This blog should have been two days ago. It feels a little disjointed, but that's o.k. I shared a few days ago about our magical trip to the Adirondack mountains. Every time I think about that magical mini-vacation I smile, I've got a silly little smile right now while I'm writing this.
As is the case with our family vacations, they all snowball out of one idea. Our whole reason for visiting the Six Flags Great Adventure Lodge and the Adirondacks was to ride the Polar Express. The Polar Express is a very special movie for our family. After the twins (Riley and Rowan) were born our world was thrown into chaos. Two babies at the same time, it was so much to adjust to. Poor Gabe and Grace fell to the side, they got what scraps of time we could spare for them. By the time Riley and Rowan were 5 months we finally had it figured out. This was around the Christmas Season. It was at this time that The Polar Express came out. Christopher took Gabe and Grace to see it at the theatre. They came back with huge smiles on their faces, it was easily their favourite movie. We did not know it then, but it would be the last movie that Gabe would ever see. The Polar Express from that moment on became forever linked with our love of Gabe, and our time as a family. It was a beautiful movie in its own right, but now it was almost religious to us. Three years ago we learned that some scenic railroads were doing "Polar Express" trips. We booked our tickets for the one in Utica, New York. It was magical. This year I was searching for other railways that offered Polar Express rides, and discovered Saratoga Springs North Creek Railway. There was a video that showed a glass ceiling decorated for the season, and waiters singing the "Hot Hot Hot Hot Chocolate" song from the movie while they handed out steaming mugs of hot chocolate to pajama clad children. I knew that we had to go to this ride. I began to plan our vacation around this wonderful train ride. I booked our tickets in the beginning of October, and the began to look for accommodations. I accidentally came across the Six Flags Great Adventure Lodge, it was affordable accommodations, and was close enough to Saratoga Springs.
We had planned to surprise the kids with the whole trip, but I am terrible at surprises and told them about the lodge. We kept the Polar Express a secret, thank goodness. We watched the movie the Saturday night before we left for our trip. Rowan exclaimed "Can we go to the Polar Express ride again one day?" I tried to wipe the knowing little smile from my face. Inside I was giggling thinking about what a wonderful surprise it was.
I had printed off directions from Map-quest. I had thought that the Saratoga Springs North Creek Railway was in "Saratoga Springs", but I could not find it, so then I found the "North Creek Railway", I was able to get directions for it. On our way to the lodge we drove past a sign pointing to "North Creek", I gave Christopher a knowing smile as I pointed it out. It was farther away than I had thought it would be. I decided in my head how long we would need to give ourselves to get there.
I wanted to leave the lodge at 3:00 p.m., I put the kids in the pjs. They were wondering why I wanted them to be in their pjs at 3:00, but I told them we were going to look at Christmas lights and it would be more fun in their pjs (children are gullible). They goofed around, and stalled, and squeaked and had to go to the bathroom as we were about to leave, and the whole time I am thinking that my head might very well explode right off of the top of my head. "What's the big rush, we're just going to see Christmas lights?". It was closer to 3:30 when we left. "That's o.k., that's o.k. we need to be there an hour before, our train leaves at 5:30, maybe it doesn't take as long as I thought to get there." We were in the car five minutes when Rowan started whining "Can't we go back to the hotel? I don't want to look at stupid Christmas lights." This went on for quite a while before I finally lost it. We finally got to "The North Creek Railway". There were two cars, weird.We walked into the rail area and this older man told us that we didn't want to go in there, had been a malfunction with the furnace and there was soot everywhere. Christopher asked where we caught the Polar Express, the man gave us a sad look "Oh you catch that in Saratoga Springs, it's an hour and a half away." It was 4:45, our train left at 5:30. We barked at the kids to get into the van, they still thought that we were going to look at Christmas lights. Rowan started back up with "I don't want to look at Christmas lights, can't we just go back to the hotel?" There was a misty rain and fog. Christopher was wearing that mask of determination that usually spells out a fight. It was not good. I developed the mantra, "Maybe we can catch the 7:00 train, maybe they will transfer our tickets. Maybe we can catch the 7:00 train, maybe they will transfer our tickets." I kept repeating this over and over again interrupted with my "Christopher, show down, I'd rather miss it than be dead!"
We got lost in Saratoga Springs. We oohed and awed over their Christmas displays, but all the while Christopher and I were stressed out. Those tickets had cost a lot of money, the page clearly read "No Refunds". What if the second train was sold out? "Maybe we can catch the 7:00 train, maybe they will transfer our tickets." Finally Christopher ran in and asked directions from these two teens working at Dunkin Doughnuts. We found the train station, the parking lot was really crowded. Christopher ran ahead to see if we could transfer our tickets. I brought the kids in after.
There was no second train, we were out of luck. The people that worked at the station were lovely. They felt so badly that we had gotten lost and missed our train. A lovely lady ran out with Polar Express colouring books for the kids. The kids were disappointed when they found out what we had planned, but they got over it. Christopher and I drove back in silence, so disappointed.
We pulled into the parking lot of the lodge. Dejectedly we walked up to our room. In a stoke of genius I shouted out "Who wants Milkshakes?" It was good that there was only one other family staying at the lodge that night, because the excitement was deafening. "Can we keep our pajamas on?" Grace asked. "You bet", I returned finally beginning to come out of that stressed out haze. We took off our jackets and walked down to "Johnny Rockets", conveniently located in the lodge. The kids all sidled up to the counter on the bright red spinning stools. They didn't care what they missed out on, they were in the moment. An Oreo milkshake wiped away the disappointment. Christopher and I looked at each other, our kids were happy, nothing else mattered. We drowned our own sorrows in the rich shakes, there will be other years to catch the Polar Express, but we were in the here and the now. I wish that all of life's problems were so easily solved.