Thursday July 27 - Day 27
Current Location: On Train to Manitoba (in Rivers, MB)
Distance Traveled: 13,760km
Once again, I've been able to exploit a late arriving train to enjoy a sleep in during the early mornings. Regrettably - this one is gravely worse. Last night the train was predicting a 10:00am arrival for a two hour delay. But waking up this morning about 9:00am the train schedule had updated to a 1:15pm arrival for a 1:45pm departure; delaying us five hours.
That sounds like a long time by itself - but there's a further implication. A five hour delay added to an evening arrival time in Winnipeg, Manitoba tonight means we're now expected not to arrive in Manitoba until after midnight this evening. I'm supposed to stay with one of my parent's friends tonight, but getting to and from her house and train station may prove difficult on this revised timeline.
Before leaving the Wallace family home, Danielle suggested I could enjoy a hot bath this morning with my newly acquired extra time. It was soothing after weeks to just sit and relax, and was a nice start to my journey from one end of Saskatoon to the other so i could get to the train station. Because I'd be crossing the entire city, it would be a series of three buses and short walks to get from A to B.
After bus ride number one I stopped for a short break at a Burger King to enjoy a unglamorous hot lunch, being much cheaper than train food and likely my only hot meal today (because cost and the erratic, ever-changing schedule.) It wasn't anything special, but it's hard to beat $4.42 for a full lunch. So long as you don't consider the correlation between price and quality for too long.
The bus ride took a turn from long to peculiar halfway through when a large group came on board. Suddenly, at a random stop in the city, an entire summer camp boarded the bus with 48 kids (according to the leaders) going to the local pool. They had backpacks, toys, and a wagon full of sports equipment. The bus got unthinkably crowded in less than a minute, and there was a blistering cacophony from the excited campers on their way to swimming.
Thankfully, the kids were only on board for a few stops, and after fifteen minutes the bus was back to normal. Once they disembarked, some of the other passengers and I couldn't help but laugh at the insanity that filled the bus just before. Minutes later, we were out on the Western edge of town by the grain silos and the famous yellow fields.
Local transit doesn't actually go to the train station in Saskatoon because it's in such a distant corner of the city, so the nearest bus stop is about 2km away from the station entrance. Normally you need to take a car or taxi to access the station; but without either available, I just walked along the road until I arrived. Out front there isn't even a sidewalk, and at one point i shared the road with a friendly 18-wheeler.
Arriving at the station just before 1:00pm, i figured I would be just in time. Truthfully I was somewhat worried about the long trek on the city buses and worried if I was going to be too late. As it turns out, I was still early, and we had plenty of time. The train had been significantly delayed again because of rail traffic, and was still over an hour away.
Even the screens inside the station weren't updating accurately, and the passengers were left puzzled at the train's arrival. The monitors displayed an arrival time 30 minutes in the past, along with a current clock two lines higher on the screen. At long last, the train pulled into the station about 2:30pm, and an hour later - delayed over 7 hours - we were on our way to Manitoba.
My original plan was to stay overnight with my parents' friends outside Winnipeg tonight and get a proper night's sleep; but that was quickly tossed out the window. Eventually the delays were extended so our arrival in Winnipeg wouldn't be until after 5:30am tomorrow morning - meaning I'm spending a surprise 11th night on the train.
All there was to do now was enjoy the expansive prairies a while longer and hope for a few hours sleep on the train. i won't know exactly what tomorrow morning will look like until we get there; nor do I know where I'm going to go first thing in the morning. As the sun set, we saw one of the sister Canadian trains pass us by, and soon it was dark.
Today transformed into an impromptu travel day, and a somewhat more uncomfortable one than others. These constantly changing and rolling train schedules can stir headaches quickly, and it doesn't help when cellular reception is so limited in rural areas. With no WiFi either, most of the work is a guessing game. The only reliable timepiece on board is the sun - it's the bright, biological clock.
I ended up seated next to my friend Colleen from my trip to Vancouver last week (in a TOTAL CRAZY COINCIDENCE,) but she was asleep quickly as she came from Edmonton earlier. She's traveling straight to Toronto as her trip is over now, and she's got another two days on board. I won't see her in the morning, but it was a nice surprise once we were seated.
On the downside, GUESS WHO'S ZIPPER BROKE AGAIN. Thankfully I've learned to make this repair now with only a coin and a pencil - but the zipper has been under constant stress for four weeks. Everything I've packed has taken a toll, and this suitcase will likely be retired at my adventure's end. It's been a good friend, and now all I need is for it to last another 5 days. Then it's watch is ended.