Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste


Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Not So Great Expectations

August 1, 2014

Today in Portland it’s in the nineties, but summers aren’t always warm, or even dry. When our son CJ was small we wanted to abandon dreary Portland for a few days. We decided to head east to Sun River in central Oregon. I made a few calls to secure lodging and discovered we weren’t the only ones trying to flee the bad weather. Sun River was completely booked…except for one condo. I asked the leasing agent why this one unit wasn’t rented and was told it was due to the railroad tracks butting up against the property.


Like everyone else, I didn’t want to rent a unit that backed up to railroad tracks. I could only imagine how annoying a train would be, blowing its whistle and rattling by at all hours of the day and night. Unfortunately, nothing else was available; it was this particular unit or stay in overcast Portland. With no other options, I rented the unit near the tracks.


Sun River gets its name from the 300+ days of sunshine it receives every year. Cutting through pine forests is the Deschutes River, providing vacationers with opportunities to fish, canoe and enjoy white water rafting. Deer commonly roam through the property along with other wildlife.


When we arrived I was pleasantly surprised by our unit; it was cabin-like, spacious and set in a grove of tall pines. In the distance I could hear the rumbling river. I checked behind the property and saw a hot tub. Behind it were railroad tracks. I sighed at the sight of them.


After unpacking and settling in, we headed for the river for some canoeing. CJ paddled about until he was exhausted. Later that evening after enjoying a light barbeque, we climbed into the hot tub to enjoy the warm bubbling water along with the sunset. That’s where we were when the train rambled by.


We heard it before we saw it, a train whistle accompanied by billowing white steam. When it came into view, I was pleasantly surprised to see it wasn’t the diesel spewing, smoke belching, infinitely long cargo train I’d been dreading. It was an antique steam engine looking like it should have been giving rides at Disneyland.


As the train chugged by, CJ’s eyes couldn’t have been wider had it been Christmas morning. The engineer spotted us in the hot tub and waved. I mimed a gesture for him to blow the whistle and he complied, blowing it long and hard. Much too soon the train was gone. Sadly, this was the one and only time we saw it.


There’s a famous Lifesaver commercial where a father and child are sitting under a tree watching the sun go down. After the sun sinks beneath the horizon the child in the commercial says, “Do it again, Daddy.”


Similarly, CJ said, “Make it come back, Daddy!”


If only I could.


CJ still talks about that train being the highlight of the trip. And to think that no one, including me, wanted this rental because of that train, which turned out to be a treat.


As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize that life is full of  surprises. Things you dread often end up being treasured moments.


Has this happened to you?  



once again you wonderful storyteller, you have share a smiling, tearful reaction to one of your wonderful life moments. Happy Weekend my friend. Oma Linda
By: omalinda on August 1, 2014
What a wonderful, pristine memory. You are right- there are treasures in so many moments we may not ever find because we are trying to escape them.
By: Shelly on August 1, 2014
Clearly their marketing director was dropping the ball on that one. They should hire you because this story is marketing gold.
By: PT Dilloway on August 1, 2014
this gave me goosebumps. what an awesome experience!
By: TexWisGirl on August 1, 2014
What you experienced is known as, "Contempt prior to investigation." Great story.
By: Uncle Skip on August 1, 2014
I stayed there exactly one when Peggy had a conference there. It was last year when the government shut-down was occurring, and i watched far too much of it on TV. I'm so glad your time there went better. Oh, but how about this weather! It's either camp on the crest of the Coast Range or stay home in the air conditioning.
By: Snowbrush on August 1, 2014
We used to own a condo in Port Hueneme (halfway between L.A. & Santa Barbara) about a half mile from the port. I train used to go daily to the port. we called it the Toonerville Trolley. The tracks were only yards from our deck. The engineer would always wave at us. I l]oved it!!
By: fishducky on August 1, 2014
Yes- we've enjoyed special moments like what you just so delightfully described- we call them, "You can't go home agains". We've had so many memorable times that can never be duplicated- if you go back to the same place it's never the same. Hence that phrase. We have learned to remember events with great fondness and every once in a while another treasured moment arrives! Cheers and have a great weekend !
By: Kathe W. on August 1, 2014
While i've had things not turn out as unpleasant as i thought they would, i can't say i've ever had such a magical moment from a train.
By: mimi on August 1, 2014
What a great story! Mike loves trains - he would have been in heaven :)
By: The Bug on August 1, 2014
It reads like a Hallmark commercial. If everyone could stop long enough to see and smell the roses... this world could be a kinder and gentler place.
By: Daniel LaFrance on August 1, 2014
After our youngest graduated high school we took her to Europe for her grand tour and our agenda included a night in scenic Cully Switzerland, between Lausanne and Montreux. Nice motor lodge overlooking the lake. Checking into our room we found small paper packets. Opening them we discovered ear plugs and a note indicating some guests found them helpful when the bullet train passed by. I rechecked our view and noticed, yes indeed there were rail tracks. The train rolled through only a couple of times during our time in the room. It was loud, but because of the speed it was of short duration. We never saw the train, but we heard it. Our sleep was unmolested once the plugs were used.
By: Tom Cochrun on August 1, 2014
What an adorable story! I'm so happy it worked out so well for you! I once traveled from Cairo to Germany and had a layover in Istanbul. I was expecting something dreadful and boring, like the JFK, Amsterdam, Montreal, or Cairo airports I've been in. But the Istanbul one was like a mall. A ton of stores and a food court with restaurants, fast food places, a bakery, an ice cream shop. It was heaven! I stopped in the same place when I flew back, and it was just as fun. :)
By: Lexa Cain on August 1, 2014
So often things turn out better than we expect. Willy Dunne Wooters loves hearing the sound of trains in the distance when it's cool enough for me to open the windows. That will happen by November, I hope. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on August 1, 2014
My second year of teaching, I lived in an apartment in an old railroad hotel in Sheldon, Missouri. The tracks were 30 feet from my walls. The train rattled my windows every time it passed by, but I only noticed it the first couple of times.
By: Val on August 1, 2014
I can't remember being that lucky.
By: red on August 1, 2014
Awwwwâ¦I love the way your story (and your trip!) turned out. This sold trains are so cool! I got to ride one once in Durango and LOVED it!
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on August 1, 2014
A jewel of a story that made for a lifetime of pride. Train fans are a unique group, as evidenced by the magazines on this topic! Terrific post!!
By: Michael Manning on August 1, 2014
Great story . . . love trains :)
By: Eddie Bluelights on August 2, 2014
Fantastic memory for your family. Aren't you glad you took the chance and it was so wonderful!
By: Coloring Outside the Lines on August 2, 2014
If I owned that property, I would be contracting with another leasing agent. For that train should have been a major selling point instead of a major detraction from an obviously great place.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on August 2, 2014
And things you think are going to be treasured memories turn out to be a nightmare. Nice story.
By: LL Cool Joe on August 2, 2014
I thought this was going to be like a famous "I Love Lucy" episode. Glad it turned out so nice.
By: Cranky on August 2, 2014
What a great story and so true to life!
By: John on August 4, 2014
I tend to find wonderful surprises in what I thought would be bad options. As for that train, I've got a friend who would pay double for that cabin. To him, there is nothing more wonderful than trains.
By: Mitchell is Moving on August 4, 2014
So true; the most enjoyable, enduring instances are unexpected - and not just for children. A couple of years ago we visited New York for the first time. The usual visitor attractions were interesting and worth the effort (Statue of Liberty, Empire State building etc.) but the most enjoyable and enduring memory was spending an afternoon in a bar talking with a native New Yorker! Strange how things pan out.
By: Bryan Jones on August 5, 2014
How I love this story. The memory clearly had a deep and positive impact for all of you. You couldn't have been in a better spot if you had vacationed at Petticoat Junction. ;)
By: Hilary on August 8, 2014

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