Sep 132015
 

Ok, so this is a pretty anti-climactic start to this trip, but I finally have reasonable internet and am able to get this thing rolling. Hopefully many more parts to follow now that I’ve cleared Africa and am in the Middle East. Headed into work for a few hours in the morning to tie up a few loose ends, and then caught the silver line metro out to Dulles. No problems at all for once, TSA PreCheck worked wonders, and soon I was at the Red Carpet Club in the D Gates. This was my first time experiencing Jeff’s new catering, and…

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Hommous and cheese. The hommous is a definite upgrade, but the cheese is a definite downgrade. I seriously miss my pepperjack Tillamook cheese. Boo! Only had about 15 minutes to grab a quick lunch, because it was time to board! I still hadn’t cleared the waitlist with two seats left (I same day changed about 20 hours before the flight) so I asked the agent when she cleared if she could put me in the second row…and she did it right there. Not sure what she was waiting for, but…

United Express operated by Mesa Airlines flight 5095
Washington, DC, Dulles (IAD) to Toronto, Ontario (YYZ)
Depart 12:30, Arrive 13:58, Flight Time: 1:28
Canadair CRJ-700, Registration N504MJ, Manufactured 2002, Seat 2C

Perhaps the most underwhelming flight in the history of aviation. First/business went out full, I had a glass of wine with my biscotti, watched a little tv on my iPad, and then it was time to land. The overhead bins on the CRJ-700 were just large enough for my rolling bag, so life was good and I was off to immigration. NEXUS lines were no problem at all, through very quickly, got a new boarding pass from the Air Canada agent in the checkin area, and was off to security and the lounge.

No line at all in security for the NEXUS lane, was through very quickly, and up to the lounge. The lounge agent said the agent in customs was wrong, and yes, it’s possible to stand by now on ALL fares in the “triangle” of Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto. She kindly put me on the waitlist for an hour earlier, and I was hoping it wouldn’t be too much of a wait. But, while I did, it was time for a make-your-own ceasar…extra spicy!

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Yes, that’s right, more hommous. Clearly Star Alliance has stocked up on it in bulk, and every single airline is feeding it in the lounge. Still hadn’t cleared the waitlist, so 40 minutes before my new flight headed down to the gate where I saw this beauty in the old Trans-Canada Airlines colours:

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Asked the agent if I’d cleared, and he was rude and said “I’ll call you when I call you” so I waited…then everyone was boarded. So I asked again: “well, you’re not on my list!” Ugh. Few seats left, however, and he managed to clear me to an economy plus middle, so life was good enough. I was an hour earlier than planned, and sandwiched in between two pilots, so can’t complain overly much…let’s see, however, if my miles ever post!

Air Canada flight 458
Toronto, Ontario (YYZ) to Ottawa, Ontario (YOW)
Depart 16:10, Arrive 17:12, Flight Time: 1:02
Airbus A319-100, Registration C-FZUH, Manufactured 1997, Seat 14B

Again, totally uneventful flight. Glass (not can) of Diet Coke and some pretzels, and before I knew it we were landing in Ottawa. Was nice to spend the evening with a group of old friends catching up, starting with beer flights at Jack Astors:

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Moved on to a group dinner at Mill Street Brewpub and more flights, followed by the Northern Lights show at Parliament. Managed to get a couple of great shots near the end of the Northern Lights show:

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By this point I was absolutely exhausted from a half day of work, travel and a long evening of catching up with old friends. Managed to crash on a friend’s couch absolutely passed out for nearly eight hours, ready to face the big day ahead! (Yes, you read that right, instead of a nice hotel I slept on a couch! That should tell you just how good of friends these are…and just how comfy the couch was!)

Jul 252012
 

What, you’ve never heard of the Diefenbunker? Well, despite many many trips to Ottawa lately, I hadn’t either until the friend I was staying with mentioned it this weekend. When I heard about it, I knew this was something I had to see.  You’d never see something like this in the United States open to the public…ever!  Way too many “secrets” that could potentially be exposed.  I think the closest I saw was the U.S.S. Pueblo which is currently moored in Pyongyang, North Korea.  Even that has been stripped of anything remotely interesting, so a chance to experience this part of Cold War history was super exciting to me!

Correction:  Appears the Greenbrier Bunker in West Virginia is now open to the public too – however, no pictures allowed!  I know my next weekend trip from D.C.!

So, what is the Diefenbunker?  Also known as Canadian Forces Station Carp, it’s a 4-level underground bunker built outside of Ottawa in order to house the Canadian government in case of imminent nuclear attack.  Named after the 13th Prime Minister of Canada John Diefenbaker, it was just far enough from Ottawa that it was thought to be safe from the main targets (Parliament Hill, Canadian Forces bases,etc) but close enough that essential members of government could be evacuated there on short notice.  Construction began in 1959, and was completed in just a few months.  It was never actually activated, but during the Cuban Missile Crisis preliminary steps were taken to make it operational.

According to Wikipedia: “The underground 4-story bunker was capable of withstanding a near-hit from a nuclear explosion. It had massive blast doors at the surface, as well as extensive air filters to prevent radiation infiltration. Underground storage was built for food, fuel, fresh water, and other supplies for the facility which was capable of supporting several hundred people for weeks. A vault was also constructed on the lowest level to hold the gold reserves of the Bank of Canada

In 1994, after the fall of the Soviet Union, CFS Carp (aka the Diefenbunker) was decommissioned, and in 1998 was re-opened as Canada’s Cold War museum.  You can tour the entire site, and many parts are just as they were left in the 60s and 70s.  After purchasing a ticket at the kiosk outside, there is a small plaque detailing what the site is:

Just past the sign, you enter the building through the massive blast doors:

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Mar 152012
 

Needless to say, the next few months is going to be incredibly busy! Starting this weekend, I have 6 big trips planned in the next three months. Short story is:

Ski and birthday weekend in Mont Tremblant, Quebec
Four days of diving in Grand Cayman, getting SCUBA certified
Then, a few days later, off to Oahu, Hawaii for a welcome home
After that, I’ll actually stay put a few days before it’s off to Nepal, Bhutan, Seychelles, Sudan, and Bulgaria
Work a few days, then off to Ottawa, Ontario to run the Ottawa marathon
…and from there, I fly straight to Longyearbyen, Norway, at 78 degrees north latitude, for the Spitsbergen Marathon 6 days later!

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