Val Ease Central Railroad by Jeffrey MacHan

The Sinsheim Chronicles: Episode 1

March 15-16, 2002 - And awayyyyyy we go!

I guess that you could say that the trip really began in the wee hours of Friday, March 16th when Terry Sutfin boarded a United Airlines flight from Portland, Oregon travelling to Buffalo, NY where he hoped to be greeted by Marthe and me. All I was able to learn from Terry was that he had to get up at some ungodly hour to be at the airport in time for the cross-continent flight. I knew that the flight was scheduled to arrive at Buffalo International airport at 4:05 pm.

Leaving nothing to chance, Marthe and I loaded our Lhassa Apso, TiTi, into the truck (well I guess you can safely call a Dodge Durango a truck, it was about twice as big as our previous vehicle). We had planned to leave downtown Toronto at noon but it was more like 1pm when we finally hit the Gardner Expressway in the direction of the Niagara penninsula and the US-Canada border. Why were we picking up Terry at the Buffalo save a bundle of money, that's why! Airlines do strange things with their pricing promotions and this time it was about half the price to fly into Buffalo than into Toronto Pearson International. I figured that a 3-hour drive and a tank of gas was not too high a price to pay to connect with my partner in the upcoming adventureZ. Besides we always enjoy a short day trip to the States to stop in at Target, our favourite discount store. ;-)

The trip went smoothly and we arrived just as the flight was scheduled to land. We began to wait anxiously for our friend to come down the escalator from arrivals. We had a surprise planned for him...the unveiling of the VECRR basic black uniform for the trip. We waited...and waited...and waited...and looked around the arrivals area...and checked the area along the passenger drop-off...oh boy, had Terry been kidnapped? What a way to start the trip! Then he popped out from behind a column wearing his trademark grin. He had been waiting for us along the drive at the drop-off area and we had been circling around each other for 20 minutes!

After the customary hugs and greetings it was time for the handing over of the new uniform for the trip Terry and Jeffrey in their elegant VEC uniforms. We looked least that was what Marthe told us. I wanted to believe her so for the purposes of this tale, Terry and I looked GREAT in our black baseball style ensemble with VECRR logo embroidered on the left breast.

Suffice to say that we spent the next 24 hours catching up on Z and other stuff and pumping up our already superelevated excitement levels for the long anticipated trip that was finally upon us. We still had to pack our bags with the new uniforms and I had to make sure that I could still fit the train cases (locomotives and rolling stock) into my carry-on. It was a tight fit but I expected to ship the trains back home inside the layout suitcases. My logic dictated that I not take a chance losing the trains on the way over to the show...come to think of it, if they were lost, then the layout would be too! Not quite, I was apprehensive about customs inspections where small utility cases full of rather expensive model trains could easily disappear. I didn't want the stress of even thinking about such an I packed them in my bag. I figured that I could use my contract with Faszination Modellbau to prove that I was not an international Z train smuggler. I was prepared for almost anything, as you can see.

The last preparations included packing the international cell phone that I had rented for the two weeks of the trip and emailing my cell number to our contacts in Europe, Vancouver, WA and with Schenker just in case. I made sure that I had my trusty notepad and extra pens handy, including my ever faithful Fisher Space Pen that would write upside down and under water, just in case I had to take notes in the shower or while submerged for some reason. All my travel connections and contact numbers were indelibly recorded in my pad and my secret pockets (pants, jacket and elsewhere) were full of my valuables. I adjusted my beaten up old dual time zone digital-analog watch (worth a whopping $15) so that I would know at what ungodly hour it was back home while I was having fun in Europe. ;-)

Our departure on Air Canada to London, Heathrow was booked for 9:40pm Saturday for two reasons. First to give Terry a day to begin to aclimatise to his 3-hour time shift from the West Coast to the Eastern time zone and second, to force us to sleep on the flight to London where it would be 9:50am upon arrival. We expected to have a full day of activities in London on Sunday to force us into step with the European time zones.

After the customary hugs, kisses and promises to call my wife every day, Terry and I hopped in a cab with our roll-around carry-on luggage packed to the breaking point and headed off toward Toronto Peason International airport 2 hours before our scheduled departure time. I did have to open my bag and show the x-ray security inspector the little trains but they decided it wasn't necessary to open every single jewel case, thank goodness. I didn't even set off the alarm going through the metal detector. I had finally mastered the art of airport packing! Snuggly strapped into the widebody jetliner, Terry and I were finally whisked off to the next stage in our Great European AdventureZ.

Who knew we could actually sleep on the way over with the constant films, noise, comings and goings to the lavatories but we helped to have booked seats in row 12, the bulkhead row where there is more legroom and nobody dropping their chair backs into your face. I highly recommend this choice to other long-haul flyers.

Stay tuned for Episode 2 of the Great European AdventureZ 2002 | Return to Sinsheim Chronicles Home.