire car to ourselves?

We slowly left Eugene’s industrial area, sped through Junction City, went across the Willamette River just south of Harrisburg, then made a straight shot back to Albany.

In one sense, 48 years late.

In another sense, right on time.

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