Monday, March 21, 2011

kids fighting in the back seat & research: The Great Railroad Race

2009 Topps American Heritage #113 Completion First Transcontinental Railroad - Great American Event (5/10/1869 - Promontory Point UT)(Baseball Cards) The August heat shimmered up from the desert in watery waves as we drove through Utah. Our mini-van had A/C yet still our windows were warm to the touch. It was close to 100 degrees out, we were low on snacks, and our boys were fighting in the back seat.

The Great Railroad Race: the Diary of Libby West, Utah Territory 1868 (Dear America Series)"You'll appreciate this some day," I told them as we pulled up to the visitor's center at Promontory Summit. This was a research trip for Scholastic's The Great Railroad Race. I couldn't wait to show our sons the historic spot where Union Pacific and Central Pacific locomotives met nose-to-nose in 1869, finally joining America by rail.

We piled out of the van just in time to hear the shrill, but exhilarating whistle of a train chugging along the tracks. It was coming from the east with great plumes of smoke rising from its engine, reenacting that last stretch of sagebrush, the grand Wasatch Mountains in the background. What a beautiful sight! I felt so shivery and excited, I grabbed my husband's arm.

"Where are the boys?" we asked each other. 

The gift shop had a vending machine. We found our darlings wrestling for what turned out to be the one and only soda. I was sad they didn't seem to enjoy the history around them, but over the years they've told me -- many times -- how much they loved our family excursions and loved reading the stories I wrote afterward. That makes me feel good.

Meanwhile, I wonder about the tiny photo above. It shows an exuberant crowd on May 10, 1869, after the last spike was driven into the rails. The guy at the top appears to be hoisting a bottle of champagne. One bottle. I wouldn't be surprised if some of his buddies had tried to wrestle him for it.

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