Still at the Station…

First, welcome to all my new followers! Thanks for following!!!

In case you haven’t noticed, the Crazy Train hasn’t taken many road trips lately. Well, there’s a simple explanation for that.

Swim Season.

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Not swim season, like, the kids are in the pool and playing and having fun, but Swim Season like SWIM TEAM and I am carting them to and from practice every day, sitting poolside, sweating my bohonkus off, watching them swim laps and then getting up at 5am every Saturday to go to swim meets. THAT kind of Swim Season.

Swimming-London-Olympics-1948.

But, I am hoping that we can start back to our adventures SOON.

In the meantime, I am writing A LOT over at It’s a Beautiful Tree. I’ve got a series right now on Caroline Ingalls and Helen Ekin Starrett that I am loving. So, if you’re into a whole other type of Crazy Train– like those women who took their families all over the place in covered wagons, then check out my work over there!

Hope to see you there!

Dublin, Texas

For those Crazy Train loyal followers, I heartily apologize for our absence of late. We’ve been doing the responsible thing over the last few months—homework, scouts, student council, soccer… laundry…. And I have been working on my research for my book (and you can see my progress at itsabeautifultree.com).

The whole Crazy Train in front of one of the many Dublin Welcome signs on the roads into the town. Perfect spots for family photos!

But now that the weather is looking brighter, the bluebonnets are popping up on the roadsides, and summer vacation is within our reach, we have started thinking about road trip possibilities. Mostly, we are thinking about all those fantastic little dots on the map we’ve blown through on the way TO somewhere else. We’re going to start working on making those THE destinations!

And, in my family chaos, I neglected to report on our latest road trip! As our most ardent friends and followers know, it’s not the destination that holds all the fun, it’s the journey. It’s taken me awhile to get it posted. I promise to do better!

This year, we decided that since the Hub had St Patrick’s Day off, why not spend the Irish holiday in DUBLIN? Um, DUH. What red-blooded American of Irish descent wouldn’t want to spend the feast day of St Patrick—the High Holiday of all things green—in DUBLIN? Having received my early education from Irish Catholic nuns FROM Ireland, I spent every single St Patrick’s Day—from kindergarten in the St Bridgid’s Convent semi-basement classroom to the gym or cafeteria stage at St Luke’s Catholic School singing songs about corned beef and cabbage and smiling Irish eyes. It seemed almost a sin to forego to opportunity to celebrate the holiday anyplace else. So, we decided that on the dull and rainy day of March 17th, we would pile into the land yacht and head on over to Dublin.

Did I mention we were going to Dublin, TEXAS?

Um, yeah. Not the same.

Dublin, Texas, has always had a little bit of fame here in the Lone Star State as the home of Dublin Bottling Works—the place where the amazing Dublin Dr Pepper was bottled until the heartless giants of corporate conformity decided that the little guys in Texas who still had their original contract with Dr Pepper couldn’t keep doing their thing. If you don’t know the Dublin Dr Pepper story, here’s the skinny:

At the “end of the line” at the Dublin Bottling Plant. Here’s where the bottles come off the vintage bottling machinery and are checked before going out into the world.

Once upon a time, a tasty carbonated beverage called Dr Pepper appeared on the soda market. It debuted in Waco, and was originally only available there. But in 1925, an independent bottler in the little town of Dublin obtained the first bottling franchise with Dr Pepper to bottle the goodness outside of Waco. Dublin’s distribution territory was limited to a 44-mile radius of the town, which was just peachy until Dr Pepper was eventually sold to Snapple. Weeeelllll…. Snapple quickly learned that people from everywhere were flocking to this little town in Texas for “Dublin Dr Pepper” because they had never changed their formula to include high fructose corn syrup. Dublin Dr Pepper always stayed true to the awesomeness of pure cane sugar, and their loyal followers showed their devotion with their wallets.

This was my most favorite part of the tour. This is the sophisticated dating apparatus on the machine. See the orange highlighter? Since they only bottle maybe once a year on the vintage machinery these days, our tour guide told us that they use whatever color is handy that year. This is the most modern part of the machine. FABULOUS!

So when big ol’ Snapple came along, they saw that this little independent distributor in Texas was making money hand over fist on Dublin Dr Pepper. People were selling it online (not necessarily the bottler) and it was being sold outside the 44-mile radius stipulated in their contract (again, not necessarily by the bottler). Well, big ol’ Snapple didn’t like this one bit, so, although Dublin had less than 1% of the entire US Dr Pepper sales, it was time for them to stop. In 2011, the Dr Pepper Snapple Group sued Dublin Dr Pepper for trademark dilution and stealing sales from other Dr Pepper distributors by selling outside their territory. In 2012, Dublin Dr Pepper ceased to exist.

This part of the machine is the fancy dishwasher. The bottles are recycled, and since they don’t make this size anymore, they are reused again and again. THIS is real recycling! Loved it.

Thanks, Snapple. Thanks for ruining it for all of us. I hope the $7 million in annual sales you recouped from Dublin helps y’all sleep better at night.

Anyhow, now the old Dublin Dr Pepper Bottling Plant bottles their own sodie-pop in their super-cool vintage machinery in the same plant where the delicious Dublin Dr Pepper used to be bottled. The new stuff is called Dublin Bottling Works, and it’s not bad. The tour is pretty cool and you can see all the vintage machinery and Dr Pepper collectibles in the Plant and in the accompanying museum. Not a bad way to spend a rainy St Patrick’s Day afternoon. It wasn’t the Guinness Brewery at St James Gate in Dublin, Ireland, but it was much cheaper and took a fraction of the time.

The Dublin Bottling Works was the highlight of our trip. NOTHING else in Dublin was open! NOTHING! There were a few shops in town who’s signage said they’d be open until 5:00 or 5:30, but most places were closed. There weren’t really even any restaurants in town, and NO PUBS! What?!?!? I messaged an Irish friend of mine and said that if the Dublin in Ireland found out that there were no pubs in Dublin, Texas, the entire population of Dublin, Ireland might charter an Aer Lingus jumbo jet and fly over here and beat up the town of Dublin, Texas.

(Let me interject about Dublin Bottling Works for a sec here. As we were finishing up—right around closing time, I noticed a family pull up in front of the Plant with out of state plates. They tried the door, but it was already locked. One of the young employees opened the door and told the mom that they had already closed. “Darn!” said the mom, “we just got to town and we are continuing on and we really wanted to take the tour!” Well, THANK YOU SMALL TOWN, TEXAS for showing them what Texas hospitality is all about! I noticed that you let the family in, and I assume you stayed late and gave them a tour anyway. I just wanted to say, even if you don’t ever read this, that your gesture did not go unnoticed, and this Texan would like to thank you for your kindness. It really made me happy to see something like that. You could’ve just ignored them, but you didn’t. KUDOS!)

Anyhow, back to me. A simple Google search would’ve told us that Dublin, Texas celebrated St Patrick’s Day over the weekend preceding the 17th. Oh well. You’d think I’d have learned by now. But it definitely didn’t stop us from our photo ops, because we ALL know that the hilariousness of trips like this lie in Facebook statuses like “Happy St Patrick’s Day—from Dublin, Texas” and then everyone replies “OMG what are you doing in Dublin?” and I respond, “um, St Patrick’s Day! DUH!” However, I was quite sad that I was unable to obtain a Guinness on the Irish High Holy Day. But I did wear green. And blue (St Stephanie—I always wear blue for you!).

I’m tall and I have long arms, but getting 5 people in a selfie AND the sign in the background in the rain is HARD WORK! Caution: you will receive no Guinness as a reward after your efforts at a selfie in Dublin.

Although Dublin claims to be the Irish capital of Texas, the origin of the name isn’t 100% in support of that theory. Could’ve been for the term “double-in” that the settlers used to yell as a warning cry during Indian raids. Or for the double log cabins the settlers built. Or for the capital of Ireland. Regardless, it’s been there since about 1860. It’s mostly and agricultural town, and sadly, most of the businesses and buildings in the downtown area are in need of some TLC. The Ben Hogan Museum was closed the day we were in town, as was the Dublin Historical Museum. And, like I said, most of the other shops were closed for the day too. Would’ve been nice to have seen all the sights since we LOVE to immerse ourselves in the entire culture of a town while we are there.

Perhaps next year, we will check ahead of time and go on the festival weekend. And we won’t assume that stuff will be open in Dublin just BECAUSE it’s St Patrick’s Day!

Busy, busy, busy!

As you can probably tell, the Crazy Train has been stuck at the station for awhile. Not because we WANT to be, but because the activities and homework and schedules and lives of a trio of children have kept us homebound lately!

HOWEVER, this does NOT mean that I am not writing! While the kids are selling Girl Scout Cookies, bike riding, attending birthday parties, riding bikes, making messes, having sleepovers, going on Cub Scout outings, and other various kid things, you can find me at my other blog: itsabeautifultree.com

Once we hit the road again– or I dig up pics from an adventure we took before, I’ll post! But until then, I’ll be in my treehouse.

-J

In Praise of Rail Road Towns

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“TRAIN!”

–Gordy, in Stand By Me, 1996

Many of the Crazy Train’s excursions lead us through tiny dots on the map, born of the railroads during westward expansion. Millions of acres lay in wait, untouched by a new breed of American explorers in search of a place to call their own. During the nineteenth century, a herd of iron horses stampeeded westward, forever changing the Western landscape. Likewise, decades later, when the US Department of Transportation paved a spiderweb of asphalt, most of the old railroad towns were bypassed, condemning them to a future of ambiguity. mccloud rail 1930s It was on one of these road trips that I made a connection I’d never made before. Usually, when we arrive in a town, I google its history, and we learn about any little interesting tidbits the town had—or still has—to offer. I usually read a little about how the town was founded, its subsequent growth, and its ultimate decline. Or, in some cases, what continues to keep it thriving.

mccloud train hauling logs It was in one of these obscure little ghost towns that I made an offhanded remark to the tone of, “gee. All these towns are named after railroad presidents and train muckety-mucks rather than the town founders.” My words were still hanging in the air above my head in a bubble as The Hub turned and looked at me in that, “you didn’t seriously just say that, did you?” expression he gets that is at times humorous, and at other times annoying as hell. “Oops. Yeah, Right. It’s a FANTASTIC idea to name those towns after railroad presidents!” I exclaimed, with a guilty giggle.

nera swobe californiaI laughed because, in a way, the Crazy Train has VERY close link to one such town. And what is this link, you may be wondering? In the northern California county of Siskiyou, there’s a tiny dot on the map called Swobe. Depending on which map you use, Swobe, California may, or may not, actually have roads. But, one thing it does not have is a population. Or buildings. Or a sign. Or a zip code. Or a train depot. Or ANYTHING. Swobe is pretty much just a dot on the map.

swobemap So just where did the name for this tiny dot originate? Just who was this “Swobe” person, and why is there a dot bearing his name? My great-grandfather, Dwight Milton Swobe, was born in 1878 in Nebraska, the son of Civil War veteran Col. Thomas Swobe and his wife, Alzina. Col Swobe worked his way up the ranks in the Union Army, ultimately retiring as Quartermaster. It was upon his retirement that he became a partner in Shears, Markel & Swobe of the Millard Hotel, Omaha’s premier hotel at the time, and one of Nebraska’s political centers. His company also provided dining cars for many railroads. swobe dudes It seems that Dwight Swobe got the railroad bug from his dad, because all accounts I’ve read have him working for railroads as soon as he graduated from college. The railroads brought Dwight incrementally west, became a widely respected short line railroad man, and ultimately became president of the McCloud River Railroad in 1921. He saw the Railroad through the devastation of the 1930s, making use of the line for lumber transport. The company was beloved by its employees and became known by them as Mother McCloud for continuing to offer its employees credit in company stores throughout the Depression, and then forgiving their debt afterwards. Dwight raised a family in Berkeley, and, sadly, passed away at the age of 65 in 1943. Mccloud train After his death, McCloud River Railroad honored him by naming a “town” after him. It’s actually just a mile of tracks between markers 12 and 13 along a picturesque span of the Railroad, but the real honor was in the gesture. swobe original mainline 2 Swobe former site 1 Although we rarely depend on the railroads for transportation these days, The Mc Cloud River Railroad, now the McCloud Railway operates as a passenger excursion train, and an 80 mile portion of the former line is being converted into a multi-use trail for hiking, cycling, horseback riding, and other non-motorized sports. train track For a glimpse of my great-grandfather’s railroad, check out the scenery in the classic movie Stand By Me. The infamous bridge the boys run across to escape the oncoming train is the McCloud River Railroad’s Lake Britton Bridge in Burney Falls Memorial State Park.stand04 ***Special THANKS to the people of the McCloud River Railroad and the McCloud Railroad for posting these pictures that I borrowed from you on your webpage. Learn and see more history at mcclourriverrailroad.com, greatshastarailtrail.org/history/railroad-history-summary/, trainweb.org/mccloudrails, ancestry.com, and to my mom, my aunt, and my awesome 2nd cousin Gordon for your assistance in the ongoing Swobe family research!***