Sunday, October 28, 2012

Travel Packer

Winter descends
After nearly 18 years in the Kootenays, I am still awestruck by fall.  The expanse of time that the leaves take to turn colour and flutter to the ground.  The array of yellows and greens and reds.  And ever present green.   Warm fall days with clear skies slide into increasing cloud and rain.   When the clouds clear and mountains are revealed, I look up.   Each week, the line of snow creeps down the mountain side.  And one day I will wake up and see a blanket of snow everywhere.  When I saw the snowfall warning last week, I didn't really believe it.  November is our arrival.  Up on the mountain passes, it is a different story - snow falls earlier up there.

Perhaps it was all wishful thinking.  My snow tires on in the shed.  I have my appointment set to put them on - November 1st.  No snow before then, thank you.

I am never too hasty to get on my snow tires.  I certainly would if I was taking a road trip but now I can have the indulgence of "winter denial."

It is probably that state that piqued my interest in the latest BootsnAll 2012 Indie Travel Challenge prompt for week #39 on Travel Packing.  Not even snow on the ground and I am thinking about getting out of here.  I will settle down but it is always a bit of a shock.

Over the  years I have changed by packing style.  It had to happen.  Pulling a huge suitcase that flopped on its side on a cobblestone street and then lugging it up 2 flights of stairs was enough to send me out to the luggage department.  Large luggage was out - I learned it was easy to exceed the weight limit.

Finding the right combination of luggage was a trial.  Layovers meant walking around airports.  I grew weary of heaving a heavy computer (even Macs can be substantial) bag over my shoulder.  A carry on with wheels solved that issue.  Because I also travel on Jazz Air Canada regional flights, the wheeled luggage doesn't easily fit under the seat.  I bought a computer case that I carry on the plane when the bag is Sky Checked.

I usually travel at Christmas.  Bright wrapped packages sit alongside socks and t-shirts.  Though I now have a new appreciation for carry-on luggage, clothes and gifts need more room.  I bought a medium size suitcase from Winners.  A couple years later, after seeing a broken wheel assembly on my suitcase in the luggage carousel, I was convinced that I am a frequent-enough flyer.  I chose Travelpro.   "The choice of flight crews and frequent flyers."  I found a half-price sale at The Bay. 

My present amount of luggage is 3.  Usually 2 of 3 travel with me depending on where I am going. 

When I went to Mexico in 2007,  I packed all my luggage in carry on - 3 ounce bottles and all.  I brought a collapsible duffel bag in case I found a treasure that had to come home with me, but I didn't use it.  Buying silver for gifts reduces the need for space.

No Baggage Challenge intrigued me when I first saw it in 2010.  Travel writer Rolf Potts has figured it all out.  Clearly, he sees no necessity for a flat iron.   

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Photo of the Week - Clover Point Park - Victoria, BC

Sunset from Clover Point Park
This 10.39 acre park is largely asphalt - perfect for windy days when you just don't want to get out of your car.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Catching a Ferry - The Elusive Tsawwassen

Aimee has officially made the move to Victoria, settling in to a lovely apartment in Cook Street Village.  I have come to spend time with her over the Thanksgiving weekend.  Which is more than I can say for her furniture and more importantly, her bed.  The moving company has told her that her belongings should arrive in about a week.  In the meantime, she is on an airbed and I am on a foamy.  Reminds me of those days when the only furniture we owned was a deep freeze, a gift from my mother-in-law who believed in the value of preserving food.

Looking around this room, there is something charming and imaginative about a space with no furniture.  Possibilities.

The weather in BC these days is inspiring!  Sunshine and lots of warmth.  I didn't see one cloud in the sky all the way from Nelson to here.  We will take it.  After such a soggy spring/early summer.

The pointy fingers of winter are reaching out.  The morning I left, we had our first frost.  Not a hard frost as people like to say.  On my way down from the Bonanza Pass at 10:30 am, I noticed the road was wet looking; eventually I caught up with a truck that had a sign on the back - "De-icing in progress.  Stay back 35 metres."  I am not ready for ice anything.  The winter tires are tucked in the shed back home.  The days can fool us into thinking summer is going to stay but when that sun goes down, it is different story.

I was surprised at how many RVs I saw on the road, especially heading out of the lower mainland.  Opportunists.  Go while you can.   I try to avoid long weekends on BC roads; there is so much traffic and I don't like following anyone or having anyone follow me.  Which is tricky on windy roads with few passing lanes.   My frustration with the traffic was trumped by the gorgeous scenery.  Leaves are turning; the sky is blue.  Nature is showing off for us all.

I reached the lower mainland in mid-afternoon, stopped in Chilliwack where a store clerk told me that it would be 4 to 5 hours longer.  What route do you take? I asked.  She had no shortcuts.  Take Route 10 from Highway 1.  Through Langley.  Which is an important point for what was about to happen down the road.

Once I got off the Freeway, I noted the green sign, an straight arrow at the top, the words BC Ferries and a picture of a boat.  I saw them again and again as I zigzagged my way to the Georgia Strait.  Then I saw a sign that said for Surrey to take the right lane and Langley go straight ahead.  Remembering the store clerk, I didn't follow the line of traffic turning to the right.  Surrey is one of the fastest growing cities in Canada so it makes a lot of sense that people would be headed there.

And then I was in downtown Langley.  Offices and shops and coffee joints.  Something was wrong.  The U-turn that I did in the middle of the street was the next clue that I was no where near where I needed to be.

I backtracked.  Having remembered my map, I knew I that Route 10 was where I wanted to be - that is until I could get to Highway 17.  I found Route 10 and headed towards Surrey.  The familiar Ferry signs reappeared.  All was well.

Back in a pile of traffic, keeping my eyes peeled for the signs.  I didn't want to miss anything.  I looked at the clock - it was about 55 minutes until the next ferry left.  I followed the truck that was merging left.  I saw a small sign showing the right exit - it had a picture of a boat on it.  If you have been to the lower mainland, you would know that there are lots of boats.  A marina, perhaps?

The merge left veered to the right and around a cloverleaf.  I saw a sign - Surrey, next 4 exits.  Surrey?  Straight ahead of me was Mt. Baker.  I was going back in the same direction I was on the freeway.

Mt Baker in my rearview mirror

The next sign I saw was the highway notification.  I was on Highway 99, heading south.  Heading towards - Seattle.  I decided to take the next exit.  White Rock.  I found a pullout and pulled out the map.  White Rock, although on the Georgia Strait, has no access to Tsawwassen.  The map was pretty useless for figuring out how to get me back.

I did a U-Turn at the next lights.  When I saw my next options, I decided Vancouver made a lot more sense than Seattle.  Heading north.  An overhead sign said that Highway 17 was 10 minutes ahead.  Highway 17?  My Highway 17?  Ten minutes later, I read the exit sign - BC Ferries.  Yes!  I got in the right lane.  And so did everyone else.  And the traffic stopped.

The time was 6:45.  Would I make the 7 o'clock ferry?  Was the next one at 9?  Data plans - this is the moment that they were created for.  But I don't have one.  I have a paper map that has rip marks in the fold lines.  I inched my way with everyone else to the very-short stop lights.  Agony.

Finally it was my turn.  And we all sped down Highway 17.  The overhead sign said, "Swartz Bay - One ferry sailing wait."  All of my 7 o'clock dreams fizzled.  The next hope was the bottom part of the sign that said the 8 o'clock ferry was 46% full.  I didn't even know there was an 8 o'clock ferry.  I would have known that if I had a data plan.  If I had a data plan, I wouldn't be doing a happy dance like I was in the car right then.

At the ferry terminal, I got in my queue.   After I paid, I couldn't help myself from asking the cashier, "If I would have been 30 minutes earlier, would I have got the 7 o'clock ferry?"  That seemed to be the amount of time that I took for my "detours."

"No," she said, "it was full early."   I never thought of how I would feel if she said yes.

So, if I hadn't got lost - twice - I would have been sitting in a ferry lineup.  Motoring around the lower mainland or waiting.  Which would I pick?

And what did I learn from my misadventures?  If I came that way again, would I do the same thing?  As I was thinking about what I needed to know so I didn't need to repeat this incident, I realized that I have actually done this route before.  A few years ago.  And I didn't get lost.