Columns

2013.06.05 A tourist in my own back yard

on . Posted in By The Way

I need slack-cutting. I was out of town all day Saturday at the state track meet and Sunday was busy with commencement and eating pie. It’s back to the archives for a tale from May 1993.

By DAVID GREEN

There I sat in a railway dining car riding a rail line first laid in 1836. I was a tourist wearing fancy clothes. I was the guest of my wife who was representing the Observer.

The train slowly made its way through the countryside as we downed our catered meal. The train engineer called the conductor who relayed the message to the passengers: deer in the field! The tourists were a-twitter at the sight of our favorite wild mammals tearing up a freshly-planted field.

We crossed rivers, cut across fields, and caught glimpses of bloodroot and columbine as we slipped through woodlots. We did the requisite waving at strangers stopped at road crossings and we walked from car to car as the train bumped and shook along the old rails.

When this journey was halfway done, we’d finished soup, salad and bread and were on the outskirts of Adrian. By the time the dessert plates were licked clean (no one was looking) and the tables cleared, we were back in Blissfield.

All this because my wife took over mail-opening duties at the Observer while I was short a reporter. Colleen spotted the invitation from the Lenawee Conference and Visitors Bureau and she jumped on the opportunity: the dinner train on the Blissfield and Adrian Railroad; two nights in the Carlton Inn in Adrain; dinner theatre at the Stagecoach Stop; brunch at The Stables in Blissfield; passes to most of the hot spots in Lenawee County. All at absolutely no charge.

Who says journalists aren’t for sale? But now I have to sing the pleasures of visiting Lenawee County. Here’s what I know.

We arrived at the train station in Blissfield and received our name tags. Colleen’s indicated she was from the Morenci Observer; mine read “David Green, guest.” That was fine with me. I could just go along for the ride.

The dinner train is pulled by the world’s largest Lionel engine. Really, that’s how it’s painted. Starting soon, a 1911 steam engine will pull the cars.

The B & A Railroad also has an occasional “murder mystery” train ride plus a Ghost Train in October and the Santa Train in December. It’s a slow ride—the kitchen help complains if it runs above 10 m.p.h.—but that leaves plenty of time to devour the ample servings catered by the Hathaway House. How’s that for a travel writer sentence?

That’s almost all I have to say about my weekend other than the two nights at the Carlton. I was back in town early Saturday to open up the Observer, then off to the school to run a Fun Fair booth, then back to the office to set some ads, and then back for another grueling stay at the motel.

No, there’s nothing wrong with the Carlton. It’s a great place with nice rooms and an indoor/outdoor pool and free breakfast for everyone. It’s just that we were there with kids. Rosanna fell out of bed one night, Maddy fell out both nights (she started crawling off asking, “Where are we?”). And you know how kids are always asking, “Are we there yet?” For Maddy, all night long it was “Is it morning yet? How long until morning?” She had to get back to the pool.

Colleen and Maddy took in the brunch at the Stables and then the Tecumseh home tour. The free passes to the Prehistoric Forest, Jungle Rapids, the Bear’s Lair Fun Park and Hidden Lake Gardens will have to wait for another big weekend.

Just the thought of all those attractions was too much excitement for me. I grabbed a couple kids and off we went on our own tour of Lenawee, one that never gets mentioned in the tourist pamphlets, fortunately. We checked out two great blue heron rookeries and spotted an abundance of wildlife all the way back home.

It was all a great present, and I have to agree with the Conference Bureau, but most likely not for the same reasons—Lenawee is a nice place to play.

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