The Prize

March 6, 2011

Dear Reader,

Perhaps you don’t obsess about these things, but I do.  Should I reveal some braggard tendency and put that lovely prize at the top of this post or should I humbly demure to the ending?  Let’s err on the side of pride.

What is it?  It is the 2011 Bride’s Book Reader’s  Choice Award.   As they explain, “ The annual Readers Choice Award is an annual award recognizing local businesses that offer superior customer service and excellent quality as defined by local brides. Each year “The Bride’s Book” magazine and both based in Chapel Hill, NC ask their readers to nominate their preferred wedding vendors.”

Now I know that there are  cynics among you that might say a North Carolina based company defers to North Carolina businesses.  Not so.  They continue, “This year more than 5000 brides nominated businesses throughout the Carolinas via mail-in forms, faxed forms, phone calls and general email messages. The votes were hand tallied and sorted by region.The nominations are solicited in each issue of The Bride’s Book magazine, on the website and thru quarterly email newsletters to the magazine’s subscription base.”

Of course we are proud and thrilled to be named the best wedding transportation in the region.  We thank our brides deeply.  However, we’re not breaking out the champagne.   That’s what we do in December.    Right now it’s “Pass the Windex.  Pass the wrench.”





Hell’s Bells

January 24, 2011

Given the Holy Season,  I thought it best to let an appropriate amount of time pass before using this title.   Going from Christ to Hell is best left to Revelations.

My father was as even tempered as anyone you have ever met. Very seldom do I ever remember him angry.  There were only two things that seemed to send him beyond placid–cars and the electronic gadgets he loved to put together.  When he did reach that point of exasperation, his favorite vent was “Hell’s bells.”  It ‘s interesting to me that you don’t hear that expression anymore.  Perhaps it belonged to the war era or maybe it just couldn’t survive in this  new era of shock profanity.

I’m sure Daddy had no idea of it’s origins.  Actually historians don’t either.  A quick look around the web reveals that it was shortened from the original Hell’s bells and buckets of blood.  Although this expression’s exact origin  is not known, it is believed to have originated aboard 17th century pirate ships.

Pirate ships?  Now that’s exciting!   Can’t you just hear the anxious cry of a rough shorn pirate awakened by a faint bell in the fog, “Captain, it’s Hell’s bells and buckets of blood!”   We worry a lot about pirates here in North Carolina.  After all the  cold gray Carolina Atlantic was the territory of Blackbeard and his lovlies.  Our coasts are awash with aged splinters and ghosty lore.

However, let’s leave the mist and ghosts behind and get to the real problem at hand–our trolley bells or more accurately, Hell’s bells.   Now, we all know that a trolley without a bell is not a real trolley.  I am very adamant about this–trolleys MUST have bells.  A trolley without a bell is a bus.  Period.

Last year, we had one heck (no need to overdo it) of a time keeping all of the bells ringing at the same time.  Not this year!  No amount of blaming it on the drivers,  or blaming it on the poor quality of rope, or blaming it on the mechanics is going to work.

Absolutely not.

I will be the Captain upon the deck.  “Get those bells from Hell fixed or there will be buckets of blood.”


December 26, 2010

Christmas is a theological day, like it or not.   It seems perfectly reasonable to expect that a religious  idea would pop into one’s head on that day.

I stood on the  back porch watching the perfectly beautiful flakes float to earth. The 2 inches of snow we expected were turning into 6 and 8 inch drifts. The trees were becoming  a painters canvass.   As those confections drifted earthward, it occurred to me:  Our Creator lets it snow on everyone.  Every child can play on the hills whether in radio flyers or sheets of cardboard.   When the birds sing, they sing for everyone.  When it rains, everyone’s garden is watered.

Would that be the case with us?  I imagine a mogul who builds snow domes where falling snow is limited to paying customers.  Or an aviary divided between general admission to chickens and box seats to cokateels.  Water wars only validate my lack of confidence.

Sometimes, though, there is that person who glows our Godly goodness that is within.  Do you know the most frequently asked question on our Christmas season trolley rides through downtown Hendersonville?  “How much is it?”  We are so programmed to expect nothing without a price.  They seemed amazed at the answer, “It’s free.  Patty at Mike’s on Main is paying for it.”

And she paid for it for everyone.

The Best Place

November 28, 2010

Sometimes the mind has the best view.  That became much clearer to me reading a New York Times article this morning on the return of one of “The Lost Boys” to the Sudan after 22 years.  Joseph came home to take part in their election for independence.   The words reeled such a clear and emotional picture of the homecoming that I just felt the tears at the end.  I was curious to see the video that was attached to the story.   How is it that the video  failed to capture the emotion of the story?  Words had worked but pictures did not. Why?

Perhaps it is because words can only succeed within a close and personal  bond with the reader.  Yes, pictures can create an impact impossible to escape as with the young girl on fire from napalm in Vietnam.   But pictures, especially video, involves a gulf that makes the deep mind a passive participant.  Like the wind, pictures can fly by but words must go deeper.  How does that relate to the trolley?

The Hendersonville Tree Lighting was a grand affair as well as downright cold.  We felt like arctic explorers as we festooned the trolley with pretty garland, tinsels and bows.  No matter how you try there are some things you can’t do with gloves.  (Yes, we are wimps in the South.)

Cinderella was the prettiest I had every seen her.  Joshua had shined and cleaned that trolley to a brilliant penny.   John arrived for some last minute repairs.  No way were those fuel filters on his pride and joy going to clog going down that street.

I was unprepared for the reception.  As the barricade was cleared for the mechanical celebrity, crowds of people gathered around. The admiring looks and the children’s eyes were reward enough. These trolley lovers were ready to ride.  The shivering crowd listened to the announcements, speeches, choirs, and more speeches with only one thought,  “Where is the carriage with Santa?.” But one young fella had another thing on his mind–the trolley.

As he and his father came around the front of the trolley, he began his plea for a trolley ride.  The crowd inside the trolley who had fled there to escape the cold made a first ride seem doubtful.

That little guy who must have stood entirely 24 inches high began to wail his demand and jump up and down in a manner that can only be described as resembling a mexican jumping bean.  I knew he had a mother somewhere because he was bundled from head to foot. John, who was standing next to me instantly knew that this was a display that needed to be on our website.   He fumbled quickly for his cell camera as did I.  Too late.  The special moment was over almost as quickly as it had began as his dad pulled him away from the scene.

Perhaps it was for the good.  I can’t imagine that we will ever forget that magic moment.  It seems more special within me than outside of me.  It is stored in both our minds in a way more personal than pictures and  has fewer barriers to replays.  As with words, we are bound to  events we experience within a space that only the end can separate.  I promise, no more philosophy but the Sudan made me think.


November 17, 2010

Men can be so aggravating.

We are in the thick of planning for the Hendersonville Holiday Tree Lighting on Friday, November 26th.  A perfect angel of a business owner, Patty of Mikes on Main is sponsoring the trolley for three Fridays.  Why?  For no other reason in the world except she loves trolleys and loves her Main Street.  Amazing in a world so often defined by self interest.

I called John to tell him we were coming out this morning to look at Cinderella, take  measurements and discuss the decorations.  First words?  “Don’t put any tape on that trolley.  I don’t want anything to stick to that paint.”  Take a deep breath.

First of all, here is a little secret–I am 58 years old.  By this time in life you know what sticks and what doesn’t…in more ways than one.  Zen? Counting to ten is helpful.  Reflecting on the fact that the cutest trolley in the southeast is John’s pride and joy is also helpful.  So, instead of tape, I’ve decided to use glue!

Huckleberry Finn

November 7, 2010

It’s been quite a while since I have written.  Much has happened–joy, disappointment, success and failure.  One of our drivers told me some time back that the transportation business is a three legged stool:  drivers, mechanical parts, and customers.   Keeping all the gears  moving harmoniously  is not always easy.   Not that John and Co. doesn’t work hard at the mechanical end or that drivers aren’t professional or that customers are difficult.  It is just a human business and sometimes we humans get a little cranky and God knows! the machines are the prima donas.   However, looking back at the summer, I can honestly weigh “the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory” in victory’s corner.   The rushing days dull my memory but one special encounter stands out.

I had wanted to write about this soon after the experience so that the conversation wouldn’t fade its fresh gloss.  It was one of those surreal times when it seems like you have stepped into the scene of a movie. Someone has handed you a script and you are speaking the lines.

I picked up the phone one evening to hear a young boy’s voice  “Is this the trolley company?”  This very confident young man that I guessed to be about 9 or 10 called to tell me that the doors of the trolley were open and he was worried about that.  However  he hadn’t called to just end the conversation there.  At first I wondered how he had gotten our phone number when I realized it was on the back of the trolley.   I’m not sure whose cell phone he was using.

The trolley was parked at Eddy’s place for repairs and this young man had wandered over from a nearby neighborhood to take a look.  Trolleys are like that.  They have a special magnetism for children and children at heart.  I’m sure he must of climbed inside because which huckleberry finn could resist the temptation?  I told him that he mustn’t go underneath the trolley for safety sake.  (I do hope that he climbed on the back porch though.)

Our conversation ensued for some 20 minutes.  It was delightful to see how this precocious young man engineered the conversation to continue endlessly.  He asked me questions.  He asked more questions.  I asked far fewer because I didn’t want to pry.   He told me the family ups and downs.   I listened patiently.  I learned that he had a younger sister.  He told me proudly that he cooked for her.  His Dad must have been unemployed because he told me several times that his Dad was looking for a job.  Quite boldly he told me that his Dad could wash the trolley if it needed it.  Eventually  he asked me the question that might have been on his mind from the beginning, “Do you have a job I can do at the trolley company?”    Motherly instinct girded with a shield and helmet imagination rose to the need.

“I have a job you can do.  You know it worries me that our trolley is down there outside of a fence.   First, I would like you to close the doors…”  “Oh, I can do that.”  “…check and make sure the back door is closed”  “I can do that.” “…and then make sure that nobody and especially your sister crawls underneath it.”

The next day I took $5 and gave it to the mechanic.  “If you see a young boy who comes by asking about the trolley, give this to him.”

He never called again.

When all else fails…

June 28, 2010

…keep going.  Two weeks ago was one of those weeks in the trolley business you just want to forget.  If anything could go wrong,  it did.   The only solution?  Dust yourself off and keep going.   Go over the failures and made the corrections.

Last weekend went smoothly probably because God knew I couldn’t take anymore.   Perhaps a Type A is not a good match for never-to-be repeated special events.  Perhaps I’m not cut out for a business where things do occasionally go wrong.    I was certainly grateful for that beautiful red haired bride last week who stopped by our office to tell us what a wonderful time she had trolleying to her bridesmaid’s luncheon.

Looking to a brighter future, the trolley will be going to the Asheville Tourist game July 8th.  What have I learned about planning this event?  Never buy advertising for a summer sport in March.  Have you noticed I’m on a learning curve?  In these mountains, people are not going to pay to sit in the stands during blackberry winter.

However, I have to tell you that I had a blast at the game I attended, cold weather or no.   Maybe the serious athletes on the field aren’t too happy about the Macarena and other frivolities going on in the stands, but we are!  It was total fun.  And you know, those Tourists play pretty good.

Winning isn’t everything, but dusting yourself off is.

Batter Up!

April 1, 2010

You never know where an email will take you.  It began, “Would your group be interested in coming to see The Asheville Tourists?”   The Trolley Company was not the intended receipient but rather another group  I belong to.  The enterprising Mike Kish, Group Sales Director for The Asheville Tourists was fishing for customers.  “Ding,” the light went off.   A baseball game.

Wouldn’t that be great for a trolley trip?  Before I knew it, my new best friend was Mike and I was touring McCormick Field.  I am a little embarrassed to admitt that after 30 something  years living here I had never been to McCormack Field, the home of our minor league team, the Tourists.  Mind you, I like baseball but this and that kept my feet closer to homeplate. 

I really enjoyed the tour which included the locker room as well.  I’ll tell you Girls, that room is sexy even without guys.  Talk about a lifesize picture!  That room has the largest flat screen television I have ever seen in my life.  Whew!, let’s get back to the field…which is beautiful by the way. 

Since our weekends are pretty full at The Trolley Company, Thursday evening seemed like a perfect fit.  Now, you may not know that Thursday is also known as Thirsty Thursday.  That means just what you think it means–cheap beer.  Now being a family friendly company, I was a little concerned about this.  However Mike reassured me that they keep a very close eye on this and Octoberfest it isn’t. 

After our Q & A time, Mike and I decided to give it a go.  The Trolley Company would bring Tourist fans from Hendersonville and Mike would provide the perfect parking spot and plenty of advertising support.   How has it been working?  Well, the first game is next week and I’m hoping for gorgeous weather.  I’ll let you know how folks like it but with special front gate service and $1 beers, how can we miss?

Take me out to the ballgame, take me out with the crowd, buy me some peanuts and…


March 3, 2010

You don’t want to be caught after dark on I-77  between North Carolina and Virginia in the wintertime.  At that elevation, it is sometimes cold, sometimes foggy and oftentimes windy.   I found myself there on a recent visit to Washington to visit family.  The curves are sharp and with each passing minute I realized that exiting for a warm motel was a good idea.  I got off at a  promising exit only to find out from the local convenience store clerk that the place I was looking for was a good piece into town and he wasn’t sure of the location.  I thought it was odd that a convenience store clerk on the edge of a lonely exit wouldn’t know where the only motel was.  I continued on to the next exit, Fancy Gap.  I saw dimly lit through the fog a motel sign and decided to give it a try.  As I turned left I saw only the entrance to a winding road with a sign touting a bargain price.   Since I was traveling alone, I decided to follow the road but stay safely inside the car while checking it out.  As I pulled in front of the check in area, a woman came through the lobby, saw me and came towards the door.  “Oh Great” I thought, “Now I will have to tell her I’m not sure about her motel.”   I threw diplomacy to the wind and decided to go for the “we sisters are all in this together” tone.  “Alright, tell me the truth, is this a safe place for a woman traveling alone?”  She smiled and waved me in.

As I stepped in, I saw immediately that this wasn’t your average locally owned motel.  I had stepped through the looking-glass into my grandmother’s parlor.  There were vases of roses, a table set for a child’s tea party, prettily dressed dolls and little crystal sentiments.  The entire room was wrapped in old roses.    For some reason, this made me feel much more at ease.  Could anyone who has this many dolls be an axe murderer? 

I learned that she and her husband owned the motel.  When I inquired about the jars of pickled relishes, she replied that her brother canned them.  I took my key and drove around to the side of the two-story motel.  There were few guests that night and thankfully my room was on the ground floor. 

The room was as astounding as the lobby.  There were dolls everywhere.  Not your run of the mill WalMart dolls either.  Beautiful collector dolls.  I counted 12 pairs of eyes.  Either I had stepped into the most charming place I’d ever stayed or a Stephen King novel.  The room was exceedingly clean.  There was an open Bible on the table atop a prim doily and  a lace cloth underneath the perched TV.  And in the soap dish was a perfectly formed rose bud soap.  Just in case, I checked and rechecked the lock that opened onto a central hallway.   Thankfully I was exhausted and had little energy to obsess over my decision.

I have since learned that some consider the Country View Inn somewhat eerily scary. Weird.  I don’t.  Here’s why–Before the homogenization of our country–everywhere is anywhere–there were lots of unique and original nooks and crannies to discover.   Part of the fun of traveling was encountering the unknown and unusual.  After all, the best thing about us is us.  We are all so different and interesting when we choose to be.  The owner of this inn has chosen to be.  She is  nostalgic and a collector of all those dainty things that beckon us home.   I left with a jar of pickles and I hope to return.  Better yet, I hope to discover another motel again where the owners without apology give a part of themselves to their guests.

What does this have to do with trolleys?   A lot.  I think one of the reasons I love trolleys so much is that they are unique and open doorways to our imagination.  They aren’t “just trolley buses.”  They are a way to express our individuality and plunge into joy.  Planning an adventure?  Come take a splash.  In Fancy Gap?  Step back in time.


January 28, 2010

I want to thank the many brides, grooms and mothers that stopped by our table at the Wedding Festival in Asheville.   It was a delight to meet many of you and to see the happiness that surrounds such an event although it did make my heart slightly arythmic when one young lady told me  she was using a ’57 Chevy.   I hope this is not a trend. 

Of course there is always that one standout groom.   When guests entered the auditorium, they were given an identifying sticker to wear.  There were bride stickers, and groom stickers, and mother of the bride stickers, bridesmaids stickers and so on.  It was late in the day and I had ceased to have feet when I looked up to see a smiling young couple coming my way.  When I looked at the young man, there was his sticker dutifully attached.  It read, “Mother of the Bride.”  I can just imagine how eventful that married life is going to be.