When I asked each of my children what their top 3 activities from our vacation were, they all agreed that the train ride was tops. The Blue Ridge Scenic Railroad starts right in the center of historic downtown Blue Ridge and rambles along chugging slowly through the gorgeous mountain countryside to the neighboring cities of McCaysville, GA and Copperhill, TN.
The train itself is a mish-mash of old train cars collected from all over, each with a story all its own. The car we traveled in, for example, car 332, was the last of the “Jim Crow” cars from the days of the segregated south. Another was from the 1920’s and was decorated with a "theatre" theme. And a slightly run-down musty-smelling car was from the 1960’s though it seemed much older. Each car was so interesting that we ended up walking along the entire length of the train going in and out between cars to check them all out as the track scuttled by beneath us.
The train ride lasted about an hour and traversed only about 26 miles but we all enjoyed the experience. I personally hate the term “bucket list” because the idea of a list of things to do before I “kick the bucket” seems crass and dispiriting to me, but if I were ever to make a list of experiences I wanted to have in life- riding a train would definitely be on the list.
During our ride, we got our first real taste of southern hospitality too. The train attendants were all so friendly and eager to chat. We spent much of our ride learning more about the area from the local residents. We heard about bear tracks in the backyard and about the fun of working on the train and about the land along the way and the families who had first settled there. We smiled at the accents of our “tour guides”- true southern drawls. And, of course, we enjoyed the spectacular scenery that flew by just beyond our comfy train seats.
The final destination unfortunately had little to offer- just a few old shops and a very disappointing lunch at the so-called Irish Pub. But we did get the chance to stand in two different states at one time and to taste cupcakes that had won the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” back in September 2012. (Cupcake Wars is a favorite show of ours on the rare occasion that we get access to cable television.)
It was our first full day of vacation and we had a whole week of fun to anticipate. And we had the train ride back to Blue Ridge to look forward to also. So, on our “layover” we made our own fun. All in all-- it was a great day and a very cool experience.