Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


The Silver Line

If you talk to anyone who’s been to Durango, they’ll almost always ask if you took the train to Silverton. We took the train, but they made us give it back. *That’s a joke.*

And I’m so glad we did. 😀

little-engine-that-couldThe day before our train ride, we went through the museum. (G-Man and I are big museum visitors. Just ask our kids!)

005This is where the engineer hangs out during a train trip.

006The guy who shovels the coal puts it in here. I forget how much coal they use on one run to Silverton and back (I think it’s six tons) but one man with a shovel puts it all in that spot right there.

He uses most of it going to Silverton, because it’s all up hill. Very UP

007That’s Gary standing in for the engineer. Does a great job, doesn’t he?

008There are a lot of cars on the train, and the one you’re in decides how much you pay. Some are open cars that can’t be closed. (Brrr!)

Some are close to the refreshment car.

We went in a car that had windows that could be opened or closed and wasn’t too far from the food/drink/party car. (We didn’t do the party thing, but some people do.)

027We left early in the morning. This is a shot as we went through town. The entire way to Silverton, the train followed the Animas River.

I don’t know if you heard about it or not, but there was a spill into that river a few weeks before we headed to Colorado.

When we got there, the main part of the river had cleared up, but all along the edges on the rocks and shore was a yellow stripe. Kind of like a bathtub ring.

051You can kind of see the stripe in this one. They told us it would clear up the next time they have a heavy rain or snowfall.

065One of the cool things about this train is that it was used in lots of movies. “How the West was Won,” “310 to Yuma,” and “Around the World in Eighty Days” are a few I remember.

Does the little house above look familiar? It’s where Etta Place lived in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.”

I had hopes, but Robert Redford wasn’t hanging around. 😦

067This is that same area.

062We stopped several times on the way up to pick up campers and hikers and zip liners. I think this was a private home out in that area. Even though it’s a National Forest, private individuals owns pieces of it.

054I might have hinted that I have a problem with heights. This was a shot of one of those high places before we got there.

049Ahem. Not the highest place, but getting close.

037 This is our engine pulling us around a curve.

042Farther around.

061Along the way we saw several waterfalls.

063A bridged not used anymore.

The railway was built–blasted out of the rock of the mountain–to carry silver and gold to the smelter in Durango. Those mines are closed now and very few people live in Silverton all winter long.

But in the summer, it’s a good sized town. They have lots of restaurants and places to shop–because of the train.

We had narrators going and coming. The first was in the character of the man who built the railroad. The second was one of the first lawmen of Durango.

Very interesting and educational.

I’m not sure if little kids would enjoy the time on the train, but I did!

Have you taken the Durango/Silverton train? Which part did you like best?


♪♫ The Eyes of Texas . . . ♪♫ or Yellowstone Pt 1

We’re coming up on the anniversary. Again. For family and friends of the Spess Gang, May 20, 1991, is a day that will live in infamy. Read about it here. 

But since Mom wasn’t a person who would not have liked us to mourn forever or go into retrograde for a week around that date, instead of going into all that, I’ll tell you about one of my shiny memories.

The family decided to go to Yellowstone on vacation. When I say the family, I mean The Family. The whole clan. Mom, Dad, all the sibs, married sibs, sibs-in-law, grandkids and (maybe) Grandmother. Aunt Phyllis and her husband, Melvin, went, too.

We packed into three pickup/campers and a car–complete with CB radios. 🙂 Everyone had “handles.” Mom decided to bleach her hair just before we went (not her best decision) so she was The Blonde Bombshell. G-Man is a pharmacist, so they called him The Pusher (short for Pill Pusher).

The first day we headed to Cousin Liz’s in Perryton, Texas. When we crossed the line from OkieLand in to Texas, I asked The Blonde Bombshell on the CB what Texas’s state song was, since she graduated from high school down there in Baja, Oklahoma. Without hesitating, she answered on the CB for all the world to hear,

♪♫ The eyes of Texas are upon you, all the live-long day! ♪♫

♪♫ The eyes of Texas are upon you, you cannot get away. ♪♫

Truckers cheered for her when she finished. 😉


I’m not sure why we went to Liz’s. When I map the way from C-Town to Wyoming, Perryton isn’t on a straight shot, but everybody LOVES being with Liz and her fam, so maybe that’s why.

By the time we got to Perryton, in the Texas panhandle, I was throwing up my socks. (And anything else remotely close to my tummy.) I was sick! Sick! Sick! for about twelve hours, then I got better.

G-Man came down with the illness next, and one by one, most of us caught it.

We left Liz’s the next day and drove into Colorado, and the scenery was gorgeous! I’m not sure where we spent that next night, but it seems as if we crossed a mountain and pulled into a camping area in a small valley.

Talk about beautiful! (If I could find the place on a map, I’d go back today!) There were mountains all around us. The clouds looked as if they tripped over those mountains, then sat there in the trees and laughed at us.

There was a large pond fed by a stream for us to fish in. A beaver the size of a Chocolate Lab (I promise, he was that big!) lived in the pond. So much fun to watch!

Brother Jeffrey was sick while we were there, and I’m sure he appreciated me having shared the illness. But he didn’t feel good enough to mention it. In fact, he was so sick, his moans echoed off the mountains and scared away the wild animals.

We usually cooked over a campfire on that trip. Aunt Phyllis was a marvel! She could fill a huge skillet with eggs, fried them just right (sunny side up and runny) then slipped the entire thing onto a plate without breaking a single yoke! That woman had talent!!! (You should have tasted her fried chicken! Y-U-M!!!)

We traveled on to Gunnison after that. Melvin had worked in that area on Taylor Lake back when he was a young man. It had been a job like the CCC, during the Great Depression, I believe, and he wanted to see it again.

Ever been to Gunnison or Taylor Lake? Oh, my stars! It’s one of the prettiest places on earth.

Here are a few pictures I found online. (Sorry. I wish they were mine.)

This picture is by Michael E. Gordon–


And this one is from Allison Bruning’s blog. 

allisonbruningIsn’t the lake surrounded by mountains just gorgeous? In case you go to Allison’s blog to read more about Taylor’s Crossing, what you’re reading is mostly fiction. We spent some time in the Taylor Lake area, and there’s nothing remotely scary. All my memories of the place are bright and happy! But if you like paranormal fiction, she has a good blog!

This post is getting a little long, so on TBT I’ll tell you more about our Big Yellowstone Trip.

Have you ever gone on a huge vaca with the whole family?

How did yours turn out?