I boarded The Canadian, Canada’s legendary scenic train, in Vancouver for a three day transit of the Rocky Mountains and high prairies. The mountain vistas beggar description, the cuisine is surprisingly good, the service friendly. The train personnel enjoy their jobs and take pride in sharing Canada with visitors. We stopped for a break in beautiful Jasper, ‘Gateway To The Rockies,’ and again in Saskatoon, made famous by an episode in the immortal Rumpole of the Bailey series. Don’t take The Canadian if you’re in a hurry though. It’s a holiday special, not a commuter train. Does anyone rush to Istanbul aboard the Orient Express?
From Toronto, I rode the ‘hound to Buffalo where I’d rented a car for my Upstate New York wandering. This region is the cradle of the Women’s Rights Movement and a hotbed of Abolitionist activity before the American Civil War. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Amelia Bloomer, and John Brown all came from the banks of the old Erie Canal. Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass also called Upstate their home. Every village its story to tell. (Speaking of which, a must read book for young people is Seneca Falls Inheritance, by Miriam Grace Monfredo, a mystery story rich in important history.)
Owego, my base for several days, is on the Susquehanna River, a great commercial artery before the railways eclipsed water navigation. Ms Von B and I visited The Hickories Park on the river bank and wished we had a kayak to paddle over to Hiawatha Island, named in honor of the legendary Native American lawgiver. Owego was founded shortly after the American Revolutionary War and is still a thriving village. While there, I dined several times at Las Chicas Taqueria. Homemade tortillas provide the backbone of a menu where Baja California meets old New York.
Near Owego, I joined a cycling youth group at their campsite. We shared a mom-cooked Italian meal, then adjourned for a campfire featuring hot popcorn, roast marshmallows, horseplay, and stories. Two of the group had ridden metric centuries (100 km in a day!) on mountain bikes. Crazy costumes were the uniform of the evening.
I also took a sentimental tour of Homer, NY, where Amelia Bloomer grew to womanhood. Bloomer, who popularized the liberating garment which bears her name, was the founding editor of ‘The Lily,’ the first women’s newspaper. She advocated gender equality, abolition of slavery, and temperance. I don’t know if Bloomer was a cyclist, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Lots of ‘Bloomer Girls’ were.
My final stop in the region was The Groton Rod & Gun Club, affectionately known as ‘Church.’ I broke an unremarkable 29 of 40 clay pigeons in two rounds of trap. A woman using a shotgun with Barbie-pink stocks broke all 40 of hers, reminding me once again that some of us are more equal than others. A nearby Walmart offers a pink beginners rifle, size small, to train another generation of girls in the joys of things that go bang. I blame Amelia.