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Kuala Lumpur to Los Angeles

April 20, 2018 Friday – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Hong Kong & onward to Los Angeles, California, USA

2018 Borneo tour

Rice flour pancakes, real maple syrup and a cappuccino for my breakfast
Rice flour pancakes, real maple syrup and a cappuccino for my breakfast

I’m up at 5:15AM, put my bag out and have breakfast at 6AM downstairs in the hotel with the rest of my tour group. Since all the bags and people are aboard bus, we leave 15 minutes early for the Kuala Lumpur International airport. Our local guide Susan is a Type A personality, so everything is highly organized for us! We arrive on Level 1 where our driver Mohammed drops us off. We then take the elevator to Level 5 where Departures are located. We check-in, go through security and clear Malaysian immigration. We then take a train to the departure gates, find our gate and board our Airbus A330 – a four hour Dragon Air flight, which leaves on time at 10:30AM.

After disembarking our first flight in Hong Kong, we re-group at the end of the Jetway and Michele suggests a few of us more mobile members go ahead to start the transfer process, including a couple of security checks. It is a pretty long trek across this huge airport – taking about a half hour to find our gate and get ready for our much longer flight to LA. It is totally disorganized at the Cathay Pacific gate, with Business Class and priority boarding mixing with Premium Economy, but we  eventually all board and are seated.

The Premium Economy upgrade is expensive and only applies for the return trip segment between LA and Hong Kong, but it includes a nicer dinner menu with more choices, complementary alcoholic drinks, a seat that is more comfortable, reclines more, and has a recliner foot rest. We also get to board before regular economy, and have our own cabin with exclusive washroom.

About an hour out of Hong Kong, we have drinks and dinner, and are then given a bottle of water and an overnight kit for the night. I plug in my notebook computer to the 110v outlet under my seat – another perk of Premium Economy. I’m satiated and relaxed as we head eastward over the Pacific aboard Cathay Pacific’s Boeing 777-300ER. I manage to sleep off and on for the first seven hours as we fly through darkness. The Milky Way and southern constellations are beautiful as I observe them out my south-facing window. At the seven hour mark, we have blue sky, but I can’t see the Sun rising because we are heading due east.

Rosco's Chicken & Waffles
Rosco’s Chicken & Waffles

We land 12 hours after departure – two hours less than the flight in the opposite direction. As a Canadian, I qualify for the faster customs and immigration kiosks at LAX, however once through that hurdle, I still have to join a second line to see an agent before I’m free to collect my bag.

I say goodbye to Michele at the baggage carousel and walk over to the hotel shuttle pickup area to catch a shuttle to the Best Western Airpark hotel. The hotel is nothing special, but it is clean, quiet, and the best deal in the area. I immediately have a shower and go to bed for three hours. After waking, I go across the street to Roscoe’s Chicken Waffle restaurant, which is very busy. Just like the name says, they serve chicken and waffles…not a vegetable in sight except for some greens listed on the menu that nobody seems to order! The chicken is good, the waffle is OK, and I’m no longer hungry. Let’s just say it was an interesting cultural experience!

I return to the room and browse online before going back to bed. Flying eastward means I get to live today twice, gaining some 15 hours in the process while crossing the International Date Line. In reality, all it means is that I’m tired from the long flight and my body’s clock will be screwed up for a couple of days!

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Victoria to Kuala Lumpur

April 2, 2018 – Flying from Victoria, BC, Canada to Los Angeles, CA, USA

2018 Borneo tour

I wake up at home by 6AM. and I’m at Victoria airport by 8AM to check my bag through to LAX aboard WestJet. I calculate the elapsed time from leaving home to arriving at our Kuala Lumpur hotel will be about 33 hours! After we board the flight to Vancouver, there is a miscount of passengers. The flight attendant counts passengers in the aircraft several times, however we finally pull away and take the scenic southern route over Boundary Bay approaching Vancouver Airport from the south and the east.

After arriving in Vancouver, I have to walk a few kilometres – the full length of the airport to get to the USA-bound flights. After taking off my shoes, coat, belt and watch, I’m still hand-searched by the TSA staff before I can pre-clear US Customs and Immigration. The US customs agents ask if I have a bag, but their procedure obviously doesn’t include having bags with passengers anymore…at least the automated kiosks for entry to the USA in this area speeds up some of the pre-clearance entry process!

JoeTourist: California outside the cities &emdash; Mt. Shasta
Mt. Shasta

I have four hours to wait in Vancouver for my flight to LA, so once I find my gate, I have some lunch at Tim Hortons. My flight departs on time at 4:14pm, so now I can relax, since Michele and the tour company will be responsible for coordinating the rest of the flights until we return to LA.

I watch a movie on my iPhone using the in-flight networked entertainment offered by WestJet – Bucket List with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. It is a beautiful flight south as we pass by Mount Shasta and other snow-capped mountains in southern Oregon and northern California. The Sun is setting over the hills as we approach LAX.

The LA airport always seems to be out-of-control, where confusion reigns. I arrive in Terminal 2 and have to get to Tom Bradley International next door, but I can’t find any directional signs. I ask the staff at the baggage desk near where I retrieve my bag and they show me the right direction to walk. It isn’t far, but again, once I’m there, I can’t find any signs to indicate where the check-in counters are located. After asking for directions yet again, I find my way to the third floor of the terminal.

Thank goodness I have Premium Economy, so I can use the Business check-in at the Cathay Pacific counter. The clerk urges me to make my way to the departure gates as soon as possible, since he says security clearance will get crazy in a couple of hours. That may be, but when I go through security, it is almost at the level of being dehumanizing. The TSA staff are yelling at the passengers, there is no TSA Pre-clearance available, and everyone has to go through a full body scan. Combined with taking off shoes, belts, and coats, it is a dreadful experience. I’m glad to get through it and find my gate.

I grab a cappuccino and a chocolate chip cookie from Starbucks and sit down at the gate to unwind. By 9:30PM, I see some of my tour group arriving. I recognize some people from my previous trip to Arabia with InFocus Travel, and another clue is the yellow yarn tied to their carry-on bags – our tour leader Michele keeps track of her group this way. Those of us who upgraded to the Premium Economy  get to board right after First Class and Marco Polo members. Loading goes smoothly, but our Cathay Pacific flight leaves a bit late at 12:45AM.

April 3 & 4, 2018 – Tuesday & Wednesday – Flying from Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Once our Boeing 777-300ER levels off after leaving Los Angeles, dinner is served. Those of us in Premium Economy are given a menu of four entrees and complementary wine. Our seats are pretty deluxe: they recline more than the regular economy seats, have a recliner-style foot rest, and there is both USB power and regular 120 volt power at each seat. There are only two seats instead of three beside the windows, where I am sitting. Once dinner is over, the cabin is darkened, we are given lots of pillows, blankets and an overnight kit. I manage to sleep a fair bit for the first 8 hours or so of the flight – a first for me! By my count, the Premium Economy cabin has 36 seats, with slightly over half of them occupied. We have our own bathroom, and since the bulkhead row ahead of me is empty, I move up there after takeoff so I have room to spread out, and I won’t disturb anyone when I get up to move around a bit during the long flight.

Since we are flying westward across the Pacific, we lose a day as we cross the International Date Line. A couple of hours before our arrival in Hong Kong, the crew serves breakfast. I’m pretty hungry by this time, since our last meal was dinner some 12 hours ago. They serve eggs Benedict with hash browns, spinach and a tomato. It’s pretty good, but what I really appreciate is the coffee, since I last had a cappuccino from Starbucks in the LA airport some 15-20 hours ago!

We arrive in Hong Kong a bit late – 6:58AM instead of 6:45AM. That may not seem like much, but our group’s connection is very tight, we have to go through an entry check point even though we are transiting to Malaysia, and the gate for our flight is on the other side of this huge airport. Our long walk takes us almost a half hour before we finally find the gate, and a few minutes later they start loading. But wait, they have a surprise for us. We are loaded into a bus and taken even further out on the airport aprons to a waiting Airbus A330, where we have to shlep our carry-on bags up a steep flight of stairs and to the back of the aircraft, where we are all seated. Welcome to Dragon Air, a regional airline owned and operated by Cathay Pacific.

I guess by this point in this endurance contest, we could all be forgiven for being a bit ragged and cranky! I help some of the more senior members of our tour group lift their bags into the overhead bins as we all settle into our seats. After we are airborne on our four hour flight to Kuala Lumpur, breakfast is served. I’m not in the mood for more eggs, but they have a seafood noodle dish which hits the spot.

Main entrance to the Majestic Hotel tower in Kuala Lumpur
Main entrance to the Majestic Hotel tower in Kuala Lumpur

Our aircraft arrives on time at Kuala Lumpur’s huge airport. We quickly clear Malaysian Customs and Immigration, find our local tour guide Susan and our bus driver Mohammed, who drives us along Malaysia’s beautiful, modern expressways to Kuala Lumpur and our hotel for two nights – the Hotel Majestic.

It takes awhile to sort out our rooms, and everyone has to pay the 20 Ringgit room tax in cash at the desk. Malaysia charges this room tax per night at each hotel we stay in for the whole trip. The hotel has an old, classic colonial section and a new tower. We are staying in the tower. I quickly unpack, have a shower and then have a two hour sleep before our group meets downstairs in the hotel for a sumptuous buffet dinner. After that, it’s back to bed for me, since we have a full day tomorrow touring Kuala Lumpur.

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Tucson to Victoria

Feb 23, 2018 Friday – Depart Tucson – flight delays and cancellations!

JoeTourist: Tucson &emdash; Joe's selfie in front of some Saguero cactus outside the airport entrance

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

I take my time this morning in the hotel, going for breakfast around 8AM and then taking a walk around the neighbourhood, knowing that I’ll be sitting in airports and airline seats for most of the afternoon and evening. I check out of the hotel just before noon and drive over to the airport’s short term parking lot. I contact the Tesla’s owners to let them know I’m ready to return the car to them. They tell me to just leave the car where it is and they will remotely lock it and pick it up later. The trip display in the vehicle shows that I drove 666.5 miles, used 189 kWh of electricity, and averaged 284 Wh/mi energy consumption. So if I was paying for the electricity to power the car, it would have cost me about $20!

JoeTourist: Tucson &emdash; Noble Hops bar and restaurant

I check in with Delta airlines and see that my boarding pass shows the departure time for my flight from Tucson to Seattle is delayed to 6:25PM (was 3:55PM). Before going to the gate, and knowing how much of an actual delay I’m dealing with, I decide to have a meal at Noble Hops, a bar/restaurant by the Delta ticket area. They serve very nice craft beer on tap, and I have a delicious Shepard’s Pie with my Dragoon IPA – the bill comes to US$37 (CAD$50)! That said, I know the airline won’t be serving meals, so I will at least have one good meal under my belt to keep me going on what is looking to be an endurance contest.

I proceed through airport security and find my gate, and see that the estimated departure time has slipped yet again to 8:00PM. At this point, the gate staff rebook me to the last flight out of Seattle for Victoria at 11:17PM, arriving in Victoria at midnight. Our aircraft is still stuck in Seattle due to bad weather, and will have to be de-iced for a second time before they depart, which means it will be 9:10PM before it will depart Tucson back to Seattle. That means I’ll miss my connecting flight to Victoria and I will have to overnight in Seattle. I hate airlines!

The gate staff are doing their best by offering free snacks and beverages. They hand me three meal coupons worth $15 each for breakfast, lunch and dinner in either Tucson or Seattle airport. I go down a couple of gates and find a bar that serves food and order a grilled chicken sandwich, using one of the coupons. Several of the passengers on my flight are at the bar drinking. After all this, the aircraft finally pulls away from the gate at 9:15pm. It will be a 3 hour and 11 minute flight according to the onboard announcement. This is an Embaerer aircraft, which means it’s small: one isle with two seats on either side, small overhead compartments, and the seats are quite cramped.

Once we are clear of Tucson, we fly through some very rough air while the cabin crew try to serve beverages – it never fails! The captain takes the aircraft to a lower flight level, which smooths things out considerably. I watch a movie using my iPad and Wi-if through the Gogo inflight network for free: “Pirates of the Caribbean- Dead Men Don’t Tell” – the first movie I’ve watched all the way through for probably a decade!

Orion constellation and the Crescent Moon are visible off the wing to the west during the last hour of the flight. Once we land in Seatac, the fun begins. My big bag is checked through to Victoria, so it doesn’t appear on the carousel. I go to the nearby Delta Baggage office. Thank goodness a woman is still there despite it being after midnight. She advises me to go upstairs right away in order to arrange for an overnight hotel with the Delta agents before they go home. There are no agents to help me upstairs, so I return to the baggage office, and I try calling the Delta Customer Assistance number, but nobody answers – so much for customer service!

The baggage clerk indicates this is not something she normally does, but she makes a call and has someone walk her through issuing me a hotel coupon for the Red Lion Inn in nearby Renton. By that time, her co-worker in the back has located my bag and puts it on the nearby carousel for me to pick up as I go to the hotel shuttle area. I manage to squeeze into the last seat in the shuttle that is about to leave with my fellow wayward Delta passengers, taking us on a 20-minute drive from the airport. The night clerk at the hotel slowly checks all of us in. The hotel is no great shakes, but it is clean, and after turning the heat up and having a quick shower, the bed feels good!

Feb 24, 2018 Saturday – Seattle to Victoria

I’m booked on a 1:05PM flight to Victoria, so I can sleep in before going downstairs for breakfast. There is a buffet, but I prefer to have a vegetarian omelette along with the rather mediocre coffee. I check my Starbucks app, but there isn’t one close by and I don’t see any other coffee shops in the mall the hotel is located in, so no cappuccino for me this morning! I take the 9:30AM shuttle back to Seatac airport, since the hotel isn’t running any more shuttles after that until the afternoon.

I have to clear security without the TSA Pre-clearance I usually have on my boarding pass, however I have lots of time, and the procedure isn’t too stressful. The flight leaves on time and I’m back in Victoria airport an hour later. My bag appears on the carousel, I clear Canadian customs and immigration in under a minute and take a shuttle back to town. They drop me off a few blocks from home, so I walk home and I’m greeted at the door by the dogs. I make myself a cappuccino before unpacking. My daily routine resumes tomorrow!

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Pima Air & Space Museum

February 22, 2018 Thursday – Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

I drive over to the Pima Air & Space Museum and spend several hours there on my last day in Tucson before I return home tomorrow. I took the tram tour last year when I visited Pima, and I take it again, since it is the most efficient way to see the huge number of aircraft on display outside. I check out Hanger 5, which has new aircraft displayed: a Spitfire, a PBY/Canso amphibian and a Mitchell bomber.

The other hangers have much the same displays, but I experience them again in a new way, since I take far fewer photos than I did last year. This gives me lots of time to delve a bit deeper into the more interesting aircraft and skip others without feeling I’m missing something. I have a nice lunch in the cafeteria before driving back to the hotel in the afternoon.

My online gallery contains photos taken in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

  • Solar panels on the parking lot roofs
    Solar panels on the parking lot roofs
  • Closeup of an electrical box for the solar panels
    Closeup of an electrical box for the solar panels
  • Wiring and electrical boxes for the solar panels
    Wiring and electrical boxes for the solar panels
  • A white Model S 90D parked beside my Model S75D under the solar canopy
    A white Model S 90D parked beside my Model S75D under the solar canopy
  • Diane Bell, Matt Watson and Reg Dunkley in front of the Space Shuttle booster and Pima Air Museum sign
    Diane Bell, Matt Watson and Reg Dunkley in front of the Space Shuttle booster and Pima Air Museum sign
  • Reg Dunkley and Matt Watson in front of the Space Shuttle booster rocket with the infamous Morton Thiokol  o-rings
    Reg Dunkley and Matt Watson in front of the Space Shuttle booster rocket with the infamous Morton Thiokol o-rings
  • Joe's selfie at the Pima Air Museum
    Joe’s selfie at the Pima Air Museum
  • Bell UH-1C *UH-1M) Iroquois (Huey) helicopter
    Bell UH-1C *UH-1M) Iroquois (Huey) helicopter
  • Engine in the Bell UH-1C (UH-1M) Iroquois (Huey)
    Engine in the Bell UH-1C (UH-1M) Iroquois (Huey)
  • McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II
    McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II
  • McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II
    McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II
  • Canadair Sabre Mk. V
    Canadair Sabre Mk. V
  • Lockheed Model 10A Electra
    Lockheed Model 10A Electra
  • Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird
    Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird
  • Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird
    Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird
  • Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird engine
    Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird engine
  • Consolidated B-24J 'Liberator'
    Consolidated B-24J ‘Liberator’
  • Consolidated B-24J 'Liberator'
    Consolidated B-24J ‘Liberator’
  • Looking up inside the bomb bay of the Consolidated B-24J 'Liberator'
    Looking up inside the bomb bay of the Consolidated B-24J ‘Liberator’
  • Inside the bomb bay of the Consolidated B-24J 'Liberator'
    Inside the bomb bay of the Consolidated B-24J ‘Liberator’
  • Consolidated B-24J 'Liberator'
    Consolidated B-24J ‘Liberator’
  • McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F/A 18A Hornet figher bomber
    McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F/A 18A Hornet figher bomber
  • Boeing B-52D Stratofortress bomber
    Boeing B-52D Stratofortress bomber
  • Vickers 744 Viscount airliner
    Vickers 744 Viscount airliner
  • Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle VI-R
    Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle VI-R
  • Douglas VC-118A
    Douglas VC-118A
  • Convair B-36 Peacemaker
    Convair B-36 Peacemaker
  • Convair B-36 Peacemaker
    Convair B-36 Peacemaker
  • Convair B-36 Peacemaker
    Convair B-36 Peacemaker
  • Boeing B-52G Stratofortress bomber
    Boeing B-52G Stratofortress bomber
  • Landing gear of Boeing B-52G Stratofortress bomber
    Landing gear of Boeing B-52G Stratofortress bomber
  • Sikorsky CH-54A Tarhe (Skycrane) heavy lift helicopter
    Sikorsky CH-54A Tarhe (Skycrane) heavy lift helicopter
  • Fairey AEW.3 Gannet
    Fairey AEW.3 Gannet
  • Sepecat Jaguar GR.1 fighter-bomber
    Sepecat Jaguar GR.1 fighter-bomber
  • Boeing B-17 bomber
    Boeing B-17 bomber
  • Bomb bay
    Bomb bay
  • Front guns and gunner
    Front guns and gunner
  • Cockpit and top gunner
    Cockpit and top gunner
  • Side gunner & inside fuselage
    Side gunner & inside fuselage
  • B-17 bomber
    B-17 bomber
  • Boeing 787 Dreamliner nose-on
    Boeing 787 Dreamliner nose-on
  • Wing against the Sun
    Wing against the Sun
  • Rolls Royce engine
    Rolls Royce engine
  • Rolls Royce engine
    Rolls Royce engine
  • Petal engine cowling of the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
    Petal engine cowling of the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
  • Landing gear
    Landing gear
  • Lockheed L-049 Constellation airliner
    Lockheed L-049 Constellation airliner
  • Lockheed L-049 Constellation airliner
    Lockheed L-049 Constellation airliner
  • Airline cabin service memorabilia
    Airline cabin service memorabilia
  • Rationing memorabilia
    Rationing memorabilia
  • Joe inside a Boeing 720B cockpit simulator
    Joe inside a Boeing 720B cockpit simulator
  • The Crescent Moon between three blades of the Sikorsky CH-54A helicopter
    The Crescent Moon between three blades of the Sikorsky CH-54A helicopter
  • Sikorsky CH-54A heavy lift transport helicopter
    Sikorsky CH-54A heavy lift transport helicopter
  • Engine, blades and winches
    Engine, blades and winches
  • Gunner's nacel beside the M-25 Mitchell
    Gunner’s nacel beside the M-25 Mitchell
  • Sighting scope on a B-25 Mitchell bomber
    Sighting scope on a B-25 Mitchell bomber
  • Engine from a SR-71 Blackbird
    Engine from a SR-71 Blackbird
  • McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F/a-18A Hornet figher bomber
    McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F/a-18A Hornet figher bomber
  • Andrew Schoultz Spy Tiger, 2012 - acrylic on Lockheed VC-140
    Andrew Schoultz Spy Tiger, 2012 – acrylic on Lockheed VC-140
  • Budd RB-1 Conestoga Transport
    Budd RB-1 Conestoga Transport
  • Douglas DC-10 with Orbis markings
    Douglas DC-10 with Orbis markings
  • Douglas DC-10 with Orbis markings
    Douglas DC-10 with Orbis markings
  • Douglas A-24B Banshee
    Douglas A-24B Banshee
  • Consolidated Model 28-5AMC Canso A (PBY-5A Catalina)
    Consolidated Model 28-5AMC Canso A (PBY-5A Catalina)
  • Consolidated Model 28-5AMC Canso A (PBY-5A Catalina)
    Consolidated Model 28-5AMC Canso A (PBY-5A Catalina)
  • Consolidated Model 28-5AMC Canso A (PBY-5A Catalina)
    Consolidated Model 28-5AMC Canso A (PBY-5A Catalina)
  • Spitfire in the foreground of Hanger 5
    Spitfire in the foreground of Hanger 5
  • Spitfire
    Spitfire
  • Supermarine Spitfire FR. XIVe & Rolls-Royce Griffon 65 engine
    Supermarine Spitfire FR. XIVe & Rolls-Royce Griffon 65 engine
  • Rolls-Royce Griffon 65 engine
    Rolls-Royce Griffon 65 engine
  • Hawker Hurricane
    Hawker Hurricane
  • Hawker Hurricane tail markings
    Hawker Hurricane tail markings
  • Douglas A-24B Banshee
    Douglas A-24B Banshee
  • Lockheed VC-121A
    Lockheed VC-121A
  • Jacobs J-755 Radial Engine, 1943
    Jacobs J-755 Radial Engine, 1943
  • Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-28 Fulcrum A Interceptor
    Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-28 Fulcrum A Interceptor
  • Avro AEW Mk 3 Shackelton airborne early warning
    Avro AEW Mk 3 Shackelton airborne early warning
  • Boeing VC-137B VIP Transport 'Freedom One'
    Boeing VC-137B VIP Transport ‘Freedom One’
  • ITEK KA-80 optical bar camera
    ITEK KA-80 optical bar camera
  • Grumman F-14A Tomcat
    Grumman F-14A Tomcat
  • Hughes OH-5A Cayuse helicopter
    Hughes OH-5A Cayuse helicopter
  • Bede BD-5J "Microjet"
    Bede BD-5J “Microjet”
  • Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial
    Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial
  • Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial
    Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial
  • Phoenix Mars Lander scale model
    Phoenix Mars Lander scale model
  • Mercury capsule
    Mercury capsule
  • X-Plane
    X-Plane
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Kitt Peak in a Tesla

February 21, 2018 Wednesday – Driving from Tucson up to Kitt Peak in a Tesla Model S

Energy graph showing triple consumption while climbing Kitt Peak and 25 miles of gained range while descending the Kitt Peak road
Energy graph showing triple consumption while climbing Kitt Peak and 25 miles of range gained from regeneration while descending

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

The reason I wanted to charge the Tesla last night and not have to drive east for 15 minutes to the Tucson Supercharger is that I want to take the 11AM solar telescope tour at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. It takes an hour and 20 minutes to drive westward from the hotel, so driving east to the Supercharger would be inefficient and wasteful of precious time.

I have breakfast downstairs in the hotel, and I’m on the road by 9AM in my fully-charged Tesla. The Model S uses about triple the energy to climb the 1,200 metre (3,400′) elevation change up the mountain, but there is only about nine miles of actual steep climbing. The Model S still has 120 miles of range by the time I reach the summit.

Since I am so early, I am the only visitor for the telescope tour when I meet the Docent in the Visitor Center. She convinces me that the 2.1 meter observatory tour would be a better choice, since the solar observatory is closed, so all we can do is walk around it on the outside. A Docent-In-Training  and a few more people show up before the tour leaves – we all agree to stick with the plan to visit the 2.1 meter telescope.

I take a few photos, but restrict myself to areas of Kitt Peak that I didn’t photograph last year. By 1PM I’m ready to return to Tucson, so I rig up my GoPro Hero 5 Black as a dash cam and drive down the mountain and along the highways back to the hotel. The Tesla gains about 25 miles of range due to the regeneration on the way down the mountain road, so I still have just over 100 miles of range after arriving at the hotel. Since the staff have left the Tesla Destination chargers powered up, I plug in for about four hours to top up the charge for tomorrow’s adventures.

Kitt Peak photos taken 2017 & 2018 – galleryslideshow
Kitt Peak
29 photos
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Museum of Optics & Mineral Collection

February 20, 2018 Tuesday – Museum of Optics & Mineral Collection at the University of Arizona, Tucson

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

I go downstairs for breakfast and then check out of the Red Lion Inn. I head down to the University of Arizona, since a friend suggested I see their Optics Museum at the College of Optical Sciences. the University is located downtown, which is on the way to my new hotel on the south side of Tucson. I manage to find pay street parking only a couple of blocks away, and use Google Maps to find the building on campus.

Desert Flower by Christopher Ries 2006 - SHOTT NA glass sculpture - UofA Optics Museum
Desert Flower by Christopher Ries 2006 – SHOTT NA glass sculpture

The Museum of Optics is self-guided, with displays on several floors of the building. After starting in the lobby with several beautiful glass sculptures and some telescopes, the tour starts at the top of the building on the 7th floor. I then work my way down floor-by-floor. They have an extensive collection of eyeglasses, binoculars, monoculars, opera glasses, historic cameras, stereographs, telescopes, and much more. It is all fascinating, and free-of-charge! 

The architecture of the Meinel Optical Sciences Building is quite striking, since it has a segmented glass front, the sides and back are wrapped in dark copper, and there are internal light shafts that go top-to-bottom.

Stibnite from the University of Arizona Mineral Museum
Stibnite from the University of Arizona Mineral Museum

Since I have well over an hour left on the parking meter, I go to the Flandreau Science Center and Planetarium which is across the street from the Meinel Building. I pay the $6 Senior’s admission and spend time taking in what is perhaps the most impressive collection of minerals on public display in the Tucson area. Their amazing collection of meteorites includes some as large as a suitcase! It is a shame the displays aren’t better lit, since it’s hard to appreciate the colours and textures of the minerals when they are in glass cases lit from above with fluorescent lights.

Tesla Model S rental

After leaving the UofA, I check into the Baymont Hotel and Suites. I enquire about the Tesla Destination chargers outside, and am told they charge $2/hour and they will turn it on when I’m ready to charge. I’m pleased the rate is reasonable…this is going to be so much more convenient than staying at a hotel with no electric vehicle support. The Tesla Supercharger east of Tucson is only about a 15 minute drive each way plus charging time), so I have options. I decide to try out their Tesla Destination charger. The front desk clerk is thrilled, since this is new to her, and she has never seen a Tesla up close before. As it turns out, several of the charge points don’t work, but I find one that lights up green on my Tesla’s charge port. It is a 40 amp 209 volt supply, so the charge rate is about the same as I have at home (Level 2 charger). I end up paying for 3.5 hours’ worth of charging at $2/hr.

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Dragoon Ranch to Tucson

February 19, 2018 Monday – Dragoon Mountain Ranch to Tucson, Arizona, USA

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

My friends and I leave the ranch this morning, bound for Tucson. With all the rain we’ve had over the last few days, I’m concerned about the washes on Sybil road being in rough shape, so I take the main ranch road to St. David and then take the state highway through Benson and join I-10 there. I meet my friends at their car rental agency in downtown Tucson and give them a ride to the airport.

I then head north to the Oro Valley and check in to the Red Lion Inn around 1:30PM. I ask them about using an external plug to charge my Tesla, but they say they have none. I look later, and sure enough there are zero plugs on the outside walls! My Tesla Model S is currently covered in mud from driving the ranch roads all week. I want to have a clean car to drive for my last few days in Tucson and when I return it, so I go to the nearby Mister Car Wash (4941 N Oracle Rd). I pay them US$45 for a hand wash and “Hog Wash” (power wash the mud off) and clean the interior. The crew also give the car a light detail and do a terrific job (see above banner image), so I give them a generous tip. My rental Tesla Model S now looks better than when I took delivery of it!

Spiedino di Mare
Spiedino di Mare

Since I skipped lunch today, I decide to treat myself to a nice dinner at Carrabba’s Italian Grill. I walk the block up the main drag from the hotel to the restaurant, arriving at about 5PM. Their Happy Hour is 4-6PM, so I order a Classic Martini, which only ends up costing $4.46, which I find is very nicely made! They also have a three course dinner special, so I have a lovely minestrone soup to start, Spiedino di Mare (grilled scallops and shrimp with broccoli) for the main, and mini cannoli for dessert. The food costs $18.99, so the total bill with tax and tip is US$28.97 which I consider a bargain for the good service and excellent drinks and food. I bring the cannoli back to my hotel to eat later.

After researching the Level 2 charge points near the hotel, I realize that once my existing charge is depleted, not being able to charge overnight is going to be a serious inconvenience. This issue is going to limit the distance I can take my rental Model S each day, so I decide to cut my stay short at this hotel and move to a hotel that has Tesla Destination Chargers. The Baymont Inn Tucson Airport has seven Tesla destination chargers (and 7 additional generic J1772 chargers), so overnight charging becomes a reality again. I book the next three nights at that hotel and go downstairs to cancel three nights off my stay with the Red Lion Inn. I will change hotels tomorrow. I should have done more research and booked the Baymont for my whole stay, since it is also a bit cheaper than the Red Lion.

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Dragoon Mountain Ranch – more astronomy!

February 17, 2018 Friday – Dragoon Mountain Ranch – astronomy!

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

There is fog on the ranch in the early morning and clouds but no rain today.

RASC Victoria Centre: John McDonald &emdash; Observing with the 25"

One of our group leaves us this morning to pick up her rental car in Tucson, and drive to Sedona to visit with her family. I plan to drive to Sedona tomorrow to stay two nights, so we might connect up there for a visit. I also plan to drive further north to see the Grand Canyon, but we’ll see how the weather cooperates for that adventure, because if there is too much snow, I won’t go!

By sunset, there are only clouds on the horizon – it is clear overhead! Everyone gets their gear together, we open up the observatory, and pull an all-nighter. One of our group is a dedicate visual observer, so she operates the 25” Newtonian, climbing a ladder every few minutes to observe visually, and sketching many celestial objects. I join her to enjoy the wonderful views through this massive telescope, and add many entries to my astronomy log book.

The three of us who are photographers are using the 20” Newtonian astrograph this evening. Since my images taken a few days ago on Feb 11th turned out so well, I have some time to take more photos, but after taking two good images, we soon run into problems. I decide to enjoy some visual observing instead., so my buddies use the rest of the night to take some images of objects they are interested in while I observe using a 25″ Newtonian, my binoculars, and unaided-eye visual observing. I only last about an hour in the cold before I have to pack it in and go inside where it is warm.

February 18, 2018 Saturday – Dragoon Mountain Ranch

I am the first up this morning since everyone else stayed up into the early morning hours observing and photographing the night sky.

It isn’t raining today, but there are big clouds drifting overhead constantly. I decide to shoot a time lapse video of the clouds forming and passing over the Dragoon Mountains. I rig up my Canon 6D dSLR on a tripod with an intervalometer and shoot medium-sized JPG files all afternoon until sunset when the battery dies. After dinner, I make it into a one and a half minute video and show it to my friends on the living room TV. I also show them the video I shot of the wildfire on the day we arrived.

Dragoon Mountains Afternoon from JoeTourist on Vimeo.

The rain returns this evening with a vengeance – we can hear downpours happening outside all evening. I check the forecast for Sedona, and it looks abysmal, with torrential rain, hail and winds! I go online to cancel my arrangements up there, and also for Grand Canyon. My Plan B is to stay in Tucson for the next few days, so I reserve a hotel at the last minute. Thank goodness for online booking systems!

The rest of us are all leaving tomorrow morning, so we all use the down time do some laundry, pack, and cleanup the house.

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Bisbee

February 16, 2018 Thursday – Dragoon Mountain Ranch to Bisbee & the Queen Mine

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

The rain has stopped, but the skies are both cloudy and sunny today. We are hopeful it will clear a bit more by this evening so we can observe the night sky for only the second time this week. By all accounts this is unseasonably poor weather for this part of southern Arizona!

We drive to Bisbee to take the Queen Mine Tour by crossing Dragoon Mountain Ranch in a southwest direction to the St. David entrance. Once we are heading south on the paved road through Tombstone, we are hit with heavy rain most of the way to Bisbee.  We park at the mine tour entrance and manage to get on the noon tour – getting the last seats. We are given hardhats, vests and lights, and walk into the mine entrance to get onto a little electric train that takes us below, down the shafts. Our guide is Benny, and old miner who mainly helped build the underground railways. We see how the copper ore was blasted, the air drills and blasting that was used, and the system of shafts and railways that made it all possible. It is a complex of several mines all inside the same mountain, built on different levels, although the companies were eventually consolidated.

Playing the Fordson Major fuel tank guitar/cello
Playing the Fordson Major fuel tank guitar/cello

After the mine tour, we have a nice lunch at our host’s favourite cafe in the town. I get a nice cappuccino to take with me and then park the Tesla in the town’s public parking. We then split up to see what the town has to offer. I wander down the main street in the rain, keeping dry under my Tesla umbrella that came with the car rental.

There are lots of shops offering artwork and tacky stuff, so I decide to take a series of alleys looping back to the car, hoping to encounter more interesting sights. Sure enough I stumble upon a guy with a long grey beard playing a guitar/cello built from an old Ford F-series truck fuel tank! He is being interviewed and recorded with video as I sneak my own candid photo of him and his funky instrument. This makes the trip so worthwhile!

We make a quick stop in Tombstone on the return trip, but decide to call it quits and return home, since it is still raining pretty hard.

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Sonoran Desert Museum

February 14, 2018 Wednesday – Day trip from Dragoon Mountain Ranch to Tucson and the Sonoran Desert Museum

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

I drive everyone to the Sonoran Desert Museum this morning, which is 15 miles west of Tucson. We stop to charge the Tesla for 20 minutes at the Tucson Supercharger, which is just east of the city. We then drive another half hour bypassing the city westward into the beautiful Sonoran desert.

It rains lightly while we are at the Sonoran Desert Museum, which keeps the daytime temperature down to the point we are wearing light coats for most of our time here. Since we arrive just after noon, first stop for most of us is to have a snack and drinks at the coffee shop before we walk the trails. We spot a beautiful Bobcat, nesting hummingbirds, a Peregrine falcon in flight, and lots of other birds, animals and of course all kinds of cactus. Our last stop before departing is the caves and a breathtaking mineral display.

El Charro cartoon
El Charro cartoon

After driving back into the city, we meet some friends for dinner at the well-rated El Charro Cafe restaurant in old town Tucson. Being Valentines Day the place is busy, however the Mexican food is terrific. The drive back to Dragoon Ranch starts out with pouring rain as we leave the city, but it thins out by the time we pull into Benson for a quick shopping stop at Safeway. I wash the ranch road mud off the Tesla outside before I park in the garage and plug it in to charge.

Arizona Sonora Desert Museum – galleryslideshow – photos from 2017 and 2018