Circle Tour


This seems to be a time for travelling. Two years ago at around this time, I left Kitchener for Chicago to start an 11 day Amtrak trip that included stopovers in Denver, Sacramento, Portland, Seattle and Minneapolis. Four years before that, Erin and I left the kids with Rosemarie and my parents and took the Canadian from Toronto all the way to Vancouver (with a two day stopover in Jasper that I can’t recommend enough).

And today I start my Circle Tour: an all-surface trip using trains and public transit to take me from Kitchener to Montreal, then New York, then Chicago before returning to Kitchener via Detroit.

Erin would ask me to clarify these destinations. Actually, instead of New York and Chicago, I’m spending at least a day in Newark, New Jersey, and Kenosha, Wisconsin. Why? Because Newark has a subway and LRT, and Kenosha operates former Toronto PCC streetcars in a circle through the town’s core and waterfront.

Of course I’m travelling alone. Respecting one’s somewhat weird hobbies, while not being forced to partake in them is a secret to a long and healthy marriage.

But I’m also here to write. I’ve been making progress on The Sun Runners in fits and starts, but I’ve been frustrated at how slow things have been. Erin has used writing retreats to kickstart her novels, and also to push them to the finish line, and I thought that such a trip would help me. But where Erin looks for cottages by a lake on Lake Erie or Muskoka (it’s particularly nice when you can be offered one by a friend), I need to move. So I’ll be doing my writing on trains.

My Circle Tour allows me to visit some far flung centres and come back home without my feet leaving the ground by plane. I feel strangely proud of this accomplishment. It’s a remarkable thing to fly, but if you are going to cross great distances, there is something to seeing the terrain pass you as you make your journey.

Back when I lived in Toronto, and was a lot fitter than I am now, I managed to step out of my downtown house and walk a meandering path through a variety of neighbourhoods all the way to the end of the subway line. I made it to Kipling twice, and to Warden. Heading north was more difficult as it was uphill, but I got as far as Lawrence and Lawrence West stations. Erin once asked me why I enjoy taking going into Toronto so often to just ride the TTC, and I think the best answer is, it’s a long walk with assistance. And that’s what this is. Taking a plane would be cheating.

Today, I’m taking VIA Rail (currently listed as on time as I write this) and heading to Montreal where I’ll stay overnight after a quick explore of its Metro. Then tomorrow, I’ll board Amtrak’s Adirondack and head south past Lake Champlain and the Hudson River Valley to New York City, and continuing on by New Jersey Transit to a hotel by Newark’s Airport. Tuesday will be a day I explore transit options in New Jersey, then Wednesday, I board Amtrak’s Cardinal through the West Virginia Appalachian Mountains to wake up (in Business Class) in Chicago. Thursday I take Metra to visit Kenosha and return, and Friday I take Amtrak’s Wolverine to Detroit, use public transit (the Tunnel Bus!) to get across to Windsor and VIA Rail to take me home.

(Update: 23:21): I made it into Montreal just a half-hour late and spent some time exploring the Metro. Also had a smoked meat sandwich and poutine. Photographs of my day can be found here.

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