“Is everyone in?” Mr. Reid called, slipping into the driver’s seat of the fully-loaded minivan.
Sleepy assents came from the back seats, and Mrs. Reid asked, “Did you lock the house?”
“I did.” After saying a prayer for safety on the road, Mr. Reid started the van, and they were off. The Reid family was on vacation!
The early morning hours passed quietly as the passengers caught up on sleep they had missed the night before from late-night packing and that morning from getting up early. When Grace woke up, she looked out the window. The sun was up, and the scenery was new. She was careful not to move too much. Faith lay on her shoulder.
Grace smiled to herself. “Samuel and Hope get the two middle seats because they are the oldest, but at least I’m not the youngest one who has to sit in the middle.”
Others were also waking up. Samuel stretched and turned his neck from side to side. Hope was looking at her watch. Up front, Mrs. Reid rummaged through the snack bag and passed out cereal bars for breakfast.
The day of driving passed pleasantly. Mrs. Reid had bought a new Lamplighter Theatre audio-drama on purpose for the trip. The children played many rounds of the alphabet game, and they eagerly searched for as many different license plates as they could find.
“There’s Mississippi,” Joseph called out. “Do we have that one, Hope?”
After running her finger down the list, she said, “No, we don’t. That makes the twenty-second state.”
A large sign alongside the road temporarily distracted them from their search for license plates. “Entering mountain time,” Samuel read aloud.
“Do we lose an hour or gain an hour?” Grace wondered. “I never can remember which way it goes.”
“We gain an hour,” answered Mr. Reid. He was changing the clock on the van stereo. “It’s an hour earlier now.”
“I’ll change my watch later,” Hope said. “All I have to do is subtract an hour from what it says.”
“Sounds confusing.” Faith had already changed her watch to the new time.
It was late that evening when the Reid family reached the hotel. After settling into their two rooms, they prepared for the next day’s outing.
“Aren’t you excited, Hope?” Grace asked, as she hung up her outfit for the next day. “Maybe we’ll see some bighorn sheep.
“Yes, I’m excited.” But Hope spoke with reluctance.
“You know I’m afraid of heights, and, well, going all the way up Pike’s Peak…” Hope’s voice trailed off.
“It will be alright. We’ll be all together on the train, and we’ll be fine.”
“And God will be with us,” added Hope. “I’m nervous now, but once we’ve started tomorrow, I imagine I’ll be excited.” Slipping off her watch and laying it with her hair-clips, she headed for the bathroom to get dressed for bed.
Faith noticed the watch and picked it up. “I’ll set it for her,” she told Joseph.
The next morning was a flurry of activity. The girls made sandwiches while the boys straightened the vehicle and filled water bottles. At last they were off to Manitou Springs, Colorado and the cog railway up Pike’s Peak. Reaching the station, they sat in the waiting area, waiting for time to board the train.
“Are you doing okay?” Mrs. Reid asked Hope in a low voice. “It’s not too late to back out and you and I stay here.”
Hope shook her head. “I want to do it. I think if I stayed, I would regret it later on.” She looked at her watch to check the time. “Oh, I still need to set it.”
Boarding time came, and the Reid family boarded the red train car. “Pike’s Peak or bust,” Joseph called softly.
“I hope we don’t bust,” Hope murmured.
“Who wants a window seat?” Mr. Reid asked, pausing in front of two benches facing each other.
“Oh, can I? I’d like one!” clamored both Joseph and Faith.
“I’ll tell you what.” He grinned at his two youngest children. “You two can have window seats on the way up, and Sam and Grace can on the way down.”
This decision pleased everyone, and they settled into their seats.
“Be sure to drink plenty of water,” Mrs. Reid advised, handing out water bottles. “You don’t want to get altitude sickness.”
The train pulled out of the station, beginning the trek up the mountain. At first the slope was gradual, and they wound through forests. But as they wound higher and higher, the steepness became more apparent. From time to time, the conductor would tell about the sights they passed, explaining their significance.
The trees grew think on either side of the track, and Hope found herself relaxing and enjoying the trip. Grace leaned over Joseph’s shoulder and took pictures out the window. “It’s so pretty,” she breathed.
“This is God’s handiwork that He designed,” said Mr. Reid. “And as beautiful as His creation is, He is even more wonderful.”
Grace thought about this comment. The One who had made all this beauty around her had actually loved her enough to die for her. Her heart was full at the thought.
“What’s that?” Samuel’s voice interrupted her thoughts. He was pointing at a small golden colored animal, sitting atop a rock. That was all she could notice before the creature was out of sight.
“I think it was a marmot,” answered Mrs. Reid. “That was one of the animals you might see on the ride.”
They passed more of the little animals and confirmed that they were in fact marmots. Some were sunning themselves on the rocks while others nibbled on grasses and flowers or scampered about.
“I want to see a bighorn sheep.” Faith had her face pressed against the glass, staring intently at the scenery.
“They will probably be closer to the timberline,” Hope told her.
“Well, the trees do seem to be getting fewer,” observed Samuel. “I think we’re nearing the timberline. Now we’ll get to see the view!”
Samuel was right. A few minutes more of travel brought them above the trees. Now the mountain was just covered in bare rock and a few plants. And the view? Joseph described it as being “able to see everything.”
Hope looked out over the valley far, far below. It wasn’t as scary as she had imagined, but she still gripped the back of the seat.
At last the train pulled into the station at the peak. The Reids all stood and stretched, glad for the opportunity to walk around after the long ride.
“Take it slow,” Mrs. Reid cautioned. “We drove up when I was a girl, and I remember how hard it was to breathe up here.”
Leaving the train, Grace realized how right her mother had been. She had to breathe deeply to get enough air, and she couldn’t walk as quickly as she normally did.
“Okay, the train leaves at 1:30,” Mr. Reid informed them. “What do you want to do until then?”
“I’d like to go into the gift shop,” Hope said.
“I want to take some pictures and look around outside.” Samuel already had his camera in his hand, the strap around his wrist.
After taking a family picture with the Pike’s Peak sign, the Reid family separated into two groups: Mrs. Reid, Hope, and Faith going into the souvenir shop and Mr. Reid, Samuel, Grace, and Joseph walking closer to the edge to take pictures and enjoy the view.
“I won’t look down. I’ll just look out,” Grace told herself. To Joseph, she said, “We’re up so high. It makes me feel funny.”
“Me too,” he agreed, sitting down on a rock.
Far below them was the valley, and looking out, they could see for miles in the clear, mountain air. The mountains stretched on and on before giving way to the flat expanses of prairie found in eastern Colorado.
“I don’t know if it’s true or not,” Mr. Reid began, “but I’ve heard that on a clear day you can see all the way to Kansas from up here.”
“Dad, I don’t feel good,” Joseph said. His face was pale, and his breathing was labored.
“Altitude sickness. Here, drink some water.” Mr. Reid took a bottle from his backpack and handed it to Joseph.
After guzzling most of the bottle, Joseph stood up. “I’d like to go back to the train.”
“Alright, Son. We’ll take it slow heading back.”
After watching then get on the train, to make sure Joseph was alright, Samuel and Grace went into the visitor’s center to find the others.
They were in a long line at the checkout. Samuel quickly told Mrs. Reid about Joseph getting sick from the altitude. Upon hearing this, she left the three oldest in line and taking Faith with her, headed back to the train.
Before leaving, she checked her watch. “Keep an eye on the time. The train leaves soon.”
“Alright,” Hope called back, a questioning look on her face.
“What are we buying?” Grace wondered, eyeing the shopping basket on Hope’s arm.
“A few souvenirs. Faith found a keychain for her collection. Mom chose this coffee mug for Dad, and I’m getting these postcards for my scrapbook.”
“While you wait, I think I’ll go quickly look at the souvenirs,” said Samuel. “I want to see if they have any nice hats.”
“I’ll come too,” Grace decided. “We’ll hurry, Hope.”
“Ok, but I think Mom misread her watch. The train doesn’t leave for a little while, so take whatever time you need.”
Samuel and Grace browsed the shelves and racks of the gift shop. Grace almost got three different key-chains, an ink-pen, and a coffee mug, but each time she decided she really didn’t need it.
“Which hat should I get? I can’t decide.” Samuel held up two ball-caps, one blue and one green, each with a silhouette of Pike’s Peak on it.
“I think I like the green one, but why don’t you ask Hope?”
The two returned to the checkout line that had gotten much shorter. While waiting on the two shoppers, Hope had allowed others to go ahead of her.
“Hope, which hat do you like best?”
“The green one,” Hope promptly answered.
Samuel grinned. “The green one it is, then.” He dropped the green hat into the basket and took the blue one back to the rack. The girls’ turn in line coming, they walked to the counter to make their purchases.
After completing the transaction, the threesome left the gift shop to rejoin their parents and younger siblings on the train.
“Um,” Samuel began, looking towards the track. “Where’s the train?”
Grace looked up. That was a good question. Where was the train? There were the track and the Pike’s Peak elevation sign and everything else that had been there earlier, but there was no red train.
“It…left, I guess,” Hope managed, disbelief in her voice.
What happens next? How will the three Reids get down? Find out in Pike’s Peak or Bust Part 2!