There was love all around us last night as we chugged along on the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad Dinner Train. OK, I didn’t see it at first. As we gathered in the waiting area to board the train, folks fidgeted, sighed and shuffled back and forth awkwardly.
Finally the ticket-taker got on microphone and explained the boarding process.
The fun began.
We learned that our fellow dinner companions had traveled from Florida, California, Oregon and even the Philippines.
Many couples were celebrating a wedding anniversary, or a birthday. One party of 18 was celebrating the 85th birthday of the matriarch of their family.
Ken and I were there to celebrate our 60th birthdays and to relive another train ride. More than 36 years ago we hopped a train after our wedding and rode from Minneapolis to Duluth, MN. It was December 27 and we had no reservations, no idea where we were going, and little to spend once we got there. We had both been working, going through school, planning our wedding and our graduations, and we didn’t have it in us to plan one more thing – even if it was our honeymoon. So we agreed we’d get to the train station and take the first train out of town. As Ken likes to remind me, the first train was going to Fargo, so we passed on that one and hopped the next one to Duluth. It was a happy beginning and one we’ve talked about many times.
Our love affair with trains has run alongside the tracks of our own love story. Winding here and there, but no derailments. We were thrilled when my blog sponsor, Foodbuzz chose my proposal to ride the rails and blog about it for their June 24 x 24 feature.*
We boarded the historic 1950’s “City of San Francisco” car and met our tablemates Kristi and James of Charles City, Iowa. They were celebrating their first wedding anniversary.
Our tables were set with shrimp cocktail, whole grain rolls and Caesar salads and the train gently took off toward the scenic Des Moines River Valley.
We luckily were seated next to the observation deck. Throughout our meal we not only had a terrific view from our tables, but we got up multiple times to stand on the deck and drink in the sights. And there were sights!
The first bridge we came to was a “High Bridge” 156 feet tall over a creek. The pictures don’t begin to capture our precarious perch – or the deer we watched from above.
As we all ate and got comfortable, more shared their stories. At the table next to us sat Tina and Ryan who were celebrating 11 years of love. Tina and Ryan are the owners of G’Angelo’s Restaurant in Ames who were taking a well deserved night off.
Behind our table were Rodger and Rosemary from Dyersville, Iowa. They were also celebrating an anniversary. Rosemary is a cook at the New Melleray Monastery and cooked breakfast for 40 monks before making the 175 mile journey to Boone.
Love was all around us.
We also passed a steam engine that was pulling another excursion train. A sight to see! Smiling passengers waved from one train to another.
Dinner was served by the most delightful woman, Glena. She and several other servers and our chefs, Rob and Jeremy, were part of the Hy-Vee Caterers. They did an exemplary job. The meal was incredible and their smiles made the experience even richer.
We had preordered our meals so they knew exactly what to bring each of us. Ken had the prime rib and I had chicken Marsala. It was tender and moist and flavorful. I snagged a bit of Ken’s prime rib and it, too, was melt-in-the-mouth tender.
Our second bridge took us over the Des Moines River. This bridge was only 30 feet tall, but it gave us an incredible view of the river valley and the activity on the water. I was torn between eating my dinner while it was hot and dashing back out on the observation deck to experience the feeling of gliding over the water. Gliding won out. Out on the deck with other couples hugging and laughing you could feel our cares melt away. People gladly took pictures of each other and shared their stories.
Our only worry was the Chocolate Lab who ran along the tracks ahead of us. The train engineer tooted his horn, slowed to a crawl and waited. The lab wagged his tail and stayed on the tracks. When we finally reached the bridge, the dog dove down a steep hill and disappeared, unharmed.
Dessert was an elegant cheesecake topped with both caramel and chocolate sauce. Glenda was thrilled to show off her plating skills. And I was thrilled that she had “take out” boxes so I can enjoy mine when I’m not so full.
We were surprised when the train came to a stop two hours later. No one was in a hurry to leave the train. The same folks who sat silently waiting to board hours earlier now chattered and called to each other as they left. Cameras were put away and many toted their boxes of cheesecake.
If you’re ever in Central Iowa, The Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad has a museum and in addition to the dinner train, they run excursion rides and a dessert train. For a full schedule, call them: 1-800-626-0319 or check out their website: http://www.scenic-valleyrr.com/
With a full tummy and a grateful heart, I’d like to thank Foodbuzz for making the evening possible and letting us enjoy a sumptuous dinner on the “love train.”
*The 24 x 24 feature is a contest Foodbuzz holds each month.
As they say on their website: “Showcasing posts from 24 Foodbuzz Featured Publisher bloggers, the monthly Foodbuzz 24 highlights unique meals occurring around the globe during a 24-hour period.”