Thursday, November 03, 2011


I remember sitting in an airport one time thinking that the travelers could be divided into two categories - the ones heading out, and the ones heading home. And that this categorization cut across most other groupings - it had nothing to do with race or gender or education.

Right now, I'm outgoing, headed away from Saskatoon on the train again. I find my mindset is quite different at the beginning of a trip than it is at the end. The beginning is a process of letting go, of breaking free from normal life. The end means looking ahead to reentry into the regular routine, back to all the issues you temporarily left behind.

We just passed one of my favorite parts of the train trip east from Saskatoon - the section along the Qu'appelle valley near the Saskatchewan / Manitoba border. In the spring when I passed through it was green and wetly flooded. Now, the leaves are all gone, the water has retreated, and dry browns predominate. Unlike the prairies there are hills and trees. Unlike the seemingly endless boreal forest, there are still open views.

I also like the lakes, rivers, rocks, and forests of northern Ontario. They make me wish I had my kayak with me! (Although it doesn't seem right to call it "northern" Ontario when it's actually in the southern half of the province.)

Nine of us got on in Saskatoon, more than last time I rode the train. Less foreign tourists this time, they mostly travel westward through the mountains and in the summer. Quite a few people are traveling all the way from Vancouver to Toronto. A few are switching trains to continue on to Montreal or Halifax. I don't imagine too many are taking trains all the way to Florida the way I am :-)

When you fly, you jump over countries and continents. Taking the train or bus, you are, instead, immersed in the country. You cannot escape the size of the continent, or the variety of the terrain.

Another aspect of riding the train is that you are surrounded by other people that take the train. That sounds self evident, but in any other group, taking the train is an oddity. This sense of being with people that share a certain common ground doesn't really happen with flying, since flying is so common, and you have little time or circumstance to mingle with the other passengers.

When you are in "sleeper" class on Via Rail meals are included. This helps pass the time and also forces even introverts like me to meet some of the fellow travelers. On many cruise ships you have an assigned table and sit with the same few people every meal. Here, you are seated at a different table with different people at each meal. Last night I had supper with a pair of cute young girls 2 and 3 years old. My main fear was that I was going to end up wearing some of the food they were waving about! As usual, the food was excellent and there was always a good vegetarian option.

I have a few days in Montreal and a break from the train before continuing south.

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