Train Tracking

I woke up way too early but that always happens at the start of a new trip. I had to make sure my condo was spic and span for my renter to be. I wanted to ensure he would enjoy the space as much as I do. First impressions are everything, you know. I really lucked out with this guy, him being a traveller and all. I know its a generalization but most of the time, The Traveler gets it. I have a lot of hats that I wear…daughter, sister, friend, writer, teacher, even cook. But of them all, I find I am at my very best as a traveler.

Travelers practice patience, promote tolerance, and are no doubt a curious bunch. I have found traveling the world has helped me find bravery, cultivated humility, and taught me heaps about compassion…for myself and others. When I am stuck at home in my same drame familiar routine…where nothing is different and I seldom get challenged, its easy. Too easy. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not begging for chaos or disaster. Put simply, I crave adventure. It seems to me, the most meaningful experiences happen in times of great change.

I packed up my house and locked the door, just in time to find my father downstairs waiting in the still dark early morn. The snow fluttered lightly onto the windshield as I climbed in. Michael finished securing the bags into the back then climbed in after me. My beloved father seemed in good spirits and I was grateful that he is a morning person. I realize that it has become something of a tradition that he take me to the plane, train, or bus, to see me off at the start of a long trip. No matter the time, early or late, he never complains. And it always makes my heart warm to have Him as my last hug.

Dad got us to the train station near the middle of the city with plenty of time to spare. We even stopped at the Tim Hortons on the way to have one more chance to Roll up the Rim. Ofcourse Michael let me roll his up too. He always wins. We walked into the almost empty Via Rail station and immediately realized something was not quite right. I mean, I know we were there early but it was like a ghost town. For a second, I wondered if I had the day wrong. Turns out, the train was delayed. I didn’t mind too much as there were long benches I could stretch out on for a rest. But hour after hour, the delay became longer and longer. By 10:30am, the five hours began to wear on me. And every time I would look up, the time would have updated, one more hour. One more hour.

I began to panic just a little when I realized we may have to dig into our snack reserves. Michael and I had prepared a nice little picnic for the train ride, as I wasn’t sure what the dining car would have on offer. Better to be safe than sorry. I asked Michael to put the bag of food outside the window we were sitting by, so the food wouldn’t spoil. One of the many perks of living in a giant freezer. Luckily, just as I was about to dip in, Kevin the station manager, announced that pizza was on the way. It was very kind of them to offer us free food, especially since there is nothing, not even a convenience store or gas station, within miles. Even if there were, at this point the snow had really started to come down. There was no way I was getting into THAT I thought to myself. Michael had other plans and even went outside to play in the snowflakes one last time.

After a couple of slices, a juice box and a short cat nap, I thought I could hear the train coming so I bolted up. Sadly, it was just the rumble of the vending machine complaining that no one was playing with him. After more than 6 hours, the monster passenger locomotive finally chugged in. The crew were quick and eager to get us all in and on our way. It was the most efficient boarding I have ever seen. I guess they had a lot of time to plan it just right.

Michael and I made the mistake of plopping ourselves in the first seats we saw, which happened to be too close to the disfunctional washroom. There are no other seats together so we may be in for it tonight with people bashing it again and again to try and close the door. We all took a turn at it, and no one could seem to get it to stay shut. Since we are in the closest proximity, Michael took it upon himself to become something of a washroom guard, holding the door shut and blocking any intruders. Secretly I know he loved it, but I would hate to have him take this job for the rest of our 26 hour journey. I know he prides himself as a security guard, but Toilet Monitor just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

I had barely settled in when Michael was poking me to check out the Brunch which was apparently on last call. I was doubtful that we would be allowed in the Sleeper Class posh dining car, but I went along to placate him. Never get between this man and his food. We were both rather excited when we learned that not only were we allowed in the elegantly set up dining car, we were welcomed and encouraged. I couldn’t much resist when I spotted the Lobster and Crab Ravioli and I had to mop up the drool when Michael honed in on the Duck Confit Benedict. For $30 we both had hot coffee, juice, a very generous sized entree and some lovely table conversation. The couple we were seated with were a couple of lawyers from Nova Scotia. I had forgotten how friendly train travel is.

I have taken Via Rail across the country both ways in the past and found it to be one of the more charming, romantic ways to travel. There is something about the clickety clack of the tracks and the whiz of passing trains that never gets old. The sun beams through the shimmery snow gusts as billow past my window. I spotted a lone baby deer not more than 20 meters away, scrambling up the embankment through the deep carpet of fresh powder. As the car warbles gently from side to side, its almost as a rocking motion. We are going a little faster than normal, I suspect, to make up for lost time. But I feel safe and secure as the parade of cars hug the curves and grip the rails. There is a lady playing music in the panorama car but I am so very sleepy. If I want to be alert for the splendor that is the Rocky Mountains, I had better grab a nap.

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