I discover this morning that the hotel has two Level 2 chargers and dedicated EV charging parking spots opposite the reception area, so I ask them to turn the chargers on so I can top up before checking out later this morning. I see a full 48 amps from the J1772 connection, so I gain about 75 kms before I check out. I walk three blocks down Kingsway to get a cappuccino at a Starbucks and then go for breakfast in the hotel breakfast room (an adjacent Chinese restaurant) before packing up.
I drive over to the Kitsilano area of Vancouver to meet my cousin and her friend. We go to the UBC Museum of Anthropology, which I haven’t visited since it opened about 40 years ago when I lived in Vancouver! The artifacts, totems, textiles, and other displays in the Museum are spectacular. We stay about an hour and a half to take it all in before leaving to go for lunch at an Italian trattoria on West 4th Avenue, close to my cousin’s place.
I then say my goodbyes and drive to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal. I arrive in time for the 3PM sailing, but I end up waiting while two sailings leave before boarding the 5PM ferry. I go to the Seawwest Lounge, pay $12, and help myself to coffee and snacks while I work on the photos and videos from my road trip. It is a spectacularly scenic sunny day as the ferry sails through the southern Gulf Islands to Swartz Bay. Although I have enjoyed this 2-week road trip, it is good to finally be back home!
After another scrumptious breakfast at Peachcliff B&B, I fly my Mavic Pro drone above the B&B, taking high definition video and photos of Peachcliff, the Okanagan Valley, Skaha Lake, Okanagan Falls, and I also capture the cyclists riding in the Prospera Granfondo Axel Merckx event this morning, which my friend and his son are riding in.
I leave at 10:30AM after most of the serious riders are clear of the route, however it is slow going as I head north out of Okanagan Falls to the turnoff onto Highway 3A to head south to Keremeos. Once I’m on 3A it is an easy drive. I recharge my Tesla at the Keremeos Fast DC charger for about a half hour (see banner image above) before continuing to Highway 3 through Princeton and Manning Park. I recharge at the Tesla Supercharger at Hope and indulge in another small Blizzard frozen dessert from Dairy Queen, which is right next door!
The drive from Hope to Burnaby on the Trans-Canada Highway is very stressful, since the traffic around Abbotsford and Langley in the Fraser Valley is quite heavy despite it being a Sunday afternoon. Once I cross the Port Mann bridge into Coquitlam and Burnaby, traffic improves. I find my way through Burnaby to my Best Western Plus hotel on Kingsway and check in by 6PM. I’m very tired as I settle into my room, and then meet a friend for dinner at Minoa’s Greek Taverna (review) down Kingsway a few blocks. It’s great to reconnect with my friend again – we both attended BCIT together (Photogrammetry & Surveying) way back in the 1970s! The food and service at this Greek restaurant is excellent as usual.
I have coffee and my wonderful breakfast of French Toast and fresh berries at the B&B this morning. As a dedicated amateur astronomer, I have always wanted to visit the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, so this morning I finally get to take a personalized tour kindly offered by their public outreach officer. The instruments I see up close:
John A. Galt Telescope – 26m prime-focus, equatorially-mounted telescope. The first astronomical radio observations using Very Long Baseline Interferometry were proven using this dish and another one located at Algonquin Park in Ontario on Apr 17, 1967.
22MHz telescope – This instrument consists of 1,700 telephone poles supporting miles of wire. It mapped the entire sky in very long radio wavelengths (13.6cm) from 1960s-70s. There is a panoramic image of the Radio Milky Way on display in the main building foyer, which is derived from data from the Galactic Plane Survey done by this radio telescope over 10 years.
I drive to Penticton to charge my Tesla Model S using the DC Fast Charger located downtown, and then return to the B&B for a light lunch. The main reason I am staying two nights in Okanagan Falls is to reconnect with a school friend who lives in the area. We went to school together when we were kids, but only reconnected a few years ago after decades went by. I drive over to his place this afternoon to reunite and to meet his family. We go on a short wine tour south of Okanagan Falls, but since I’m driving, I abstain from most of the tasting as we visit:
Wild Goose winery – wine tasting – I buy their Pinot Gris 2017, and my friends also buy wine
I slept fine last night, but I wore earplugs to eliminate the traffic noise from the road. The trains seem to stop running around 11PM and don’t start until after 6AM, so they presented no problems for me. I have a nice breakfast in the breakfast room at the motel before packing up.
The visitor centre opens at 10AM, and after clearing the security gate, I pay $5 for a Senior admission. I decide to take the self-guided tour, since they supply a tour map of the facility, and I want to stop to take photos, so having a crowd of people around me wouldn’t work. The first stop is the very impressive generator hall visible from the main lobby area through glass windows.
I then walk into the main dam structure through a passageway and take the elevator to the crest of the dam. There is a nice display here explaining what is visible from this vantage point, and the outside deck gives a great perspective of the reservoir and downstream outflow, power station and spillway. As I return to my Tesla Model S fully-electric car, I consider that this dam supplies some of the clean electricity I use to energize my car. It is ironic that the namesake of my car, Nicola Tesla is largely responsible for alternating current, and designed much of the equipment still used today to generate our electricity from dams such as this one!
The access to Revelstoke Dam is along the first few kilometres of BC Highway 23. I get a kick out of the “Big Bend Highway” road sign as I turn off to access the dam, since my parents drove the original gravel Big Bend Highway back in the 1950s when it was the only way to get to Golden and points east of there. The Rogers Pass highway was completed through the Selkirk Mountains in 1962 to great fanfare at the time!
Revelstoke is in a strategic location for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), since it is at the western end of the challenging Rogers Pass. Even today, CPR crews live and work on the railway from this city. The CPR has a massive switching yard and maintenance facility here; and the Last Spike signifying the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway across Canada in 1885 is located 45 miles west of Revelstoke at the railway station of Craigellachie. The museum shows the history of the railway, how it was built through the mountains and the operations that keep it running.
Perhaps most interesting for visitors are many pieces of equipment on display, which were used to provide the rail transportation services. The centrepiece is undoubtedly Steam Engine 5468, a Mikado P-2k class locomotive 2-8-2 oil-burner – one of the last steam engines built in 1948 in Montreal. It’s a beautiful and fascinating machine, and has the Business car #4 “River Humber” beside it in the inside display, built in 1929 as a solarium lounge car. I find the history of the surveying of the route fascinating as well. There is an outside display with a caboose, snow plows, tankers, box cars, Diesel Locomotive SD 5500, and many other service cars sitting on tracks. The museum is located right beside the CPR mainline, so working stock is rolling by continuously, providing great context for the history to be found inside the museum!
Driving from Revelstoke to Okanagan Falls
Since I am starting late on my road trip today, I stop for lunch at a Tim Horton’s in Sicamous. I then turn off the Trans-Canada Highway onto Highway 97, driving south down the Okanagan Valley through Vernon, and stop to recharge my Tesla at the Kelowna Supercharger, arriving around 4PM. There are two Current Taxis recharging while I’m there – a Model 3 and a Model S. It is pouring rain as I negotiate rush hour to cross the bridge over Okanagan Lake and drive down Highway 97 through more rain showers to Penticton, and then to my destination Okanagan Falls. I am warmly welcomed by Vera, the operator for Peachcliff B&B, where I will be staying for the next two nights.
I take my time leaving Hotel Alma this morning. Traffic is light as I drive west from Calgary through the Foothills and the Kananaskis area to Canmore, where I stop to recharge my Tesla at the Supercharger. I grab a cappuccino from Beamers Coffee, which is about a 7-minute walk south of the Supercharger. Back at the Supercharger, while enjoying my coffee I take a photo of the old Moon over the south end of Mt. Rundle before resuming my drive.
The very popular Castle Junction rest stop offers the classic view of Castle Mountain, the Sawback Range and the Bow River. I use three different focal lengths of lenses with my dSLR to capture the scene (see banner image above for cropped fisheye view). I discover later that my telephoto shot of Castle Mountain also captured a raptor in flight near the mountain – bonus! I pull into the rest stop at Eldon in Banff National Park for a rest and to have some lunch. Before resuming my drive, I take a panoramic photo of Castle Mountain from this viewpoint – there is spectacular scenery everywhere you look in the Canadian Rockies!
I recharge at the Golden Supercharger for a half hour before driving Rogers Pass to Revelstoke. Tackling the highway construction westbound doesn’t seem as bad as the eastbound experience. This is the second-longest driving segment for my road trip, so I’m tired by the time I arrive in Revelstoke later in the afternoon.
I’m staying at the Swiss Chalet Motel in Revelstoke on the main drag: Victoria Ave. The Village Idiot Bistro is recommended by the desk clerk, so I go there for dinner. It’s a very casual place with a patio going full bore since it is about 27°C downtown. I sit inside out of the sun and have a High Country Kolsch draught (Mt. Begbie Brewery). It is kind of sweet, but it’s a good summer beer that goes well with my grilled halibut which is excellent, and is served with grilled tomatoes, green beans, onions, and goat cheese – a very heart-healthy choice.
I have a Standard Queen Room in the motel, which is small, but nicely updated with a Queen bed, fast Internet, full bathroom, and air-conditioning. Each unit has a parking spot right outside the door, and the office doubles as the breakfast room. The motel is centrally located – it’s an easy five minute walk to the railway museum, and a 15-minute walk to the shops downtown. There is free parking downtown if you drive.
This is the third day of tours after the RASC General Assembly, and this one is a bit more informal. Today we are being driven around in RASC members’ vehicles to two sites where significant events happened involving the First Nations of southern Alberta area. We take tobacco as a gift and to show respect, as we visit these sites today (with prior permission of the Alberta government).
Our first stop is to view Crowfoot’s last camp and burial site on Siksika Nation lands. Crowfoot was a Blackfoot Chief who negotiated Treaty 7 with representatives of the British Crown in 1877. Nearby Blackfoot Crossing Historic Park and Museum has lots of interesting artifacts in displays, a cafeteria (not open), informational videos in the theatre, and outside venues including the Chief Crowfoot Tipi Village down by the river.
Majorville Medicine Wheel
It takes us a couple of tries to find this sacred place on a hilltop surrounded by southern Alberta rangeland, but eventually we pick up the directional signs and make our way over remote range roads to the parking area. We learn that Medicine Wheels are places where First Nations gathered to perform fertility and hunting rituals, honour their dead leaders, and present offerings.
This medicine wheel was constructed about 4,500 years ago, starting with the main rock cairn atop the hill, with rocky spokes and other smaller cairns added later. Today, they are protected archaeological sites, with only a few visitors permitted each year. We were some of the lucky ones to see this medicine wheel. I was so happy to fly my Mavic Pro drone overhead to capture the site in high resolution video and photos from a unique perspective.
We make a quick stop in Vulcan so we can take some selfie photos in front of the Enterprise star ship the town has built to attract tourists. We make another quick stop in Mossleigh to see three grain elevators up close – two are relics and one is still functional. Our final stop is to have dinner at our guide’s home before returning to our hotel in Calgary – our last night before leaving tomorrow morning.
Back at Hotel Alma at the University of Calgary, I let the front desk know that I will be recharging my Tesla overnight in the lot across the campus. I want a full charge for my departure from Calgary tomorrow, enroute to Revelstoke.
After having an early breakfast in my hotel room for the second day in a row, our tour bus leaves early bound for the Canadian Rockies. This all-day tour is hosted by three geologists (and RASC members) who share their knowledge about the landforms found in the Canadian Rockies, and how this geomorphology can be used as an analogue to the surface conditions found on Mars. We are all given handouts authored by our hosts, with scientific references, diagrams, and notes. We also have Dr. Tania Harrison along on this tour, our banquet speaker who talked about finding water on Mars.
After making a quick shopping stop in Cochrane, we drive through Canmore and through the Canadian Rockies north to Banff. Along the way, our guides point out alluvial fans, erosion, rocky glaciers, snow fields, and other analogues of features found on Mars. There is snow falling as we drive over the Glacier Parkway summit. We have a rest stop at Saskatchewan Crossing on our way to the Columbia Icefield, part of the Athabaska Glacier. I visited here in 1968 and remember the tongue of the glacier being much closer to the road. There are markers showing how the glacier has retreated over the years, as we walk up to the tongue of the glacier.
We return to our hotel quite late, so I drive a few who were also on the tour and myself to Nick’s Steakhouse and Pizza, where we have a nice dinner along with excellent service.
After having an early breakfast in my hotel room, our tour bus leaves by 8AM. Our all-day tour hosts are both geologists (and RASC members), so they share lots of info about rocks, glaciation, the K/T Boundary, and how the dinosaurs died off so quickly 65 million years ago. We are all given handouts authored by our hosts, with scientific references, diagrams, and notes.
Our first stop is Dry Island Buffalo Jump Park, where we dig around a bit and see the K/T Boundary for ourselves. There are hoodoos, piles of lignite, and a beautiful valley with the Red River below. The park gets its name from a “dry island” formed by the ancient flow of the Red River, and later used by First Nations people as they drove buffalo over the cliff edge to their deaths, ensuring everyone survived the winter. This park is accessible during fair-weather and daytime only, but it is a fascinating area to explore!
Our next stop is the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller. I have visited this museum before, but it is one of those museums where you can go back again and again to see and learn about new things. Today is the Canada Day civic holiday, so it is crowded, but as a tour group we have priority admission arranged, so walk right in ahead of the lines. There are dinosaurs on display here that defy description, along with all the usual suspects like Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, Brontosaurus, Stegosaurus, fish, turtles, shellfish, worms, you name it! All the fossils are from this area of Alberta, which is rich in fossilized remains from this epoch.
Our last stop is a complete change of pace: the Trekcetera Museum (since closed), also located in Drumheller. Their main claim to fame is the amazing collection of all things to do with Star Trek: phasers, hollow decks, original costumes, and other original memorabilia from the Trek movies and TV series. They also cover Men In Black, Superman, Titanic, Sherlock Holmes, and other entertainment classics. This little museum appealed to those of us who are Trekkies!
After a full day of touring, a few of us walk from the hotel to nearby Gus’s Cafe and Pizzeria for dinner. The food is good, but the service is surly, just like the online reviews indicated!
The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s General Assembly held at the University of Calgary is probably not too interesting for people who are not members of RASC. That said, I’m going to combine the three day conference into one report on this page, just to complete my road trip travelogue.
June 28, 2018 – Arrival at the University of Calgary and the Welcome BBQ
I arrive in Calgary in the late afternoon. The RASC General Assembly (GA) registration desk is setup in the hotel lobby, so after I get settled in my room, I go downstairs to pick up my delegate’s package. I connect with a few people I know in the lobby while we wait for buses to take us to the Members’ Welcome BBQ dinner and First Nations performances at the Rothney Observatory, in the country south of Calgary. We also get to tour the observatories operating from this site.
June 29, 2018 – First day of the General Assembly
The Calgary Stampede puts on a Stampede Breakfast for delegates this morning before the GA starts, serving pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage in the end-field zone of the home stadium of the Calgary Stampeders Canadian football club.
Dr. Robert Thirsk, astronaut and Chancellor of the University of Calgary welcomes delegates to Calgary and the University. Today is his last day as Chancellor, and our event is his last function before leaving. He tells us that being in space showed him the interconnection of the natural world with humans. He illustrates the point with many spectacular photos taken from the International Space Station, and also speculates on the question –Will we be here into the future? (100 years probably, 1,000 years probably not), and also reviews the next steps humans will make in space. He offers the opinion that a Moon base will be part of this new wave of exploration.
In the afternoon, I take the Nocturnal Preserve Tour to the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area south of Calgary. This is a RASC-recognized nocturnal preserve, which supports the notion that pristine night skies are not only good for humans, but all creatures on this Earth. We all depend on darkness to restore our health while we sleep, which helps all lifeforms prosper, not just those that are active at night.
We walk part of their extensive property to appreciate the varied ecosystems found in what is now mainly the farmland of southern Alberta. Grass suitable for grazing cattle displaces the native grasses, which disrupts the ecology in the area, but remediation is possible.
After dinner, the Plaskett Medal Award Lecture is “Dicke’s Superrradiance in Astrophysics” by Dr. Fereshteh Rajabi, Postdoctoral Fellow in the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo. Dr. Rajabi gets into quantum mechanics and masers, and how they cause celestial objects to emit previously-unexplained bursts of intense radiation. I’m always happy to see such smart people working to understand our universe better, despite me not always fully appreciating what they are describing!
June 30, 2018 – Second day of the General Assembly
The Annual General Meeting is held in the morning, and our President highlights the robotic telescope located in the mountains of California which RASC recently acquired, and is in the process of making available online to all members. Other presentations of note today include: RASC Calgary Centre’s 60th anniversary and history; Early Women Astronomers in RASC; Aurora image processing using Hugin software; Eclipsing Binaries; NOVA Junior Program (astronomy basics); Space for all Learners (bringing astronomy to undergraduates); Telescope in “Rainy” Victoria Celebrating 100 years of looking up (the historic Plaskett telescope located near Victoria); Public Outreach at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (the observatory was/is a tourism draw); Minor Planets (asteroids that might hit Earth, and landing missions on small rocks in space); Once Upon an Eclipse (upcoming eclipses); First Race for the moon 1609-51 (first observations of the Moon);
After a buffet dinner with my fellow astronomers as part of the conference, I attend the public lecture: “The Golden Age of Solar System Exploration” given by Emily Lakdawalla, The Planetary Society. Emily reviews many of the more exciting recent missions to explore our solar system: Hayabusa2, New Horizons, and Cassini, to name a few. She also highlights how amateur astronomers are using data from these missions, and how they are contributing to the resulting scientific discoveries. Emily takes lots of questions from the audience.
July 1, 2018 – Final day of the General Assembly
There are more presentations this morning, concentrated on the history of RASC and astronomy: RASC in Travelling Mode (historic solar eclipse expeditions); Styles of Observing in the RASC Since 1868 (taken from the RASC archives, including telescope-making); RASC and the Space age (amateurs as both participants and spectators); The Cultural/Social Anthropology within RASC (who makes up the ranks of RASC members?); Female Participation in the RASC (RASC leads as an inclusive society in Canada).
The speaker at our banquet is Dr. Tanya Harrison “The Past and Present of Water on Mars”. She brings the missions on Mars to life, including the Curiosity Rover, which she was involved with. She also describes what “water on Mars” really means. There were lots of questions…a fascinating talk!