So, when some sweet friends of ours offered us their tickets for the Arkansas and Missouri train ride from Springdale to Van Buren and back, I decided that Cora and I could use a day out with our boys. The day started early - we had to be at the depot at 7:30, which meant getting up at 6:00 to have enough time to get ready, feed Cora, and load everyone up. (My day actually started at 4:15 when Cora woke up to eat and then couldn't get back to sleep until 5:00 ... by that point I didn't do much sleeping since I knew I had to get up in an hour).
I had no idea what to expect out of the trip. I assumed that there would be very few passengers, and that they would be mostly elderly folks. I was surprised to be wrong on both assumptions. Our car was pretty full, and though the majority of the passengers were older, there were quite a few other families with younger kids and a few younger couples (including some friends we hadn't seen in a long time). Cora fell back to sleep in the car on the way to the depot and gratefully was able to stay asleep as we waited to board.
The seats on the train had moveable backs, so you could make them face one another, which was great because Liam was able to move back and forth between Josh and I. He loved looking out the window (and holding his ticket) and telling us all about what we were passing. He just loved being on "Wemiwy" (Emily - the train from Thomas the train that he decided we were riding).
Cora stayed asleep (praise the Lord!) until it was time for her to eat again, and then was very content to just sit on our laps and look around.
After a while, we traded kids so that Liam could sit on my lap for a bit, and Cora actually fell asleep sitting on Josh's lap. This may seem like a normal thing for a baby to do, but it was sort of a miracle for her. She NEVER just falls asleep - it almost always is a very involved, squirmy process - so it was a precious treat. I think the jostling and bumping of the train was really soothing to her.
When we arrived in Van Buren and the hostess said, "be back at the depot in 3 hours", Josh and I looked at one another with dread on our faces. We knew we'd have enough time to eat lunch before getting back on the train, but we had no idea we'd have 3 whole hours to kill with two little kiddos. So, if you take this trip with small children, here are my suggestions:
- Walk (slowly) down main street to the courthouse with the fountain outside. Fountains are always entertaining for toddlers, and shade is good for babies.
- Visit the combination coffee shop/bookstore (I don't remember what it was called). The had a great little sitting area where I was able to feed Cora (which was much better sitting on a park bench on main street while nursing) and they had a fun kid area with toys where Josh and Liam played until I was done.
- Eat at Boomarang Burgers. They had yummy burgers and really great fries, and their kids meal came in this neat little cardboard car that Liam has loved playing with.
- Get ice cream at one of the little shops on Main Street.
The end of the day brought some rough moments. I had timed Cora's feeding so she would be ready to eat as soon as we got back on the train, but then the train was a good half an hour late in coming back, so she was pretty cranky and there was no good place to feed her at the crowded little depot. Also, on the way back our car was at the front, right behind the engine, so it was super loud every time the whistle blew, which was really often. Liam was able to fall asleep right away, as long as Josh kept his hand over his ear. Cora, however, couldn't get relaxed with all the whistling, so she had a tough ride home. All in all, it was a great outing and we were so glad we had the chance to go. I don't know if I'd pay full price to take the trip with little ones, but if you ever come across a good deal on them, it's a great little family adventure!