I don’t mind getting up early but I prefer it if there’s at least a suggestion of light in the sky when I roll out of bed, which there was not when my alarm went off shortly before five. I don’t know why I got up so early; the itinerary said we were meeting in the hotel lobby around 6:30. I could have gotten up at 5:30 and still had time to shower and make it down there an hour later. Could have gotten up at six if I skipped the shower (always a bad idea).
Anyway, there I was in the hotel lobby at 6:20. And do you think anyone else was down there besides the night clerk? Negative. So I checked out and asked if there was someplace within walking distance where I could get coffee. I was told a Starbucks was only a couple of blocks down Beatty Street. It was still dark enough out that the streetlights were still on. I passed by a few homeless people sleeping in doorways, young women hurrying to the bus stop, vendors unloading this and that from the backs of small trucks.
By the time I got back to the hotel with my grande extra-hot latte, most of the others were down in the lobby in various stages of early-morning malaise, some looking like they’d only gotten a few hours of sleep last night, others like they hadn’t slept at all.
Michael Collin, looking like a preppy lumberjack in a red and black buffalo check Woolrich shirt-jacket (this trip is being partially hosted by Woolrich), was handing out tickets for the Rocky Mountaineer, the scenic train that runs from Vancouver to Banff and Calgary. We were headed for Banff.
Michael rounded up a couple of taxis for us and we headed for the train station. Getting checked in was easy (it reminded me of the way airline travel used to be before we all went crazy with security) and the porters took our bags and disappeared with them, and shortly after seven we were invited to step aboard our Goldleaf dome coach where a young attendant in a crisp white blouse and navy blue vest offered me a glass of champagne which, to me, is always the proper way to start any journey—particularly if it’s at seven in the morning.