(Second in a series of two columns)
(Written earlier this month)
Monday, July 8 — We gained an extra hour’s sleep in our cross-country railroad tour of Canada that began last night, having crossed a time zone.
This is good, since we must have breakfast and be off our trans-Canada train by 8 this morning for a two-and-a-half hour visit to Winnipeg, capital city of the province of Manitoba.
We have signed up for a bus tour of this elm-shaded city of some 750,000 people, only a few of whom embrace the Canadian practice of saying “Eh” a lot.
Our guide, though fluent in English, hesitates over an occasional word, explaining that he is thinking in French and translating into English as he speaks.
He boasts about the city’s commitment to keeping its world class “urban forest” of elms healthy. It is a major undertaking.
Canada is a nation committed to cleanliness and natural beauty, and Winnipeg, with thousands of acres of public parks and streets lined with elms, is a standard bearer.
Our main stop is at the Parliament, a building we would call the state capitol.
Our guide points out numerous symbols of the Masonic order that have been included in its design.
Given the rate of the city’s growth when the building was planned, it was estimated that Winnipeg would have attained a population of 4 million several years ago, and the building was sized accordingly. Since population has peaked at less than one-fourth of that number, the building is way more than adequate.
Half a dozen of the more senior members of our tour choose to take an elevator instead of the 39 marble steps leading to the second floor, and alight in front of the door to the office of the premier, whom we would call the governor.
At that moment, a handsome, distinguished looking gentleman rounds the corner, and a Canadian in our party says, “It’s him!” Our guide quickly confirms that the premier is indeed approaching.
I fully expect he will ask my advice on some weighty matter of public policy, but he merely extends his hand to me, as he does to others in our party, and says, “Good morning.”
I respond in kind, “Good morning, Sir.”
I really want to say,”Good morning, eh?” but think the better of it.
Unlike yesterday’s wilderness, today’s scenery is largely agricultural: neatly tended crops, endless acres of bright yellow canola flowers (the plant from which canola oil is extracted), and a few herds of livestock.
This area also produces a lot of potash.
In the dining car, we have met travelers from as close as the Florida communities of Venice and Port Charlotte and as far away as Australia.
The majority are retirees, though there is one honeymooning couple and a few other young adults.
We walk through the train cars at a leisurely pace, chuckling at our own, and each other’s, limited ability to cope with the constant jostling of travel by rail.
Tuesday, July 9 — The wilderness of our first day and the farms of our second have been replaced by the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains on this, the third full day of the trip.
Previously, we had only seen the American Rockies, and those from perhaps 35,000 feet. On VIA Rail, we are traveling beneath the tree line, looking up at the Canadian Rockies.
The snow-covered peak of the highest mountain is perpetually shrouded by clouds.
Far and away the most beautiful sight is Pyramid Falls, named for their shape. They cascade down 300-feet-plus. Our hosts on the train give us five minutes notice to find a good viewing point, which is fortunate.
Even with the train slowing to perhaps five miles per hour, the falls are visible for only a few seconds before the view is blocked by the thick screen of conifers that lines much of the tracks.
It is the scenic highlight of the day, indeed, of the entire train trip.
Wednesday, July 10 — We arrive at our destination, Vancouver, and bid farewell to our tiny cabin in Sleeper Car 113.
In our cross-country travels, we have passed through three additional time zones since that first night, gaining an hour’s sleep each time.
Though small, our cabin beats sleeping in a coach seat for four consecutive nights. It is charming in its own way — much like a doll house — and is part of the adventure. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. His and Mary’s cross-country trip by rail from Toronto to Vancouver represents completion of another of their post-retirement goals. The trip has taken them through four time zones. S. L. figures they will be four hours younger when they get home.)