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Column for 8.17.2011
Back in the mid-1980s, when I was smart enough to get the newspaper I worked for to pay my way, I traveled once a year through the United States on Amtrak. One of the trips took me through the Rocky Mountains and I wrote of the incredible beauty.
Nobody disagreed with me about that beauty, but several people said the Canadian part of the Rockies were even more beautiful. As one put it, ďYou havenít seen anything until youíve seen the Canadian Rockies.Ē
It took 25 years, but I finally got to the Canadian Rockies. Iím just back from the trip. Although I hate to say the United States is second in anything, I have to admit that the Canadian Rockies are even more beautiful than our Rockies.
They are harder to get to, though. Our trip was a flight from Syracuse to Chicago and then to Seattle. From there it was a motorcoach and onto a ferry to Victoria Island for two nights, another ferry to Vancouver for two nights and then onto the Rocky Mountaineer for the train ride through the mountains. The trip ended in Calgary.
Some observations of Canada in general and the Rocky Mountain train trip in particular:
* I donít care for the system of Canadian money, which has dollar coins and two dollar coins. I also donít care for the fact that their money is valued higher than our money.
* Americans wave at passing trains, Canadians are no different. I suspect the same is true everywhere.
* The sound of a train horn is the same in Canada as in the U.S., haunting and sad and melancholy, all in one, especially at night.
* Train food - whether American or Canadian - is always better than airline food. On the Rocky Mountaineer they bring the food to your seat.
* If the length and frequency of freight trains is any indication, the Canadian economy isnít doing bad.
* In the U.S., some of us have the annoying habit of finishing every other sentence with ďOkay,Ē as if asking a question. The Canadians use ďeh?Ē Thatís just as irritating.
* They serve only Canadian beer on the Rocky Mountaineer, which is good, assuming you like Canadian beer.
* The Rocky Mountaineer ride was smooth, smoother than Amtrak. But I noticed that they had sick sacks in the Mountaineerís seat backs.
* The Canadians are friendly. In fact, as the train pulled into the small community of Kamloops, where we spent a night, the Kamloops Mounted Posse, sitting atop their horses and dressed in red and in white cowboy hats, welcomed the train to town, a common happening, I was told. Never was I welcomed like that on Amtrak.
* On the Rocky Mountaineer, they let you stand outside in between the cars. Thatís an Amtrak no-no.
* In Jasper National Park, site of the Columbia Icefield, visitors can walk out onto the Athabasca Glacier. The guide said that drinking a palmful of melting glacier water makes people look 10 years younger. Maybe I didnít drink enough.