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 – 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.