Fish the Dime?

Time is short, and so is this article


If life has taught me anything at all, it’s that time is fluid.  Stretchy.  Compressible.  Short moments that last forever, and years that pass in a blink.  As The Doctor (in Doctor Who, the weird British sci-fi series that itself has become somewhat eternal) would say, it’s a wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey thing.  But mostly, for those of us who lack a time machine, time basically accelerates… with time… and before you know it, your whole life is behind you.

Now, technically, everyone’s whole life is always behind them.  Since, you see, the future has not happened yet, therefore it does not exist, therefore all the life that anyone has is that which they’ve already had, therefore their whole life is behind them, always.  But– that’s an argument against myself, and as a rule I don’t allow that, so we’ll dispense with the technicalities and move on!

Where was I?  Oh, yes.  So, there’s this thing, this trap, that many of us fall into.  This trap where we say, “When I get all this other stuff sorted, I’ll take the trip.  I’ll remodel the spare room.  I’ll learn the piano.  I’ll write that book.  I’ll bungee-jump the Royal Gorge.  After I get all this other stuff sorted.”  (I’m using “sorted” in the British sense, which means that I’ve been watching too much of The Crown and Doctor Who and The Chronicles of Narnia again.  Maybe it’s British entertainment that’s my personal trap?)  In other words, we allow the mundane to control our existence, and we allow that which is special to slip away.

I’ll use my wife’s aunt and uncle as an example.  During their entire marriage, he worked long hours and put everything into his job, not spending much time with his wife (except just enough moments to generate a bunch of kids).  Saving all the fun for when he retired.  Sacrificing the present for the future, which I suspect included their relationship, which I also suspect may be why she smoked and drank.  So, one day, the future finally arrived, it was time for him to retire, and he did so– just in time for her to be found with cancer.  In a matter of a few short months, she was gone.  So remind me: why was it that he worked so hard all those years and spent all that time away from her?

Well, maybe Uncle Jack preferred to spend time at work than with Aunt Kitty.  If so, then good for him, although I bet Aunt Kitty didn’t prefer that.  Not unless she liked to drink alone or something.  Even if he was living his preferred life, she wasn’t, and suddenly it was gone.  So maybe the lesson to learn here is, take charge of your own dang life.

I think that Jack and Kitty’s story provide a multifaceted object lesson, but the overall summation might be, don’t let time slip away.

Well, that’s all very cheery stuff, Jim (you say).  I come here to read about hobbies and modeling, and you’re laying this heavy philosophical crap on us?

Stay with me.  This has application of a positive nature, and I’ll give you an example from my own hobby set, railroading.  You see, I dearly love to ride trains, especially in scenic places like the mountains of Colorado.  The top of that heap is the line west of Denver on the Moffat Line (now owned by Union Pacific and served by Amtrak).  Starting in 1993 I started dragging the family up from New Mexico to ride the erstwhile Ski Train up the mountain and back, at least once a year.  Eventually I started getting the dreaded “not again!” response from people, and I reluctantly gave up on the idea.  Then in 2009 the Ski Train was abruptly cancelled and I lost that opportunity, forever.  So, let’s list the regrets from this.  Do I regret the 10 or 12 trips we made to ride the train?  No.  Do I regret giving up the trips while they were still possible?  Yes.

But now, I can remedy the situation!  Thanks to Amtrak– and I can’t believe I’m thanking Amtrak for anything– there’s a new service over the same route, called the Winter Park Express.  This (2018) is the second full year of service, and I took the initiative to book a trip.  And yes, we’re making a family event of it.  After a hiatus of 14 years, we will be riding through the Tunnel District once again.  Hopefully not for the last time, either.

I’m making an effort to apply this principle to other areas in my life.  I realize that I have wasted literally decades in needless frustration staying with depressing organizations, simply because I felt too guilty or duty-bound or just plain loyal to find a better situation.  No more.  Next time, and the next, I will simply, and without bitterness, move on.  I refuse to get sucked into the drama of other people’s bad choices.  I choose to decide where the boundaries are, and to respect them.  Love is one thing; needless self-imposed misery is another!  Getting a little far afield from riding trains here, but it’s connected in the sense that I just don’t want to waste any more of my time on pointless futility.  The larger share of my life is behind me now (even if you ignore the second paragraph in this essay).  My time is precious.

But, in the main, Time is an unsympathetic teacher, a terrible taskmaster, and a cunning trickster.  As we age it quietly speeds up on us.  If you’re not careful, you can fritter it all away.  You have to remember to actively look for chances, else they will simply… pass you by.

Some smart Roman dude once said, Carpe Diem.  Seize the day.  Avail yourself of opportunities.  Don’t let the moment pass by.  Take the trip.  Remodel the spare room.  Learn to play the piano.  Write that book.  Bungee-jump the Royal Gorge.  You can sort the laundry when you get home.  There’s all the time in the world to take care of the mundane stuff.


Winter Park Resort Shuttle Buses

The whole Middle Park region is served by these gray-and-blue buses

So, you may have gathered by now that I’m a committed model railroader.  I have a layout that takes my half of the garage (my wife parks her car in her half, something I actually understand on cold mornings when I must scrape frost off my windshield).  The setting is the rail line between Denver and Winter Park.  Turns out there’s a ski resort at Winter Park.  I know, I was surprised too.  And this ski resort is the hub of a vast, if scattered, array of condos catering to skiers.  And these skiers like to ski, which is done up at the resort.  Which means they have to get there. Which brings us to the subject of this post: the fleet of shuttle buses known as The Lift.  See what they did there?  It’s a play on the concept of ski lifts, which is something skiers need to get to the top of the mountain.  Very clever.  Especially since the skiers need the buses to get to the bottom of the mountain.

We first discovered these buses in 1993, the occasion of our very first trip on the erstwhile Ski Train.  Unlike the regular Amtrak trains, the Ski Train disembarked passengers right at the base of the ski mountain.  So who needs the bus, if you’re already at the resort?  We did.  Because, we’re not downhill skiers; we were headed down valley to the (also erstwhile) Idlewild cross-country facility.  Enter the shuttle buses, literally.  The whole Middle Park region is served by these gray-and-blue buses, which are free for the using.  The system has been funded by a consortium of businesses, headed by the resort itself.  From what I can gather, it’s been in place for about 30 years, though the system contracted somewhat in recent years, trimming the routes down to Granby and possibly others.  When we first became acquainted with it, the buses were uniformly of the school-bus variety, sans yellow paint.  As time progressed they added a few different, and more comfortable types, but the International buses have remained.  The one at the top of this post was pictured in December 2004.  More recent photos show that they’ve dispensed with the signage on the sides, but the overall scheme remains essentially the same.

So, back to the model railroad. A prominent feature of my layout is the Winter Park area, including part of the town formerly known as Hideaway Park (now simply Winter Park). Since the buses are such a prominent feature of the area, I thought that I should like to model some to decorate the layout.  Accordingly, since the mid-1990s I have slowly accumulated HO-scale school buses, with the intent of repainting them.  A year or so, I finally got around to it.

Two models of buses, prior to application of signage so you can see the signboards. Note the ski racks below the signs.

There are a few considerations that must be dealt with before one busts out the airbrush. These include:

  • Source photos. These are remarkably hard to come by, unless you make a trip there and photograph some.  And then, all you’ll get is contemporary views. As it turns out, the best photo I could find is a slide that I took myself (at top, again).  Google images will get you three or four more, and that’s about it.
  • Graphics.  The buses had a sign on each side and a modified version on the front above the windshield, a red stripe, and all the usual safety markings.  You’re not going to find any of this stuff from the usual decal vendors (except the red stripes).
  • Sign Boards to support the signs.  Notice those ribs on the sides of the buses?  Yeah, they cut a piece of sheet metal and bolted it on, so that the signs would be flat.  You need to do that for these buses.
  • Ski racks. On the door side there are racks for stowing skis so people don’t have to wrestle them down the aisle.

Fortunately, a few years ago I discovered the Testors decal system, and am fairly good with Photoshop Elements.  Basically, in the proud tradition of Colorado, I rolled my own.  I created all the “The Lift” graphics, stripes, Emergency Exit and Emergency Door signs, no-right-turn sign, and license plates.  I printed all this on white-back decal paper.  Next time I am doing a sheet of clear decals for something, I’ll do the bus numbers too (4 per bus).

Once I’d cobbled together some ski racks and signboards for my buses, I disassembled the bodies and primed and painted them.  The bodies are medium gray and the roofs are dark blue– my shade of blue is very dark, but I don’t really care that much.  I also masked the grilles and the lights.  Once the paint was dry, I peeled the masking and applied the decals, and voila!  Resort Shuttle buses.

Buses at the Hideaway Park condos
A pair of buses, going in opposite directions, are seen in upper Hideaway Park. The Bluebird bus on the right is pulling out of the parking lot after making a drop-off. Over to the left some residents are viewing a large outdoor nativity.

Of course it’s a little more involved than that, especially since the decals aren’t separated like typical commercial ones and you have to trim them right down to the art, no border allowed.  But I mass-produced three of them so it wasn’t horribly difficult.

The Lift drops off some passengers
Side view of one of the buses, a Bluebird. In the left background, an International passes by.

Incidentally, the numbers on my license plates are accurate for specific buses.  Yeah, I’m that OCD.

Now I have three buses in the motor pool, just about right for the amount of scenery I have to cover, and I’m tickled at how they turned out.

Three Buses
Here’s the three buses I painted and decaled for service around Winter Park.

Incidentally, if you are interested in painting some of these for your own needs and need the decals, drop me a note in the comments and I can help you with that.