A Window Into Our Travels

For this week’s challenge, I scrambled around looking for any and all pictures taken during recent travels that could be relevant to the theme of windows, regardless of the context in which the theme could be invoked.  The result could appear to be somewhat scattershot. Perhaps the real unifying theme is that these pictures a part of larger stories that appear elsewhere in my blogs.

During our recent visit to New England, we stayed one evening at a lovely Bed and Breakfast establishment in Gorham, NH.  I wandered around early in the morning, taking the following pictures that showcase some of the windows in this old home.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe following pictures were taken during the same New England trip in Tip-Top House, which used to be a hotel right at the top of Mt. Washington in NH.  The entire facility still exists in its original form even though it is not in use today. The windows here seemed somewhat small.  Perhaps they are that way in order to minimize the loss of heat.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe following pictures were taken from the window of my plane on my way to the Canadian Rockies for a six day bike ride.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe following pictures were taken from the window of our van as we drove into Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies for the start of the bike ride.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese last pictures was taken during the rescue operation after the bike ride, during my train ride from Edmonton to Toronto on The Canadian.IMG_20170804_094454299IMG_20170805_154810189_HDR

Travels With My Brother – A Delivery in Toronto

Our third morning on the train found us stopped at some location I could not identify. IMG_20170805_073451787The time was about 8:30am.  Shortly after, I noticed passengers walking outside.  IMG_20170805_083734660My guess was that this was a train station.

A few freight trains went by while we waited at this location.  An hour and a half later the train moved slowly to another location not too far away where I saw this sign.IMG_20170805_100631291The train then started moving forward as if it were going to depart the place and then stopped.  If only they could make up their minds!  It then returned to this station at around 11:00am. IMG_20170805_105902917Apparently somebody on the train had had an accident and broken a hip. The person had to be taken off the train.  When the train finally departed Sudbury Junction, it had lost what little time it had made up the previous night. By then it was about ten hours late.

I did join others for breakfast for the first time during this ride.  Met up with a young couple who were from different parts of of Europe, countries in the east and the west.  They were used to traveling all over the world.  The train ride they had enjoyed the most was the one in South Africa.  It turned out that their main complaint with the Canadian was the fact that the timing was predictable.  That was what I heard consistently from other people that we dined with.  Their main issue, and ours, was the inability to create reliable plans for their destinations.  Some had connections to make to other places.

We showered that day on the train (finally!) in preparation for our arrival in Toronto later in the evening.  It was also time to change the dressing on the wounds on my left arm for the first time since we started the trip.  Tom had to do it.  He remembered the procedure but the process itself did not do him any good.  Concentrating on the effort of completing the dressing was too much for him.  He had been feeling good in the morning, but the effort set him back.

Meanwhile, the rescue party from the US were on their way to Buffalo.  They had started the previous day and had run into their own share of adventures.  They had booked a car with a rental agency, only to be told when they arrived there that there was no car really available.  They decided to try their luck at another place, and fortunately a car was just being returned at that time.  They jumped at the offer to rent that car.  The escape plan could have become even more complicated without this car.  Christina and Jesse were also arranging a place for us to stay that night in Buffalo.  Because of the proximity to Niagara Falls, prices for hotel rooms were quite exorbitant, but they managed to find a place that would do.  The only matter now left was to coordinate times of arrival in Toronto, a challenge under the circumstances.

Tom had given up on flying out of Toronto.  There was no way the train was going to get there on time. In addition to the idea of flying out of Buffalo, he was also considering coming down to Gaithersburg with us and flying out of one of the DC airports.  He had been doing a lot of research in this regard on the train.  The Gaithersburg option was less expensive, but he would have to be in good shape to travel in the car.  Both options would get him home in time.  In the end he decided to travel with us all the way to Gaithersburg.

Since the train had originally been scheduled to arrive in Toronto in the morning, lunch that was served in the dining room ended up being an improvised effort.  The chef managed to produce three fresh entrees to choose from. The staff did a great job under the circumstances.  I learned that the train was supposed to head back from Toronto to Vancouver the same evening, and that the staff who had accompanied us on this trip were supposed to work the train going back.  This meant that, because of the delay,  they were not getting a long break in Toronto.  That must be tough.

I took more pictures of the landscape along the way as we approached Toronto.  It was quite cloudy.IMG_20170805_153052648_HDRIMG_20170805_153718131IMG_20170805_153949579_HDRWe rolled into Toronto a little after 6pm.  Our rescuers had been trying to get updates on the estimated time of arrival of the train from us and from Via Rail through the day.  Jesse seemed to have left Buffalo at a good time to pick us up and was on his way. We took the nearest exit we could find out of the train station and walked out onto Front Street and got in touch with Christina.  We were instructed to cross the road and wait in front of the Royal York Hotel. IMG_20170805_181614815_HDRIMG_20170805_181629428_HDRJesse arrived in the red corolla that we had been advised to look out for a few minutes later.

We quickly packed ourselves into the car.  A message was was broadcast that the package had been picked up successfully!

We made a quick getaway from the city and headed towards Niagara Falls to cross the border into the USA.  We grabbed some food from a Subway along the way.  Tom was already feeling good enough to eat and we both had good appetites.

The immigration officer at the border asked about the purpose of the trip when Jesse handed our passports to him.  “A rescue mission,” Jesse said.  The dressing on my arm was enough to convince him.  The officer asked if I was bringing anything back from Canada.  He then laughed and said that I probably left some skin behind in Canada.  Not only skin, but some flesh also!  I told him that I was only bringing back some gravel from Canada.  He smiled.   For some reason this seemed funny at that time.

Christina was waiting for us at the motel.  We were tired.  We crashed out!

As a postscript to this part of the adventure, I should make it very clear that I would not have made it this far without Tom.   Traveling in my condition was not a easy exercise.  Tom was always there making sure I was OK.  He was the one who did all the planning.  He was the one who had to do the heavy lifting.   He was the one who even had to cut my steak one night at dinner when I foolishly ordered something that had been recommended by others but was difficult to handle.  Thanks for everything man!

Last stage of our travels here.

Travels With My Brother – The First Full Day On The Train

I have been a great fan of trains all my life.  As a child growing up in India, I was so obsessed with trains that I would even spend hours looking at railway timetable books trying to understand how train schedules fit with each other.  I knew all about the major trains in South India at that time.

With that background, it should not be a surprise to the reader that I would consider the experience of traveling across Canada on the Canadian something special, a unique lifetime opportunity to be taken advantage of even if the circumstances of the ride were not ideal.  It was not surprising that I had easily fallen asleep to the rocking beat of the train that first night on the train. It was a comforting feeling to me.  Besides, I had been exhausted!

The Canadian is considered Canada’s signature transcontinental train ride. You cross the country in a historical train consisting of stainless steel stream-liner cars built in the 1950s (last refurbished earlier this century) over a span of four days.  The train includes dome cars for viewing the scenery, and luxury cars for high-end travel.  Motive power is provided by powerful diesel electric locomotives that have been refurbished in recent times to further increase their power and efficiency.  The train is capable of high speeds when allowed.  I was told that this can happen in the night when they are trying to make up time.  The dining experience on the train is excellent. They also have on-board activities to keep you entertained when you are not simply relaxing, looking out of the window, or reading a book.  A trip on the Canadian is ideal for folks who are not in a hurry.

It was late in the morning when I finally woke up to the rhythm of the rails. It was too late to go to the dining car for breakfast.  Tom was still asleep.  Looking out of the window, I noticed that it was a sunny morning and that we were speeding past fields in the prairies.IMG_20170803_075513221We had probably already crossed from Alberta into Saskatchewan province during the night. I was told that the yellow in the fields was from the flowers of the canola plant (called rapeseed in other places).

I managed to drag my cracked body out of bed without too much pain.  I took stock of the space that we were in.  It was certainly tight with the beds open. We actually had to leave some of our bags on the beds while sleeping.  We had a little sink in front of us with a piece of wood hanging in front of it that would fold over the sink to create more space when it was not in use.  There was a little toilet behind a closed door.  Its vacuum flush was quite effective.   The shower was a shared facility at the end of the carriage.  (They provided you with a package of towel, soap, and shampoo if you wanted to use the facility.  It was actually quite good, and I took advantage of it on our last day on the train shortly before we disembarked.)  There were a couple of plug points in the room to charge your electronic items, but there was no wifi signal anywhere on-board.  You were dependent on proximity of the train to mobile communications towers for network connectivity.

I brushed my teeth (still using my knees to adjust my height), put on my shorts and sandals, and began walking towards the skyline car in search of some food.  The corridors were narrow with just enough space for one person to walk through comfortably.  You had to steady yourself with your hands to maintain your balance while walking.  The vestibules between the carriages were all closed in and the connections between the carriages felt quite stable even at high speeds.  It took quite a bit of effort and strength to open some of the doors to enter the carriages.

It had been a long time since I last walked through a train.  It took me longer than expected, and more effort than I had anticipated. I finally got to the skyline car. In addition to the elevated dome area for viewing the scenery around you, this car had a lounge on a lower level for relaxing, and a cafe area, also on the lower level, to grab some snacks and drinks and sit down and relax, and even read a newspaper if you so desired.  That was where I was headed.  I found some breakfast crackers and coffee, and sat down to relax. The coffee felt good.  I began to get further into the spirit of the train ride as the caffeine coursed through my system.

I walked towards the next car, which happened to be the dining car, and ran into its maître d’.   Since she was seeing me for the first time, she inquired about which dining car we had been assigned to eat in.  Upon realizing that we were new additions to her own dining room, she assigned us a seating time for our meals for that day.  (Since they do not have enough place to seat everybody at the same time, they have different people come in at different times for different sittings.)  We ended up in the last call for all meals that day.

On my way back to our cabin, I ran into an older couple from Boston in the lounging area of the skyliner. I would see them in that same location day after day, throughout the train ride, almost every time I went by.  These were the first of  the many wonderful fellow travelers we made our acquaintance with during the ride.  The dressing covering the road rash on my left hand would be the subject of an opening conversation, and  then it would shoot off in some random direction or the other.   People were sympathetic to my situation (and eventually Tom’s), and people were nice, and even helpful.

Back in our cabin Tom was stirring.  But he was not in the best of shape because of motion sickness that he was beginning to experience.  He attempted to walk towards the skyliner car to get some food, but turned back  immediately because of claustrophobia when walking through the corridor.  He flopped back into bed with his head sunk into his pillow, and he continued to stay in that position indefinitely.  I eventually took a walk back to the cafe area and brought back some food for him to consume when he felt like it.

The train pulled into Saskatoon around 2pm.  It was still a little more than 5 hours late. Since the train was going to be stopped for a while, people stepped out to stretch their legs.  It was great for Tom to feel solid ground once again.  He was beginning to feel better.  The station itself proved to be dreary place, far away from the center of town, just like in Edmonton.IMG_20170803_134244003The stream-liner cars stretched in both directions of the platform.IMG_20170803_134139987IMG_20170803_134803490I started walking along the platform.  I noticed this young man taking advantage of the break to do push ups beside the train.  I also noticed that the sanitation truck was busy removing the sewage from the tanks in the carriages, one carriage at a time, and decided that this gave me enough time to walk to the front of the train.IMG_20170803_135935872_HDRIMG_20170803_140006801_HDRThe F40 engines looked magnificent in the midday sun.

Once the train got moving, Tom and I went to the dining car to join the third sitting for lunch that day.  As with every meal we experienced on this train, we were seated across the table from other random folks from the ride.  We met a young couple from Toronto who were returning from their honeymoon.   The condition of my left arm was an easy way to open up the conversation.  The young lady, who was of Filipino descent, had traveled all over the world.  It was only when we were departing the diner car that I realized that she moved around on only one leg. You would never guess from talking to her.  The young man, who appeared to be of Caucasian descent, was smart and accomplished.  He had his commercial pilot’s license, but he worked for a security software firm.  He knew stuff, including everything about the train and transportation in general.  He had his camera with him and would occasionally point out different things outside the carriage and take pictures.  You could see that the two cared for each other.

And the food was fresh and outstanding! I even had some wine. We enjoyed the meal thoroughly, and the circumstances in which it had been consumed.IMG_20170803_153026329_HDRBack in the cabin planning was underway for the trip beyond Toronto.  We had good network connectivity at this point.  We were in touch with Christina. The plan was for her to rent a car in Massachusetts and drive to Toronto to pick me up from the airport.  Tom would fly back to Dallas from Toronto.  Things started going haywire when Christina realized at the last moment that her passport had expired.  We ended the day without finding a solution to that particular problem.

Some time during the day the carriage attendant came to our cabin to fold away our beds.  We were expecting to see a bench that looked like the one on Indian trains after the process was complete.  Instead, we had two individual chairs that still took up space. The full beds had actually been moved completely out of the way above the cabin and to its side.  We found that the arrangement was actually not very convenient.  It did not really open up that much more space in the cabin, and it was not possible to lie down if one wanted to.  This was the only day we asked for this particular service.  We preferred to leave things in the “bed” configuration all the time.

That night we had dinner with another young couple.  The young lady was a flight attendant who was starting to look for other things to do.  She talked about her experiences over the years working for the airline.  The young man was firefighter you had dedicated his life to the profession.  He had a remarkable story.  At the age of 19, he had been hit by a vehicle when crossing the road.  He had been injured quite badly, and he even hesitated to talk about his injuries while we were eating because they were quite horrific.  Among his injuries, he had also broken his ribs and punctured his lungs badly.  But he had recovered, and at age 26 (or was it 27?), he showed no signs of his injury.  Not only that, he was quite athletic.  He was the one I had seen doing push ups on the platform at Saskatoon.  He said he had done 350 of them!  He had apparently also run 3k on the platform before the train left.  This was a good story to inspire me onward with my recovery.

I cannot remember much else from this day.  I do remember that I needed a few of the pills for the pain to be able to get through the day.  I do not remember how well I slept.  I suspect that it was disturbed, but I did get enough rest that night.

You can read about the next day on the train here.

Travels With My Brother – Departure From Calgary

Tom walked into the hospital room around 3pm. He was pulling his lightly loaded carry-on suitcase behind him. It was great to see his smiling face.  The preparation for my departure from the hospital moved into higher gear.  By this time Tobi had started her evening shift, and she also moved into action to get me on my way.

As I mentioned before, the original goal was to see how I felt at the time of my discharge and plan what happened next accordingly.  Tom let me know that there was a train (The Canadian) leaving around midnight from Edmonton to Toronto, and that the next train was only on Saturday.  I decided that we should try to get on this train.  There still appeared to be seats available. We were going to try to get a private sleeper cabin for the three day trip.  This reservation would include breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in the dining car. That was the tentative plan.

After Tom’s arrival, the first thing I did was to have my first real bath after the crash.   A nurse then arrived to put new dressings on my wounds.  As she was working on the wounds, she told me that there still appeared to be gravel in the crater behind my shoulder where flesh had been lost.  I gave her permission to use as much force as needed to try to get out the dirt.  It did not hurt. After the cleaning and bandaging, we gathered some of the left-over dressings as supplies for the journey.  I got fully dressed.

The doctors had a prescription ready for me for pain medication to take during the travels home, and we needed to get to the pharmacy before closing time to fill it.tempI walked through the hospital for the first time.  Having spent the last few days staring at other hospital buildings from my hospital bed, I had been oblivious to its nice location.  You could see the city out of its windows. It was a revelation. We went down the elevator a few floors, and then from out of the McCaig Tower into the main building. We walked past the cafeteria area, past the signs of people going about their “normal” lives, something that I had not seen for a few days, and finally found the pharmacy.  I submitted the prescription and we then returned to my room to complete the packing and other formalities.

Tobi had finally received the discharge documentation to take with me.  It included electronic copies of the X-rays and CT Scans. I wished my ex-roommate goodbye and good luck with his daughter’s wedding, wished Tobi well, and then walked out of the trauma center with Tom for the last time.

I was able to move along at a decent speed to get to places.  I was feeling good. Tom was helping with my luggage. We made it to the pharmacy before it closed with 3 minutes to spare.

We had a plan of action that required precise timing in its execution for us to be able to successfully catch the train from  Edmonton to Toronto that night.  Part on the plan depended on our ability to get automobile transportation promptly when needed.  Fortunately, Tom had the Uber application on his smartphone to summon car rides, and the system worked exactly the way it was supposed to.  Another element of the plan was the ability to take action to book reservations while traveling by bus.  The bus was supposed to have wi-fi.

Within a few minutes of picking up the prescription, we were out the front door of the hospital.  Our only chance of catching the train was to get on the 6:30pm Red Arrow bus to Edmonton and it was already past 6pm.  Would we make it?  Tom came up with the idea of intercepting the bus on its way north at Red Arrow’s Calgary North ticket office, where the bus was supposed to depart from at 6:45pm.  We made it there with 15 minutes to spare, and they did also have seats on the bus available for us.tempGreat – so far, so good!

They did also have snacks and water on the bus.  There was no time for a proper dinner.

Once on the bus, we connected to its wi-fi system and got on the Via Rail website in order to buy the tickets for our onward journey.  Fortunately there were tickets available. Our effort to buy the tickets online was however foiled by an irritating software bug that required that we enter some sort of discount code that did not exist!  Ughhhh, software!!! Tom had to call Via Rail directly, and after overcoming a credit card glitch, we managed to reserve places on the Canadian that night.  The boarding passes were issued electronically, and Tom had to send mine to me via email.tempWe were all set, and there was nothing more to do on the bus until we got to Edmonton, which would happen after 10pm.

I felt a little out-of-sorts without my camera, which I had asked Bob to take it home after the crash. I did not think that the camera on the smartphone was any good, but I had no choice but to start experimenting with it.  The sun was setting  as we rolled north.IMG_20170802_211721461We arrived in downtown Edmonton as scheduled, and immediately caught an Uber to the Via Rail train station.  The station was located further away from downtown and closer to the outskirts of the city than I expected.  We arrived at a building that had signs for both Via Rail train and Greyhound bus services.

The waiting room was packed with people in spite of the late hour.    There were all kinds of people waiting to travel, young and old, and families with kids, couples, and single people.  Children ran around in spite of the late hour.  A sort of dull chaos prevailed. Most folks were slumped in seats or wherever else they could find some space, trying to get some rest.   People were tired.  It felt a bit dreary.

At that point, we had been on the move for a long time. I was still feeling OK, even though the body was somewhat stiff. We found a place to park ourselves and our luggage. Our train was supposed to arrive at 11pm and depart at 11:55pm.  The only announcements we were hearing were for the departure of Greyhound buses,  There were vending machines in front of us with food and drinks, but it all looked unappetizing.  11pm came and went without any sign of the train.

The next episode of this saga here.