Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Port Credit Stavebank-Lakeshore Intersection Alternative Seems a Good One!

Update October 5 2009: Environmental Assessment completed per City of Mississauga letter to stakeholders. Project file report public review period Oct 01 to Oct 30 2009 at Port Credit library: 20 Lakeshore Road East of Credit River. Contact details bottom of original post.
Finally! The proposed fix for the Port Credit (Ontario) intersection of Stavebank and Lakeshore Road in Mississauga! And I, for one (though there are many more), love it!

It seems to be the most workable suggestion for improving this confusing bottleneck that baffles locals and visitors alike.

Here's the graphic presented at a public information meeting last night at the Port Credit library.

From South: Alternative Intersection Stavebank-Lakeshore Road

The alternative to the current confusion presupposes the -- umm -- 'removal' of the present CIBC building on the south east corner. And this didn't seem to be an issue for anyone I spoke to last night. One long-time CIBC (Bank of Commerce) customer said he'd welcome the bank's relocation to a spot that afforded more parking spaces and easier access.

From North: Alternative Intersection Stavebank-Lakeshore Road

In this view, you are northeast of the intersection looking at the Post Office building on the southwest corner. While you are here, note the two-storey and one-storey section of the post office: The two-storey section may be designated a Heritage Mississauga site, but not until after the property (currently for sale by its Government of Canada owner) has been sold.

The newer, one-storey section I would happily see removed to open up the sight line to the marina, Credit River, Lake Ontario and Snug Harbour restaurant. (Trim the trees, too, City of Mississauga! Don't hide million-dollar views!)

Stavebank Road - Lakeshore Road CIBC Building

I took this photo standing on the north west corner, looking across to the CIBC on the southeast corner. The proposed realignment of Stavebank Road would have Stavebank southbound (through) lanes passing directly over the land now occupied by this building.

Stavebank Road - Lakeshore Road Canada Post Building

I stepped out onto Stavebank to take this view (right in front of the newly-larger Pump House Grille). The CIBC building is behind the green tree; the Waterside Inn is the multi-level building behind and above the CIBC. (Pity the Inn doesn't have a sign somewhere up there to ID it.)

What Happens Next? Stavebank-Lakeshore Road Intersection

City staff on hand for the presentation asked those present to fill in comment forms, and list any questions, issues, etc. that required a more detailed response. Allow about 30 days for them to reply to any issues, and another 30 days or so for final plans to be drawn. Then maybe another meeting, and hopefully work can begin.

If you missed this meeting, and would like more information, you have until Tuesday June 30, 2009 to contact either of two City of Mississauga staff (NB: Remove space before @ sign in emails):
Chris Tye 905-615-3200 X 5798 chris.tye
Abdul Shaikh 905-615-3200 X3734 abdul.shaikh


Whether you live in Port Credit, or just pass through on the Lakeshore from time to time, you'll likely have noticed how Lakeshore Road through traffic grinds to a halt when vehicles try to turn off Lakeshore on Stavebank Road -- either south towards the lake, Waterside, Snug Harbour, Park etc or north to the GO station, arena, library, churches etc.

And with Stavebank South and North off-set (ie a dog-leg intersection) and the crosswalks and traffic signals at odds with turning traffic, we are all amazed that there are not more serious accidents. A rep from TOPCA theorized that the accident level is not much higher chiefly due to the fact that motorists are so confused, they go 'HUH?' and slow down wondering where to go.

If you have any information or comments, please add them below.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Westjet Direct Flight Toronto to Kelowna (YYZ to YLW) Rules! (Security YLW Sux)

I had booked a direct flight on Westjet from Toronto (YYZ) to Kelowna (YLW) (see earlier post) and I want to go on record here and now as saying, for me, this is the best way to get from the East to the West!

The main reason I booked Westjet to Kelowna is I swore I'd never fly to Kamloops again via Air Canada. Westjet now flies to Kamloops (YKA) but it's a puddle jumper flight from Toronto. I like direct flights so I went to Kelowna and had a friend meet me there instead.

I absolutely LOVE being able to be out west in just over 4 hours! BUT, even better! On the outbound flight, apparently there were no headwinds or jet stream to fight or anything, and we landed 45 minutes early! (I can hardly keep from using all caps!)

This flying time HAS to be a record! We left Toronto on time (9:30 a.m. EDT) and about three hours into the flight, I realized that according our location on the seat back map that we were way further west than we should be, and ahead of our 4 hour-35 minute flying time.

(It's always a longer flight across Canada when going east to west due to jet stream, etc. When flying west to east, you can almost count on landing a half hour ahead of the posted time.)

Mind you, the flight speed was showing 699 mph to 712 mph (1125 mph-1146 kph) so I knew something was up, and we were at 40,000 feet for much of the flight. However, the top cruising speed of Boeing 737s is not this fast by a long shot, so perhaps the seat-back map reported kilometers per hour as miles per hour.

If not, we were in some super secret new plane, and I for one loved it!

Cabin crew confirmed we were indeed ahead of schedule, and all of us were happy. My flight (WS 631) outbound becomes WS 632 inbound, and the Ontario-based crew do a daily turnaround, so it behooves them to keep on schedule.

As we were going over the Rockies, I snapped this picture with my little Canon digital. That it came out at all is another miracle!

Canadian Rockies from Boeing 737 window

The time of day when I snapped this was about 10 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (11 a.m. Mountain Daylight time).

A word about airport security:
In Toronto, airport security was pretty much as expected. Empty my water bottle (refill from fountain in boarding lounge), put jacket and purse and backpack on belt, and walk through the machine. No beeps, no probs. Small amounts of liquids in small bottles placed in a clear ziplock bag. Shown to person at entrance, and not to anyone else. Backpack opened after x-ray and operator ran wand over contents.

In Kelowna (sigh), airport security caught a beep from three dimes in my jeans pocket (had forgotten them) and also from my lipstick in a pocket -- the same lipstick I had in same pocket in Toronto -- I am a creature of habit. My watch beeped, my bra hooks beeped, my beltbuckle beeped and the female guard put her hand inside my waistband, on my own personal tummy skin, to check for Lord knows what.

I told her I usually get dinner and dancing first, but she was not amused. Then she had me take off my shoes. In all my travel days, I have NEVER been asked to remove my shoes. My beloved Chang Sha's are so unthreatening! I suggested that perhaps the settings on her little wand were too high by far. She said all standard. I said no way.

Anyhow, my theory is that these small airports get so much less traffic that they need to jerk passengers around just to keep from going blind with boredom.

My mom is flying Air Canada to Kamloops next month (see this blog entry), as she does each summer. She knows she will get her mid-80s person annoyed and hassled by Kamloops security. They have to be the most miserable crew I have ever seen anywhere. At least, the Kelowna security people were a bit nicer.

I can only imagine the impression given by these security dragons to first-time visitors to Canada. And no, don't tell me that they are keeping our airplanes and airports safe. Canada airports are a tragedy waiting to happen.

Anyone can walk into any Canadian airport without any sort of screening whatsoever. No one is watching what's in their bags, or checking to see if they have a ticket or are just bringing in some device likely to make a huge BANG!

In Addis, Ethiopia, in Bangkok, in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, in Hainan, China (likely more but that's all I can think of right now), anyone entering an airport is immediately screened, as is their luggage. (Heck, even the Addis Hilton screens like this!) No one gets in with any iffy packaging. Bags are tagged/marked that they have been screened.

Yet in Canada, they continue to allow anyone to wander in and around airports with impunity, all the while hassling the paying customers for bits of creams and gels and a bottle of water.

Okay -- rant over! Let me know your experience at airports and with Westjet / Air Canada. For my other posts about security, google security on this blog.

Update June 23/09
I totally forgot to mention the comfy seats on this plane! The pitch - distance between rows of seats, I believe - is about 32 inches - which is considerably more than many charter flights who try to squeeze us into 27 inch deep rows.

I' 5'8", and had a lot of room to stretch out. The fellow across the aisle said he's 6'3" and was doing just fine.

The seats are leather, and the head rest curves a bit to cuddle your head.

Treating passengers like guests makes a huge diff to customer loyalty and that's what Westjet seems to do very well.

And no, I am not a shareholder and yes, I paid for my own flight :-) (though I would be happy to accept flight coupons if offered)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

National Parks Banff, Yoho, Kootenays Rockies Best Road Trips Canada!

I'm back from a few weeks' travel 'out west' -- from Toronto to B.C. and Alberta. Though I have toured the Canadian Rockies many times over the years, it had been quite a few since I had last gotten vertigo trying to see the top of a sheer cliff or had occasion to panic on the steep grades and curves of the mountain highways.

But a road trip through the National Parks -- Banff, Yoho, Kootenay -- all in the Canadian Rockies has to be one of the best trips to take in Canada!

Here in no particular order are some pictures taken my my guide and driver, Sheila. I'll post a link to her blog below.

At the Natural Bridge Kicking Horse River Yoho National Park

This is a really lovely spot to get up close to the Kicking Horse River as it wears away the canyon walls. Parks daily admission was $19.60 CAD for the car and pax. Find a parks office near any entry point town -- in this case, we bought it at Field BC as we arrived via Golden. When you are there, pick up a copy of the Parks guide to see attractions, maps, etc. (free).

Wapta Falls Yoho National Park West Entrance

On Highway 1 (Trans Canada Highway), just inside the west boundary of Yoho Park, a sign marks the entrance to Wapta Falls. At this point you are about 22 kms (13.6 miles) west of Field, BC. The park guidebook said to allow about 45 minutes one way, and it took us about that, maybe a little less. Younger couples obviously more fit than we made the trail trek much faster.

From the top of Wapta Falls where you can see me in the above picture taking a picture, there are steps down the hilllside to get the view from the bottom of the falls. I was too hot and tired to consider hiking down and up again, then 45 minutes back to the car. But if you go, be my guest and send me a pic!

Sulphur (Sulfur) Spring Crowsnest Pass Alberta BC Border

The above pic is me with my backpack and my cousin Judi (red). When we were kids (elementary school), we spent a lot of time in the summer holidays exploring this area. Judi has lived near here all her life, and knows all the secret trails and stories. This suphur springs kills all vegetation. We had to walk down the railway tracks to get to the path to get here. Haven't walked on train tracks for a long time! Felt kind of naughty :-)

Me and the Giant Truck @ Sparwood BC

Before I left on the road trip, a Twitterpal said that I should stop here for lunch:
@newfiehun @karenzabawa Don't forget to stop at Middletown Cafe in Sparwood (beside the GIANT dumptruck!)
And really, we had the BEST panini ever for a great lunch -- ate outside on a nice shady table and admired the truck and the gardens. The truck is indeed huge -- you can just see me by the front tire.

Creston BC Motel -- Luggage in the trunk for another day on the road

After a day we got into a routine of brekkies, internet (all motels but one had wireless) (some faster than others), and packing the cooler. Motels throughout our trip had small fridges with freezers and coffee makers, and many had microwaves. This is perfect for a light breakfast to tide you over.

I always pack packets of instant oatmeal and a spoon, and meal replacement bars. We'd packed boiled eggs, and fruit and granola bars, and stopped for cold beers at the end of the day.

Lots of good places to eat all through the Kootenays and national parks towns, but some better than others. One chef at a resto in Radium Hot Springs felt so bad that he'd under-grilled my chicken not once but twice that he comped us a fabulous dessert. And other than the chicken episode (which was fabulous, too, once grilled long enough) it was the best dinner ever!

Karen and Sheila Lake Louise Alberta

BFF and for too many years to count. If I'm not traveling solo, then Sheila is my top choice. (Maggie, wearing white fur, is cute, too, but not good on long plane flights.) Sheila can drive anything, anywhere, and is good when the going gets tough* (*when I throw a hissy fit :-)

I'll put more pictures and details on my site once I get the content organized.

The photographer of all the images in this post is Sheila. See her pictures of a similar road trip on her RV blog from last September.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Road Trip Canadian Rockies B.C. Kootenays - No Bears, Please

Heading out on a road trip to the BC Kootenays and Rocky Mountains. I have my ticket from Toronto (YYZ) to Kelowna (YLW), and a friend with a BC-Alberta highway map and a packed lunch meeting me in Kelowna tomorrow morning. Other than that, our itinerary is flexible. Very flexible. The only thing I really can do without seeing are bears. I can't relax properly when I know bears are lurking.

But we have a general idea of the spots we'd like to see. In BC (British Columbia) there's Grand Forks (heard it's a really cute little town) and Nelson (my original home town) and Blueberry Creek, to meet up with a friend.

From there, we may go the Kaslo route up Kootenay Lake, or over to Trail and get to Salmo (Gosh I miss those neat BC town names!), and Creston (Is it cherry season yet? Probably too early), and maybe Fernie. Don't recall there being many ferns there, though.

Hoping to meet up with cousin in Crowsnest area, and meet a fellow with a Karelian bear dog (gosh that sounds so cool!) and take a few pics of the Frank Slide where Turtle Mountain slipped away. It's been decades since I've been to this part of Canada, and likely nothing is the same as I remember!

Also on our hit list are Lake Louise, Banff, Fairmont Hot Springs (Yes I have my swimsuit!) and Golden before heading back to Kelowna for my flight home.

Really hoping to avoid any close encounters with bears, black, brown or Grizzly. The best weather for travel in Canada is spring, summer and fall, which is also the times that bears are variously pregnant, giving birth, protecting young, or feeding like mad on berries or fish before hiberation. In short, all the times that they are likely to be crankiest.

Our last trip to BC was in June also, on the Sunshine Coast and northern Vancouver Island. Bear season. Every time we stopped on the highway to admire a view, or take a walk up a trail to a waterfalls, we were aware that bears like berries and water, too, and they don't like surprises, either.

So what you do in bear country then is make as much noise as possible to give any bears in the area a lot of notice that you are there, too. And off we go down a path, whistling, singing, clappping and talking loud. Really loud. This is one time you don't use your 'indoor voice'!

Of course this early-bear-warning system is practiced by others, too. Often in the distance, we'd hear sounds of singing, whistling and clapping, and so we'd know we had company. You feel a bit like a fool making all that racket but it's better than turning a corner and getting between a momma bear and her cubs.

Momma Grizzly with Two Cubs

Here's a picture I took from the safety of a Telegraph Cove-based tour boat on Knight Inlet on the BC mainland. There are no grizzlies on Vancouver Island, but the mainland, especially the Rockies - well, that's their home turf. Everyone has a bear story.

And so to the Karelian bear dogs. I know very little about them, so looking forward to learning a whole lot more! Will definitely take pictures.

Now I really must finish up my packing and get organized. For more pictures of BC, see my travel site.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Find Cheap Flights? Book First, Cancel Later

I should know better, I really should! When you find a cheap flight, you should book it right away and then think about it. You can always cancel within 24 hours of booking for no penalty, at least on Air Canada and Westjet.

I knew this. I really did. But for some reason I thought that the flight would 'keep' overnight, so I could sleep on it. And this lapse in judgment cost me $100 CAD more, before taxes. Well, only $60 more when I left day later and came home a day earlier than I had planned.

So I paid fairly steeply by not following my own advice.

Only a few weeks earlier, friend Rick was checking for cheap flights from SYD Sydney Australia to YYZ Toronto. He had found one, and then kept on researching. The next day, when he checked that site again with plans to book that flight, the cheap fare was long gone, and he had to start looking all over again.

In his case, he actually did better the next time: His ultimate flight took him from Sydney to San Fransisco to Washington to Buffalo NY, where he could be picked up for the hour or so drive into Toronto.

Of course, this routing made for a much longer transit time, but his final cost, all in, was about $900 CAD, an unbelievably good price for Australia-Canada flights. He returned via the same routing.

And a few months ago, former travel agent daughter was booking flights from Toronto to Europe. She kept watch over her airlines' flight schedules for about 30 hours, and saw the exact same flights vary wildly in total costs. She booked one flight, then checked again in 15 hours (the next morning), and saw a much cheaper fare. She quickly canceled her original booking and booked the lower fare flights.

So I knew all this, and yet I didn't do it. From now on, I shall follow my own advice and book when I find a fare I am happy with. Just be sure to read the fine print on the airlines' websites. There should be something in that tiny print that says cancel within 24 hours -- credit full amount back to your credit card, i.e. no penalty charges incurred.

You snooze, you lose!

Where am I going? Ah that's the next post! Think Road Trip!!! Rockies!!