Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bob Dunning: A magical night aboard Polar Express


From page A2 | December 05, 2012 | Leave Comment

HIT OF THE SEASON … while Christmas is one of those holidays where tradition seems to rule the day for many of us, it never hurts to try something new … who knows, you might discover something so wonderful, it’ll become a tradition all its own … for our family, trying something new involved heading over to Old Sacramento on a chilly, stormy weeknight, with the kids in their pajamas after we told them we were going “storm watching” …

When we reached Old Sac, we suggested there might be a place where we could settle in for some hot chocolate, when in reality we were headed for the Polar Express, a magical train ride to the North Pole (which is apparently just north of Clarksburg) … we had been made aware of this hourlong train ride after reading a piece in this very paper by former Enterprise staffer Jeff Aberbach …

Put on as a fundraiser by the California State Railroad Museum Foundation, the train ride is based on both the book and movie that have captivated the imaginations of so many children … the train is nothing short of magical for young kids, from the unique decorations to the refreshments to the various on-board entertainers to a view of an active Santa’s workshop and finally to an on-board visit from Santa himself …

Every moment on that train exceeded our expectations, thanks to the 100 or so volunteers whose only goal seemed to be the happiness of the children who climbed aboard, not knowing what to expect on this stormy night … according to one volunteer quoted by Aberbach, “We try to make it fun from the minute they walk through our passenger station to the end when they step off the train.” … mission accomplished …

A LIFE WELL LIVED … the obituary in Sunday’s Enterprise for UC Davis emeritus professor of law Gary Goodpaster noted, “In the force of his intellect, the depth of his integrity, his progressive views, and his profound, comprehensive knowledge, Gary was admired, respected and loved by all who had the opportunity to know him.” … truer words were never spoken … although I was never one of his students, Professor Goodpaster went out of his way to provide me with insight, guidance, concern and kindness at a time when it was most necessary in my academic life … many, many students had a similar experience … we were all much better for having known him …

TASTE OF THE TOWN … I don’t know how this happened, but about 10 years or so ago, waiters and waitresses in our many local restaurants gave up asking “How is your meal?” or “Does anyone here need anything else?” and instead began asking “How is everything tasting?” … well, my chicken cordon bleu tastes just fine, but I actually ordered the cowboy ribeye … and the bottle of Merlot never arrived, so I’m not sure how it’s tasting, and the air conditioning vent directly above our table is blowing so hard I’m now looking at frozen chicken cordon bleu … but yes, everything is tasting just fine …

CALORIES IN, CALORIES OUT … so I was minding my own business, using my time wisely to up my exercise routine enough to shed the extra pounds created when a dear friend dropped off a 5-pound pecan pie on my birthday, when I came across an article on diet soda and weight gain … and yes, believe it or not, one “expert” with all kinds of academic degrees behind her name claims diet soda might cause you to pack on the pounds …

In discussing diet soda drinkers, who apparently have an IQ lower than their shoe size, this Purdue University professor (who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty) said “Their history with diet soda would say, this piece of cake tastes really sweet, but I have no idea if it has calories or not.” … obviously, if that’s the way their brain works, they have much bigger problems than how much they weigh … this theory, presumably, also applies to pecan pie …

— Reach Bob Dunning at


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