OK – I admit I’ve got a bit of egg on my face. Just 72 hours after swearing I’ll never do a 2-nighter on a train again, here I am doing another 2-nighter on a train. Actually, I had planned to do just a 1-nighter from Winnipeg to Edmonton, but when I found out that there’s no public transportation connecting the VIA station to the rest of Edmonton and that the cheapest option of getting from the station to where I wanted to go was in the $30 range (and maybe double that going back to the station, as it would be very early on Sunday morning and cabbing it would be the only option), I decided to boycott Edmonton. It’s not so much the expense as the principle of the thing – how can you invite tourists to your city but not provide cost-effective ways for them (and the locals) to get from their point of arrival (VIA and Greyhound station) to wherever they need to go?
So, bypassing Edmonton leaves me climbing back on board the iron horse again for a 2-nighter. I made the decision on my last night in Winnipeg, which meant cancelling some reservations last minute and booking others. It also meant coming on board more or less on the fly and unprepared for a 2-nighter, both food-wise and work-wise. As fate would have it, I spied a can of Amy’s organic soup in the luggage of the couple across the aisle as they were rummaging through their things, and being the shrinking violet that I am, NOT, I asked them if I could buy the soup from them. They agreed, we made a deal, so that takes care of at least tonight’s supper.
In case you’re wondering – yes, there’s lots of food on board that’s available for purchase, but none of it is organic, so it doesn’t interest me. Mind you, I say that now while I’m still full from lunch. We’ll see how good that non-organic hamburger looks around this time tomorrow, after my organic apples and raisins run out….
Saskatchewan is truly breathtaking. Far from being flat and boring, it’s rolling hills and meandering rivers as far as the eye can see. Then comes the endless marshland with endless butterflies and ducks. And oh, that sky! This is what I signed up for.
There’s a storm far off to the right of the train. I’ve been watching it for the past two hours and we’re just passing by it now. “Far as the eye can see” takes on a whole different meaning on the Prairies.
On the horizon, just beyond the showery curtains of rain, I spy a range of dark gray cloud mountains that wasn’t there a few minutes ago. From here, the ‘mountains’ look as majestic and solid as the Rockies, but in another five minutes they’ll be gone.
The train from Winnipeg to Vancouver used to take a route further south and hard west through Regina and Calgary and Banff, rather than taking a northwestward trajectory as it does now through Saskatoon and Edmonton and Jasper. I’m not sure when or why the route was so drastically changed, but it likely had something to do the high-end Rocky Mountaineer train that now lords it over the tracks between Calgary and Vancouver.
DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN – I just found the motherlode of all motherlodes of little packets of peanut butter, jam, maple syrup, honey, butter, mayonnaise, ketchup, Caesar dressing, honey mustard dressing, relish, mustard, barbeque sauce – you name it and it’s there, all flanked by cardboard buckets overflowing with individually wrapped cutlery, salt and pepper, napkins and even little creamers. This bounty is for us, the humble denizens of economy class. VIA even provides us with hot water and a toaster, if we’ve thought ahead to bring a tea bag and a slice of bread (check, check). This is all in the “economy caboose”, which is the downmarket version of the Dining Car. The Dining Car is now almost exclusively for the use of Sleeper Class patrons, so our humble caboose, while not the actual end of the train, is still very much the end of the line for economy class explorers who are wondering what is beyond the barred door with the sign that says “Sleeper Class only”.
Looks like they’re trying to buy us off with free condiments and a toaster, but hey, it works for me!
The lack of Internet remains a problem. Even at the four designated wifi stations (Winnipeg, Edmonton, Jasper and Vancouver) the connection is spotty at best. The Winnipeg, Jasper and Vancouver stations don’t require a password to get online, but Edmonton does. Consequently, because the stopover at Edmonton was much briefer than it was supposed to be (as we’re constantly behind schedule due to freight trains hogging the tracks), I barely had time to send one document (I was still pounding on the “send” key as I was climbing back on board). It’s hard to relax and enjoy the trip when you can’t stop thinking that someone is waiting anxiously to hear back from you about a document that needs immediate editing.
Guess I’ll just have to live with it for the next five weeks.
Four, actually. The last week I’ll be either in Toronto or east thereof, which now in my mind means “Internet access onboard”.
WOO HOO, WI FI!