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In writing up my Italy trip, I described the “travel part of travel” as the most boring part. Well, for Christmas 2008, the travel part of travel was the big story, front and center. And we were not immune from the fun.

We were flying North late this year — December 24, in the afternoon. Mere days after myriad flight cancellations due to massive snowstorms from coast to coast. Considering all that, we did pretty well. Yes, our flight was somewhat delayed, but that was mostly due to the airline needing to catch up first with earlier, very much delayed flights. And though we didn’t know it at first, we were actually at risk of having our flight cancelled, not so much because of weather (just rainy on this day), but because the crew were getting precariously close to their maximum work hours for that day. But boarding was extremely efficient, and they closed the doors five minutes before they would have had to call it a day and we would have been stuck in Toronto.

In the end, we arrived only about an hour later than expected.

Our flight out was scheduled for the afternoon of Sunday, December 28, as we were both due back at work on Monday. Checking the weather forecast didn’t suggest we’d have any problems. Even that morning, the prediction was for just small snowfall in the afternoon — about 5 cm, no biggie for a northern community.

And then… a couple hours before we were due to flight out… Mother Nature got riled. Winds picked up. Snow flew and blew in copious amounts. Roads grew icy, visibility almost nil.

We were actually scheduled for a family brunch right before the airport drive, so we’d set up for Air Canada to text message our cell phone if the flight was delayed. The first message came through announcing a one-hour delay. No surprise there. And the storm was scheduled to end later that day.

But then the second message arrived. “Flight cancelled”. Huh.

Surprisingly, perhaps, we’d never actually had a flight cancelled before, and weren’t entirely sure what to do. It was a bit of a distracted brunch until we could get back to the house and figure that out.

There seemed to be no way to rebook anything online. We had to call Air Canada. But Timmins wasn’t the only affected site this day, so it was a long time on hold with them.

Meantime, we looked at alternatives. There was a bus leaving around 8:00 that night, which would get us to Toronto about 12 hours later. Uggh. And, there was a flight out of North Bay that night, for only $200. But how to get to North Bay?

Finally, we reached Air Canada. They could not rebook us before Tuesday, essentially ensuring we’d miss two days of work. This was not a good situation for DH, whose small office is already understaffed at this time, and whose clients have an ongoing need to breathe. So we decided to go with getting our flight refunded, and finding another way back.

We called the bus line about that night’s bus. Turns out that was unlikely to leave as well; both major highways leading out of Timmins were closed. So that meant car rental was also out. There was just no getting to work for Monday.

We continued research. I recalled that it was actually possible to take the train out of Timmins; that left the next morning at 7:45, and definitely looked like the most appealing option. A long day, still, but train travel is better than bus.

The next day dawned clear and all looked well. From the “train” station, they actually bus us first to Matheson, about an hour away, the closest town that still has rail lines. We got there on time, but were told the train was about 15 minutes late. But 15 minutes came and went and… no train.

The bus driver called us over. “So, this is what has happened. The train has broken down in Val Gagné. So get back on the bus, and we’ll figure out how to get you to Toronto.”

We were soon joined by a busload of people from Val Gagné. The bus we were on didn’t fit everyone, so they had to get a bigger one. They also had to figure out how to pick up every one in the stops between Matheson and North Bay, from where a train would be available.

In the end, we got an “express” bus ride to North Bay, while a separate bus handled the “milk run” of stops in between. And, it wasn’t so bad, since the most annoying part of bus travel is all those stops on the way.

We were in North Bay on time, but the train was not. We had about an hour’s wait there. Then everyone on that train had to get off and find their way onto various buses for the trip to points north. Then we got on, and the train turned around and went back to Toronto.

From here in, there were no further delays. We got to Toronto around 8:45, into a taxi to bring us to the airport parking where our car was, then a drive home that went well.

And we were both able to work on Tuesday. Happy new year to all!

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