For Father’s Day weekend, my Dad and I went down to Alamosa for the Rails and Ales brewfest put on by the San Luis Valley Brew Company. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it is a 2 day party featuring different craft beers in Colorado. Friday night there is a mixer and block party, followed up by train ride up La Veta Pass for beer tasting and a concert, then a train ride back down for some kind of after party.

Rails and Ales

Alamosa

The first order of business, is to get to Alamosa. For those who aren’t familiar, Alamosa is located in the south central part of Colorado in a basin called the San Luis Valley. It’s roughly 4 hours from Denver by car. You can either get their via I-25 and highway 160 or via US 285 through South Park. We opted to go 285 because it’s prettier and the driving more interesting. Highway 285 runs you down to Buena Vista and then south to Poncha Springs before getting into the San Luis Valley. There are three 14’ers on the way if you’re interested in those.

Once in Alamosa we picked up our train tickets at the Rail Depot which is downtown off of 6th street. Don’t let that fool you. 6th street is a one way going east, while Main street is one block north and acts as a one way going west. After picking up tickets we found our hotel room, then went to find some food.  We came across My Honey’s Home Cooking cafe. If you like pork tenderloins, this Cafe has a great one. After dinner, we went back to the hotel and chilled out for the night.

Train Ride

Train

Our car on the train

We got over to the platform early and was checking out the train a bit. While we were waiting to load, I snapped a couple of pics of the train. Our car was what they call a Superdome. Meaning we had lots of windows, which is and isn’t a good thing (explanation coming). As the train starts to load, a few of us are waiting for the door to car 59 to open. In short order, a conductor (I assume it was a conductor), came over to tell us that the a/c unit wasn’t working in the car. So they attached another car to the train for us instead. It was another Superdome, only silver. Great….crisis averted.

We loaded up, and the train started moving. So for those of us who have never been on a train, I was kind of shocked at how narrow the cars are. There is little privacy, and everyone jumps in and out of your conversation. It’s like being at work, when you are forced to toil in a cube farm. Only instead of gofering, people lean into your seat to let others by. Sometimes this is good, sometimes this is bad. It’s mostly bad though.

About that a/c….it wasn’t that great. They had a couple of fans going in the car to help with air flow, so it wasn’t horrible. But the breakers kept tripping…..so there would be times when we would lose the airflow. A group of loud ladies got up and went in search of alternative seating. Which was good, because my ears needed a bit of a break. So after two hours, we reached the meadow where the beer was.

The Beer

As you might imagine, the main draw for people to attend this event is the beer. We were able to purchase beer on the way up the train but at the top……the beer was free. You’d just walk around and have them pour into your glass. You could try as many types of beer as you wanted. There was also some musical entertainment in the form of a a 4 piece band that reminded a lot of Buddy Holly but with a slide guitar. There was also food at the top, pretty decent BBQ.

The rest of the afternoon was spent talking with my dad, gazing at the moments, people watching, and just relaxing  in the mood. Wish, made we wish there was a little shade. Shade is a premium at this event, and if you didn’t bring some in the form of an umbrella or backpacking easy up….you were basically SOL. So Dad and I got a little red, but it wasn’t too bad. I think the event lasted until 3:30, when we started loading up.

And then the fun happened.

Ride Back

all alone

Got the whole car to ourselves

We got back on the train, and went back to our seats which were pretty damn warm. The a/c and fans were off. I couldn’t decide if they just didn’t want to waste the energy or if there were other problems. Sitting back down, there was water and snacks laid out on all the tables. Great. After a few minutes, the conductor came over to explain that the electrical breaker kept popping and there was nothing that could be done. We could try and find another seat (on a sold out train mind you) or move to the open air car. Oh and by the way, turns out that Saturday was the hottest day of the year to date for Alamosa. Great.

So we decided just to hang out….the train folks promised us all the water we could drink for free and it appears that we would have the car to ourselves. Which….for a couple of quiet guys, on a train full of people who have been drinking all day, turned out to be a great idea in theory.

It was hot

As you can see from the picture, that’s a lot of glass for not having a/c or fans on the hottest day of the year thus far. Which lead us to having a conversation about why in the name of Odin didn’t the windows open or why there wasn’t to open a vent in case the a/c broke. Why do engineers always over look the obvious? I mean seriously.

We heard everything from you’re crazy to how tough we were for sitting in this car. Honestly, I didn’t mind the heat until the last 20 minutes, than it started to get unbearable. For the other hour and 40 minutes, I just endured it. To me it wasn’t worth dealing with the all loud people who had been drinking all day. It also gave me some perspective, we have troops and first responders who deal with this everyday. Honestly, we as a people have become way to dependent on our creature comforts. But that is a different conversation.

The Verdict

I had a good time, and I presume my father had a good time as well. We had some good conversations, we got to spend some time together, there was even some good beer. Would I do it again? Maybe. If the right group of people went and if we weren’t going to be sitting in the SuperOven….I might consider it. I would almost prefer the option to get an alternative ride back to Alamosa than the train just so I can avoid the loud, rowdy types. And yes, there were a few fights on the way back. We had some good conversations with the Security folks and a train engineer. Would I recommend sitting in first class? Only if you want to sweat off some weight or don’t mind being cooked in your clothes on slow roast. Otherwise I’d suggest a less expensive ticket with windows that can open. Oh and make sure you bring some shade, dress more for hiking, and have a way to bring water/snacks.