I hadn't quite predicted just how disconnected the train ride from Toronto to Edmonton would be- but I thought of you all every step of the way! Here's a glimpse into the great journey that brought me along the tracks for the past 3 days. It was one heck of a ride.
If you don't make it to the end, I forgive you- but check out the photos!
Union station is a strange and eery place at 8:45pm on a Saturday night. All the kiosks are closed, the lights are dim, and only a few people straggle about on the polished floors. But, sure as anything, that #1 Train is due to depart, on time, at 22:00.
I managed to organized my belongings into what I hope will be a suitable arrangement for 3 days on the train, 20 days on the road, and 2 plane trips, and approximately 20 shows. I suspect the lot of it, including my Calton case and Deering banjo, weigh somewhere in the vicinity of 200 pounds. With my mother's help, I lugged it all down to the baggage claim (a distinctly less classy area of the station—The words “Baggage Check” were amateurishly printed on an 8x11 sheet of paper and taped to the wall). I was able to off-load a helpful 25 pounds worth of luggage, before opening the door to the glorious haven that is 'the business lounge'. It's so great in here!! There's complimentary water!! In all seriousness, this is a very nice place. It makes me giddy with the excitement of a pending journey in style- I wish I was wearing a hat and heels and a polkadot dress. I wish I was drinking whisky on the rocks and smoking a slim. There are hardwood fixtures and lamps with real, non-fluorescent bulbs. The staff were really friendly, and the dining car manager even offered to bring me lemon water in the morning!
I promise, I'm not trying to suck up to VIArail just because they are giving me a free ride in exchange for live shows- I'm genuinely buzzing with the prospect of rolling along on the tracks across to the west. I can't wait to get lost in my thoughts as the train rocks and rattles us on.
I've now been on the train for something like 12 hours. I have no idea what time it is because there is no cell reception or internet, and I can't tell if my computer or cell phone clocks have changed. It's all very disorienting. In fact, I'm not entirely convinced that the year hasn't changed as well, and in actual fact, it is 1954.
I've been down on VIArail in the past- but this train ride is unreal, and the fact that I am onboard as their hired musician is just purely magical. I have a sleeper cabin for two for myself. I awoke this morning to a beautiful red sky over glistening lakes. Yesterday I was treated to champagne and hors d'oeuvres in the “park car” (it took me until very recently to understand that this name refers to the noun, not the verb...a questionable name choice, I will say). I just finished the most delicious hot apple crisp with ice cream in the dining car, and am now blissfully back in my chambers. It's early yet, but I think I could get used to this!
I hadn't realized how communal the experience of riding the train is by design. At each meal I have been seated with 3 strangers, including yesterday's champagne nightcap- and the variety of people and their stories has been heartwarming.
I played 2 sets yesterday onboard the train. Boy oh boy, you want to challenge your skills, you have to try playing on a moving train! I'm always a little nervous that my fingers may not hit the right notes, but it's a whole other level when your entire body is being thrown from side to side in unpredictable jolts!
The passengers are a great audience—I even got them singing along. I've had a few new friends/fans follow me to each of my shows, including the one I just played inside the Winnipeg train station.
Here I thought I'd have a chance to post this dang blog post, but this brief moment of connectivity was too short! Just as I was ready to post, we were called to board....And so off I go- to roll along the tracks, and surrender to the train. It's a nice time, I won't fight it.
Speaking of being at the mercy of the train, the train arrived in Edmonton 4 hours delayed! Perhaps the first time I have ever welcomed such news. I happily indulged in a bit more sleep, and another chance to say farewell to my newfound gang of misfits, 3 unlikely friendships between a German vacationer, a BC wine connoisseur, and a young kid bound to log in northern Edmonton. We called our crew: the Rail Runners.
I'm sad to leave my little sardine can home.
But I'm happy to be here with my good friend Anastasia Maywood.
First show on-land is tomorrow at The Fiddler's Roost, here in Edmonton! I can't wait!