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WEB MASTER TUCKER HOTTES is nerding out for the holidays. yay!


Finally! That trip to Cleveland last year pays off
Around this time last year, I climbed into my Jeep and started heading west. Destination: Cleveland. On paper, that’s a strange 6-hour trek to undergo for no good reason. But I did have a reason, and while the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was cool, and the house from the holiday classic A Christmas Story was a fun detour, they weren’t my primary objectives.
Regular readers of this column (you exist, right?) are aware that this time of year, I typically start going on about model trains. It’s one of the nerdier things in my stable of nerdiness, I’ll admit. I always explain the hobby is a great combination of several of my nerdy interests: model building, electrical tinkering, collecting, spending hours upon hours of research on the internet … the works. During one such evening of ‘research,’ I came across a site with photos of N-scale layouts built into coffee tables and various other pieces of furniture. I decided I needed one.
After the initial surprise of finding a tiny world of awesomeness inside a functional element of home furnishings, I did what I typically do after such discoveries: got horribly depressed over my inability to recreate it. While I’m pretty handy around the house and have put some decent effort into my train layout, building actual furniture is a bit out of my reach. So the project was more or less tabled — for a while.
One fateful day, I was browsing eBay to see if there were any decent N-scale deals floating around. Occasionally, a person or store will liquidate their collection, and you can find some great prices on various pieces of equipment. This time, though, what caught my eye was a fully built coffee table layout with a really low starting bid. I put on my best eBay stalking uniform and hunkered down to watch the thing for a couple days. As the auction closing date drew nearer, I could see that I was apparently the only crazy person eyeing the item. The price was right, but there was major caveat. No shipping. Pick-up only. Location: Cleveland.
Never one to allow a road trip to get between me and my insane schemes, I gleefully clicked the bid button and won the auction a few moments later (I am an eBay sniper — you’ll never see me bid before the final minutes). Once the payment was settled, I made the plans for my first-ever trip to the Midwest, picked a weekend, booked a hotel, and hit the road. My whirlwind tour of Cleveland was fun, and I got the table without incident (and I wasn’t murdered by some kind of crazy eBay stalker who lures his victims with train tables). If you’re ever in the area, check out the Rock & Roll HOF and check out the house — they were both highly enjoyable detours from my train-getting expedition.
When I got the table home, it immediately retired to my upstairs land of things forgotten, as I didn’t have the time to work on the few things that needed doing. It sat out of the way through 2012, until this past weekend when I enlisted a friend to help me haul it down the stairs. Now it sits in my living room, waiting, inviting me to finally finish it and get it up and running to justify the space. It may have taken a year and a trip to Cleveland, but I’m finally on my way to looking at trains while I eat microwaved slices of pizza and drink beer on top of a tiny little world.
And that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

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