Sunday, January 4, 2009

Day 17: The final stretch

We were early for every place last night that we figured we'd be early into Edmonton, AB. But as after went to sleep somewhere before Saskatoon, it all went awry. We woke up at 4:30am to find out we weren't even at Wainwright, SK which we were supposed to be at 3 something in the morning, so at that point we knew we'd be at least two hours late getting in. It turns out we were two and a half hours late.

Lynn and Lawrie (Jon's Mom and Step-Dad) were waiting for us patiently as they didn't phone ahead to find out if the train was delayed. It took a little while for everyone to disembark and then collect the checked baggage. Since we had one suitcase checked in, we also had to wait.

Getting out of Edmonton was easy, there wasn't much traffic that early in the morning on a Sunday. There was a few slippery spots on the road, but nothing we couldn't handle, which is more than I can say for the Jeep we saw sitting upside down on the highway.

We arrived into Calgary around 12:30pm dropped our baggage off and exchanged our gifts for Lynn and Lawrie. Then we headed over to Original Joe's for some lunch. After our wonderful meal we said our good byes and parted company. Lynn and Lawrie were off to Chris and Geneva's and then off to Banff for the night before heading to the West Coast.

We made a quick stop at home to get some shopping bags and gift certificate for Marks Work Wearhouse and then headed out to get Jon some Steel Toed shoes for his new job he starts tomorrow morning at 7am.

I hope everyone has enjoyed our adventure as much as we had.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Day 16: To Saskatoon

We left Winnipeg 30 minutes late, but I'm sure they can make up the time. We are just passing close to Brandon right now as I write this at 2:55pm Central Standard Time. Jon and I were in the 2nd seating for lunch this time which was supposed to start at 12:30pm but was delayed a bit by our late departure. We both had the Steak Salad which was wonderful. There was a lot of tomatoes in it, so Jon gave me all his to eat. For dessert we had a choice of Caramel cake or Maple ice cream. I had the ice cream and Jon had the Caramel cake. Both were yummy.


We are now stopped in Melville, SK. I have fallen asleep a few times in my chair and Jon laughed at me when I woke up the many times. I saw a group of about 12 deer off in a field and we have been seeing lots of cows and horses out in the farmers fields. We arrived an hour early so Jon is meeting a friend from T2000 outside while I stay warm inside. Many other people are outside catching a smoke, since the next chance will most likely be in Saskatoon at 11pm tonight.

Ken is our new attendant for today. The crew switched out in Winnipeg, MB. No offense to the new crew, but the first crew seemed friendlier and had more manners. The our waitress in the Dining car always took the ladies orders first and then the mens, no matter whom belonged to who.

Day 16: Winnipeg Morning

We woke up around 7am and Jon had a shower before we got into the Station in Winnipeg. We were going to be 1/2 an hour early. Since there was no staff outside when we arrived they didn't let anyone off the train. Jon and I headed for breakfast where I had French Toast with yogurt to start and Jon had pancakes with muslix to start. We then went back to our room and got dressed for the -18C weather. As we were getting off Dennis our attendant said to me that it wasn't that cold outside and that I was dressed for the arctic since I was wearing my new rabbit fur lined hat with ear flaps. I just didn't want to be cold. They are allowing guests to get on and off the train until 10am and then they are closing the platform. We can start getting back on at 11am if we wish and the train departs at 12:30pm. We are going to head over the the Forks and see what is at the marketplace, but I thought I would update the blog for those who check often.


Day 15: On VIA's Canadian

This morning breakfast was being served at 7:00am to 8:30am. We headed over to the dining car around 7:45am, right after Jon had his shower. There was a lot to choose from. Jon ordered the cinnamon bun which was fried in butter, with oatmeal to start. I had eggs benedict for my breakfast. We both thoroughly enjoyed breakfast.

After breakfast we spent some of the morning in our room watching the scenery and doing the digital thing (iPods and Computer games). We headed to the Park Car where we met lots of great people and were trying to maintain three or four conversations. We had a layover in Foleyet because we were way early. We weren't supposed to be there until 11:16 and we were about two hours early. Michelle delayed her presentation of Frequently Asked Questions until we were on the road again. We even quizzed her on a couple of things.

Just after Michelle's presentation we had first seating for Lunch which is the seating we chose for today, so we again headed to the Dining Car. Jon and I both had the Lamb Chops and mmmm were they good. For dessert Jon had the vanilla ice cream (some of us heard "pail of ice cream" when the attendant told the other table) and I had the pecan pie. For the afternoon we spent most of it in the Park Car enjoying the view and we stopped in Hornepayne for about an hour, because again we were early. Jon got out of the train and took some pictures and ran over to the general store to pick up some junk food. It was pretty cold outside about -13C. I stayed inside the car and visited with the other people in the car. There is one guy named Cash who calls Jon, Johnny because then it's Johnny & Cash. He is very talkative and has lots of stories to tell. He's from Vancouver Island traveling from Halifax. He's trying out all the different classes of service during this trip. He started with Comfort Class and has worked his way up to Silver and Blue Class which is 1st Class.

Michelle waited until we left Hornepayne before putting on her trivia game. Everyone was asked 38 questions and two of them were two pointers. The highest score was the older couple in front of us who scored 38, we scored 32 and if I didn't listen to Jon on a couple of the questions we would have had 34 points. The first place winners won a CD of Music to Travel By and a badge and the rest of us had the choice of a keychain, pin, badge, or bookmarks. Jon and I both chose the bookmarks, as we can always use bookmarks and we already have too many key chains. The remainder of the afternoon was spent visiting and watching the sun set over the Northern Ontario frozen lakes and rivers as well as a whole lot of trees.

Around 5:30pm the first call for Dinner was made and we headed to the Dining Car again. The Dining Car is three cars in front of us, so at least we are getting some exercise along the way. Dinner Jon and I had the Prime Rib dinner which came with soup I had the fish chowder and Jon had the Tomato and Red Pepper Bisque and then we had starter salad with a Maple Mayonnaise Dressing, boy was it good! The attendant came by and gave us all fresh baked dinner rolls which were still warm when delivered to the table, and then shortly after that our dinner was served. Again mmmm mmmm good! Dessert was a choice of Creme Brule Cheesecake or a Silver and Blue Chocolate Tort. We went with the Chocolate tort, which Jon nicknamed "Death by Chocolate" and boy was it. As our friend Cam would say it was disgusting, it's a good thing we ate it all so that no one else would have to suffer the torture of finishing it. After dinner we retired to our room where I am writing this and Jon is playing on my iPod. We have no idea when these updates will be sent out, maybe in Winnipeg, but we are still writing in hopes that they get out sooner or later.

Dennis, our attendant just checked in with us to see if we want our beds made up now or a little later. He was going to grab a bite to eat. We told him to go and get a bite to eat and then come back to make up our rooms. I am looking forward to sleeping better tonight, but we will see. Breakfast tomorrow starts at 6:30am.

We are an hour early into Armstrong, ON which is where we are to change our clocks back one hour. If all the people we are supposed to pick up are at the station we can continue on, if not we have to wait until they get there or until 10:19pm to depart. Looks like we may be early along most of our trip, so Lynn and Lawrie, phone 1-888-VIA-RAIL to find out if we are early into Saskatoon, SK if you are meeting us there for hugs. We will be into Winnipeg and have a layover of about 4 hours. Tomorrow lunch is at 12:30 for us and dinner is at 7pm.


Day 14 - Returning home

Ten minutes to 9pm and about an hour and a bit away from our scheduled
departure from Toronto.

It's been a relatively quiet week, log splitting, playing Skip-Bo (a
card game), watching TV, and basically enjoying the company of
Michaelea's parents. We visited with a couple new neighbors of mom
and dad and then had quick good-byes and I drove the rental car back
to Toronto. Took route 45 west to Orillia and then south on 11 and
400 to the 401. Stopped in at the Turriton's to say hello, have a bit
of a visit while we're in town, (Tony is the newsletter editor for
Transport 2000 Ontario, and I stayed with the Turriton's back in May
when I came out for a Transport 2000 board meeting in Ottawa.) and
kill some time since we made good time into Toronto (it helps when
everyone on the 400 is doing 120kph, while the speed limit on this six
lane highway is supposed to be 100.)

Returning the rental car turned out to be a rather interesting
experience...Well, not so much returning it, but actually getting into
the parking lot where we were to return it. Basically, we were both
shown and reminded (Jon and Michaelea respectively) how much driving
in downtown Toronto really Sucks. Especially when there's a hockey
game going on at the Air Canada Centre, which happens to be directly
south of Union Station. Lots of pedestrians, no end of "no left
turn's" on the streets we needed to turn left onto, and in general how
traffic just loved to screw around with us. After turning around,
doing a reverse/u-turn in the middle of an intersection, we finally
managed to learn how to get northbound on York street just south of
Front Street and then into the parking lot for returning the car.
What a relief! (Next time, we want to take the bus out to Haliburton
and save ourselves the hassle of driving there...)

Had an inkling to have dinner at a decent restaurant in downtown
Toronto and went for a walk after checking our luggage in at the
Luggage counter. We obviously went the wrong direction and ended up
in a whole ton of construction, just west of Union Station. Nothing
worthy, so found our way into the Skywalk between Union Station and
the Skydome (now known as the Rogers Centre, where the Toronto Blue
Jays and Toronto Argonauts play) and walked back indoors to where we
were going to find "something" to eat. Ended up being Harvey's. Not
really noteworthy other than it was food, done reasonably well for the

Checked in at the Panorama Lounge (we were the first ones here), had
our tickets lifted and shortly afterward, Robert, the Dining Car
Service Manager advised he would be taking reservations aboard the
train tonight. I pretty much instantly recognized him from a previous
trip where George W, Michael C. and myself (all part of T2000) enjoyed
a trip west in the Park Car with a bottle of Canadian Sparkling Wine
(aka Canadian Champagne), and he recognized me as well. Cherie is our
Service Manager to Winnipeg, someone I haven't yet seen aboard in my
travels on the Canadian. From most indications, this should be a good
trip west. If nothing else, I'm sure it's not going to be better than
our trip aboard Amtrak!


We boarded the train around 9:40pm and we were greeted by our car
attendant Dennis who took our small suitcase and led us to our room.
We checked the large suitcase as we shouldn't need anything out of it
for the remainder of the trip. It is Room F on Car 122. It is a large
room with really comfy chairs, which you can move around, a water
closet (bathroom with just a toilet) a sink and several mirrors. After
dropping our stuff off in the room, Jon bolted to the park car to sit
in the front seat to watch our departure. I on the other hand stayed
behind and organized our bags before heading to the park car. The park
car is the last car on the train with the dome on top and the curved
rear end. In the Park Car they offered Champagne and hor'douveres. I
had a glass and Jon had a glass and a half. The Champagne went to my
head much faster than the wine and beer I was drinking at Mom and
Dad's. Only small amounts, I didn't want to get sick. It was really
nice to have the Bon Voyage Reception while our rooms were being made

Compared to the beds on Amtrak these beds were luxury. They are wider
on top and bottom than the Amtrak and more comfortable. They also give
you two really comfortable full sized pillows and a comforter whereas
Amtrak gives you a travel pillow and travel blanket like you would get
in an airplane. Thin and small. There was no want for extra heat on
The Canadian. As per usual the first night is hard to get used to the
moving and bumping so all the sleep we really received is the "travel
sleep" where you are virtually asleep, but aware of what is going on
around you.