As we entered April I became more aware of what is missing as well as what is emerging. What is missing seems to be bloggers I follow even if I do not comment or Like. (Sorry about that, it’s the signing in to do so that throws me when I am already reading their piece) I miss you. However, like me, we often have more important events to deal with, and we often just do not have anything to say if we are not writing about what our main passion was. Which is why I am still hoping to bring a little joy, smile, weirdness to the very few who are still reading me.
Geese and ducks preparing for nesting. Pungent skunk cabbage finally within close view and olfactory. Balcony Rosemary to refresh the senses.
Still wanting to get out for fresh air, and still allowed to, I made the decision to keep many of my walks nearby rather than driving ten minutes to one of the few trails nearby. Although we cannot travel we can enjoy our neighbourhoods.
One of those trails is tantalizing close. I have been waiting for the connector to finally open up to join two trails that will mean avoiding traffic on narrow streets without sidewalks.
One bonus to walking in my neighbourhood is actually the density. There are all sorts of stores, cafes, restaurants and even a small library one can visit. Many are local businesses.
This one is closed for renovations. Waiting behind this bin for a grande or venti might be a test of patience. (For a Starbucks fix there are three more about a 10 – 15 minute walk away.
For some reason it is taking much longer to write about my train ride than the actual trip took! However, the time has given my the opportunity to reflect on some of my notes, my very few photos and my hope to do it again!
After warming up from my chilly night in the dome car with an excellent cup of coffee – my own of course – and breakfast I spent a good part of my day staring out the window, reading my book and dividing my window time between my seat, the dome car and the gathering area where people chat, play games, eat and listen to the entertainment. Summer train travel is great for the entertainment side. Usually a small audience yet so appreciative. I am always happy when the powers that be have not allowed economy class to enjoy live music and a break from the eventual monotony or train travel.
I thought I had his name – nope! However, he is from Victoria so maybe I will see his picture somewhere he will be playing when not on-board.
By the time we reached Sioux Lookout time was approaching a standstill. We were not exactly behind, just going through Northern Ontario…..and going, and going. Getting outside was becoming a palpable need for all onboard.
My seat mate left sometime before Sioux Lookout, I would have the two seats to myself for the remainder of my trip. Small mercies! Soon enough we were in Winnipeg where I was joined one woman to explore the Forks, an area I am now quite familiar with after a few trips to -even staying at – Winnipeg in recent years. The Forks is a great place to stock up, I bought a giant chickpea roti and a vegetarian Somosa (I seemed to have been eating these lovely bundles a lot) to supplement my packed meals. There was so much I expected they would last a couple of days.
I met up with two writers I had talked with while in line in Toronto who were travelling in the sleepers after their attempt to visit me and a fellow passenger onboard had been thwarted. Thinking on our feet one handed me her only business card to take a photo of for me to look up.
Once the train left Winnipeg, with a new crew, there was a sense of truly going west. Many passengers left the train yet it still seemed quite full, enough that I was a little worried I might lose my double seat.
As I wound my way through the muskeg, rocks and mosquito laden land – firmly seated in the AC dome car – I was once again struck by how fortunate I am to be travel in our vast land even though on a cinched tight budget.
Shades of straw with goldenrod hues peeking through green fields and manmade blue ponds turning to mud – it was not yet drought conditions. Saskatchewan fields live up to the oft used patchwork quilt. Arrow straight, stitched side roads to forever. Lovely field of sunflowers appeared outside my window seat – a perfect, silent in memory of the death of my father nine years ago, born in Saskatchewan. Sadly I missed the Perseus Meteor Shower.
Stopped long enough in Saskatoon to walk to front of train!
Then suddenly, we were in Alberta. Red hills, undulating, rolling, held in stasis until we pass. It was a strange sensation. We crossed over what was once (still?) the longest train trestle in Canada.
Many of us were train weary by the time we finally made it to Edmonton. I was in dire need of a shower. Upon discovering we had only three hours at a relatively new side station with the closest places 3 kilometres away walking in the oncoming mosquito infested dusk. (A few of us considered taking one of the taxis buzzing around much like the mosquitoes) settled to wash my hair in one of the Ladies Room sinks. I discovered I was not the only one!
Hurray, I was still at two seats when we pulled out about 45 minutes late, way past my bedtime in any province. The doldrums of day 3 were dissipating. We were headed to Jasper with visions of mountains to greet us in the morning.
Jasper! Mountains, fresh air, pine trees, rivers,, small town feel with so much to see and do. One passenger said he was equipped to camp for two days in the mountains before hopping back on the train. Winter vs. summer – the mountains appear tame with no sign of the bone chilling snow and ice. Do not be fooled. There are bears in them hills. The fellow said he had camped in Africa where the lions roam. (I have not heard anything about a missing hiker in the area so he must have survived) My closest encounter, soup and a small loaf of day old bread at The Other Bear Claw, now a favourite stop when in Jasper. It was time to sit back to enjoy the views.
Back on the rails, expectations from nature – best quotes far. Upon seeing Thunder Falls on the far side of Moose Lake one passenger quietly exclaimed to her seat mate, “That’s it? We came all this way to see a trickle?” Much later Pyramid Falls silenced them. Except they wanted the train to stop!
We passed a tiny place called Blue River, except it’s green – ribbon of molten moss. Passengers come and go – moving vignettes into the lives of travellers. Boredom was interspersed with the glories of canyons and mountains and eavesdropping. A call for a nurse or a doctor also meant we stopped along the way. Some sort of medical emergency. A nurse practitioner from economy class stepped up and it seems a doctor from the sleeper cars was also available. One of the crew members had her radio with her that crackled the ‘patient’ was conscious. It seemed they would be sent to a hospital in Kamloops.
I finally had to order a meal. Not always easy with dietary needs! The chef went out of her way to determine if there was anything I should not eat in some of the choices before suggesting a chef’s salad with an extra egg in place of the ham. Lots of fresh vegetables, and great garlic bread.
We arrived in Kamloops as the sun was setting before I was lulled to sleep with dreams of home.
Expenses: The Other Bear Claw – lunch $9.00; onboard dinner – $11.00 (I had reluctantly thrown out the other half of my roti bought in Winnipeg. It was delicious, just too much potato and chickpeas that seemed to upset my stomach. Just as well I did not have a seat mate!
Once again my bags were packed and I was ready, or sort of ready. I spent the evening out with my daughter, SIL & friends of theirs at the Kitchener Blues Festival https://unattendedgrandma.wordpress.com/2019/08/19/ontario-visit-winding-down-to-go-home/which meant getting back to the house later than was a good idea. However, as already noted we all had a great time. At least nearly everything was ready to just grab and go for the 5:04am bus to Toronto. Fortunately that was just a short jaunt to the stop. I had been up since 3:00am and actually fell asleep on the bus during some of the 1 1/2 hour trip before having to change buses. I also saved money when the driver only charged half the fare – I guess I look older first thing in the morning!
At Square One, no idea where that is situated other than between Kitchener and Toronto, I had enough time to grab a coffee before about another 1 1/2 hours on a bus. How to determine if a major terminal? Look for a Starbucks. I was making use of my App and already ahead by $10.00 – a great start to my morning. By the time I arrived in Toronto and made the short walk to Union Station I was ready for more coffee and breakfast. I think it was 8:30 – my train would depart at 9:50. Slightly behind schedule.
I snagged a window seat – home for four nights – I was saying a silent prayer for nobody joining me.
Parry Sound – looks like a lovely place to visit. Perhaps another trip.
Capreol – a little rain was welcome. The smokers who clogged the carriage aisles to get out were not.
Kawaweogama Lake: 210km NW of Thunder Bay, (the train does not go there) still in Ontario -TB is yet another town I once lived in as a child. We had entered Day 2.
I was not lucky my first night, a woman in her 80s joined me fairly late. Not so bad except she was a smoker. I spent my first night in the chilly sky dome.
However, the glimpses out my window were magnificent. A lone falcon slowly circling; herons still as the bulrushes; lily pads wearing golden crowns; a giant stop sign nailed to a tree with no sign of human traffic; brightly coloured canoes slip sliding away; then much later, another lake a lone fisherman slowly motoring against setting sun reds. Dusk descends early, sun dappled trees darken, lakes earlier inviting, shine ominously black. Molten silver confuses. Deadheads lurk. A single blackened tree – lightening strike? Disease? Too swiftly moving forward – all is wonder.
Swaying and steady clickety clack lulled me to sleep.
I am busy not being busy for once. A couple of down days for my four enforced down days on a train. I do have to figure out food, and COFFEE, to remain somewhat sane sleeping on seats that recline only a very little. It is my hope I will not have anyone sit beside me. I will be at the station quite early which means there is a chance I can at least grab a window seat unless there are a lot of young people travelling. They tend to rush ahead of everyone and spread everything out on ‘their’ territory. I am speaking from experience, not crotchety old age. Having travelled on hard seats in China I will not be thwarted from establishing my own space. Perhaps most of the passengers will be berth or cabin paying. even I can hear my inner voice asking if I am bonkers.
Back to food. The on-board choices are not great for economy besides having fairly generous hours of operation. I had played with the idea of buying pre-packaged meals from StarBucks using my AirMiles. Aha, thinking like Pooh & using my “Very little Brain…[to] Think of Things” I came up with buying a package of ‘meal prep’ containers I had come across at Dollarama. Only $4.00 for 7. (that’s CAD) Three compartments each, lid closes well, and reusable! So far I have mini croissants, small cans of tuna, dried apricots, granola bars, small pots of yogurt (still trying to figure that out) & orange juice. Squishy ice packs. Ground coffee. I have absolutely no recollection if cream, or even milk, is available to we lowly economy class passengers.
Considering my so far rather sad selection I have had to think what else I should take along that will last for 3-4 days. Ideally I should not have to make any purchases along the way. However, we do not live in an ideal world and the train is far too often spectacularly late! There is usually a fairly long stop in Winnipeg with the station just a hop, skip and jump from the Forks where of all sorts of yummy supplies can be bought. However, I do not want to run short if there is a delay in arrival. Stops in Edmonton and Jasper might work, except the former is well into the evening and I experienced a 12 hour delay waiting for the train to arrive in Jasper one winter! From Edmonton. Which brings me back to what else to buy.
I have settled on boiling six eggs (tea eggs would be divine, sadly my daughter & SIL do not have what I need; and I am not supposed to have soy products), apples (I will pre slice those), cheese, broccoli & cauliflower – preferably already cut unless my SIL will use it up, some sort of dip. Cream. In Ontario the milk and cream come with pour spouts that have caps – hurray! I am hoping a 1/2L will be enough until I determine what is on-board. With all of that I think I should have enough, yet I still worry I have forgotten something. Of course I may become sick of tuna and eggs!
As for coffee. Of course I already have that! It came with me from home.