I’m sure y’all will be glad to hear that my trip from Winnipeg to Vancouver was the polar opposite of my trip from Toronto to Winnipeg. I’m sure you’re glad most of all because you don’t want to listen to me whine again. I promise no whining here.

The main difference between the two trips was that the Winnipeg to Vancouver trip was broken up into three distinct segments, whereas the trip from Toronto to Winnipeg was just one long seemingly endless haul (not whining; just a fact). And because the trip to Vancouver was broken up into segments, the train got serviced in Winnipeg, in Edmonton, and again in Jasper. In fact, in Jasper, they even cleaned the windows on the dome cars. That meant things were cleaned up (“things” being mainly the bathrooms and seat garbage), which made all the difference in the world. As I’ve now discovered, just something as simple as having clean functioning toilets (and toilet paper) can actually make or break a trip.

The other difference was the landscape. Sure, miles and miles of mile and miles of the same stand of trees might be inspirational to, say, an artist like Andy Warhol (if he wanted to substitute Campbell soup cans with spruce trees), but I frankly found the view somewhat tedious after the first day of seeing more or less the same thing over and over and over and over again, especially under a dull gray rainy sky. In contrast, the sun-drenched landscape from Winnipeg to Vancouver was constantly and dramatically changing, from the golden wheat fields of Manitoba to the rolling hills of Saskatchewan to the foothills of the Rockies and then the mighty Rockies themselves, and finally down the Athabascan and Fraser river valleys to the Pacific coast.

Needless to say, I ran out of batteries I took so many pictures, but unfortunately I was photo-bombed by so many trees that only a few of the pics are worth sharing. (See pathetic attempt at capturing what no-one really can capture, below.)

I’m in a Vancouver beach hostel now. It’s a repurposed military barracks and still has an institutional look and feel. I kind of like the ghost of the military atmosphere; it keeps people in line.

Jericho Beach Hostel

After catching the local public transit bus outside the train station, I transferred a few times (unnecessarily, as I found out later) and then ended up a community shuttle bus that dropped me right outside the hostel. What a difference between Vancouver and Edmonton in that regard! Actually, getting back and forth between the train station and the hostel in Winnipeg was a breeze as well (just a ten-minute bus ride, with a stop directly outside the hostel, or a $7 cab ride).

Overall, my first re-impression of Vancouver (after 25 years) is one of prosperity. I remember coming here in the early 1980s when it was still a bit of a downmarket hippie paradise, with Birkenstocks and “natural food” stores everywhere. Those stores are long gone, replaced by Whole Foods and everything Asian. It’s like Vancouver is all grown up. People rush around here now just like they do in Toronto, tending to their bank accounts instead of their chakras. Glad to see, though, that the mountains that were obscured by pollution haze in 1991 are now nearly as clear as they were in 1981 when I first saw them. Whatever is being done to reduce emissions here is definitely working.

I still wouldn’t want to live here, even with three Whole Foods. I couldn’t stand the rainy season now any more than I could back in 1991, when I thought I’d permanently moved here only to run screaming from the place after four months of unremitting daily deluges. Speaking of the rainy season … it looks like we’ll be getting a preview this week of what’s to come over the next six months. It’s supposed to rain every day for at least the next seven days. So… I’ve postponed my planned trip to Vancouver Island (Victoria, Namaimo and Tofino) and am heading east towards the hot and dry sunshine of Winnipeg. If it’s not sunny there, I’ll keep heading east until I find some sun. This is the crazy thing you can do with a System Unlimited rail pass: you just go wherever the wind (and weather forecast) blows you.