DM and MM's USA and Canada 2004 Trip Diary

Day 22 - Vancouver to Los Angeles

Saturday, 17 April, 2004

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We slept in a little since we were in no great rush this morning, making sure only to get up in time to have a shower and make breakfast before 10 am. We duly did so, leaving the packing of our luggage until after we had eaten.

Michelle took the travel tube of Vegemite to breakfast today so she could have some on toast. I had corn flakes again and we both ordered fried eggs again like yesterday. While we were eating, a woman and her 10-year-old daughter also came in for breakfast. It turned out they were from Sydney too. In conversation we learnt that they had been in Vancouver for two weeks, and were waiting for the woman's husband - the girl's father - to recover in hospital enough to be able to travel home. He had injured himself by crashing into a tree while skiing, almost as soon as they arrived in Canada, and had several broken ribs. So the family holiday had turned into a long, dull wait full of hospital visits. The girl looked quite depressed, understandably.

We were going to throw our half-full Vegemite pack away after breakfast, so we didn't have to carry it home, and offered it instead to the woman. She was delighted and the girl looked happy too, saying she'd been missing Vegemite. With our own breakfast finished, we wished them well and headed back to our room to pack our bags.

Checking the airline tickets, we found our plane left at 16:30, not 15:30 as we had thought. This still didn't really give us enough time to do anything much in Vancouver, so we checked out just before 11:00 and carried our bags out to Cambie St and the nearest bus stop.

We got on a number 15 bus and said we were going to the airport and needed a transfer. We attempted to pay the expected $3 for a two-zone trip, and the bus driver stopped us, saying all trips were only $2 on weekends. So we saved $2 and rode the bus as far as Marine Drive, where we walked around the corner to a stop for the route 100 bus to the airport. Checking our Vancouver transit map, I found the bus only ran every 30 minutes, and we waited close to that time before one arrived, in intermittent light rain.

We got on the bus and it took us to the Airport Station interchange, where we were expecting to have to change for a 242 shuttle bus to the terminal building, but it turned out the 100 changed into a 242 and we didn't have to get off at all. It took us right to the terminal, where we quickly picked up a trolley for the luggage and wheeled our way through the domestic terminal to international, looking at the various shops and food places as we went.

We stopped at the GST refund booth to fill in a form and claim back the GST on our hotel bills. We figured it was better to do it once and get cash in the hand rather than mail things around and end up with a cheque in Canadian dollars. The refund people charged a 20% processing fee, to a minimum of CA$10, plus another CA$3. Figuring our refund was just a touch over CA$20, this was a serious dent, but it was better than nothing. We handed over the paperwork and received back a bit over CA$8.

We stopped for lunch, Michelle getting a salad sandwich and me a big slice of barbecue chicken pizza and my last Canada Dry ginger ale. Then we polished off the last of the pistachios Allison had given us.

After eating, we checked our bags in, and were told that they would be checked all the way through to Sydney, which was a relief because I had feared that we would be forced to claim them and go through customs in Los Angeles before rechecking them for the Sydney leg. After checking in, we had to proceed straight through to US customs, which were set up within Vancouver airport, going through that process before getting to the boarding gate.

Within the security area, we wandered around a bit looking at the shops on this side, and tried to find the Cinnabon outlet that was indicated on the airport maps we saw outside. I was keen to have one before getting home, but was frustrated as we discovered that half the gates were sealed off from us by a glass wall, with a sign indicating that those gates were being used for international passengers (to countries other than the USA, presumably) and we couldn't get to them. Of course, the Cinnabon was on that side of the partition.

So we looked elsewhere for something to spend our last few remaining Canadian dollars on, browsing in a National Geographic store and finding a cool magnetic soft monkey that would look great hanging off our fridge door. Michelle wandered in search of a coffee and came rushing back with the news that the glass barrier had been breached and Cinnabon was now accessible, so I raced down the terminal and bought one of their hot, moist cinnamon buns, and revelled in the sugary spiciness of it. Unable to find a decent coffee anywhere, Michelle got a hot chocolate from Starbucks. After eating and drinking, we went and bought the magnetic monkey and ended up with 60 cents Canadian, which we couldn't spend.

Eventually we boarded our flight, surprisingly early, and actually left the terminal a minute ahead of time. The flight to Los Angeles took about two and a quarter hours. So by 19:00 we were wandering though LAX looking for the gate from which our flight home would depart at 22:30. Naturally I assumed we had to go to the international terminal, so we walked there from terminal 3 where our Alaska Air flight from Vancouver had arrived. We didn't see our flight on the departure board, but shrugged and wandered over to the security barrier, where a woman looked at our boarding passes and told us QF12 departed from terminal 4 instead. So we walked again, outside and to the right where terminal 4 awaited. We went straight through the security barrier, involving a long wait while an officer checked every film canister with some sort of chemical detector machine.

Inside the barrier, we found ourselves in the same terminal where we had awaited our flight to San Francisco three weeks ago. No Wiggles in sight though. Michelle got dinner at Chili's - the place where the girls we saw three weeks ago got those huge burgers. She got a burger with a black bean patty instead of meat, and it was indeed huge. I ate some of the chips that came with it, despite not being really hungry myself.

We browsed around the shops, looking for things to spend our last US$ on, and waiting for our flight. Eventually I got hungry enough to consider eating, but everything looked too heavy, until I found a caesar salad at Starbucks and opted for that. Then we bought a trashy magazine for Michelle to read on the plane, a Ghirardelli mint chocolate bar for me, and some menthol throat lozenges for my sore throat, reducing our leftover change to US$0.95.

Walking back to our gate, we noticed people had begun boarding already, 40 minutes before the departure time! Not wanting to stand in a queue for 20 minutes, we sat and waited until the queues dwindled, then boarded almost last. We were right down the back end of the plane, which was not full, with several empty seats sprinkled around. We had inside seats, with the one next to Michelle empty. The plane closed up and taxied off about five minutes early!

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