Friday, June 17, 2011

Catching The Train in Nenana

I stand in knee-high weeds, hoisting my camera chest high. Waiting. Waiting. And I'm excited.

Because any minute, the famous Alaska Railroad chugs through town and I want its picture. Not because it's THE Alaska Railroad. But because Glenys says it's THE thing to do in town. To watch the 6 p.m. train roll through, then watch it leave, over the historic bridge.

Sounds so lame. Sounds so small town. Sounds so yesterday. But I have to do it. Because Glenys says so.

Glenys works in Nenana, AK's visitor's center, a small log cabin with grass, flowers and weeds growing from its thatched roof. I walk in around 3 p.m. because we plan to do laundry in town then head on to Denali National Park. And I need to locate a laundromat. So we stop at the visitor's center. Where Glenys works.

She sees me, smiles and nods a little as she ushers two other people out, handing them a map and her well wishes. She then walks over to me, well, she sort of wafts over, like an angel on a cloud. Unimposing. Sweet. Gentle. She's a minute of a woman, without enough fat to keep her warm during a heat wave. She wears her age in her eyes. They're blue and rheumy. So I'm not sure if it's the water or her excitement that makes them sparkle and shine when she talks about Nenana.

She loves this town of 400. And she sure hopes we'll stay and explore, visit the church, the historic bridge. Oh, and we MSUT go down to the General Store. It's like time stood still in there, she says, quietly, matter-of-factly. And, she says, then tilts her head, grinning, twinkling, town folks like to go down at 6 p.m. and watch the train come through. And wave at the tourists.

It's not a big thing, she says, "But it doesn't take much to entertain us."

She then directs me to the town's only RV park because the laundry facilities are clean and, she tilts her head again, "DO plan to spend the night," adding, "Judy and Larry are such nice people."

Judy and Larry own the RV park.

She hands me a map of the town and I know, for sure, that after I do my laundry, I'm heading down to the tracks. To watch for the train. It's like telling me the best place in town to eat, the place where the locals hang out. It's what I want to do to feel like a local. Lame or not.

So that's why I'm standing here. With my camera poised. My motorhome parked -- for the night, or three -- in the RV park because, just like Glenys said, Judy and Larry are fine people. And the park is squeaky clean.

Oh listen! I hear the train whistle. Wonderful. My excitement percolates.

And here it is! Rounding the bend. The Alaska Railroad. It's clinging and clanging, rattling the rails. Piercing the air with its forlorn whistle.

Now it's rushing past me. Car after car. And look! People are waving from inside the train at me. They think I live here!

So I wave back. Pretend I'm a local. Doing what the locals do. And, MAN! I'm loving this.

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