Christmas in Canada


By land, sea, and air

My friend Bret and I have spent Christmas together for years; we have the same sardonic attitude toward the holiday. It seemed that the tradition might be broken this year inasmuch as plane fares from Palm Springs to Vancouver were over $600. Then I remembered that I had a free Southwest ticket that would get me as far as Seattle.

Palm Springs to Ontario

by car

I got up "at the crack of stupid" (as Patrick would say) on Tuesday, 23-December, for the drive to Ontario. Although my flight wasn't until 10:45am, the terror threat level had been raised to orange, and I wanted to give myself plenty of time to cope with the traffic and airport congestion that I expected to be heavy.

shoes empty airport

Gotcha! There was no traffic on the freeway. There was a short line at the airport for vehicle inspections, but once inside, there was no line at the security checkpoint, no line at the metal detector and baggage x-ray machines, and no line at the gate.

Except for people walking around looking for a place to sit to put their shoes back on, you could have imagined it was travel as usual.

In fact, the only unusual things at the airport were the absence of random searches at the gate and the large number of people in wheelchairs assembled for the flight.

10 wheelchairs on one flight
10(!!!) wheelchairs on one flight

raining in Sacramento

Sacramento. The plane stopped in Sacramento where it was pouring rain and where most of the wheelchair passengers got off. I moved to the window seat, and a geezer wearing a green plaid shirt got on in Sacramento and took the middle seat in my row.

The flight attendants began distributing packets of peanuts and salty snacks. At this point my new rowmate reached into his pocket and withdrew a knife with a 4-inch blade to slit open his packets. Considerately, he then offered his knife to those sitting beside him, in case they were having difficulty with their packets.

orange threat

"How did you get that thing on the plane?" I asked incredulously.

"I always carry a knife," said the geezer. "Aren't you supposed to bring it on the plane?"

So much for heightened security! Explain that, Tom Ridge!

Seattle to Vancouver

quick shuttle

From the Seattle airport, I took the Quick Shuttle to Vancouver. This was an uneventful trip except for the border crossing at Blaine. The Canadian immigration and customs people have adopted the nasty attitudes of the US border officials.

Where are you going?
How long are you going to stay?
3 days.
You came all the way from California for just 3 days?
Are you going to take the bus back to Seattle?
No, I'll be taking the float plane from Victoria.
Victoria? I thought you said you were going to Vancouver?
I am going to Vancouver. And then I'm going to Victoria.
What airline are you flying back on?
What time is your flight?
In the afternoon sometime, maybe two or three o'clock. What - she's got the schedule memorized?

Vancouver to Victoria

BC ferry Bret and Marge

On Christmas day, Bret and I took the city bus out to Richmond to have dinner with Bret's grandmother. We wrapped her in warm coats, signed her out of the home, and went to a nearby Marriott for their Christmas buffet. Although we didn't have a reservation, they accommodated us graciously, and the food was great.

Dinner was followed by a mad dash to catch another bus to the airport where we hopped on the Pacific Coach bus to Victoria. The bus, of course, rides on the BC Ferry. sea gull At one point, the ferry passes through a very narrow channel between two small islands wherein it meets its sister ship on the return trip. With appropriate whistle-blowing, the two slip smoothly by each other.

Pacific Coast coach in ferry

Nearing the harbor on Vancouver Island, bus passengers were advised to return to the coach parked right in front of the exit doors; the bus had been first on and would be first off. Before the ferry even docked, the crew opened the doors. But instead of seeing the dock, we saw nothing but water! The ferry would have to do a 180° turn before it could dock. And wouldn't you know, the person sitting in the front seat of the bus with the very best view was a blind man with a seeing eye dog!

Shy Don Don is a little camera shy

In Victoria, we took a cab to Don and Michael's house where we ate yet another Christmas dinner.

More Victoria pictures

Victoria to Seattle.

float plane

On Friday morning, Michael drove me to the harbor where I boarded the Kenmore Air float plane to Seattle. This was my first time on a float plane, and I skillfully jockeyed myself into being first to board so as to be sure of getting one of the prime left-side seats. As it turned out, I should have been more gracious and allowed all the others to board first, since the tenth passenger got to sit in the co-pilot's seat!

It was quite exciting. The plane cruised at fairly low altitude, and the landing on Lake Union in Seattle was smooth. It made a much smaller splash than I expected.

Taxiing from the dock Taxiing from the dock
Victoria seen from the air Victoria seen from the air
splash down Splash down

Kenmore Air has its own two-person customs and immigration office. This border crossing was among the easier ones; I guess they were more interested in the men's lacrosse team that was traveling on my plane.

Seattle to Ontario

Southwest Airlines plane

Sea-Tac airport was a zoo, but a very orderly and efficient one. The TSA had a big crew on hand to direct passengers and speed up the lines.

The trip was uneventful. This time no knives were drawn.

Ontario to Palm Springs


Five o'clock in the afternoon is not the best time to arrive in Ontario. Traffic on the I-10 was very heavy. I eventually got frustrated with the slow pace and simply pulled off to have dinner.

Home at last! The thermostat had woken the furnace from its slumber, and the house was toasty warm, which was a good thing because it was cold — cold enough that I had driven most of the way with the heater on. The Christmas palm was casting cheer on the patio. No water catastrophes had befallen.

Life is good.