How the Cookie Crumbles

Life and scribbles on the far side of SIXTY-FIVE


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Rocky Mountaineer: An Unexpected Bonanza

Time to leave this little piece of heaven. The sun leaned low and bright, too hot to wait outside for the arrival of our bus. Some people wore jackets. Why? (unless they ran out of space in their bags—a longshot?). I’m usually the lone chicken in the crowd who complains I’m cold.

The short bus arrived (also called a minibus). Mary and I, and one other female boarded. Goodbye, sensational Lake Louise; goodbye spectacular mountains. No, we weren’t done with them yet. They followed us all the way to Banff, the young lady’s stop.

Talk about luck. The original plan had been a direct transport from Lake Louise to Calgary airport. This stop was a huge bonus and not just a passing one. Banff is tiny—population under 250— about a third of the way to Calgary from Lake Louise. The driver dropped the woman off in front of her apartment. Yeah, I know. Imagine that. He had business to attend to, something about a package, and parked behind a mini-mall on the main street. He’d be back in about an hour. We had a crowded Tim Horton’s at our disposal, a gift shop, a large sitting area, a few businesses, and a substantial ladies’ washroom.

I’d heard stories of the mind-blowing mountains here and we aimed to explore. When would an opportunity like this come again? Brilliant and majestic mountains surrounded Kamloops, too, but these seemed closer.

Someone announced we were leaving. From nowhere, a handful of passengers boarded behind us, a few from the large sitting area inside the strip mall. The mountains disappeared into the horizon one by one. Once we passed the exit for Kananaski, I noticed how the landscape flattened into the level, unexciting fields, and grassland, less interesting landscape I’m used to. I’ll be the first one to confess I felt something had been snatched away from me—something that left a hole.

The traffic increased but no real congestion. As we grew closer, a couple signs for the airport popped up.

The airport was easy to maneuver, unlike the one in Toronto. I no longer remembered lunch or even breakfast. We disposed of our luggage and proceeded to check out the food situation such as it is in airports.

We had time to kill. The sun burned hot through the glass wall of windows in the waiting area. I huffed and puffed till I turned my chair around. It was heavy. Another passenger decided to redecorate as well. Though my iPad held a dense library of books, I wasn’t up to screen reading. If need be, there would be time enough on the plane. A snooze sounded enticing but not yet.

~ * ~

Next on October 26th – Rocky Mountaineer: What Now?

© 2018 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles

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Rocky Mountaineer: Mind-boggling Views

Someone left a disgusting yellow mess on the floor in the facilities. No bump on the tracks came to mind. Someone missed the bowl or had been in an awful hurry. I did not see the woman cleaner with her basket of supplies so I threw a handful of paper towels on the floor.

In our car, a ten-year-old boy travelled with his grandmother. He should have been in school this fine May day, but he proved to be a smart kid. His gran didn’t stop explaining things to him and he asked fantastic questions and gave well thought out answers. Amazing. I wouldn’t be surprised if he holidayed with her often, far and wide. Lucky fellow.

Cheese and wine service arrived. The chef arranged a ¼-inch thick slice of white cheddar on a 2-1/2-inch cracker, a piece of dried apple and a piece of dried apricot. The cart came through only once; the booze cart came by twice, before and after the cheese treats.

Many breathtaking mountains, too many views. Where does not stop taking pictures? Looking over the photos on my iPad, I wondered how I’d pick and choose which ones (of the clear ones) to keep. Trees, not towns surrounded us so I had no idea in what locations I took most of them. The majestic views both overwhelmed and oversaturated my brain. The mind-boggling mountains soon left me numb to their magnificence. I wonder if people living in the midst of these mountains begin to dismiss them over time. Do they ever lose their magic?

Pretty buildings announced our arrival at Lake Louise Station: quiet but exciting. Another bus emptied before ours. Two days on the train had been enough. Little had I known miles and miles of trees, mountains, other trains, and rivers could leave me cross-eyed and wonder-blind.

I’d seen pictures of the famous Lake Louise Fairmont, but seeing it in person was still an experience, especially the looming snow-capped mountains flanking the hotel. Wow. I could not breathe.

Once again, I was reassured to find our luggage had been removed from the previous hotel and like magic reappeared in our new one. It is worrisome and nerve-wracking wondering whether someone forgot bags somehow. So far, so good.

Next on October 5th: Rocky Mountaineer: Winding Up and Winding Down

© 2018 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


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Rocky Mountaineer: Freight Trains and Mountains

A cute story:

 We passed through a small town called Canoe. A Mrs. Diane Lund lives there in a lemon-colored house along the Rocky Mountaineer route. Each time a train passed, she stood outside on her front step to wave the train on.

 The train people wondered how she knew when the Mountaineer came through because many freight trains also pass through daily. Turns out, her dog Cedar knew and barked its arrival. The lady joined her dog outside her front door. 

~ * ~

We pulled over for a freight train. Minutes tick-tocked. Twenty minutes later (or less), it finally passed on a track I guesstimate around six feet away.

As the attendant handed out Rocky Mountaineer journals, we dared inquire about having to pay for dinner sans voucher the night before. Prepared, the young lady gave us a card with a number to call. I’m sure we paid a lot less (out of pocket) than what the voucher was worth. We’ll see.

Around 9:15 a.m., we passed through Sicamous (means squeezed in between, a First Nation’s word). By 9:30, the bar opened—an hour earlier than the previous morning. What? It’s not Sunday brunch (too early) nor is it Saturday; it’s vacation time! What the heck. I decided on a Caesar.

As we whooshed from Revelstoke to Field, the altitude rose 2500 feet. Trains travel year round here with plows out front, snow at times 40 to 50 feet deep.

Trains pass through a lot of forests and outside of towns. Some time ago, I had considered taking a train across Canada. I no longer believe I will. I hate being closed in and not free to roam. I’m bored. The narratives are too few by our rail car attendant. YouTube or National Geographic can give me a similar experience. I need to walk, touch, feel, and smell. Passing by is not good enough for me anymore.

Finally lunch: Spinach salad with a mustard dressing, cranberries, and julienned apples. Delicious. For the main, I chose pork (it came in two generous pieces) with roasted cauliflower, risotto and a log of squash. I could have licked my plate.

So many Kodak moments—too many to choose. After a while, I became overwhelmed and bug-eyed and their beauty knocked my breath away. How many pictures do I want or need? At times the train travelled too fast. Some of my best efforts produced flashes of unrecognizable digital smears instead of identifiable images of trees etc. Already, I was pictured out. Running from one side of the train to the other, begging ‘excuse me’s’, and avoiding bumping or stepping on other passengers knocked me for a loop.

The scenery changes from dense trees or sparse and thin ones; to charcoal mountains capped in glistening snow; to brown running lakes; to water rushing with ice crystals.

Someone hollered there was a swimming bear but I missed it due to the train’s speed.

Next on September 28 – Rocky Mountaineer: Mindboggling Views

© 2018 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


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Rocky Mountaineer: On the Rails Again

The alarm on Mary’s cell woke us. After a long and restless night, I peeled myself off the sheets. Thank goodness, I had woken in the night and turned on the air conditioner. The room had cooled to a comfortable temperature. A couple minutes later, around 5:30 a.m., the hotel phone bleeped. We had not requested a wakeup, but I suppose due to the previous night’s blackout, staff did not want us to miss our bus.

We rushed through dressing and were out the door, our bags left for pickup inside our room as we had found them the day before. Complimentary coffee service waiting in the hotel lobby cheered disgruntled bleary-eyed early risers. The time: 6:00 a.m.

Our bus arrived. The tour split into two groups: one to Lake Louise, the other to Banff.

At Rocky the Mountaineer station, our driver backed in, parallel parking next to another bus already there. Within minutes, another bus arrived and did likewise beside us, and another and another. What syncopation. What timing. Such grace like a well-practiced ballet. A radio operator called out drivers one-by-one to line up beside the train. The buses followed one another in a Congo line, pulling up as close as they could to the adjoining railway car assigned to each tour group. The same staff from the previous day greeted our party with cheery smiles and enthusiastic voices as we ascended the steps inside. The atmosphere created was of old friends meeting again.

As promised, our gift voucher purchases from the previous day awaited on each passenger’s seat. My one-size-fits-all black silky sweater pleased me. With tax added, it cost 35 cents more than the voucher allowed. Being less than a dollar, this amount was waived.

The breakfast cart arrived with cranberry and apple juice cocktails. The cranberry juice gave the apple juice a rosé hue; the apple flavour reigned. Parfaits were also available instead. Next came fruit salad and a decadent croissant, jam, and butter. Following this, the chef served a combination of scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns with a smattering of corn for colour, and three roasted button mushrooms from his cart. Divine. No toast in sight, but I did not miss it.

After breakfast, an attendant collected money for purchases and any returns.

Due to the blackout at the hotel the night before, the train manager announced each passenger would be gifted a trip journal for the inconvenience. I expected a gratuitous knockoff notebook. Wrong. The padded navy cover might be moleskin. Made in Italy, on the back, there is a large B with Pierre Belvedere’s name. The front shows off Rocky Mountaineer brand insignia and their name. I guesstimate about 240 or so lovely pages.

Quick Facts:

  • Salmon Arm: foodie groups would be interested in the organic farming
  • Modern buildings
  • Have invasive Mountain Pine Beetles
  • Shuswap Lake: looks like letter H from the air
  • Cannot buy cabins/houses here—never go on sale
  • Rent houseboats instead
  • Houseboats have all the amenities, including large screen TVs
  • One Rule: must bring houseboats ashore at night in case a storm blows in
  • Sicamous: Houseboat capital of Canada
  • Sicamous means squeezed in between, a First Nation’s word
  • Houseboats are self-sufficient, the lap of luxury, even Jacuzzis

~ * ~

Why such a fuss over the journal? I l.o.v.e. notebooks. You wouldn’t believe my stash. That’s a whole other post.

~ * ~

Next on September 21 – Rocky Mountaineer: Freights Trains and Mountains

© 2018 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


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Rocky Mountaineer: Kamloop Scoops

My first photo clicks at the beginning of our walk about town are the following. Is there anything more Canadian than CBC Radio?

Most cars on the street were parked; pedestrians few. The traffic was slow and the roads not busy, but we did bump into other travellers from our tour group with the same thoughts of exploration until the lights came back on at our end of town. Our dinner vouchers for The Noble Pig Brewhouse next door to our hotel were useless until someone figured out the electricity situation.

I’m not sure why I was surprised at not seeing any jewelry stores. Kamloops appeared chock-full of restaurants, though. One drew our attention like a magnet. A messy line-up of waiting patrons mobbed the entrance and sidewalk in an enthusiastic party atmosphere. We managed to wedge our way inside through the crowd since we had time to kill. The predicted wait time for seating did not appeal but the celebratory atmosphere did. Not especially ready to eat, we fought our way outside again.

We walked and walked peering inside restaurants till my feet complained and moseyed back to our hotel. The Nobel Pig was still dark. Dim emergency lights flickered in the hotel lobby and somehow the registration desk computer worked. Frustrated by the inconvenience, Mary and I decided to hit the sidewalk again with the hope some restaurant with electricity would have room for us two. I needed to sit to rest my aching feet.

What appeared a tiny restaurant with no lineup turned out to be much larger once inside. The menu to our liking, we settled on the Dorian Greek House and almost immediately, a server seated us. I ordered Greek Salad, as had Mary but hers with the addition of Spanakopita. The orders were so generous, we should have ordered one and shared. How my tummy swelled.

Emergency lights only were on at the hotel. I ached for a relaxing foot massage and a good book. A gentleman of 80+ insisted on talking to the tour company to complain about having to pay for dinner. He made a point of making it known he was Doctor so-and-so, yadda-yadda-yadda. He would not be mollified no matter what the staff tried. Cut off from the first call they put through, a staff member redialed for him again and someone brought him a chair.

Too much drama. We headed up the stairs to our semi-dark room at 8:00 p.m. Without thinking, Mary flicked on the bathroom light switch on our way inside and surprise, surprise, we had light. Huh. I tried a lamp and the TV. Our world sank back into darkness again.

Daylight still shone outside but with not enough to read. I’d had it. I changed for bed but tossed and turned for ages. The room temperature had risen, the air heavy and muggy. Mary soon threw in the towel, too. I woke several times due to the humidity. Short of 11:00, a bleep announced power’s return but noting the time I drifted back to sleep. The next time I woke, the bathroom light was on. I scrambled to turn on the air conditioner.

~*~

Next on September 14 – Rocky Mountaineer: On the Rails Again

© 2018 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


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Rocky Mountaineer: Kamloops!

I have to tell you, the washroom on this train was huge like a hotel room and seemed to be checked after each use. The end of the paper roll was always folded to a point. Where is this invisible attendant? Only once had I come upon a splattered counter—and well, the floor.

An important note about the windows on the Rocky Mountaineer: some wrap around the roof so you have a 360-degree view of your surroundings. My travel agent advised this is wonderful in pictures and a great idea, but the reality is the happy sun loves heating glass, plus consider the glare you get. Sunglasses anyone? A solid strip of roof cover still gives the benefit of ample views through the extra-large not quite wrap around windows.

Around 6:00 pm, the coach barreled toward our destination: the Thompson Hotel. The air had a strange people scent and tush-numbed seniors quietened as they peered out their windows. Civilization at long last or so it seemed.

We could not back up as around 20 buses idled ahead of us and we were stuck or so our driver told the office over the crackling radio. Change of plans: he inched out around them anyway.

In the meantime, a couple announcements to keep us informed:

  • Dinner would be at the Noble Pig, next door to our hotel
  • We will depart on this same bus in the morning
  • Time of departure to be posted on the lobby bulletin board.
  • Nothing was mentioned about our bags (always a nerve-wracking situation)

Our third-floor, decent-sized warm and stuffy room had a 70s look about it: two double beds, a desk and a 32-inch console TV. When turned on, the air-conditioner rattled a complaining tune, I almost turned it off but the room needed cooling. Always worried about my luggage, it awaited our arrival just inside the door when we burst through the door amazed it had arrived quickly before we had.

Then, the lights went out.

What? What happened?

You have not lived till you’ve floundered down three flights of stairs in near dark (still daylight outside but coal black inside), shuffling down strange halls against strange walls in a strange hotel. If you grab a stair rail, toe guessing your way down three flights of unfamiliar stairs is not too bad, if you don’t fall.

We made it!

In the lobby, many of our tour group milled around the registration desk. The young staff assured all present the situation would be resolved shortly. No reason for the blackout was available even to them. The hotel computer did not work either, but thank goodness it was still light outside though emergency lights did flicker on but weren’t much help.

A tour representative from Rocky Mountaineer arrived to sort out the problem and assure the guests. Mary and I decided to walk off the overeating we had indulged in all day thus far and check out this Kamloops town.

Story Behind Above Sculpture

~ * ~

Next on September 7th – Rocky Mountaineer: Kamloops Scoops

.© 2018 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles


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Rocky Mountaineer: Gluttony and Scenery

It took a long while before we left Vancouver far behind.

Vancouver Quick Tips

  • 2012 Port Mann Bridge opened (crosses Fraser River)
  • 5 lanes each way
  • World’s widest span bridge
  • Trans-Canada Highway had only 2 lanes
  • Cost $2.5 billion
  • Tolls $3.15/car
  • 120 million trips to pay for bridge
  • Tolls removed 2017
  • Structural issues weekend opened (severe cold, ice and snow)
  • Not prepared for this
  • Original bridge opened 1964

Outlets were available between seats to recharge devices but no internet onboard in the remote territory we traveled. Jen, our attendant, assured us she would let everyone know when we approached a town or a Wi-Fi tower.

The passengers in high spirits (pun intended), the train moved too fast for the photo opportunities as the train devours miles of tracks out of Vancouver. A few tourists snapped away to capture every frame outside anyway.

I could not believe the generous portions the attendant poured from the bar cart, which precluded and followed lunch. One glass would do me all day.

Like on an airplane, it seemed one diversion or another was scheduled to keep the travelers happy. The trip included a $50.00 merchandise voucher, disguised as a freebie, for which we’d obviously paid. Still, when I was handed a catalogue, I managed to fancy a stylish black acrylic sweater which could be worn two ways for different effects. Skeptical about the one-size-fits-all description, I ordered it anyway with the promise our orders would be processed overnight and the merchandise would be waiting on our seats the next morning to try on and decide whether to keep or not.

What’s not to love about being spoiled? We had been busy every minute so far: a light snack, breakfast, bar service, free merchandise and already lunchtime. What a luxury: warm hand towels were handed before the food arrived.

I forgot to take pictures of lunch. (Too busy. Really?) Menu choices were salmon or short ribs in Merlot sauce, and Roma tomato salad. If a first choice ran out, they guaranteed the second one. What? How does that work? This promise left me scratching my head. I suppose it meant the grocery order arrived short of one or the other.

By 1:35, the lunch cart crept along to three seats away. The ribs were boneless and much to my delight, delicious; the potatoes puréed and shaped into a square log with carrots and turnips. Though I choose to skip gravy, this one was over the top. Holidays mean no calories, right?

While salads arrived, one lady dropped her bun. Oopsie. A moment later, she dropped her dish, which did not break but bounced on the carpeted floor. Hmm.

Strange how one side of the tracks the mountains are green, whereas the other is arid and populated by sparse scrub plants. A lake or river—any water—was a relief to the eyes.

Goldie Oldie music played all day in the background: Ring of Fire, Sweet Caroline, Running Bear, Piano Man, Mack the Knife, Rocky Mountain High and many, many more.

~ * ~

Next on August 24th – Rocky Mountaineer: Views, News, and Sightings

© 2018 Tess @ How the Cookie Crumbles