Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Eastbound Train for Sudbury

Posted Wednesday afternoon in Jasper:

(Tuesday evening in Vancouver)This train thing is so new to me in so many ways. I haven’t been on a real passenger train across the country since I was a kid traveling with my Mom. So it begins in The Grand Pacific Station in Vancouver where all the other travelers wait in an outdoor lounge beside The Canadian. That’s the name of VIA Rail’s cross country train these days. Scores of people, most of them older than forty, are sitting listening to “lounge music” performed by some old guy… we hear tunes like Folsom Prison, I’ve Been Working on the Railroad and The City of New Orleans. All train songs. It’s not too bad. I cabbed over here just minutes ago from Steamworks, the pub where Neil works. Had a nice supper there, a couple of beers and a Scotch. Neil and I said our goodbyes and I was on my way. The old music guy is now playing Jazz. It’s all good. The train crew is loading our baggage on the train and this west coast weather is amazingly mild, warm, breezy and easy to take. Neil and his friends assure me this is the sort of weather they experience year round out here.

I found it too easy to promise that I would be back out here in a year. I am dying to take a trip to Europe, but I can really enjoy this sort of weather and laid-back lifestyle again. Not that the lifestyle in Northern Ontario isn’t easy. It’s just that for a bigger city, Vancouver is very easy going. The people don’t act like they live in a big city. They’re going to work at the same time that Toronto people are taking their first coffee break of the morning and so it’s easy to understand how they’re not in any big rush.

There are a lot of the older crowd on the train platform. That is evident by the fact that the music guy has announced that people may want to “get a ride” out to their train car on the “people mover” which is some sort of a glorified golf cart. A lot of the grey-hair blue-hair crowd take up the offer. I am definitely in the over-40 crowd, but I am way too proud to get on the people mover!

(Wednesday morning. 9:20 a.m. local time, somewhere east of Kamloops. BC.) We boarded the train last night and got rolling just after 8:00 p.m. I was pleased to be assigned to a single “cabin” on car 220, just three cars from the Park Car at the end of the train. There are nearly 30 cars on the train. Because I am near the back I can see the locomotive, more than a quarter mile ahead when we’re moving around curves.

Once we began moving, there was a champagne cocktail party in the Park Car. I sat with John and Maggie from Devon, England and Kees and Irene from Holland. We also met about a half dozen Aussies on vacation as well. Rosa the barmaid was pleased to empty several bottles of champagne for us, and when that ran out we began drinking Kokanee, a popular BC beer. Last call was around 11:00 p.m. and we headed back to our cabins.

I didn’t sleep well last night, but that’s the excitement of being on the train. I laid in my bunk and watched the stars and nightscape roll by. It doesn’t matter. My cabin is all mine and I can nap any time I want. I was awakened at 7:00 by my cell phone ringing. I thought it was bizarre, but it was the doctor’s office in Timmins calling to confirm an appointment for October 8th. I apologized for sounding tired, but explained I was just waking up somewhere in the BC interior aboard the transcontinental VIA.

I’ve just have breakfast in the dining car, with linen tablecloths and napkins, real cutlery and china. I sat with a Michigan couple, Jim and Colene, and Doreen from White Rock, BC. It was nice to eat and chat and find out about other people from other places. We all agreed that we like trains.

The internet service I was expecting on this train is not available. I am told it will be available when we stop at larger stations. That’s the only time I will be able to update the blog. In the meantime, there are two shower rooms at the end of this sleeper car. I think I will have a nap, a nice hot shower and then get caught up on some reading up in the Dome car.

4:00 p.m. and we arrived in Jasper. It's raining. Our view of the magnificent mountains out here has been obscured by fog and overcast. I sent a text to Jenn and Neil to let them know I was arriving in Jasper. Neil told me to check out the Whistle Stop Pub, across the street from the train station, so I did. I joined up with the Aussies, Dean & Bink and Peter & Jenny for a cold brew and a nice chat. And believe it or not, I ran into a girl from Timmins who works there at the bar!!! How cool is that? So as I write this I am with about 100 other passengers waiting to get back on the train. The VIA crew does a service stop for roughly an hour in Jasper and we cannot board until their work is done. It is foggy and rainy here and many of the passengers can’t believe how long the train is. Our car is near the back of the train and we had to walk nearly two hundred metres just to get to the station.

So that’s all for now. Will write more and log in when I can.

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