My friend Nikole & I got up at zero-dark-thirty yesterday morning to drive from the valley to downtown Anchorage to ride the ski train to Curry. The train didn't stop in Wasilla this year like it usually does, so we schlepped 'to town' and we were some of the first people to climb aboard. It was my first time riding the train. It's something I've wanted to do for years but I've never managed to get tickets before they sell out, and so when Nikole got her hands on two tickets this year I jumped at the chance.
The calm before the storm:
The cars would soon be full of skiers ready for a raucous day of drinking and skiing.
I ended up on the most unruly train car, quite by accident, surrounded by happy, singing, dancing drunks. They were the nicest horde of drunks I've ever encountered. I sat in a booth, tucked away in my quiet corner, watching the world go by from my window, sipping mimosas, and snacking on delicious pistachio bread that magickally appeared before us. Not too shabby.
We snickered over the fact that the train layout map labeled our car as 'Wine & Cheese.' Because really now, 'Fireball & Vodka' would have been more like it. I kept thinking someone was using a drill to fix something, but no, it was a constantly-whirring blender making endless pitchers of margaritas. And I've always wondered who on earth buys the gigantic bottle of vodka from Costco. The ski train has answered that question for me: a happy drunk girl who traipses through train cars filling any empty glass she sees.
I loved the train ride. It follows a route I've driven by car on the Glenn highway countless times. The train tracks follow the highway part of the time but then veer off into the the trees, giving me a slightly different and sometimes altogether hidden-away view of my usual ride.
The sun rose, little houses were half-hidden in the trees, wood smoke pouring from chimneys. Some might think a train rumbling by their house as a hellish nuisance but I love the idea. In the summertime I can hear the train whistle as it runs through Wasilla and it makes me happy every time I hear it.
Moose ran angrily away from the train, disturbed from their browsing on twigs (notice the one on the right of the photo above?). Dogs pull against their chains and barked at the train as we rolled past. You could tell they'd been waiting for it to come by.
The ski patrol volunteers were the first ones off the train, ready to rescue drunk skiers.
There was a polka band.
The story goes that the band used to play in a cargo car with just a rope strung across the open doors and no one ever fell out.
There was a unicorn.
Lots of people wear costumes on the train and I kept thinking, wow, that guy's train conductor costume is awesome. But then I would realize, no wait. That IS the conductor. Their hats were so jaunty.
In the photo above, the conductor looks like he was striking a pose for me but in actuality I think he was getting ready to yell at me to get off the tracks. Whenever anyone stepped on the tracks they'd get yelled it -- reminded me of the jail warden yelling "No touching!" on Arrested Development.
Skiiers spilled out of the train when we got to Curry and we walked up and down the row of ski bags, looking for ours.
Some stayed on the train. Four girls who spent the train ride to Curry drinking and dancing on tables promptly passed out when we got to Curry and they slept like a pile of puppies. Amateurs.
The Susitna River and train tracks:
Following the leader:
Mid-ski, Nikole flopped onto the snow and produced a knife and a trio of salami. Just one of the many reasons we are friends.
We packed light and brought a bunch of finger foods, but I was amazed by all the things other people brought. Blenders. Crockpots full of chili. 18-packs of homemade cupcakes. But these people: these people were not fucking around:
They brought a grill, firewood, and many meats that smelled delicious as they grilled.
Here's a game of kickball:
Everyone eventually trickled back to the train, reluctant to leave.
Revelers on the train on the way home got even drunker:
It was a beautiful day! We lucked out on the weather. This morning is gloomy and gray, but a nice day to stay inside and look through photos.