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Ft. Lauderdale to Canada

April 3, 2020 – returning home to Canada from Fort Lauderdale

2020 South America cruise

Fort Lauderdale

By mid-morning, we are called to leave the Rotterdam, so we put on our face masks and gloves before leaving the ship. US customs and immigration wave us through, as does US Health, since ship’s staff pre-processed the required paperwork the previous day. As we board our buses, many of the staff in the terminal wish us well, and one woman is waving a Canadian flag – very touching and much appreciated! We wait in the buses for about an hour, and then the Broward County Sheriff officers take us on a half-hour motorcade to a private area of the Fort Lauderdale / Hollywood airport (FLL). I must say, it’s a very impressive ride!

We are then checked in by US officials and airline staff, and walk aboard the aircraft to find our seats and get settled. We wait for over two hours while the rest of the passengers board the aircraft. The Eastern cabin attendants are fully-suited up (see banner image above) and only offer basic services. The 1978-era Boeing 767-200 aircraft is a wide-body cabin with 2-3-2 seats across two isles, and has a capacity of 375 passengers. Every seat is taken. Once we take off for Toronto, we have several hours to get into the bagged meal given to us as we boarded.

Canada

After our arrival in Toronto, we are processed by Canadian Border Services and Public Health Canada, given a kit describing the quarantine conditions we will be operating under for the next two weeks, a digital oral thermometer and a new mask. They take my temperature, ask me some health questions, and get me to dispose of the mask and gloves I’ve been wearing all day on the aircraft. I’m on my way to Terminal 1 and my local flights from Toronto to Vancouver, and then Victoria. I barely make it aboard the Toronto-Vancouver flight, since the shuttle driver doesn’t know where she is supposed to take us, and once we arrive, the Air Canada staff are confused about how to get us to the gate!

The flight to Vancouver is otherwise uneventful. Once we make the short hop from Vancouver to Victoria, my travel buddy and I drive (independently) to our respective homes respecting the Canadian quarantine rules we are now bound by for the next two weeks. Air Canada manages to lose my checked bag, but the baggage claim clerk takes a description of my bag and assures me they will deliver it tomorrow afternoon (which they do).

Flight path from FLL - Toronto - YVR - YYJ
Flight path from FLL – Toronto – YVR – YYJ
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Victoria to Houston flights

March 6, 2020 – Victoria, BC, Canada to Houston, Texas, USA

2020 South America cruise

I’m up before 7am, and have a quick breakfast before the Current Taxi arrives at 7:30am to take me to the airport in a Tesla Model 3. My travel buddy arrives an hour later, and we check-in at the Air Canada counter, give them our big bags, and get our boarding passes. They don’t charge for our checked bags, since this is an international flight. Thankfully, I have time in the waiting lounge for a cappuccino from Spinnakers On the Fly.

Our Air Canada Bombardier Q400 prop plane to Vancouver leaves on time, spends five minutes waiting at the stop line, but arrives on time. We make the trek across the airport from the domestic terminal to the USA pre-clearance area, which is not at all busy and a breeze to get through compared to the last time I went through this area. There were no questions about health at the kiosks and the immigration agent didn’t care either. I guess we would have had a more careful inspection if our passports were from the countries currently affected by the coronavirus.

Vancouver airport and the city as we head south

Once we find our gate, we go to a restaurant in the boarding lounge area to have some lunch. We both notice that it is much quieter than the usual expected chaotic crowds. By the time we finish our meal our aircraft is loading, so we walk on board and get settled in our seats. We take-off on time at 12:15pm, flying over Georgia Strait before heading south to Denver, our first stop on United Airlines flight 1184. The flight deck tells us our flying time should be 2:15 instead of 2:50 on this Airbus A319.

Despite being the same flight number, we change planes in Denver, flying in a Boeing 737-900 to Houston. Midway through the flight, the captain reduces flying altitude from 35,000’ to 26,000’ to avoid some rough air over Texas between Dallas and Houston. The Gibbous Moon is visible in the east both before we land in Denver (see laminar clouds and the Moon in the banner image above) and again after we take off for Houston as night falls. The flight crew estimate we will arrive about 10 minutes early, which I’m always happy about.

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Dragoon to Phoenix to Victoria

March 10, 2019 – Returning home – Dragoon Mountain Ranch to Phoenix airport to Victoria, Canada

2019 Southern Arizona Astronomy

Joe driving the Tesla Model 3 north back to Phoenix as we pass Picacho Mountain
Joe driving the Tesla Model 3 north back to Phoenix as we pass Picacho Mountain

We leave Dragoon Mountain Ranch just after 7AM with three of my friends in the Tesla Model 3, heading to Phoenix airport. We make a couple of quick stops along the way, arriving right on time at 10:30AM. I find the Terminal 4 doors where I return the Tesla to its Turo owner. At this point, we split up to find our flights, and one friend going to Sedona for time with family takes a bus.

I’m incredibly early for my 5:30PM flight to Calgary, so end up waiting around in the ticketing area, since I can’t even check my bag until two hours before the flight. After finally checking my bag with WestJet, I have a late lunch downstairs and then go upstairs through security and into the gate area. My flight is delayed from 5:25PM to 5:40PM, but the boarding goes quickly. We takeoff at 5:47PM, and the flight duration aboard our Boeing 737-700 is 2:43 instead of 3:06, so WestJet is obviously trying to make up some time.

Time is tight to clear Canadian Customs & Immigration and find my next gate in Calgary, but full credit to the WestJet staff in the airport, since they have expedited the way for those of us with tight connections. Our Boeing 737-600 takes off at 11:15PM and the flight duration will be 1:14 to Victoria. Once we are airborne, the flight attendant dedicated to our dozen-seat Plus Economy section serves us drinks and snacks more-or-less continuously. I have a gin and tonic, and eat as many snacks as I can before we start our descent!

After arriving just after midnight, I take a taxi from Victoria airport to home – a very long and stressful day, but a wonderful trip overall!

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Victoria to Phoenix to Dragoon

March 2, 2019 – flights from Victoria, BC, Canada to Phoenix, Arizona, USA, and onward to Dragoon Mountain Ranch

2019 Southern Arizona Astronomy

Bombardier Q400 aircraft

My friend and I take a taxi to Victoria airport several hours before our 6:30AM flight leaves – WestJet flight from Victoria to Vancouver on a Bombardier Q400 regional jet. The pre-dawn light on the scenery out the window is nothing short of spectacular over Georgia Strait, so I take lots of photos of the islands before landing. (see banner image above)

After we arrive at Vancouver airport, we have two hours between flights, and it takes most of that time to walk kilometres to the US-bound gates (E-series), and to pre-clear US Customs & Immigration. I have to remove my drone and my notebook computer when clearing airport security at both Victoria and Vancouver. I still haven’t had a coffee by the time we board our flight to Phoenix!

We are number five for takeoff at 9:38am from Vancouver. The WestJet captain announces that we will be flying at 33,000’ with a 2:39 flight time on the Boeing 737-800. The flight is not full, and the legroom where I’m sitting in Economy is amazing! I have my usual hummus and crackers when food service is offered aboard the flight, and have some Coca Cola as well.

Mount Baker & the San Juan Islands – enroute from Vancouver to Phoenix

It is a spectacular sunny day as we climb out of Vancouver bound for Phoenix, so I take photos with both my iPhone XS and my Sony a7 III. I don’t bother with the in-flight Internet at $10.99 for 90 minutes, since the duration of the flight is only 2.5 hours. I read some workshop material on my iPad since there are no views today as we fly over the Grand Canyon enroute to Phoenix..

After landing, we retrieve our bags and since we pre-cleared US Customs and Immigration, we are free to be on our way. I make contact with the Turo rental guy for the Tesla Model 3 I’ve rented, and he meets us curb-side in the airport arrivals area. My friends and I manage to squeeze all our bags, gear and ourselves in to the Model 3, which is a bit smaller than the Model S I rented last year. Getting out of the Phoenix airport proves to be a bit of a challenge, even with the in-vehicle navigation, however eventually we are on I-10 heading south to Tucson and onward to Dragoon Ranch.

On final approach to Phoenix airport aboard a WestJet Boeing 737-800.

I decide to stop at the Florence Tesla Supercharger midway between Phoenix and Tucson, not because the vehicle needs a charge, but because I want to have a few minutes to have a look at the Model 3’s controls and find out how it charges, since this is my first time driving this vehicle. Since I haven’t had a coffee all day, it would also be nice to have a cappuccino or even a regular coffee, but the food places near the Supercharger don’t serve coffee! I pull out of there once the car has 50 miles of extra charge and drive about a half hour further down I-10 until I see an interchange with a McDonald’s sign. We pull into the parking area and have a proper rest stop, where I finally have my first cappuccino of the day! My friends and I also have some lunch and take advantage of the restrooms before we continue down I-10 through Tucson.

My last stop for about a half hour is at the Tucson Tesla Supercharger at Rita Road east of the city, since I want a decent level of charge by the time I get to our friend’s place on Dragoon Mountain Ranch, so we don’t have to rely on slow charging when we drive out of the ranch to see the sights. We also stop at the Safeway in Benson to stock up on food and beverages before completing the drive, arriving after sunset. Two more in our group arrived earlier today, so they have dinner ready for us. I’m very tired after the flying and driving, and starting the day at 4AM this morning, but I have a good sleep tonight.

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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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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 (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.

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Okanagan Falls

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

Victoria to Calgary road trip 2018
26 metre John A. Galt radio telescope at DRAO

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:

  • 10.7cm solar radio flux monitoring telescope – this telescope has reliably measured the Sun’s activity over the last 50 years, and is still an important data source for communications companies!
  • Synthesis Telescope – a 7-element array of 9m telescopes that run on rails.
  • 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. 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.
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  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 station

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 Railway Museum

JoeTourist: Revelstoke &emdash; Steam Engine 5468 engineer's seat

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.