Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Great Train Expo

While Flamingo Joe was working under the circus tent in our front yard yesterday, I took the boys to The Great Train Expo at the fairgrounds. Mace takes after his Pop Pop and is a huge train fan. I think Casey came with us so he could avoid helping his Dad clean out the insides of the water filtration tanks in the pouring rain.

It was a pretty good train show. It was set up in one of the exhibit halls at the state fairgrounds and there were probably four or five large model train exhibits like the one above, running three or four trains each, in one half of the hall. The other half of the hall was filled with train stuff that train people buy -- miniature-sized people, houses, trees, train engines, and train cars, for example, and a bucketload of Thomas the Tank Engine merchandise.

The boys loved the model train exhibits:

That one above was set up on the floor and had five or six tracks all running at once. Every half hour or so, the operators would switch out the trains with new ones, so we spent fifteen minutes at a time, four different times, sitting/laying on the floor by this exhibit.

The boys also got to push each other around a boy-sized train track on carts:

Casey was almost too big for the cart and Mace was almost too small, but I think with some minor modifications to the carts this would be a great addition to the circus setting up in our front yard.

Casey couldn't wait to try the human-powered train and we hung around the show a little longer than I really wanted to so we would be there for the next designated time for the little exhibit to open again. Casey got in line and when it was his turn to sit on the stationary bike, the guy running the exhibit gave Casey some instructions and then asked him if he could ride a bike. Casey just stared at him -- he knew he couldn't really ride a bike, but you could see him wondering why it was relevant when the bike at the exhibit was stationary. I could tell he was struggling with the disciplinary consequences of lying to the man and the waste of energy it would take to explain that no he couldn't really ride a bike, but he could certainly wing it on this one. So I jumped in and saved him and said, "He can do it." I think sometimes you just have to rescue your kids from these delicate moral dilemmas and set an example for them. See son, that is how you avoid lying -- you just don't answer the question that's actually posed to you.

I'm thinking this is yet another great ride for the circus setting up in our front yard. It's not just a ride . . . it's educational -- the bicycle generates the power to move the train. Someone else would have to stand by the ride and fully explain it to people, though, because that's all I've got. I was an English major. You really can't expect me to contemporize on scientific subjects.

One of the exhibits actually had ravines built into the sides of the exhibit so that the train would chug across the top on a trestle while you look into the ravine and see another entire scene:

This one was labeled "Deliverance":

See that little dude with the banjo sitting on the edge of the porch? (Not my favorite movie, by the way). I rode a bus to junior high school with that guy.

Eventually, we ended up over in the vendor area and I spent half an hour saying things like:

"Don't touch that 1953 Lionel Steam Engine that costs $950."

"I'm sorry, we're not buying Thomas, Gordon or Percy today."

"No, we don't need 1/4 inch tall people."

"Good gracious, this is an expensive hobby!!"

Casey, after hearing me say "no" for the umpteenth time, finally said, "Why aren't we buying anything?" So I told him there was no money in the budget for miscellaneous toy train expenditures (that's how Casey and I talk to each other -- like college students trying to impress their sociology professor with really big vocabularies). Casey said, "Oh no, not the budget again!" I said, "Yes, honey, the budget again. There is no Total Money Makeover envelope labeled 'miscellaneous toy train expenditures'." Casey crossed his arms, glared at me, and said, "Can we stop using the envelopes as a reference?"

So I told him that as soon as we started the circus in our front yard, he could charge all his friends $4 apiece to ride the train carts and start his own envelope system. I imagine that his envelopes, instead of being labeled "Groceries," "Restaurant" or "Haircuts", would be labeled "Wii Games," "LEGOs," "DS Games," "Pokemon Cards" and "Lucky Charms."

Of course, the "Lucky Charms" envelope would actually just be a duplicate of the one I already have in my system, but you can never really have enough Lucky Charms money.

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