Sunday, March 30, 2008

Beach Time

My continuing annoyance with the noise pollution and the realization that my sojourn here was almost over combined to lead me out of town to camp on the beach. (Plus, I'd feel better if I used the camping gear I'd brought.)

I planned to avoid being out in the heat of the day and to not have to carry a lot of water. I left about 4 pm, still hot but late enough not to have to worry about getting sunburnt. I headed down the beach out of town. Without a car it's hard to really get away from people entirely - there are houses scattered all along the coast around Loreto. And there are spots where vehicles can get to the beach and then drive up and down it.

But still, it was a relief to get away to where the loudest noise was the sound of the waves on the beach. The beach is a mixture of sand and rocks. Huge numbers of shells and shell fragments were mixed in. Dried starfish collected in some spots. There's some garbage, but given all the people, I would have expected to see more.

For some reason there are large numbers of sea slugs washed up on the beach - some still with signs of life, some dead. They varied in size from an inch or two up to seven or eight inches. They were a mottled brown and I couldn't find them in my book of local marine life. I wonder what caused them to be here? I read so much about environmental problems that I wonder if there is some kind of pollution that is killing them. Then again, maybe they die after they have bred as some creatures do.

Other creatures or portions thereof were more or less explicable. Fish heads, tails, and bones were obviously the castoffs from fishermen. A pelican with half a wing missing, the white bones sticking out, was she the victim of a shark? She paddled away. I wondered how long she'd survive like that. A pelican with one wing hung around our hotel in Galapagos, but I suspect it was fed by the staff.

A bat faced ray with a wingspan of 5 or 6 feet had washed up. The skin from the top of it's wings had been removed with straight cuts, the work of someone's knife. A baby shark about 2 feet long lay at the edge of the water intact although missing it's eyes. The victim of fishermen or natural causes? The "hammerhead" from a hammerhead shark lay further up the beach. On one of the islands I'd seen part of a sea turtle shell. Hard to understand why people are still killing these creatures.

I still find the concept of the "marine reserve" here a little strange. Everything is still allowed - sport and commercial fishing. You just have to buy a license. (As you also have to do to snorkel or dive.) I guess the license cost reduces the fishing, especially commercial, but it still seems contrary to my idea of a "reserve". I guess it's a bit like our provincial parks that the hunters would say exist so they have somewhere to hunt.

I took no book to read, no journal to write in, no ipod to listen to. It's been four weeks since I've watched TV. I walked till sunset, made camp, ate a cold snack. I retired with the sun and rose with the sun. Beach time. I woke several times and gazed at the stars. Something yipped off in the distance. It didn't sound like a dog, maybe a fox. There were a few hoots that might have been an owl. It was very peaceful among the cactus. I could hear the quiet murmur of the surf.

I stopped in a hollow enclosed by bush and cactus just back from the beach. It was unlikely anyone would stumble on me here. A few minutes later, in quick succession, three different kinds of birds stopped by to observe me. Seemingly satisfied with my presence they continued on with their business.

I woke just before 6 am. The sky was starting to lighten and I threw on my clothes, grabbed my camera, and headed to the beach to catch the sunrise. There was a bank of fog offshore, hiding most of the islands. The sky gradually turned pink and brightened and finally the disk of the sun appeared through the fog and finally rose above it to start warming the day.

I returned to my hollow to pack up my few things and eat another a meager cold breakfast. My pack was light - I had my smallest tent, sleeping bag, and thermorest, waterbag, and little more. I wandered back along the beach enjoying the quiet early morning. It wasn't quite the end of my trip but it seemed like a fitting finale to my time here.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Travel Reading

Who are you that wanted only a book to join you in your nonsense?
- Walt Whitman, By Blue Ontario's Shore

I started this trip with Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age by Bill McKibben. It seemed like a suitable counterpoint to an emerging technology conference. It's a good read, he's a good author, but as much as I agreed with many of his arguments, I just can't quite swallow his conclusion - that we should "stop" here and not pursue certain technology (e.g. nanotech and human gene manipulation) any further. Part of the problem is that I'm a techie geek - I live for the next great thing. Saying "no more" is about as popular as it would be to a kid in a candy store.

He claims things are "good enough" now. But couldn't/wouldn't people have said that at any time in the past? And likewise would most people want to go back? If not, then presumably they should have been in favor of going forward. Sure, we've cured many diseases, but what if you get one of the diseases we haven't found a cure for. Where that cure may require nanotech or gene manipulation?

There's no question that the future may bring changes that take us so far from what we now are as to be unrecognizable. But is that necessarily bad? Going from stone age jungle villages to a modern city is a huge jump too. And some might argue, not a step forward. But the fact that it's a big jump doesn't necessarily make it "bad".

I read a lot of science fiction and it explores all kinds of possible futures, many of them strange and inhuman. But "bad"? I don't know. Is it possible to say in an absolute sense that one culture is better or worse than another? In a way this theme is also explored in Theroux's book below.

For a change of pace, next I read The Escapement, the third and final book in the Engineer series by K. J. Parker. Although the descriptions talk more about power, politics, ware, and economics, what I liked best were the engineering - pre-computer geekdom. In that sense it reminded me of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. Although it's classified as "science fiction" it's actually more like "alternate past". There's no magic and no technology that doesn't actually exist. The details of medieval technology are fascinating. I can't vouch for their accuracy but they seem well researched. I also enjoyed K. J. Parker's other Fencer and Scavenger trilogies, but this one is definitely my favorite. It also has an immensely dry sense of humor that I love - enough to make me snort out loud on occasion.

Next up was The Log from the Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck. This is a non-fiction account of a trip he and Ed Ricketts, a marine biology, made from San Francisco to Baja collecting marine biological specimens. It's a good mix of nature, travel, adventure, and philosophy. I really enjoyed this book and it was great to read it while I was in the area. Here's a sample quote:
A squadron of pelicans crossed our bow, flying low to the waves and acting like a train of pelicans tied together, activated by one nervous system. For they flapped their powerful wings in unison, coasted in unison. It seemed that they tipped a wavetop with their wings now and then, and certainly they flew in the troughs of the waves to save themselves from the wind. They did not look around or change direction. Pelicans seem always to know exactly where they are going. A curious sea-lion came out to look us over, a tawny, crusty old fellow with rakish mustaches and the scars of battle on his shoulders. He crossed our bow too and turned and paralleled our course, trod water, and looked at us. Then, satisfied, he snorted and cut for shore and some sea-lion appointment. They always have them, it's just a matter of getting around to keeping them.
Currently I'm in the middle of three books:

Vagabonding by Rolf Potts was recommended by Timothy Ferriss of The 4-Hour Workweek. It's aimed more at beginning travelers, or at least beginners to off the beaten path, extended travel, but I still enjoyed it. I really liked the quotes at the start of each chapter, many from Walt Whitman, like the one starting this post.

The Happy Isles of Oceania by Paul Theroux. I'm enjoying this, but it's a bit depressing to read about the problems of an area (tropical islands in the Pacific) that we like to think of as paradise. It fits this trip as he's traveling on his own near and on the ocean - as I've been doing.

The Phenomenon of Life Book One by Christoper Alexander. The sub-title is "An Essay on the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe". Alexander is known to software people as the inspiration for "design patterns" from A Pattern Language and other books on architectural design. He has an interesting thesis and lots of interesting examples, but "the nature of the universe" might be pushing it a little far. It's thought provoking and I like to find parallels with software design. I wonder what I'll think after all four volumes! Here's a quote:
I have come to believe that architecture is so agonizingly disturbed because we - the architects of our time - are struggling with a conception of the world, a world-picture, that essentially makes it impossible to make buildings well. I believe this problem goes so deep that it even makes it extremely difficult to build the most modest, useful building in an ordinary way.

Many of us are not especially aware that our conception of things - our picture of the universe - could have any concrete or immediate effect on activity as architects. We go about our business trying our best to make good buildings - in whatever fashion we understand "good". The task is difficult. We struggle with it. But we are not aware, perhaps, that we have any special picture of the world.
How could it possibly be true that this conception might interfere so deeply with our efforts as builders, that it makes it all but impossible to make a building well?
Oops, actually I'm reading a fourth as well The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney (fiction). It's good, but it hasn't really captured my attention so it's going slower than usual.

In case you're wondering how/why I keep that many books going at once - it's my normal procedure. Generally I only read one fiction book at a time, usually reserved for the hour or so before going to sleep. Then I like to have a couple of non-fiction books of different types so I can suit my reading to my mood. I've mostly been reading Alexander over breakfast, Theroux and Potts during the day, and Penney before sleep.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Around Loreto

Here are some photos of Loreto and area:

click to enlarge / go to the album

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Life in Loreto

More on life in Loreto.

Last night I had a little trouble finding a place to eat supper. I was a little later than usual and so several places had already filled up. And several of the restaurants (Mandiles, Islas, 1697, Panchmama) are closed on Tuesday's (which probably contributes to the others being busier). I thought I'd try El Taste, which is a chain. It doesn't get great reviews but Shelley and I had eaten lunch at one last year and it was ok. It was quite a pleasant evening outside, but inside El Taste it was stifling and stuffy. I was the only customer. I couldn't imagine sitting in there for any length of time regardless of the food so I walked back out.

I ended up back at Canipoli. I really like this little family run place. The tables are in a quiet shady courtyard with a fountain in the middle. There's even a view of the church tower from some of the tables. One night when it was cool they brought me a blanket. The kitchen is open and you can watch them prepare the meals. So far, a delightful place. But the service really sucks. Two young girls, maybe 12 years old, presumably daughters, wait on the tables. But they also tend bar and since virtually every tourist has to order margarita's they tend to get tied up with making them. You seat yourself, and then wait 15 minutes to get a menu. Then you wait another 20 minutes to order. I watched several groups of tourists get impatient and walk out. One night Shelley and I had ordered a bottle of wine (just the house wine - no choices) and it took about 45 minutes to arrive. It looked like one of the kids eventually ran to the grocery store to get it. Last night the food also took forever. I suspect it sat somewhere forgotten, since it arrived cold. I know what to expect and I take it in stride, but even for Mexico it seems pretty bad. It's worth going, but don't be in a hurry!

On the days that I haven't been diving I've been getting out for a run first thing in the morning while it's still cool. Last time I went for about an hour, north out of town on the road and then back on the beach. The beach is mostly good firm sand, but the soft or rocky parts give you an extra workout. It's great to watch all the birds - gulls, egrets, herons, pelicans, etc. And running along the beach you get to watch for interesting things washed up - puffer fish, sea slugs, shells. Although there are crabs here, even Sally Lightfoot's like in Galapagos, there don't seem to be many along the beach. Eventually I found a few tiny ones under rocks.

After my run I was sitting on the deck on the roof of the hotel cooling off, looking at the ocean and half a dozen dolphins went by in the bay. They were fairly far away but it was still neat to see them.

I went diving again today. Rafael, who runs the dive shop, is determined to reduce the weight I'm using. I started with 24 lbs, then went to 22 lbs, and today 20 lbs. Rafael keeps saying he only needs 16 lbs. (You need so much weight because of the buoyancy of the thick wet suits, but it's ok once you get down because the pressure compresses the wetsuit. Less weight is better once you get down because you don't need as much air in your BCD.) But with 20 lbs I had a heck of a time getting down, even swimming down headfirst. I could feel Rafael pushing me down from above! The problem was at the end of the dive when we did our safety stop at 5m I couldn't stay down. I had to be head down kicking constantly. Rafael ended up giving me his weight belt. He can't understand why I need so much weight. Beats me. I wouldn't be surprised if I was doing something wrong, but I'm not sure what. I was being careful to get all the air out of my BCD which is the usual cause of the problem.

It was a beautiful calm day on the water. Most days even when it starts calm it gets windy and rough by noon, but today it stayed nice and calm.

Ramon, our boat drive driver, always brings his fishing rod and in between dives he fishes. But Rafael says he never catches anything, so we were surprised today when he hooked one. It was a decent size white fish (maybe 2 ft long) but as he was lifting it out of the water the hook came out and the fish swam away. Personally, I was just as happy. Although I eat fish occasionally, I'd much prefer to see them swimming around under water. I think Ramon was pretty annoyed though!

He was also asking me about where I was from and what I did, especially considering I was here for so long. I told him I had a computer software company. He wanted to know if I was the "hefe" (boss), miming this by saluting. I said yes, and his next question was how many employees. He was quite surprised when I said about 50. "You pay them every month? How much?" I gave him a rough figure and I could see his eyes get wider as he calculated the monthly payroll. I don't blame him. I don't like to think about it myself. He wanted to know if they were all working while I was here. I said, of course, they don't need me. He laughed and agreed, of course they don't need you, you're just the hefe. He figured it was a good arrangement for my staff to work and me to travel. I agree :-)

After diving I figure I deserve ice cream. My primary ice cream place was all out after the long weekend, but luckily I have a backup. They're not as generous, but maybe because of that, they had lots of ice cream left. They also sell home made popsicles. I tried a strawberry one the other day - delicious, made with real strawberries, not artificial flavoring.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Thoughts from Loreto

I've spent quite a lot of time lately posting photos but I realize I haven't really written much. Pictures are marvelous, but they can only go so far to explain what it's like to be somewhere. And they say very little about what's it's like inside my head.

It seems like a long time since the conference in San Diego. And it seems very different here from there.

The first week here, with Shelley, was a lot like our usual travels. We were keen to fill up our days, to see and do as much as possible in the short week we had. Not that we were rushing around, just that we wanted to take advantage of the time.

After Shelley left, things have slowed down. Other than the diving I've done, I haven't tried to fill up my days. First thing, when it's cool and quiet, a run or a walk on the beach. Then breakfast and a good book. A few hours on the laptop over a latte at the coffee shop. A stop at the bakery and the supermarket. Some quiet time in my cool hotel room during the hottest hours of the day. The wireless doesn't reach my room, which is perhaps a blessing. But I can still download from the cameras and review the photos I've taken. Then back out into the sun, which is the perfect excuse for an ice cream :-) Another couple of hours on the laptop over another latte at the coffee shop. (Luckily it's a different girl in the afternoon so I'm not quite so self-conscious about spending so much time there!) And then it's time to look for somewhere to have supper. Some days it's a Pacifico beer and fish tacos at the Giggling Dolphin, other days it's a classier dinner at 1697 or Panchomama over a glass of wine. Then back to the hotel to read for a while before turning in for the night.

I could be trying to get out of town for a hike in the dessert, which would require some kind of transportation. I could be trying to arrange some sea kayaking. I even brought camping gear so I could go out overnight. But I'm not sure I'll get to any of that. Perhaps it's laziness. But the reason I wanted to stay here for a longer period was to just be here, without trying to do so much. To see what it was like just to live somewhere different. I've traveled lots, but I've never just lived anywhere other than Saskatoon.

Doing some work is part of that. It's not that I have to work. There's nothing that couldn't wait. But my work is part of who I am. No one would find it strange that a painter would want to paint. So why should it be any different for a programmer to want to program? It is different, programming is not as artistically creative. But it's still creating and it still gives me pleasure to accomplish things, as mundane as they might be. So far I haven't accomplished a lot of work - one of the drawbacks of a slower pace! But I've managed a few things.

Loreto is a mixed up place. On one hand it's a 300 year old Mexican town. On the other hand it's a booming area for Americans to buy real estate. It's also somewhat of a tourist destination. The cruise ships even stop here. And the locals aren't examples of some quaint old Mexican culture. They're teenagers with monster trucks with monster sound systems driving up and down the malecon honking their horns and talking on their cell phones. And yet, there is still some old culture around. Still people going to church.

Like everywhere, cars rule. Even the "pedestrian" shopping street allows cars. I'm not sure what qualifies it as a "pedestrian" street. I guess because it's narrow with no sidewalks. Which actually makes it more dangerous for pedestrians than the regular streets.

The street where they should ban cars is the malecon, running along the waterfront. This could be such a peaceful enjoyable place with the boardwalk along the water and the restaurants with views of the ocean. Instead it's a constant stream of cars with their stereos cranked to the maximum level of distortion. Having supper and watching the sunset over the ocean sounds great, but the horrendous racket spoils the scene. And in case you think this is just the teenagers, it's not. Whole families from parents to young kids drive up and down or park to watch their friends drive up and down. But these people aren't looking at the view, they don't need to be on the water front. Give them a street somewhere else, that I don't need to be near. Leave the ocean in peace for those of us who want to walk quietly and watch the sun set.

Nor do they seem to realize that the town square could be much more than it is. There are a couple of restaurants and the Posada de las Flores hotel beside the square, but there's room for shops, more restaurants, a bar, a bakery, ice cream, another coffee shop. Instead there are several buildings that have appeared abandoned since I was here a year ago. The result is that the square languishes somewhat sadly forgotten.

Still, there's lots to enjoy here. The sunshine, the birds singing, the bougainvillea, the ocean, the goofy pelicans, the restaurants and the coffee shop (which wouldn't be here without all the gringos).

Monday, March 24, 2008

Baja Dolphins

I shot some video of a school of dolphins we saw on the way to a dive, using the Canon SD700 IS. (I didn't embed the video here because it's too wide to fit into the blog format.)

There must have been a school of fish they were feeding on since the pelicans were diving for fish as well.

Note: You probably want high speed internet to watch it.

If you're interested you can read about the hassles I had trying to post this video.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Michael Clark - Adventure Sports Photographer

Check out his web site and his newsletters. Awesome photos, even climbing and adventure racing ones. And a review of the new Nikon D300 that makes me drool (sorry, I can't help being a geek).

Following links from there I found a great video promoting Joe McNally's new book - The Moment it Clicks.

I love the amazing photographs these guys take.

Baja Snorkeling

Shelley and I got out snorkeling three times, to Coronado, Carmen, and Danzante islands. Coronado is the closest and most common snorkeling spot; it's where we snorkeled last year. We were pretty lucky with calm, sunny weather. But there's no avoiding the cold water this time of the year, 16c (60f). It's not too bad with a 7mm wetsuit, hood, boots, and gloves.

It's always hard taking underwater photos. At least snorkeling on a sunny day you have a decent amount of light. Scuba diving, especially in poor visibility leaves little light for photos. My Canon SD700 IS isn't the ideal underwater camera but it's nice to have some photos. Good underwater cameras get pretty expensive.

Adobe Lightroom (or similar software) is almost essential to make the most of the photos you do get. You can improve some photos quite dramatically. Ideally, the shot would be perfect out of the camera, but until I can achieve that, Lightroom is a big help.

I omitted the worst of the fuzzy ones but they're still not all that sharp. But hopefully they give you an idea of the fantastic sea life that abounds here. There's lots more that I didn't get pictures of, often because they move too fast!

Baja only has one coral reef, at Cabo Pulmo. But there are lots of individual soft and hard corals on the rocks.

We used Dolphin Dive Center for snorkeling and diving. Raphael, the manager and dive master, is a great guy. And Ramone, the boat driver, is great too.

As usual, click to enlarge (and then click on "Slideshow" if you want)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Baja Whale Watching

Gray whales migrate up and down the west coast from Alaska to Baja. Last time we were here in Baja we didn't get a chance to see them so this time we made a point of it. Loreto, where we stayed, is on the inland side of the Baja peninsula but the gray whales are on the outer Pacific side. We booked through Arturo's for a day trip to Adolfo Lopez Mateos. It's about a 2 hour drive each way. We went out in a small boat for two hours to see the whales. It was a little expensive with just the two of us but it was nice not to have a crowded boat like some we saw.

We had a beautiful sunny, calm day and the whales were fantastic. We were lucky and saw lots of them and took a ton of pictures. Most of them weren't that great but a few were presentable. One problem I had was that the automatic focus had trouble with the water and if it couldn't focus it would refuse to shoot. So half the time I turned off the automatic focus but then I had to guess where they whales would surface to preset the focus. Needless to say, I didn't always guess correctly. You'll notice a number of the pictures aren't very sharp.

The last two pictures are from one of our snorkeling trips. I'm not sure what kind of whale it is. Someone said humpback but I have no idea if that's correct. There are also blue and fin whales in the area. We were lucky to see a blue whale on another snorkeling trip (but no pictures). Pretty cool to see the largest animal ever to live.

Monday, March 17, 2008

San Diego Zoo

The San Diego zoo is one of my favorites. It covers a big area and gives lots of room to the animals. I have never been a big fan of birds in cages but I really like the big aviaries that you walk through. They seem much nicer for the birds. And it's a lot better to take pictures of the birds without a cage in between. The baby panda has only been out for a week or two - it was very cute.

As usual, click to enlarge (and then click on "Slideshow" if you want)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Last Morning in San Diego

I had one day in San Diego after the end of the conference. I started it by taking the big camera for a walk along the waterfront. I was hoping to find the baby ducks but they were hiding.

There are some interesting sculptures along the waterfront:

As you may have gathered by now, I really like the patterns of reflections in the water:

Another facet of the waterfront are the homeless people. They don't seem to bother anyone and in turn the police don't seem to bother them.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Sunshine on San Diego

This is the view I woke up to, out of my hotel window. What's not to like - sunshine, clear blue sky, water, boats, palm trees. This is from the Holiday Inn on the Bay where I've stayed each time. It's not as fancy (or expensive) as the bigger hotels where ETech is held, but it's nice enough and right on the water. It's about a 20 minute walk to the conference hotel but along the waterfront that's a bonus, not a drawback!

Every time I've been here (this time of year), I can't resist photographing the baby ducks at the pond in Seaport Village. Such cute little balls of fuzz. Sadly, the numbers of ducklings always seems to decline as the days go by. It might be something to do with the cats roaming around.

I stopped for my morning coffee at the Brickyard coffee shop. I discovered this place last time I was here. They have great coffee and snacks and it's quiet.

ETech this year is at the Marriott, pretty fancy. It even has a Starbucks inside for the breaks when they don't provide refreshments.

Of course, at conferences like ETech, you have to be on-line non-stop, even when you're enjoying the sunshine.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Heading to San Diego

I hadn't paid much attention to the times of my flights to San Diego. I assumed it would be the same early morning flights out of Saskatoon that we usually get. Instead I found that I left at 2:30pm and arrived at 11:30pm. I would have preferred to get there earlier, especially since the ETech conference started first thing Monday morning. Oh well, my own fault for not paying more attention.

On Saturday it had been amazingly warm in Saskatoon - melting temperatures. So I figured I'd be fine wearing sandals to travel, my preference instead of confining my feet to shoes for such a long time. But Sunday it was -17c with nasty winds bringing the wind chill to -30c or more. Too late, I'd already packed my shoes in the bottom of my bag. It's a quick trip to the airport.

For some reason they could only check me in as far as Calgary. That seemed a little odd but not unheard of so I didn't think too much of it. I also had aisle seats on all the flights. Shelley would have been happy but I like to sit by the window so I can look out and take pictures. Luckily they could switch my seat.

Of course, I had arrived at the airport early. I'm a belt and suspenders kind of guy. Maybe working with software development has made me more of a believer in Murphy. Not a problem, I'm already switching to "patience is my middle name" travel mode. To avoid leaving a trail of disposable cups I'd brought my travel cup with me and I filled it with a cup of tea to keep me company while I waited for the flight.

When we eventually boarded the walkway to the plane was freezing - I'd left my winter jacket at home. And then the plane was roasting hot, presumably a result of trying to fight the cold air coming in the open door. I sat down in my window seat and was a little horrified to see a large, wide woman drop into the seat beside me. The middle armrest was up and she overflowed into my space. One of the risks of traveling solo. Just as I was resigning myself to a somewhat "cozy" flight I happened to glance up at the row numbers and realized I was, hallelujah, in the wrong row! I apologized and moved ahead one row to sit beside a thankfully more normal sized person.

It was a clear afternoon, blue sky overhead shading to almost white at the horizon with a little haze. The fields were all white with snow in Saskatchewan but as we got closer to Calgary the snow disappeared. I think we flew over Eagle Creek that I kayaked down last spring. I'll have to compare the pictures I took with the map (or Google Earth).

There was enough haze in Calgary that you could just see the tops of the mountains peeking out. We had to walk down the steps of the plane to the ground and then immediately up a set of stairs to the walkway. All we need was a plank and we could have gone straight across. Luckily it was warmer in Calgary.

I got to practice my calm, relaxed, zen travel attitude early in this trip. I went to the United counter to check in and get my boarding passes for the rest of the trip. Although there was no lineup, no one seemed to want to talk to me so I tried the automated check in. But it refused to recognize me. Eventually I got someone to help me. But they couldn't check me in! I was on the passenger list and I had a seat, but for some reason I didn't have a ticket. Huh? How could I have a seat without a ticket? Because of my flights to Mexico next week my ticket had been booked through Aeromexico, although it was Air Canada and United Airlines flights to and from San Diego. Could I contact my travel agent? Not on a Sunday. They phoned Aeromexico but they just said they had nothing to do with the flights in Canada and the United States. Next they phoned Air Canada who told United not to worry about it, just check me in. But the computer wouldn't allow that. Damn computers :-) Eventually Air Canada issued a paper ticket and somehow that allowed United to check me in. I even managed to change to window seats :-)

Unfortunately, Shelley is flying on a similar itinerary next week to meet me in Mexico. Hopefully the travel agent can straighten things out so she doesn't have the same hassles.

By now my bag had been tirelessly circling the conveyer for some time. Customs was pleasantly uncrowded so I was through in no time. There's not a lot of choices for restaurants in the C terminal but there is a Starbucks so I picked up a latte and even managed to snag one of the few big comfy chairs to sit in while I drank it. The sun was shining through the window and I was on my way - life is good.

It was midnight (2am Saskatoon time) when I finally got to the hotel so I pretty much crashed right away.