Last year we took Logan to see "the real Thomas" for his birthday. Just weeks before he was offically three, and therefore weeks before he required a full-fare ticket for the combo ride, we brought baby Meg to her grandparents, waved goodbye, blew a few kisses and drove the three hours to Lancaster County, PA.
I had booked our tickets for Thomas and a second ride on the Strasberg Railroad's usual steam engine the day the Day Out with Thomas tickets went on sale. Getting our desired time was no problem. Confirmation number for Thomas in hand, I immediately picked up the phone and made hotel reservations. No problem. Got a room for the three of us on my first try.
We had a blast that weekend. We toured the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum. We shopped in stores where everything was Thomas themed. We saw toy trains. We saw toy trains. We saw real trains. We played games. We road in cars Thomas pulled. We road in cars the "Polar Express" (aka Strasberg's Robert Fulton) pulled. We even went camping one night - Logan's first trip.
The boy now approaches the ripe old age of four. He still plays with his trains. He still covets his Thomas clothing. He still asks for Thomas items of all shapes and sizes, yet Thomas is no longer an obession. He's branched out into more things over the last year. We weren't planning on a return trip, thinking he had been there, done that, not as absorbed any longer. Why spend the cash?
Megan, however, is spending more and more time with her brother's train table. In fact, as I type this, she naps in her crib clutching a tender from Gordon and Edward in either hand. She has toys she favors over the trains, and yet those trains rank up high on her list. Yet we still hadn't thought of taking them back for the event.
And then Logan focused on the picture. We have a photo of the three of us - Mom, Dad, and Logan - sitting and smiling on a bench placed just at the front of Thomas' broad grin.
"Can we go see Thomas this year?" he asked. I told him I wasn't sure.
"But Megan didn't go last time. I know she'd really like to see Thomas. Please. Please! PLEASE!" he begged for the right of his sister's joy. Or something like that.
On a whim, days after this chat, I checked the website from where we'd have to order the tickets. They were for sale. I called Bruce. I told him what Logan had asked. He said "Sure" before I even finished. We've not taken a 'real' vacation in years. We take day trips with the kids. We live at the beach. When Bruce takes off in the summer we tend to spend a lot of time on the other side of the bridge enjoying what's local. We're planning a 'real' vacation for next February. Yet nothing was slated before that.
And so we now have this. Another three day weekend in Lancaster dedicated to kids and Thomas. Logan is right, Megan will enjoy it. He will too. And so will we. I've been excited about it since I ordered the tickets.
The moment I hung up the phone securing our spot, I pulled up the hotel's web site. It was telling me there were no rooms available that day. I actually wrote it off to the site being in a funk - it'd happened before. I kept forgetting to call though. I was in the office that morning and caught up in the things you get caught up in at work.
Today, when we got home from church, my guys climbed into the car and went south for another Daddy-Son lighthouse trip. Megan went in for a nap. I did what I should have done a week or so ago. I called for the hotel.
I called another hotel - one clearly not my first choice, but a chain which offered some bit of comfort. It was also very close to the railroad.
I started cringing in fear. Thoughts of having to stay farther from the event that we'd rather do started creeping in my brain. I stared at hotel names and addresses trying to place their locations and exteriors. I'm very familiar with the area having gone at least once year for the last 8 years. Nothing was clicking.
I tried another place. Same result.
I clicked yet another place. A small inn. I crossed my fingers and took a deep breath. Inn. Big house with guest rooms. On the verge of being a large Bed-and-Breakfast without the formal breakfast. B&Bs I love, but they don't often welcome children. I dialed.
Two rooms left with two beds. I took the one with the Queen beds and the farm view. (Of course this also means "open your window to smell cow manure" but frankly, that's fairly hard to avoid in this area.)
Now I'm nervous. I know nothing of the Inn. It's just past the turnoff I typically take. I'm hoping it works out. I'm hoping it's ok. I'm sending my parents over to tour it when they're out there in three weeks.
I'm kicking myself for not calling the day I booked the tickets. Mostly though, I'm excited. I've taken some pretty incredible vacations in my life. Yet I'm coming to realize these simple trips - or even the more complicated ones in the future - that thrill my kids are the best kind of trip there is.