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October 26, 2008

I arrived home yesterday, after a two week vacation by train and plane to New York and back. The purpose of the trip was to see downtown New York and also to get a good look at the countryside. I have always been interested in New York City. It has always been in the news, world wide events and sports. My wife, Lorene, left us a year and a half ago and I thought it was time to take this trip.

A grandson, Donald Anderson of Kamloops, B. C., offered to go with me. He is a school teacher and is married. So, on Sunday Oct. 12, Lloyd and Nyla drove us down to Glasgow, Montana (90 miles) where we boarded the Empire Builder part of the Amtrack railway system. We were having a heavy snowfall and there was six to eight inches of fresh white snow by the time we got to Glasgow.

Why did we take the train? I wanted to see as much as we could of the countryside and I have always enjoyed riding on a train. As a boy of six years, I rode the train with my mother to South Dakota. At 13, I started riding the train from Fir Mountain to Moose Jaw, going along with the lambs to the feeder show. I made the trip with the lambs for several years. This was a reward from my Dad for caring for the sheep and cattle. Later, I went to Winnipeg with the big steers.

While in the army, I had many trips on troop trains in Canada, the United States, and in England. After the war, my wife and I often rode the train from home to Ontario and also to British Columbia, where her folks lived. We also had several trips in the United States. The train is my favorite way of travelling. So, on Sunday afternoon my grandson Donald and I were rolling eastward out of Glasgow, Montana.

Our first stop would be in Chicago the next afternoon. The train traveled 80 miles per hour. There was no click-click like the old days. The rails are now continuous and so no noise and very smooth.

We spent the night going through eastern Montana, North Dakota and we were in Minneapolis, Minnesota by day break. So far, we were traveling mostly over the plains area. After Minneapolis, we got into mixed farming and lots of trees and water. We crossed over the Mississippi River and soon we were in Wisconsin. There was some farming, good looking crops of corn, and dairy farms. By late afternoon, we arrived in Chicago with its high skyscrapers.

As we came into downtown Chicago, I thought back to early days when my dad and others shipped their cattle to Chicago from southern Saskatchewan. My dad and others rounded up their cattle on the Montana-Saskatchewan border. They herded the cattle together and then trailed them, by using saddle horses, eastward to a small town of Whitetail, Montana where the cattle were loaded on stock cars and shipped non stop to Chicago. My dad would be gone for ten days on this annual fall sale. My mother was home on the ranch with several of us young kids. There was no power or telephone at that time.

At the huge railway station in Chicago, we got a taxi that took us to a hotel on Michigan Avenue. My grandson, Donald, had a cell phone and he could make calls from the train. We stayed at the Travel Lodge in downtown Chicago and the cost of the room was $120 per night. The next day we spent sight seeing downtown Chicago. We walked around looking at the parks and the big buildings. One of the tallest buildings was the Amaco building and this was where my oldest son, Arnold Boyd, worked for about ten years. He was a vice-president with this company. While here, his company sold out to British Petroleum of England and he then moved to British Petroleum headquarters at Houston, Texas. We had a very interesting boat ride on the Chicago River with a good commentator to give us the history of the area. This river was dug out so that the water flows through from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River.

That evening, we boarded the Amtrack again and headed east for Philadelphia. We crossed over Indiana and then into the bush and hills around Pittsburg and into Philadelphia by noon. That afternoon, we toured around Philadelphia and had a look at the famous Liberty Bell located near a museum where the United States had their government while the capital of Washington was being built. We stayed overnight again in a Travel Lodge Hotel, again which was priced at $120 per night.

In the morning, we got on the train and within a short while we were in New York. From Philadelphia to New York there are businesses and homes all the way. There were lots of natural trees and water ways to go over before the train pulled into Pennsylvania Station. Our hotel was just across the street and Madison Square Gardens was right beside the station. The next night we went to a hockey game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers. The tickets cost us $65 and were good seats. The place was sold out and New York won with a shoot out.

Our room cost us $340 per night which was rather high but we had a very good location. We were able to walk to the Empire State Building and also to Time Square. We had several bus tours of the highlights of the city. We were told that New York is on an island 12 miles long and two to three miles wide. Eight million people live in the city and seven million more come in every day to work from New Jersey, Brooklyn and other places.

The number and the height of the skyscrapers is awe inspiring with people living on the 80th and 90th floors. I had been in New York before, but this was my first time downtown. The city is crowded with tourists and apparently such things as shows and sporting events are nearly always sold out. The streets and general appearance looked clean and well managed. Crowds of people were everywhere and there were big line ups. I was very impressed with the city, but I do not think I would ever care to go back again.

On Saturday morning, we once again boarded the train and we traveled up the Hudson River valley on our way to Toronto. It was a lovely ride. There was great scenery with trees and water almost all the way. It was a lovely time of the year with crops either being harvested or finished and the trees turning color from green to red and yellow. We got into Toronto and hired a cab which drove us to my grandson Jason’s house where we stayed for two days until our flight for Calgary. Donald and I flew back to Calgary on WestJet. My grandson Jason is a freelance writer and he often writes for the Globe and Mail and also for the National newspapers as well as magazines. In Calgary, I visited with my oldest son Arnold and two of my daughters, Marion and Susan.

On Saturday, Marion drove me to the bus and I rode from Calgary to Swift Current where Nyla met me and gave me a ride to Glentworth. I slept in my own bed again after being gone for two weeks. It was a trip that I have always wanted to take. Now I am satisfied but I know that I will always want to see whatever is over on the other of the hill. My grandson Donald did a great job for me by making all the arrangements for the tickets and the rooms. I enjoyed the trip greatly.

Boyd Anderson is a mostly-retired rancher from Glentworth, Sask. and has been a columnist for Grainews for many years.

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