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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 with 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 owner. At this point, we split up to find our flights, with one friend going to Sedona for time with family.

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 snarf down 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!

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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 have a good sleep, since I’m so tired after the flying and driving, and starting the day at 4AM this morning.

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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 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 (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

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 – 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. The first astronomical radio observations using Very Long Baseline Interferometry were proven using this dish and 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 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 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 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 “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,

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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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Golden to Calgary

June 28, 2018 – Golden, BC to Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Victoria to Calgary road trip 2018

After eating the very modest continental breakfast the motel offers, I drive across the street to charge at the Tesla Supercharger in Golden. I pickup an acceptable cappuccino from the nearby MacDonald’s drive-thru before starting my journey. This is one of the shorter road trip segments today, which I planned to allow me to enjoy the scenery along the way through Yoho and Banff National Parks and the Kananaskis area on my way to Calgary. The Canadian Rocky Mountains are awe-inspiring on this beautiful sunny day as I take my time along the route.

Flying drones in national parks is prohibited in Canada, so I wait until I’m out of Banff National Park near Canmore before launching my drone, and capturing some beautiful panoramic photos and video of Mount Rundle and the Bow River. I stop to recharge my Model S at the Canmore Supercharger, and have a quick bowl of soup at Craig’s Waystation restaurant before continuing down the valley and emerging from the Foothills and onto the flat prairie farmlands east of Calgary.

Bow River Valley from JoeTourist on Vimeo.

I am staying at the Hotel Alma on the campus of the University of Calgary, which is easy to access from the Trans-Canada Highway. As I park in front of the hotel, I meet several astronomy buddies even before I check-in. The hotel arranges for me to charge my vehicle at the Level-2 chargers available on the campus in Lot 22, which I take advantage of a couple of times during my week-long stay.

JoeTourist: Rural southern Alberta &emdash; First Nations dancing at the opening of the General AssemblyThe RASC General Assembly 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.