Well, after all the fuss with ticketting, I made it. I've been in Victoria for just over 24 hours.
Let me count the ways.....
First of all you need to understand that no one expects the inquistion. No one!
I mean - it was all sorted, wasn't it? United had given the ok a couple of weeks ago so Philly to Seattle via Chicago was all set. . That nice man Jim at Aaska Air had indicated we were all systems go from Seattle to Victoria. What could go wrong? Weeeeelllll - the flight to Philly - that's what!
When I turned up and tried to check in at State College on the machine, it told me there was $150 charge for a change. I didn't need or want a change - just the ticket I had paid for. I then dealt with a real person who told me that as he had it, my itinerary had me leaving Philly before I had left State College. This meant he couldn't get me on the plane. After nearly 40 minutes at the desk, the plane was beginnning to board, and my anxiety levels were pretty high. In the end, he got me on the plane. However, by now they had closed checked luggage, so I had to take it as hand luggage and then hand it over (small plane procedure for larger bags anyway). Even though the bag was not actually carry on, it had to be treated as such. Not wanting to waste time I was worried that they would scan and notice my shaving gel. I had forgotten the pen-knife. So, as the clock ticked, I had to unlock and open the bag, and surrender the penknife - a nice one we had bought at Bellingen too. Made it onto the flight by the skin of a very thin tooth.
This procedure meant of course that the luggage had to be collected at Philly and rechecked - assuming I got a seat. This actually worked OK, and I was assured that the luggage would go all the way to Victoria. You will excuse my skepticism at this point. Anyway, I had a tag that said that was where it was going. And I had two boarding passes that would take me all the way to Seattle!
Seattle is a lovely airport, and the lovely lady at the Alaskan desk gave me a Boarding pass without batting an eyelid. Now all we needed was a plane, and my luggage on it. In due course the plane arrived, and left, and the 30 minute flight was over. We passed some beautiful mountain scenery on the wau across - some already snow capped.
After only a short wait, my beautiful blue bag emerged. We had made it. The forces of airline anarchy had, at least for today - been defeated! God bless Lucie for trying to keep costs down, but I can see the advantages of a more direct flight very clearly at this point!
I took a cab - a Prius - to the Larel Point Inn. It is literally on a point overlooking the harbour in Victoria. Things just got better. The room the conference organisers had made available to me is on the fourth (top) floor , on a corner, with a wraparound deck. The views are stunning - check them out in the pictures!
I met up with Charles, who is here with Di and his daughter Simone and her two kids Imogene and Thomas. Charles and I went out for a meal to the Bard and Banker - a Scottish pub in town. A meal and several beers later we returned to the hotel, but Chas wasn't done yet. We had a few more of the world's problems to solve and he had just the bottle to do it with! We sat on my deck and solved them until past midnight, looking out over the harbour lights.
As he was leaving, Charles indicated an 0830 - then 0800 - breakfast.
One of us made it .... and it wasn't Chas.
I was tossing up about whether to go whale watching - a major industry here. It had squalled half the night, and was now doing a reasonable facsimile of fine - but without serious intent. In the end I decided I would go on one of the zodiacs - with 10 other (fool) hardy souls. It was a three hour commitment on a smallish boat on a choppy sea after a reasonable breakfast and a reasonably big night. Ah well - seize the day.
Despite the fact that we got more squalls, choppy seas and reasonable winds, it was a geat success. We were all wrapped up in thermal suits (see the blog pic), so wet was no real problem. We motored due west for about 45 minutes (about 30 nautical miles our driver said) into the Straits of Juan de Fuca - you can check on the map - and say it carefully. On the way out, we got caught in a couple of heavy rain squalls. When we eventually slowed there would have been 7 or 8 similar vessels in the general vicinity. They seemed to be in contact with each other as we cruised more slowly around the area. And then we saw our first blow. From then on, about every 5 minutes we would see signs of the humpbacks which were in the area. Some made more show than others. Overall we saw 4 of these magnificent creatures, including a mother and reasonably mature calf. I got some pictures and video - none of it terriby flash - and nothing that captures the sensation of being so close to these incredible animals. Have a look at video and pix anyway. After an hour or so we headed back - pausing en route at Race Rocks to look at (and smell!) the seal and sea lion colonies there.
I decided that since Victoria claims one of North America's top 10 fish and chip stands - at Fisherman's wharf - a kind of floating village - I should try their wares. I just managed to squeeze myself in under a canopy when the heavens opened again. I wouldn't have said world class - but certainly yummy!
Walked up into town - as the sun came out again (a real Four Seasons in One Day kinda day). Investigated getting bus and Ferry to Vancouver and generally stretched my legs.
Domestic duties and a few phone calls took up the time before the conference got under way. The evening keynote was delivered by a United Church minister who has worked for 25 years with Victoria's underbelly - the street people. He is an unorthodox but deeply spiritual man wo has just stepped down ans CEO of Our Place - which serves 1500 breakfasts a day. He has a few things on Youtube. Well worth a look.
The thing that struck me was his great openness to the other. His descriptions of encounters with street people show great respect - particularly for First Nations people- and a monumental capacity lo listen. This is a man who has chosen to respond to the kind of issue most of us ignore. The complication of the evening was that I had been listed as one of three "discussants". This is all very well for an academic paper, but this man had just shared a slab of his life with us. Who was I to discuss this? Stumbled through somehow, by reflecting on what had struck me from his presentation - and then asking him some follow up questions. A great start to the conference.
There was a reception after the lecture, and I have just escaped from that to type up these memories. Don't forget to look at pix and videos this time!