Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sea Kayaking in British Columbia - The adventure begins

Saturday, July 11th
The alarm goes off at 5:30, and as I sit up bleary eyed, as I always do whenever I wake up, the first grey of a summer morning is already beginning to lighten the sky. We packed late the evening before, so all we have to do is get dressed and cart our luggage out to the rental car in front of my sister’s house.
Even this early on a Saturday morning the traffic is moderately heavy as we approach the toll gates for the Oakland – San Francisco Bay Bridge. Our $4.00 is taken by the man in the tollbooth without comment to a proffered “Good morning!”, and we keep pace with all the other cars flying along at 15-20 mph over the posted speed limit. The top two thirds of the towers on the suspension side of the bridge are invisible in dense low lying fog as we thread the maze of splits and off ramps and successfully negotiate our way onto Highway 101.
We turn in the rental car, collect our luggage, and trundle on down to wait our turns for the thrill of going through security. It’s not especially a thrill for us; only the minor inconvenience of taking off shoes, emptying pockets of loose change, extracting the laptop from its case and the camera from the backpack, but the stainless steel parts of Jane’s artificial knees invariably set off the alarms when she walks through the security gate. The thrill is for the security officers, who suddenly look more alert. More than once I’ve seen smiles of satisfied self-importance as they usher Jane to a nearby glass booth to begin the ritual of the waving of the magic wands as she assumes a wide stance and stretches her arms out to the sides while the guard confirms that there really isn’t a bomb hidden in either of Jane’s legs.
Once through security and we have collected and repacked scattered belongings and put our shoes back on, we head down the long corridors to the waiting area. We stop to buy some breakfast from one of the vendors that feel justified in charging at least triple what any reasonable person would pay for comparable items anywhere else. I extract a slightly stale cinnamon bun from its clear saran shroud, only to find that it has been baked with about three times too much sugar to be palatable. Perhaps that explains the treble price. I take a few bites just to have something in my stomach before I set it aside. I mistakenly assume that at least the coffee will be good. If you find the bitterness of quinine, combined with a hint of slightly burned plastic and the acidity of mild heartburn then you would have labeled the coffee delicious. My coffee cup, still mostly full, followed the remains of the cinnamon bun into the trash can. At least I had a good book to read while we waited for our flight to begin boarding.
The climb up through the fog into brilliant sunshine lifted my spirit as well as my body, and I sat in the window seat wit my head turned as far as it would go to the left to watch the ground far below and the anti-solar glowing point with the tiny shadow of the plane in the center racing across the countryside to keep up with us. It was exactly 10:00 a.m. as we passed over Redding where we had been just a few days before, and I could see the city’s famous Sundial Bridge, the Sacramento River winding through town, and Shasta Dam where the river’s falling waters turn the turbines and generators that provide power for much of northern California.
As we descended into the Seattle-Tacoma Airport, dysphoniously tagged with the name “SEATAC”, I was impressed with how the waters of Puget Sound embrace the edges of the city. During our long layover we had the chance to explore this city within a city. There are several thousand residents, all transient, either scurrying between concourses and flights or providing food, shopping, security, ticketing, custodial, and transportation services to others.

It was a short half hour flight to Victoria, whose airport is about a half hour drive north of the city at the edge of the charming waterside town of Sidney.
Our friends Sabra and Gayle met us for a mellow dinner on the outside terrace of a restaurant at the water’s edge looking out across the Haro Straight to the San Juan Islands, and far beyond, Mt. Baker in the State of Washington.

Click here for a video of the flight and the trip on Vancouver Island

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