I have a lifelong fascination, almost an obsession, with planes and trains. When I was six year’s old, my parents would take me to Muscogee County Airport in Columbus to watch the DC-3’s come and go. Admission to the observation deck was a dime. From there we had a catbird seat over the ramp area where all the action took place. I knew the schedules for Delta, Eastern, and Southern Airways by heart, so I always knew the best times to start searching the skies for an incoming plane. My dad would put a nickel in the telescope so we could get a glimpse of incoming aircraft long before anyone else knew one was about to land. Watching and listening to a big ole DC-3’s engines as they taxied to the ramp right below us was about as good as it could get.
When I was 8-10 years old, my Grandpa and I used to sit for hours on a baggage cart at the Toccoa, Georgia train station so I could watch the trains come and go. It was thrilling to see that flashing headlight get closer and closer until the Southern roared by only a few feet away. The sights, sounds, and smells of DC-3’s and big locomotives will forever be a cherished memory for me. I’m just weird that way.
When my job took me to Denver, I started riding my bicycle to Stapleton Airport on Sundays where I could sit alongside the runway, outside of the security fence and watch the commercial jets land and take off. I would sit there for hours, baking in the sun, choking on kerosene fumes just to see the big jets come and go. Only when there was an unbearable lull in the action did I cycle back home.
Now I have a townhouse overlooking the Stone Mountain Trail in downtown Decatur. My favorite room in the house is my second story balcony where I can see all the walkers and cyclists going by. Trail watching has taken the place of train and plane watching. My balcony is the observation deck in Columbus; the baggage cart in Toccoa, and the bench outside of the Denver airport. I obviously don’t care whether it’s planes, trains, or people going by as long as something’s going by. I’m just an action voyeur! I now know every person and their dog that go by; often engaging one or the other in conversation from my second story perch.
I’m obviously not alone in my love of observing things going by. We recently opened the South Peachtree Creek Trail around the Clairmont Place Retirement Home. The Director told me at the grand opening, she had had several requests for benches along their parking lot, facing away from the building but facing the trail so residents could watch the stream of bicycles, joggers, and dog walkers on the trail. Our trail has become the active transportation entertainment venue for people like me who enjoy watching what goes by.
Sure, DC-3’s and locomotives make more noise and create more commotion when they come on the scene, but trail watching is really special too. People wave, dogs wag, and every now and then a hottie goes by. Trail watching just may be the best watching of all.