I’m not one for spending a winter vacation in a Caribbean resort, or sitting around in any of the popular southern sunny havens for snowbirds. I’d be bored. I have to be on the move and see things. Now that travel is out of the question, I look back fondly at all the places in the world I’ve been to, and am thankful for all the traveling when I did.
I asked a buddy of mine, who has also traveled extensively, what is his favourite mode of transportation? Driving his car. He loves driving and it relaxes him when he drives long distances. I’d rather be a passenger.
If I were to pick my favourite mode of transportation, and I’ve been on almost everything except a rocket ship, I would say a train, followed by a cruise ship. I love a train ride. One of the memorable ones was when I took the train from Cochrane to Moosonee in northern Ontario. The train would stop along the way through the bush country and pick up people standing by the tracks.
My first train experience was in 1953 when our family immigrated. We flew KLM from Amsterdam to Montreal and then took a train to Ottawa and then on to Renfrew. It was in September and it was hot and dry here and I recall my parents looking out the window of the train and seeing very short cereal crops. That was a disappointment for them. They were used to lush crops in Holland.
If I were to pick my worst ways of travel I would have to say a submarine. Now I didn’t actually travel in one, and a submarine isn’t meant for tourists travel, but I did explore the inside of one. We were in Long Beach, California touring the Queen Mary passenger ship that’s docked there and beside it was a Russian submarine. So I bought a ticket to go inside the thing. It was awfully cramped and very claustrophobic.
The RMS Queen Mary passenger ship was a big tourist attraction. She was officially retired from service in 1967 and sailed to the port of Long Beach where she remains permanently moored.
Queen Mary’s maiden voyage was in 1936. With the outbreak of the Second World War, she was converted into a troopship and ferried Allied soldiers. Following the war, Queen Mary was refitted for passenger service and along with Queen Elizabeth the two ships dominated the transatlantic passenger market until the dawn of the jet age in the late 1950s.
Riding on a camel is not a fun experience but I’m glad I got on one. We were driving from Los Angeles up through northern California when I saw a sign along the road advertising a camel farm and camel rides. So we pulled in and I got on a camel.
Camels are not horses. Mounting a camel is entirely different from mounting a horse, and it’s just as awkward to dismount. When a camel gets up from its knees, you feel you’re really high up. You are high up unlike riding a horse. The animal sways back and forth when walking and you swag along. Camels are not friendly beasts either.
Being at the water front in San Diego we wanted to get somewhere but the place was jammed with people. There were students with rickshaws offering rides to wherever one was going. A rickshaw is a like a taxi — you pay its driver for a ride — but rickshaws are typically only large enough for one or two passengers. A very athletic young woman offered to take us where we wanted to go. It was a delightfully fun experience being pulled by a running woman. I recall us laughing in glee as we passed by the masses of people. It was as if we were in China.
I’ve been in a helicopter flying over the International Plowing Match. I traveled in a cogwheel railway train to Mount Pilatus in Switzerland, which is the steepest railway line in the world, and came down the other side in a cable car high above the ground. I traveled by bus all through Europe and the Baltic countries, including touring the beautiful city of St. Petersburg in Russia.
I’ve sailed on a schooner, was on a lobster fishing boat out on the east coast, rode on a gondola on a river in Europe, crossed the English Channel in a hovercraft — all pleasant experiences. So many wonderful memories!
Maynard van der Galien is a Renfrew-area farmer and agriculture columnist.