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 – A Second Full Day On The Train in Canada

The train was pulling into a station when I awoke the next morning. Through the window I saw a somewhat dramatic building in the distance with the sun rising behind it.  I had the momentary thought that I should raise myself out of bed and take a picture or two.  Perhaps we were in Winnipeg.  But the spirit proved to be weak.  I flopped back into bed.  When I next opened my eyes, the sun had risen completely, and the train was beginning to move once again.

It was only much later that I realized that I had made a mistake not making the extra effort to wake up at the station to do some exploring.  We had indeed stopped at Winnipeg, the half way point of the entire train ride.  This was where the train was supposed to stop for almost two hours, and the entire crew for the train changed over for the rest of the journey.  The building I had seen earlier was the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.  And the train had actually stopped well within the city limits as opposed to the outskirts of the city, as it had done in Edmonton and Saskatoon. And Union Station was actually a National Historic Site. Oh well.

It is worth noting that the train was now over 9 hours late.  We should have actually passed through Winnipeg late last night.

We missed breakfast once again.   When I went looking for food, I found muffins in the activity/lounge car instead of the the crackers and biscuits of the previous morning.IMG_20170804_094454299.jpgThe muffins were too sweet for me.  Somehow, I did not think Tom would enjoy them.  Based on the success of the previous day’s “breakfast” delivery, I asked the attendant for the car (who had just boarded in Winnipeg) if she had any of yesterday’s items.   When I told her that this was for my brother who was experiencing motion sickness, in addition to finding what I was looking for, she added ginger ale to my supplies.  She also said that she would also notify our carriage attendant.  Sure enough, the attendant appeared at our door some time later to give us another bag full of stuff for Tom to consume, including a second can of ginger ale!  The staff on this train were on top of their game!

We crossed over from Manitoba into Ontario shortly after we left Winnipeg.  The landscape was beginning to change.  There were lakes all around us.IMG_20170804_094555942Some time after crossing into Ontario, the train drew to a stop at what looked like a little village on a lake.   The sign on the building said Malachi.  There were actually people waiting to board the train at Malachi.  We learned that in some parts of Canada the train was the only lifeline available, and that you could call ahead of time to have it stop to pick you up.  (Looking at a schedule, I saw 14 such possible stops between Winnipeg and the next big station, Sioux Lookout.)IMG_20170804_100550090Tom was actually feeling better that morning, well enough to sit up and take videos.IMG_20170804_110636502Here is some more of the scenery.IMG_20170804_131347516But I was once again on my own for lunch since Tom was still not feeling completely up to it.  I mentioned Tom’s travel troubles to the maître d’ (who I had met for the first time earlier that morning) in the dining room.   She offered her sympathy and from then onward always inquired about Tom whenever I showed up at the dining room on my own.  I also happened to mention Tom’s motion sickness to my lunch companions that afternoon, an older retired couple from Vancouver, originally from Scotland.  The missus looked very concerned, and immediately began suggesting a bunch of remedies, including some medicine for motion sickness (it was not Dramamine), and things like ginger to chew on, and even ginger ale. She immediately stopped the waitress to ask if they had any of what she was suggesting.  Unfortunately, they only had ginger ale.

In addition to the usual talk at the dining table about my physical condition, I had a delightful conversation with the folks from Vancouver about their hometown. I also mentioned that we had visited Scotland, and that moved the conversation in a different direction.  When the conversation at some point veered towards politics, the gentleman noted that he was not a great fan of their current Prime Minister (he is not a politician, it seems).  But both of them still declined my generous offer to exchange our leader for theirs.

I found myself walking in front of the lady who had been my lunch companion on my way back to our carriage.  Seeing the manner in which I was opening the doors between the carriages (using only my good hand!), she, a much older person than myself, stepped in front of me and opened the rest of the doors (she was quite strong!) until we got to her carriage.  That was very nice of her.

The hope had been to complete the rest of the rescue plan to get me home that day.  If the gentle reader remembers this topic from an earlier blog,  there was the last minute realization that Christina could not cross the border and return back to the US because her passport had expired.  Somebody else had to be roped into the mission.  To add additional uncertainty to the situation, this was the day when our network connectivity began to fall apart.   We could not communicate effectively with folks involved in the planning to get messages across because the mobile network became unreliable.  But we worked at it, waiting to get to stations where there was a better likelihood of there being a communications tower to establish temporary connectivity.  We made progress.

Enter Jesse, Christina’s fiance.  He volunteered to postpone a trip he was making to the West Coast to visit his family by a few days so that he could make the drive to Toronto to rescue me.  That seemed to be the only realistic option at that point.

In the end Jesse actually came all the way home to Gaithersburg after picking us up from Toronto. He flew to the West Coast a couple of days later than originally planned out of an airport in the Washington DC area.  That was very considerate of him. Thanks, Jesse!

We also began to realize that in spite of the massive difference in time between our scheduled arrival time in Toronto in the morning and Tom’s scheduled flight to Dallas from Toronto in the late evening, there was a good chance that he was not going to make the flight. He was already beginning to think about alternatives to get home.  He was thinking about riding with us in the car from Toronto, and being dropped off on the way in Buffalo, NY, from where he could catch a flight home.  This particular issue would not get resolved until the next day, the last day on the train.  The biggest problem was that we did not know when we would get to Toronto.

Dinner that night was with the same couple that we had our first meal on the train with.  It was nice evening.  Being from Toronto, they even tried to help us by figuring out the fastest way to get from the Toronto train station to the airport if that option was still realistic.  The only way that was going to happen was if the train made up some of the time it had lost that night.

We went to bed with things still up in the air.

Here are some random pictures taken from the train that day.  The scene below was repeated many times as we stopped to let the freight trains by.IMG_20170804_182347086Before dinner we decided to take a walk to the dome car at the back of the train. The sun was beginning to set.IMG_20170804_200312131The people who had bought the most expensive tickets on the train had first dibs at these seats.IMG_20170804_200734381_HDRFeel the motion of the train!IMG_20170804_200829654More sunset shots.IMG_20170804_200836144_HDRIMG_20170804_200852200IMG_20170804_201638183_HDR

The next day’s adventures here.