This isn’t really a post about the title. It’s about a day-trip to Vancouver, BC (my first time in Canada!). But it starts with a lesson learned.
We were late. Looking at the time I said, “I don’t think we’re going to make it.” Not wanting to not make it, we ran for it. Ran up the gravel road, down the bridge, across roads, the horn and ding of the train sounded not-far-off. We shot under the the crossing gates and came up. That’s when I saw the buttons at the first door, and a step up. One button was green. It said “open”. Logical me, knowing we were trying to get on the train, pressed it.
“Wait, Drew!” I motion him over and hop on, climbing over a bike. We were in. We walked back, thinking we were in business class due to the cushy looking seats (turns out Cascade Amtrak trains are just cushy). We made it to the meal car and just sat down, uncertain.
Some guy passed talking on his radio about two passengers that let themselves on. He went up to some colleagues and they shrugged at each other. I got up and asked if I heard them correctly about looking for two passengers. They said “yes”, looking kinda astonished.
“That’s us,” I said motioning to Drew and myself, honestly thinking I’d done nothing wrong and that they were just wanting to check our tickets. Silly me.
They looked confused and just said “OK” and told us we could just sit there. One of them talked into their radio. Then he came over to us.
“Why’d you let yourself on the train?”
“We thought we were late?”
He was pushing buttons on his machine; my heart began to race as I was worried we were getting ticketed.
“Why’d you think you were late?”
“Because we left late. So we ran here.”
“Do you have your tickets.” Drew pulled up our ticket on his cell phone and I felt relief since I knew then what he was doing with his little machine with the buttons.
“OK. Well, you’re not supposed to let yourself on the train.”
“Oh, OK,” I said dumbly, looking altogether confused, I suspect.
“Alright.” And he got up and left. I overheard some guy ask about it and the guy that talked to us say he talked to us about it. That was about it.
So, there is the moral: don’t let yourself on the train.
The rest of our trip was swell. It was a one day deal, about 5 hours. I had no idea we were going to get the view we did. It was mesmerizing. Grey mountains in the distance over wavelets rushing toward us. They almost don’t seem real. I don’t know where the ocean is, but the water we past was Puget Sound water and I know it leads to the ocean.
We entered Canada. There were eagles.
Previous to this, I had seen exactly 2 eagles that I’m aware of. Well, two bald eagles and I’m talking about bald eagles. Both of those eagles were flying high over I-5. I thought that was amazing.
There were eagles everywhere. Beautiful, huge, deadly birds. There were some eaglets too, their feathers not yet white with maturity. They were just so cool. I feel like an idiot writing about them but… they were just so cool.
One of the Amtrak employees nearby commented to one of the others how this was nothing. Only maybe 20 eagles, but at low tide on a sunny day, you’d see dozens.
See, I am not from the Northwest, although I’ve wanted to be since my early 20’s. Now, I live there (albeit for not long) and I’m full of wonder.
The trip the rest of the way was scenic in all the right ways.
We pulled in and had an easy time through customs. Wandered around to the science museum, and admired the geodesic sphere that encompassed the top, appreciating all the free installations on the outside. My favorites were the water management systems and the pipes turned musical instruments.
We passed by where a kayak race was beginning. We climbed on this awesome rope tower that we suspected wouldn’t fly in the US due to liability risks (but it was so fun!). We walked up the Chinatown and under the gate. I got to introduce Drew to boba milk tea. I got him taro flavor, which is a classic and a favorite of mine (we’ll work our way up to red bean;). It was high quality and he loved it. I enjoyed the sips I got too.
Then to Gastown and I got to see the steam clock. Generic tourist stuff, I know, but hey, it was one day and I wanted to see me a steam clock. It was another beautiful thing on this bright, sunny, beautiful day. I loved the steam whistle and watching the weights. I have a fascination with these simple, shiny mechanisms highlighting a delightful interpretation of physics.
Then, Crab Park where we hopped down on the rocks, got our feet went, sat on a big rock in the water and were all in love and stuff. On our way out, I grabbed some seaweed to taste. It was pretty good. Salty. Saltier than I suspected as I thought we’d be in brackish waters.
We began making our way down Main Street back toward the train station and discovered, not too many blocks from where we’d been in glamorous Gastown, a rather less glamorous part of town. Litter and homeless people all along the streets. Walking around someone so not to invade their space, I hopped off the curb into an area full of needles (a dozen or so syringes with needles, just hanging out in the street). We turned a corner to get back to where we wanted to be to grab some coffee. Blocks of people on on the sidewalks, sitting against buildings.
Behind us, someone said to one of the men sitting on the street, leaning against the wall, “Well come on, let’s go.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the man start to get up. “Don’t worry, you’ll get fed.”
I have no idea what that interaction was about, but we kept walking. One block more, the cobblestone starts, there is no more litter, girls in skirts are about. Just another block and the cafes and restaurants appear.
“This is how it is,” I thought to myself. “So geographically close, yet so polarized.”
We walked into one coffee shop, then saw the prices and walked out. We went down another street and found one with the same selection type, but a dollar less per drink. I got a lavender latte. It was not syrupy sugar, just essence of lavender. I was pleased. We savored our drinks, had some water, and prepped for our walk back to the train station. It was an easy walk.
Customs was harder to get back into the United States. It was weird. Canada was way more appealing a place to live, I thought. So why are the ones in the States so grumpy and controlling. Probably because we’re kinda a douchy country.
Before we left Canada though and the border guards came through for inspection, confiscating one Canadian lady’s onion, and then passing through with the dog, I got another treat. Even more eagles!!! Closer, many of them chilling on rocks rather than soaring at a distance. It was great.
Exhausted, we arrived home, walked back (my knee was all bleeding anew from a wipe out I had on my bike the day before). I made some pasta.
That was our trip to Vancouver, B.C. I hope you learned something.