Discovering Our Own Backyard – Johnstown

There is no past or future. Using tenses to divide time is like making chalk marks on water.  ~Janet Frame

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Celebrating Kyle’s 13th birthday! Great day taking the train to Johnstown & now ice-cream cake! 4/26/14

This year Kyle’s birthday lands on a Wednesday.  What does that mean?  It means Kyle believes both weekends are open for birthday celebration, in addition to his actual birthday. I guess we’re getting better, I remember the days when the entire month of July was dedicated to Kyle’s birthday.

This year?  It was a last minute decision.  I planned an adventure to Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  How far away is that?  Only about thirty to forty minutes from Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  How is that exciting?  Let me tell you, sometimes it’s the journey that makes the adventure.

This past Saturday morning, we started the day off with a train ride from Latrobe to Johnstown.  Yes!  A train ride!  I knew Kyle was never in Johnstown, nor was he aware of the great flood of 1889.  It’s true, Kyle was on a train when we went to Strasburg, Pennsylvania to see Thomas the Tank Engine when he was three or four.  We actually rode on “Thomas” and we took another train ride around the area.  It was more an old fashioned train, with the windows down, chugging along at a slower speed for sightseeing.   This time, Kyle was riding a transport train with other travelers.  It had cars for overnight passengers and food and beverage cars.  Granted, none of those interested us during our forty minute ride, but it still was neat to say we rode a passenger train.

The Amtrak train station is located off of McKinley Avenue in Latrobe, behind DiSalvo’s Station Restaurant.  Of course it’s not the hub of all transportation for the masses, but it was neat sitting on the platform awaiting our scheduled train.  Naturally, I kept making comments like, “Kyle, where is platform nine and three quarters?”  and such in reference to Harry Potter.  Being nearly thirteen, he only found me mildly humorous.

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Kyle & Aunt Nikki waiting at the Latrobe Amtrak Station to board a train to Johnstown for the day. 7/26/14

Just as we were parking our behinds on the bench Kyle commented, “Umm this is a little run down.”  Nicole and I started to laugh.  He was right, but again this was about the adventure not the aesthetics of our environment.  Then, in true Kyle fashion, he added, “It could use a fresh coat of paint.”  Ok, now we were dying at his observation for renovation.

Now came the real excitement, a train rolled at high speed past us.  While we were sitting there, a container train shot past us, only a few feet from our seats.  I’m sure it wasn’t moving at top speed, but it still stole our breath at the massive locomotive whizzed past.  There is a yellow line, signalling to go no further toward the track, but that simple yellow line doesn’t quite do it justice like a high speed moving death vehicle to signify danger.  Perhaps, it was due to our lack of experience riding trains, but I concurred with Nicole when she said, “Kyle’s right, they could use a fresh coat of pain to mark the yellow line.”

Did I mention this was all a surprise for Kyle?  Yep, he had no idea we were riding a train and he had no clue where we were heading.

Once we boarded the train and settled into our seats, Kyle begin reading the book I got him for his birthday, The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien (companion book to The Lord of the Rings).  I was excited to see he was enjoying his newly purchased literature.

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Aunt Nikki getting out of our pink taxi in Johnstown … Kyle hates pink or so we’ve been told. 7/26/14

We arrived in Johnstown around 9:15 am.  There was a few main attractions on our schedule for the day, including the Flood Museum and the incline.  Before we tackled the day’s activities, we headed to a small diner for breakfast and to waste some time before the museum opened.

Johnstown is an old town, very quaint but not the hustle and bustle of activity, pretty low key.  While walking through the streets, we read the land markers attached to buildings and those highlighted in designated areas.  Most were focused on the flood, sharing information such as the height of the water and the number of people who perished.  This was one of those history lessons that was sad, but very interesting.  I am a true believer of learning the past as to avoid repeating it.  One wish I hope to pass along to Kyle.

Ok, I get it, going to a flood museum and walking around a dead town was not on Kyle’s top list of things to do for his thirteenth birthday.  Regardless, Kyle should be aware of the events that have taken place in his own backyard.  Did I mention it was a last minute plan?  We didn’t think we were going to have Kyle this past weekend, so it was a last minute plan, something different.

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Pan of Kyle getting ready to board the Amtrak train in Johnstown after a day outing for his birthday. 7/26/14

We walked around the museum and made time to watch the documentary video on the flood.  A truly great video production!  Very informative and really takes a person back to the time, to feel the impact and the devastation of the flood.  It was even Kyle approved, keeping his attention and peeking his interest on a part of history he was not aware of.

From the Flood Museum we took a taxi (pink) to the local movie theater to see Maleficent (the only movie playing at a good time to fit the day).  It was also a cafe and movie theater, so Kyle ate his lunch while watching the movie.

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Kyle getting ready to board the train in Johnstown after our day excursion… next stop Latrobe, Pa. 7/26/14

On a side note, while riding in the backseat of the taxi, Kyle leaned into me to whisper, “I hate pink”.  What a funny kid!

After the movie, we headed back into the town of Johnstown and made our way to the incline, the world’s steepest vehicular inclined plane.  At the top, there’s not much to do but hang out on the observation deck and stare down at Johnstown.  We were blessed with a lovely day.  Nicole helped us to get our perceptive by pointing out specific buildings of interest, such as the Flood Museum, the train station and the streets we traveled.  That was quite a view!

Eventually we made our way back down to ground level to stop for an early dinner/snack.  We tried to tour the War Memorial Arena, but alas the doors were locked.

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Me & Kyle on the Johnstown Incline! Steepest vehicular incline plane in the world! 7/26/14

Taking our time, we walked back to the train station to complete our round trip.  Since the train was delayed slightly, we sat on the benches and read, or in Nicole’s case, napped before boarding our train headed for Latrobe.

On another side note, while riding the train, I couldn’t help but sing The Gambler by Kenny Rogers.  When I was a kid, I loved that song and movie!  It just seemed appropriate.  Neither Nicole nor Kyle thought so.

When we were nearing Latrobe, I called mom to let her know we were in route.  I had her hang a Happy Birthday banner and light the candles on the ice-cream cake to surprise Kyle.  My cousin’s Paula, Pete and John were also on the deck waiting to sing.

Was Kyle excited?  You bet he was!  Maybe not totally thrilled and blown away, but he certainly enjoyed himself.  Although we did have to hear about going to the new comic book store in Latrobe, every thirty minutes or so throughout the day.  I guess to be thirteen!

How did I think of such a fun and educational day?  Simply, mom.  When I was in the third grade (I think) mom was heavily involved in the PTA and she helped plan our field trips for Sacred Heart School.  Saturday was pretty much a repeat that year in the eighties, minus the movie.  During our school field trip, we got to pack our lunches and eat in the park in the center of town, exciting for a group of young kids.

To this day, in my eyes that was the best field trip ever!  An experience I always wanted to repeat and share with Kyle.  Maybe next time when I have more of a notice, we’ll repeat it with one of Kyle’s friends.  I bet he’d enjoy that!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

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