First the Bad News.
Wales West is an unlikely name for a campground, especially in a rural area just north of Gulf Shores, Alabama. The name made some sort of sense later.
Elaine pointed out that troubles come in threes, and this time it was a neighbour who pointed out that we had a problem. The trailer had one soft tire, and another with a tread separation down to the metal.
More digging around and we finally found a tire place about 15 miles down the road that had the right tires. We refused to let this spoil our enjoyment of the stay, and when we left this park we trundled down the back roads … at 25 mph with the 4-way flashers going and an impressive following of angry locals. In the end we settled for a deal for four new tires for $500, and sadly contemplated our bank balance yet again.
This is especially bad news, since I have so far failed to mention that this is the final time that Elaine and I are “on the road”. We are getting a bit old to keep trundling over five tons of machinery over thousands of miles. So, in the Spring, we plan to sell the truck and trailer, and join the more conventional “resort, cruise and hotel crowd”. To put this in perspective, we are unlikely to see any extra dollars from new toilets, two new truck spark-plugs (six yet to blow out!), and new trailer tires. Elaine says that the nice tires might “help the sale.” She always was an optimist.
The Good News.
Ken, the owner of this piece of rural land a long way from anywhere called Wales West is a railway enthusiast. Some years ago, he applied to the bank for a loan to build a narrow gauge railway as a tourist attraction. The bank manager had a good laugh, and said that if he were building an RV park or something, he might consider a loan, but a “garden railway” did not qualify. Nothing daunted, Ken got the loan for a campground, and built an excellent facility. He also built his railway around the extensive property. This is a 2-foot gauge operation, similar to one in Wales, as well as a smaller gauge one that is diesel powered.
Being an ambitious chap he imported a real coal-fired steam locomotive which is a replica of the “Hunslet” model, used on mining operations in Wales and Cornwall. Many of these were built in Leeds, not far from my dad’s and Elaine’s dad’s businesses there.
While the main objective was to allow Ken to drive trains around, he was clever enough to set the whole place out as a recreation facility for children of all ages and charge them for the fun. We were there for Halloween, and there was a spectacular show. Highlight was the mile-long journey through the woods on the train, stopping at a haunted house where the kids could decorate pumpkins and get thoroughly scared. Even Elaine squeaked when the gorilla crept up behind her on the train.
These characters were played with enthusiasm by extrovert staff members, and I am always impressed when entertainment like this is produced and executed to well. I am only sorry that I cannot include the inimitable smell of coal and hot steam that older folk may remember. Apart from the scents, the steam whistles invoke much more nostalgia than those diesels.
If you want to see more of the Wales West railway, link to:
A fun couple of days, and definitely different from the average run of RV parks. We hope to be finished with the bad news for a while, and since Florida sun, beaches and oysters do not make for interesting reading, it may be a while before we add to the blog. Maybe the train back to Chicago and/or the snowstorm of the century will add some excitement and motivate Chapter 4 of “Bad News, Good News”
John, with Elaine approving without any edits!!