I’m a Boomer, and I’ve more than chalked up the three score I’m allotted, but I expect a lot more than ten more. I figure I have the genes, temperament and persistence to live to about 95. That means I have 35 years or so to do everything on my bucket list.
It’s not very long, I’ve been filling it in like a birder’s life list since forever. I’ve been hang gliding, the closes thing to bird flight there is, and felt the lift of the wind in the silence above the pines. I’ve been scuba diving on the Barrier Reef off Belize, sitting on the pure white sand bottom, watching Hammerheads swim over me. I’ve flown over the Great Divide at dawn in a helicopter, listening to Bach on the headphones and watching the rising sun glint off the high snowfields.
I’ve power-hiked through cathedrals of trees as old as history, uplifted by the dense, deafening silence. I’ve hiked out on the gunwale in 20 knots of wind, racing for harbour before the sheets of rain come. I’ve slept in the snow, snug in my sleeping bag beneath a recent fall, waking to shake the flakes out of my eyes. I’ve hitched a locomotive ride on a freight train across the valleys of New England in the full flame of fall.
I’ve had a small but important influence in national affairs, I’ve seen the temples of Palenque under the moonlight when no one else was there. I’ve woken up every May 10th for 15 years to see the False Pear tree in the backyard as white with blossoms as a huge ice cream cone.
There are a few things I’d like to do, mostly because they weren’t available previously. I’d like to fly First Class on an Airbus A380 to London, with the separate cabin with living room, bedroom and bathroom with a shower. I’d return from this trip in a balcony cabin on the Queen Mary 2. I’d like to see the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa, as battlemented as a gigantic castle. I’d like to work on an archaeological dig on Norse remains in North America.
A constant theme in my bucket list is sleeping while traveling. I took the Via Rail Canadian across the country to Banff with my wife, in a suite, and sleeping to the clickety-click of the rails is as romantic as they say it is. It isn’t generally known, but the transcontinental service has one super suite on each train, which sleeps 5 and has the only shower aboard. It’s located under the observation dome on the tail end car
That trip across Canada by train bears special remembering. It was one of the very last departures to take the southern route, through Calgary and Banff. The country was gripped in a brutal cold spell, and half the trains leaving Toronto weren’t making it (ours did). The sun had set when we left Toronto, and Sudbury came about midnight. Our beds were warm and they rocked with the motion of the train. We woke the next morning in Wawa, the train sheathed in ice, and we watched as they loaded crates of still-flapping trout for our breakfast. All afternoon the train was filled with the smell of the roast cooking for dinner that night, with mashed potatoes and fresh-baked hot rolls, all made from scratch on board.
Another magic night’s sleep in our warm cabin, watching the Boreal Forest click by. Midnight in Winnipeg, so cold spit froze before it hit the ground. We bundled up and walked the platform for air, amazed that a train so sheathed in ice (from escaping steam) could function. The rest of the night into the prairies, then breakfast in Saskatchewan. Teatime in Calgary and bed-time in Banff and the trip was over.
Although the Canadian travels the northern route through Edmonton and Jasper now, and crosses the Rockies at night, it is still a bucket list item that every Canadian should try once. The stainless steel 1960s running stock was built for the ages and has recently been refurbished – the dome cars and the sleeping cars will still be there for a while. It’s a trip never to be forgotten, and the lullaby of the rails is magic.