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Travelogue and photos of the bus ride from Jasper to Banff and then travel on the Rocky Mountaineer Goldleaf Service from Banff, Alberta to Vancouver, BC, Canada with an overnight stop in Kamloops.
1999 SEP 18 SAT 06:00 AM Snowridge Lodge, Jasper, AB
When I woke up, I was feeling a bit under the weather. I think my illness was brought on by working too late into the night on my computer and staying out in the cold air of the open vestibule for too long over the past two days. Combined with these two factors, it also probably didn't help that I slept with the window open!
Today we would travel from Jasper to Banff by tour bus. There was a bus trip voucher in our packet from Rocky Mountaineer Railtours for this bus tour. Our luggage was loaded onto the bus for the trip from Jasper to Banff and the plan was to stop at a number of scenic places to let people out to take photos.
The following travelogue section was written by Ray Burns of TrainWeb. I was a bit under the weather for the second segment of the trip and greatly appreciate Ray being able to pinch hit for me and compose this portion of the travelogue. Ray and I each have our own style of writing and I'm sure there are many of you who probably enjoy Ray's writings as much as or more than my own and hope to see more travelogues from Ray in the future. As Ray and I find ourselves covering more and more rail mileage, I'm sure you will be seeing more travelogues from Ray!
When we left left the hotel in Jasper in the morning the tour bus was almost full. Many people on the bus were commenting on how cold the weather had turned. When we left the hotel we saw a small herd of elk grazing on grass. Yesterday when we arrived we saw some elk grazing as well. It is fascinating to see the wild animals up close that are free to roam around rather than being locked up in a cage just for the pleasure of the gawking public. We also saw one of the famous huge busses that is used at the Ice Fields.
Now we were on our way down south to the Ice Fields and then later travel further down to Banff, Calgary. The bus operator was very professional and lots of fun like all people dealing with the general public should be. The freeway zig zagged through the Rocky Mountains giving us an excellent view from the freeway. The driver pulled the bus alongside the highway so we could see a mother black bear and her cub that was just across the road that was probably looking for something to eat. A nice touch! I was hoping that we would see a moose but that was not to be. We eventually came to a stop that I truly wish that we could have stayed much longer. It was a stop where there was a beautiful waterfall and the walkway through and around it gave us spectacular views of this extremely beautiful setting. I really wanted to take some Virtual Reality photos of the area as it was truly a wonderland. However, it was the coldest time during the whole trip for me. I could tell that Steve wasn't feeling too well by this time and that wasn't going to help any as far as getting this travelogue together. We eventually got down to the Ice Fields and the hotel/restaurant across the freeway of one of the "fingers" of the ice flow around 1:00 PM. Everyone was very hungry and as luck would have it - the place was jammed! The sit down restaurant was filled up until late afternoon and there was a long line for the cafeteria. In Jasper and especially Banff we got a much better exchange rate for our US money than at this place. Carry some Canadian money with you and make life a little easier on yourself. Consequently because of the long line wait we had less time to eat as the driver has to leave at a preset time.
We then had a new bus driver drive us to the Ice Field a few miles from the hotel. She also was a lot of fun to be around. Always laughing and cracking little jokes. Once at the station at the Ice Fields we boarded the special buses that could operate on the ice withought sliding out of control. I think they can only go as fast as eighteen miles an hour if memory serves me right. This same gal operated this humungous bus and took the same people out to the Ice Field. We also stopped at a beautiful very blue lake up in these mountains where we had time to stop, walk around and take pictures. A nice thing about a trip like this is that you meet a lot of nice people with interesting backgrounds with good conversation to wet the dry periods. Always lots of opportunity to make new friends! We got to our hotel in Banff around 4:00 PM. The weather for the whole trip was excellent! The hotels that we stayed in were very nice.
We got to our hotel in Banff around 4 PM. The weather for the whole trip was excellent! The hotels that we stayed in were very nice. Steve went to bed immediately. I didn't have supper either.
It was fortunate that both Ray and I were along on this rail adventure. If it wasn't for the travelogue provided by Ray for much of the remainder of this journey, there would not have been much more to this travelogue!
1999 SEP 18 SAT Evening At The Hotel In Banff:
When we arrived at the hotel, all I wanted to do was to go to sleep until I felt better. I started a battery charging and went right to sleep at 6:15 P.M.
I awoke later thinking that it was morning. I didn't know how I'd face the day as I felt no better. But, when I looked at the time, I saw that it was only 8:15 P.M.! I'd only been asleep for 2 hours and still had another 10 hours that I could sleep!
I called the front desk for a wake-up call for 6:30 A.M. I also set my pager alarm to go off at 6:30 A.M. I always set 2 wake-up call methods as something will sometimes go wrong with one of them. One did go wrong this time! I set my pager alarm, but forgot to take it off vibrate. Since I don't wear my pager to bed, the vibrating pager would not have woke me up!
I woke up a few times during the night. I guess most people hate to have their sleep interupted by waking up in the middle of the night, but not me! I like to wake up and check the clock to see how much longer I can sleep.
I woke up at 6:15 A.M. after sleeping for 12 hours! That is more sleep than I often get in two nights! I felt very rested with more energy, but still hadn't shaken the cough. But, as long as the sore throat was gone and my energy was restored, that is all I need to enjoy the rest of the rail journey.
The bus picked us up in the morning and delivered us to the train station where we boarded the GoldLeaf train. After we boarded the train in Banff, the train staff went to each person at each seat in Goldleaf Service to make sure that each person's luggage was directed to the right hotel. They also collected the hotel vouchers and would be giving us a key to our rooms for our hotels in Kamloops before we left the train. They definitely tried to do everything possible to make sure nothing could go wrong!
The following commentary is from Ray Burns:
These people don't miss a trick! They certainly know how to give you that good old Royal Canadian Service! This company takes great strides to train their people in customer service satisfaction! You would be impressed if you saw their classrooms. The employees obviously enjoy their jobs. It is not just the view and the ride itself, but the quality service is part of the package as well. You get a lot of bang for your buck! More so now that the US dollar is 35 to 40 % more than the Canadian dollar. I have found that the corporate staff is just as friendly and vibrant as those in the "front line". All this starts with the President of the company and shows all the way down the ladder. I tip my hat to them all! A job well done!!
There are many wonderful places to go and see around the world and we certainly have a lot of great places to see in the United States, but this trip is a "must see" if you want to say that you were "somewhere". Take lots of photographs as you'll want to remember this excursion.
We passed the famous Banff Springs Hotel on the way to see the famous Chateau Lake Louis Hotel that you see in so many postcards. It was sad to see so many tourists but rather that then not to see the place. Steve was having a difficult time by this time so he couldn't enjoy it as much as he could have. It was difficult for him to walk around. It was so sad for someone to be on a trip of a lifetime and then be feeling so bad. It was extremely difficult for him to do the work on the travalogue because of this so it slowed our progress down substantially because of it. I told him to not work at night in his hotel room like he always does and to get lots of sleep as we can always catch up on our work later and it's not going to help anyone if he ends up in a hospital. He took my advice and the deep long sleep helped him a lot to combat whatever was ailing him.
The trip to Kamloops was quite exciting in their new cars. However, Steve and I loved both trainsets. I think that people should take a trip on both to experience and appreciate both like we did. Each had their good attributes that was better than the other. If you take one in one direction and the other back then you can't go wrong. Then you can decide for yourself which you like best. There are no losers on this trip! The stairs that brings you upstairs to the dome or downstairs to the dining room or out to the "patio" is very neat. I felt like a kid who was in a house for the first time that had stairs going up to the second floor and I lived in a single story home. Know what I'm talking about? Nothing dirty about the whole trainset. these people take great pride in cleanliness. Even outside the paint shines. We have never taken so many pictures on a trip as on this one.
1999 SEP 19 SUN Morning on the train from Vancouver to Kamloops:
Ray and I had breakfast downstairs in the the Gold Leaf Car. The entire upstairs of the Gold Leaf Car is a dome with a fantastic view. Downstairs, the entire length of a car is for dining and the galley.
The dining part of the car holds exactly half the people in the car. Thus, there are two seatings for every meal. While one set of people are dining, the other set of people are served light snacks, juice and coffee to hold them until it is their turn to dine!
Ray and I went down to breakfast. Service was excellent. The menu had a reasonable number of selections, all of gourmet standards. Both Ray and I ordered the Eggs Benedict. The Dining Car Attendant told us that the orders of Eggs Benedict were rather small and asked us if we would like double orders! Ray ordered the double but I wasn't that hungry and knew the single order would be enough for me. The Dining Car Attendant asked if I was sure. He said a single order was just one-half English muffin, one egg and one slice of ham. I said that I was sure that would be enough for me, and it was!
At lunch time, Ray and I both ordered the Lamb and the tomato soup. Both items were excellent!
A complimentary glass of white or red wine was served and we were welcome to more after that. Ray passed on the wine as he does not drink alcohol, but I certainly took advantage of the free offer!
For desert, Ray had an Apple Torte and I had a Chocolate Moose. The Chocolate Moose was served in a chocolate shell in lemon sauce. Both deserts were delicious!
At 3 PM in the afternoon the train started following Shuswap Lake. Ray and I went out to the open vestibule right after lunch to have a clear view of the lake. It wasn't unil after 5 PM that the train finally stopped following the lake. We had two hours of beautiful lakeside views as the train wandered in and out following the shoreline of the lake!
There is so much beautiful scenery on this route that one can overdose on it! The experience of being outdoors in the fresh air with the sounds of the train not muffled by being inside and photographs not obstructed by glass just adds that much more to the experience. Eventually, I just had to come inside.
At 5:30 PM, we went through a horseshoe curve where the front of the train could be seen heading in the opposite direction of the rear of the train!
The train climbed quite a bit higher than the lake at 5:45 PM giving spectacular views of the lake far below as well as Copper Island, the only island in the lake.
All along the way, people would wave to the train from the shore and boats.
With Gold Leaf Service, your luggage is brought directly to your room for your overnight stay in Kamloops! No need for a simple overnight bag when traveling in Gold Leaf Service! In the morning, our luggage was tagged for Vancouver and is sent directly by truck. The luggage does not go onto the train. People in Signature Service have their luggage sent direct from Banff or Jasper back to Vancouver by truck. That is why it is not possible for them to have access to their luggage in Kamloops.
Goldleaf Service passengers were split into two hotels in Kamloops: Coast Canadian and Best Western. One Car Attendant stays in one of these hotels and the other Car Attendant stays in the other. Thus, a Car Attendant is available in each of the hotels of the Goldleaf passengers to be available for any questions or help in the evening or morning.
You will need your bus voucher to transfer to your hotel and you will need your hotel voucher for your stay in the hotel itself.
I'd highly recommend the Two River Jucntion Musical Review Dinner Theater in Kamloops. A buffet dinner is served and then you are treated to a musical review about Billy Miner, a local train robber that made off with $15.50 in the early 1900's !
Additional Impressions From Ray Burns:
The danger about going on a trip like the Rocky Mountaineer Rail Tour is that it can be contagious! You can really overindulge yourself in the scenery and great service. If one has the time and money I would heartily recommend that they also take the train during the winter as the winter wonderland is just that - a wonderland to to view and store in your memory as you go around each curve of the track. What a wonderful way to relax from the stress of everyday living. We all need that break! It reminds me when I was a little kid on a small train at A. J. Friemans, the largest department store in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. This train would take me through the magical mountains that had elves making gifts with Santa for the children of the world. The mountains had "precious gems" inside them and the engineer would "swoosh" the train with its gleeful children through the tracked maze of the candycane wonderland. Angel hair, icicles and cotton was used extensively as well as bright ribbons and scarlet materials throughout Santa's Village. The explosive colored wrapping paper, the bright Christmas lights glittering in the right places and the rainbow of bright colors illuminating this rainbow fairyland of giggling ever happy children in their Valhalla land of enchantment. To hear the train "rumbling" around the curved tracks, to see the ogling look of other children standing in line wishing they were on the magical train as we wisked by them and to hear that benevolant train horn (that was never loud enough) as we rounded the bend, all took a lovely toll on our memorable little minds. Today, as adults, we can almost relive those magical days of yesteryear, by again, taking the train and watching the scenery go by "our livingroom." Get with it folks, don't let exciting things like this skip you by while you're still kicking.
The Signature Service car restroom is one of the largest restrooms that I have ever been on in a train. The Spanish Talgo trainset as well as a "The Scottish Thistle" a private railcar that Steve and I were on before also have large restrooms for their customers. I just love not getting squeezed in by tiny restrooms! It was great of the company to design such features. The toilet also looks and functions like a "regular" toilet. Too many little things we all take for granted so when we do without they are sorely missed.
We were very fortunate when we arrived in British Columbia when we did for the weather was just lovely. Our good fiend Greg Chadwick who lives near Vancouver told us that within days of us leaving our BC tour - it was raining again. I like the rain. Steve loves the rain! However, I am thankful to have received the lovely weather that we did for this trip. Coming all the way north from southern California and going all the way back, our weather couldn't have been more better. It was such a delight.
It is always exciting going to another country. I usually fly in but entering Canada by the Amtrak Cascades train and seeing the Canadian flag tells you that you are in another "world". My past experiences have been rather bitter going through Canadian customs, but this trip was quite a pleasure.
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