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Calgary to Victoria

Dec 20, 2018 – Flying from Calgary to Victoria, Canada

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

My flight from Toronto lands in Calgary a few minutes late at 1:00AM local time, but no biggie since my flight to Victoria doesn’t leave until 7:00AM. There are seemingly endless passageways to get from the gate to the terminal building, and there are no staff around to direct us. Once in the terminal, there are precious few signs to help us find our way. The airport is going through a major expansion, but they need to do better.

A YYC LINK electric tram pulls up and the driver offers to take me to the domestic terminal, which is where I need to be for my next flight. After being dropped off in Terminal A and before I find my gate, I spot an A&W which is open at this late hour, so I stop to have one of their new Beyond Meat Burgers, fries and a root beer. It has been 12 hours since I’ve eaten a real meal, so I find the veggie burger quite tasty!

I walk further down the virtually empty terminal and easily find my gate, where I flop down for a couple of hours’ sleep. Of course I’m exhausted, but by 5AM the Starbucks adjacent to the gate opens, so I have a Tall Cappuccino, which perks me up a bit. By 5:30AM passengers and staff start showing up at the gates, and some early flights are being announced.

The flight to Victoria leaves a few minutes ahead of time, with flight time estimated to be about an hour. I take some nice shots out the window of downtown Calgary and the Bow River at night. The onboard WestJet Connect Internet is working, so I can keep myself busy on this short flight home.

We start our descent into Victoria 125 miles out as the First Officer announces landing at 7:25AM local time in Victoria. We arrive at Victoria airport 17 minutes ahead of time in pouring rain and some gusty wind. I take a taxi home instead of the shuttle, since the weather is so bad.

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Barbados to Calgary

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

Dec 19, 2018 – Flying from Barbados to Calgary, Canada

I’m looking at 24 hours of elapsed time between leaving Barbados and arriving home in Victoria, Canada. I have a midnight to 7AM layover in Calgary, so this whole flying home trip will be an endurance contest. I know I’ll settle down once I return the rental car and find my gate at the Barbados airport, but I’m experiencing pre-trip jitters this morning.

I have a shower mid-morning and a snack before loading my big bag in the trunk of the car. I check out at Noon, drive to the airport and have the car filled up at the Esso gas station before dropping it off in front of the terminal. The Stoute’s car jockey gives an enthusiastic wave to the woman behind the counter, so I’m free to go!

I’m first in line for the bag check at the WestJet counter – a nice young man tags my big bag through to Victoria and prints out my boarding passes for me. I have already checked in online and have the electronic boarding passes on my iPhone, but I’ve found the paper ones are still the best to use, and scan quicker at the gate. Before I enter the secure area, I have to exit Barbados by giving the immigration officer my Departure Card, which was issued previously when I entered Barbados after debarking the Royal Clipper in Bridgetown.

Barbados to Toronto – Although I’m over two hours early, it isn’t long before the WestJet Boeing 737-800 arrives at the gate and passengers from Toronto enter the terminal. Our aircraft boards passengers from the front and rear doors using stairways from the apron (see banner image above), since Grantley Adams International airport doesn’t have jetways. Just after takeoff, there is a gorgeous view of the old Moon in the blue sky during the day over the south coast of Barbados as we make the turn to the north.

I’m in seat 5A – the same seat I flew down in on all three flights to Jamaica, and ditto on my return flights home. Hey, I like a window seat just forward of the wing, I’m only a row away from the Premium cabin, and I get to use the forward washroom.

I splurge and purchase 24 hours of in-flight Internet service for $35 with WestJet Connect Internet, so I won’t be bored on these tedious flights home. I enjoy myself using the Internet while flying to Toronto. It certainly has some latency, but is usable for most of the flight. It does cut out once in awhile and then has to reacquire a signal.

Once we are levelled off, I order the Butter Chicken dinner, which is not too big, but very tasty, costing $9. The flight crew on this flight give everyone much better service than on my flight to Jamaica. There is a beautiful display of colours over the Atlantic to the east as we fly offshore from the Bahamas at sunset. We are flying at 36,000′ according to the flight map displayed on the WestJet app on my iPhone.

The aircraft makes a wide, sweeping approach over Toronto before landing, affording beautiful nighttime views of the city. However, after landing at Toronto’s Pearson airport, the marathon starts. I have only an hour to go through Canadian immigration and customs, retrieve my checked bag, find the WestJet transfer desk to put my checked bag back in the system, go through security again, and find my gate. Finding the single elevator that takes us to Departures is a challenge, however I arrive at my gate five minutes before boarding begins. I’m in a real state by the time I sit down for a few minutes to calm down before my group is called!

Toronto to Calgary – After all that stress, the flight is late leaving. Flight duration is estimated to be 3:35, and the flight level 36,000’. The Internet access isn’t working since we took off about a half hour ago, so I raise my concern with the head flight attendant. She promises to “check with the guys”, which I take to mean she will talk with the pilots about the problem. Nothing comes of it, and the Internet is not available for the whole flight. We fly for what seems endlessly across the frozen prairie, which is visible tonight due to the bright illumination from the Moon.

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Toronto to Montego Bay

Dec 2, 2018 Flight from Toronto, Canada to Montego Bay, Jamaica

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

After landing in Toronto at 6:24am, I have about three hours to wait for my next flight on WestJet to Jamaica. My departure gate is only a few gates away from the one I arrive at, so that makes it easy. Since there was no breakfast service on the incoming flight, once I find my next gate, my first task is to find some cappuccino. Of course Starbucks is always very handy, so I have a tall cappuccino and some banana nut bread.

Cheese Blintzes

My friends show up at the gate about an hour later and want some breakfast, so we go to nearby Caplansky’s Deli. They have some eggs and coffee. I have cheese blintzes, which are stuffed with ricotta cream cheese, and come with blueberry compote – very good and only $6!

Our Boeing 737-800 WestJet flight is soon boarding, so we join the usual organized confusion at the gate, but board with no problems. Our female captain says our flight time will be 3:56 to Montego Bay, flying at 35,000’. It takes the crew well over an hour to serve snacks and beverages to the Economy section. I buy my usual hummus and crackers, knowing that will be all I get for lunch.

We fly over Chesapeake Bay less than an hour after our departure. A couple of hours later after flying offshore from the US Seaboard, there are lots of beautiful tropical islands to take photos of (see banner image above) as we overfly The Bahamas. We next overfly Cuba. There is a northern tropical island offshore, but Cuba isn’t spectacular, since it is a huge landmass and it is covered in clouds.

Airport ground crew waiting for clearance to unload the aircraft WestJet at Montego Bay
Airport ground crew waiting for clearance to unload our aircraft at Montego Bay

After we land in Montego Bay, we are asked to remain in our seats for quite a long time, despite being at the gate. It becomes apparent why when the police come aboard and escort a family off the aircraft before anyone else. There was a heated discussion while we were in the air between a flight attendant and a woman assisting her grandmother to the forward washroom. Obviously the flight attendant decided to bring the matter to the attention of the captain, who must have called the authorities in Jamaica.

Joe in front of Deja Resort in the warm sunshine

After that drama plays out, everyone debarks and then we hit the extremely crowded Immigration Hall, where everyone waits a good half hour to enter the country. We retrieve our checked bags and clear Customs in short order, however finding our hotel shuttle in the confusion outside the terminal proves to be a challenge. I call the resort, and they promise to send their shuttle. Almost immediately after I hang up, my friends spot a sign in a vehicle window reading “Deja Resort”, so we hop in and are driven the short distance. Our rooms aren’t ready, so we wait about a half hour in the lobby.

After travelling for over 20 hours since I left home, it feels good to be free of airlines, airports, and throngs of people, and to be standing on solid ground under the tropical Sun! After having some fried fish, rice and veggies for dinner, I’m ready for bed.

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Victoria to Toronto

Dec 1, 2018 – flights from Victoria to Toronto

2018 Caribbean Sail Cruise

Spinnaker’s On the Fly bistro – Victoria airport

I take a taxi from home to the Victoria airport this afternoon, check my bag and clear security into the very quiet boarding gate area. I buy a turkey cheese sandwich from Spinnaker’s On the Fly bistro in the gate area; eat my dinner upstairs near my gate, and then go back to buy a cappuccino for dessert. This is the first time I’ve used the upstairs gates where the jetways for bigger aircraft are located.

Our Boeing 737-700 WestJet flight to Calgary boards and departs early. The captain comes to the front of the cabin to tell us the flight level will be 41,000’ and flight time 1:09. He warns us it is cold and snowing in Calgary “not like here!” He tells us three lightbulb jokes before returning to the cockpit – a first in all the time I’ve been flying!

Our flight arrives in snowy Calgary early, so we have to wait on the apron for a few minutes until the gate is ready for us. The pilot is outside the cockpit as we leave, so I compliment him on the good landing. He says “yeah, he did a good job”, which I interpret to mean the First Officer landed the aircraft. The gate for the red eye flight to Toronto is right across from our arrival gate, so that makes it easy!

This full Boeing 737-800 WestJet flight to Toronto is supposed to leave at 12:15AM but after waiting for delayed bags, we are de-iced for the second time before we finally take off at 12:50AM. Flight duration is estimated at 3:37 with a 6:15am arrival in Toronto.

Once we are above the snow clouds over Calgary, I spot Orion out my south-facing window, flying at 35,000’ altitude. I find this red-eye flight quite boring, but I manage to snooze a bit and listen to music on my iPhone. The flight map display on my iPhone only prolongs the agony:

  • 2 hours left – over Saskatchewan
  • 1:11 left – over Red Lake & Ear Falls, between Winnipeg and Lake Superior – 670mi/1,080kms to Toronto
  • 0:35 left – over Sault Ste. Marie, 300mi/490km to Toronto
  • We land in Toronto at 6:24am – a bit late
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Vancouver to Victoria

July 9, 2018 Monday – Burnaby & Vancouver to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Victoria to Calgary road trip 2018

Haida Bear by Bill Reid - UBC Museum of Anthropology

Haida Bear by Bill Reid – UBC Museum of Anthropology

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!

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Okanagan to Vancouver

July 8, 2018 Sunday – Okanagan Falls to Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

Victoria to Calgary road trip 2018

Okanagan Falls and Skaha Lake

Okanagan Falls and Skaha Lake

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 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 congested and 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 (Photgrammetry & Surveying) way back in the 1970s! The food and service at this Greek restaurant is excellent  as usual.

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Okanagan Falls

July 7, 2018 Saturday – Southern Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

Victoria to Calgary road trip 2018

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:

  • 10.7cm solar radio flux monitoring telescope – over the last 50 years, this telescope has reliably measured the Sun’s activity!
  • Synthesis Telescope – a 7-element array of 9m telescopes
  • Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME). This instrument maps hydrogen density – large instantaneous field of view (~200 square degrees) and broad frequency coverage (400-800 MHz). Astronomers are discovering new “Fast Radio Bursts” and it is also used for monitoring many pulsars on a daily basis. Global News, August 3, 2018 – Canadian radio telescope records mysterious low-frequency bursts from outside our galaxy
  • John A. Galt Telescope – 26m prime-focus, equatorially-mounted telescope. First radio astronomical observations using Very Long Baseline Interferometry (with Algonquin) Apr 17, 1967.
  • 22MHz telescope – 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.

Wild Goose Pino Gris white wine bottle

Wild Goose Pinot Gris white wine

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 with him in person, 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:

After we return, my friend barbecues salmon for dinner, and we all have some wine on the patio while he and I catch up a bit after all the years that went by! It was a lovely way to end the day…

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Revelstoke to Okanagan Falls

July 6, 2018 Friday – Revelstoke to Okanagan Falls, British Columbia, Canada

Victoria to Calgary road trip 2018

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.

Revelstoke Dam

JoeTourist: Revelstoke &emdash; Revelstoke Dam - penstocks, dam crest, spillway & power stationThe 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 Railway Museum

JoeTourist: Revelstoke &emdash; Steam Engine 5468 engineer's seatRevelstoke 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 in 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, the operations to keep it running, and perhaps the most interesting for visitors, there are many pieces of equipment on display which were used to provide the 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 beside it in the inside display, built in 1929 as a solarium lounge car, it is named the “River Humber”. I find the history of the surveying of the route fascinating as well, and 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 have a late start to 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 Okanagan Falls. I am warmly welcomed by Vera, the operator for Peachcliff B&B,

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Calgary to Revelstoke

July 5, 2018 Calgary, Alberta to Revelstoke, British Columbia, Canada

Victoria to Calgary road trip 2018

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.

A bird-of-prey flying in front of Castle Mountain

A bird-of-prey flying in front of Castle Mountain

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!

My Tesla Model S charging at the Golden Supercharger

My Tesla Model S charging at the Golden Supercharger

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.

Pan seared pacific halibut atop a warmed salad at the Village Idiot Bistro

Pan seared pacific halibut at the Village Idiot Bistro

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 entree.The halibut is excellent, 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.

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Alberta First Nations

July 4, 2018 Wednesday – First Nations in Southern Alberta

Victoria to Calgary road trip 2018

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).

Blackfoot Crossing

JoeTourist: Rural southern Alberta &emdash; Chief Crowfoot's tipi villageOur 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.

Majorville Medicine Wheel from JoeTourist on Vimeo.

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.

Reference: Canada’s Stonehenge by Gordon Freeman

Vulcan and Mossleigh

JoeTourist: Rural southern Alberta &emdash; Old Pioneer Grain Co elevators beside the railway tracksWe 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.