Halfway through our Canadian journey The Rocky Mountaineer stops for the night in Kamloops, a high desert of mesquite, sand and sagebrush interrupting the mountains’ extravagant lushness. Though I am gob-smacked by the majesty of the last 10 hours, it’s a relief to have the scenery holding still for a change. My legs are jelly though, and I sway a little, train-style, as we explore. There are paved paths for walking and biking, a charming main street with a variety of eateries, and a city park with a band playing ballads. Teenagers smile and say hello to us. Teenagers.
I love to travel. My mother, who barely got out of three states her whole life, infected me with this bug. One of my earliest memories is at her knee, intently looking into her eyes. Someday, she says, you will travel the world. Was that prophesy? Wishful thinking? Encouragement? I have no idea. But I have since been to all seven continents, most of them more than once. Now, when my husband and I find particularly delightful spots, like Kamloops, I say to him, as I do right there at the end of the pier that overlooks where the Thompson River meets the North Thompson in a mighty “V” of Canadian Rocky run-off, in arguably the most unlikely desert location on the planet: Honey, people live here. Why don’t we?
He just smiles. We both know why we don’t live here or anywhere else we have fallen in love with: because though my career is portable, he’s a tenured professor and we are going nowhere else (to live, that is) until he retires, which by turns is not coming fast enough, and alternately, approaching way too soon. Before we can commiserate and reaffirm, as usual, how lucky we are to belong in our little town in the flyover zone of the Midwest (motto: A great place to live, you’d just never want to visit here), I find my parents have joined us again. I thought I had left them on the train, tucked in for the night under a blanket of mountain memories. But the two rivers uniting in Kamloops are a watershed for us too.