Alberta Day 1 – Long Beach to Calgary

I find it humorous that I haven’t updated the site since I was in Phoenix last week, and here I am in another airport with free wireless updating the site. Why you ask?

It’s mini-vacation time, and with the price of air travel as well as gas, a mini-vacation is all anyone can afford. Last week, I visited my mom in Phoenix and we were trying to think of places we could go. I had five days off in a row – I originally planned to go to San Francisco to see Charo in concert, but those plans fell through so I decided that I needed to get away to someplace unusual. My first choice was St. Maarten in the Caribbean, but that just proved to be too costly, so I mentioned to Mom my second choice: Alberta. At first, I didn’t think we would be able to arrange something on a short notice, but Mom was able to redeem her frequent flyer miles and get us a few hotels with some other points. In the end we only had to buy one ticket and two hotel nights for the whole extended weekend.

I chose Alberta, because I have wanted to visit Lake Louise and Banff National Park, but it wasn’t on my top 10 list. Ultimately, because it was closer than say Montreal and Toronto, and I had been to Vancouver and Victoria way back in 1987, and I have an overwhelming desire to visit new places on vacation, we ended up going to Calgary, Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper, and Edmonton.

Today I had to work first thing in the morning to help cover the area, but I was able to leave in time to finish packing as well as be ready for the Super Shuttle to take me to Long Beach Airport. The last time I took Super Shuttle, I was forced to take it from LAX to my apartment when my ride forgot to get me. It was not a pleasant experience, but with my last minute holiday making, there really were few alternatives. The Shuttle arrived about 20 minutes late, and I knew once I was out on the road I would remember if I forgot anything, and sure enough, I forgot my phone charger. I really should just keep a spare one in my backpack, but I am not sure if I should buy a new one. I will see if they have anything in PHX, but I might have to wait until tomorrow morning in Calgary. I also do not know if we will have cell signal out in the boonies, so it might be a moot point since I can just power down the cell phone and re-use it when we get to Edmonton.

I have never traveled out of Long Beach Airport. It reminds me of old school Burbank. It has just a few temp trailers and a tiny art deco design terminal. Yet, despite the quaintness, it has free WiFi access unlike the more posh Orange County Airport. Long Beach has a nice homey feel to it, but of course the airport screeners at smaller airports tend to be the most strict on what you can carry on the plane and such. It amazes me that the same items I traveled with from SNA to PHX last week are not allowed on this flight. I ended up having to check my bag, and since I am traveling with US Airways (first time in forever) I am worried it might end up in Philadelphia. Our schedule in Alberta is a bit tight, so I am not sure we will be able to wait for baggage to show up should it disappear. Our plane is tiny so I would have had to gate check it anyways. So I thought what the heck, its better than lugging the dumb thing all around.

US Airways Express runs puddle jumper flights to Phoenix from Long Beach. I did not think much about it until I saw the plane and the elevated ramp to get on it. It was a pretty small plane (the kind where you have to check most carry ons), but at least it had jet engines. My “window seat” was really a bulkhead seat since the windows did not match up with the seats, and it looks like no one has really cleaned the plane in a few weeks – maybe months. At least the flight to Phoenix was only a bit over an hour so it was tolerable. I was concerned with how I would be able to survive the 3-hour flight to Calgary.

I waited in Phoenix for two hours for the connecting flight and eventually Mom and Gary showed up with time to spare. I enjoyed some decent overpriced airport Burger King while I waited. Sadly, I was not in the gourmet section of the Phoenix airport near Southwest. The flight to Calgary was more of the same, but there was a few more smelly people on it. I suspect it had to do with the people who were living in 110-degree heat. There were some colorful characters including two cowboys in front of us, and a student from the University of Saskatchewan who was returning home from a year in Paris in the seat next to me who was enjoying Season 4 of 24 most of the trip.

Thank goodness for my iPod otherwise I would have gone insane from the heat (it got very warm on the plane – enough to melt Mom’s medicine together) and the stink and the uncomfy seats. I totally forgot my Nintendo DS!! That would have helped a lot as well. After getting stiffed by the Passport control officer in the Calgary airport – no stamp – we headed out to catch our shuttle van to our Hampton Inn and Suites for our first night. The hotel was clean and comfortable, a bit warm but perfect for our first night in Alberta.