Russlaender 100: The Final Destination

Continued from this post.

Sunday, July 23rd. I awoke.

The train was moving. I’d gotten more sleep than I had the night before. Because I’m me, my first concern was breakfast. I felt like I was on a bit of a timeline with that, especially based on my experience the previous morning on the train, so I crept down the ladder from my upper berth (using the ladder on the other side of the aisle because that just felt easier — anyone else ever do this? is this normal?) then boldly claimed the women’s bathroom in our car, and got my shit together (somewhat). Then scrambled back into my berth for the final time, took a picture, packed up my stuff, and descended once again. This time I left the car and sought sustenance. My greatest hope was for coffee, so I ventured to that car, assuming that because it was before 7am I’d have some peaceful alone time sipping coffee, quietly looking out the window. But no. The coffee car was filled with other tour members who were ready and for some reason politely waiting to be called for breakfast. I suppose they had been instructed on this point but it was lost on me. I beelined for the coffee where, as I made a bit of a mess of the situation, I fell into conversation with one older gentleman (names are now escaping me) who possessed a pioneering attitude and figured it was time to go to the dining car and find out if they were seating yet. Because I have the brain of an old man, this made sense to me, so I followed him. We took the dining car staff by surprise but they were quite elegant about it all and gamely seated us and so we were among the first to begin breakfast. This made me feel quite accomplished. It was really my key goal for the day.

This was my chance to chat with fellow tour member Gary Smucker, who spoke of his love for the book Henry’s Red Sea (by Barbara Smucker, perhaps a relation? and what about the Smucker’s jam people? maybe, Gary said) and told us that this was the reason he wanted to take part in this tour. The Russlaender story had so captured his imagination. I just love that. (Also would you believe I have a copy of that book but still have not read it? I told Gary this and he was thoroughly appalled… and for good reason. I am ashamed of myself.)

As we dined, we watched the train ease into Vancouver and I began to feel panic rise — I needed to complete my breakfast and get out of there and make room for the rest! My breakfast companions had more chill and told me the train would not leave without serving everyone, not everyone was awake yet, and staff were not even trying to turn the table over yet. This was mentioned as I watched us ease toward Vancouver’s Pacific Central Station.

It was lovely. I was sad to see my time with the train end. I had one more job to do: get back to my assigned car and sit in my actual seat for once.

This was the first time I saw my berth completely made up! Sure enough, there were two roomy seats facing each other next to a large window, and my carryon was tucked neatly below. I sat down, feeling like now I could relax and simply wait for the next step: disembarking. It was a while. In this time, several others joined me, and it was really nice to sit there and relax for a beat. We also saw what happens when you abandon your berth without packing up your stuff: the attendant has to pack it for you, while standing on the ladder, not loving their life in that moment. Because they NEED to put the berths away and create the seats — it’s a rule or a law or something — for the day. It kind of reminded me of my days working as a housekeeper at a hotel in Banff. (What happens when you abandon your room when you’re supposed to check out? Housekeepers pack for you. It’s not anyone’s preferred scenario, probably.) So, that was interesting to observe and learn. Also I felt very smug about about having remembered to pre-pack my own stuff. (I can be organized sometimes! I cling proudly and somewhat desperately to these moments.)

Then, we were told we could now get off the train. I seemed to have disembarked at precisely 7:51AM.

There was a whole big thing where I was endeavouring to watch my friend’s bag so that she could claim her mom’s luggage, long story — the main thing to say here is that I found myself guarding luggage by the buses outside the station for a good long time because I was early and the baggage claim thing was slow and I did not want to wait on the bus. It was nice to stand outside the very grand train station admiring the lovely day and this very interesting situation:

View from my spot guarding my friend’s luggage between the busses at 8:01am.
There were a bunch of us waiting together by 8:29am, as evidenced by all the random luggage lying around in this picture — Katie and I posed for a picture together <3

At some point we got on the buses and began the final leg of the final journey. I must have been sitting alone with my thoughts because I began writing in my notebook: “Sunday — bus to Abbotsford. There have been some challenges, re: charging my phone, having no internet or data service… but these sound like excuses. Much like Bible school or summer camp, a lot has happened that will not be spoken of. There could be two documentaries. There have been deeply sad stories shared, deep belly laughs, and… it’s been a liminal time. Entering into the family stories of all kinds of people. I’m overwhelmed with the thought that I’m doing a bad job of covering this. And now I’m planning to see family in Abbotsford… am I abandoning the tour?