A Trip to Coronation

As I sit on a plane to Vancouver, over 24 hours after my original scheduled departure, with at least four more hours of buses and ferries ahead of me, I find myself contemplating the past 6 days of ridiculousness and how I managed to get here.

But, before we get to the day of travel hell, let’s start at the beginning – with a small town of just under 900 people named Coronation.

I found myself the owner of a small, 2800 sq ft plot of land in Eastern Alberta. My plan for the property was to set it up as a remote amateur radio site – a sort of distant man-cave where I could put up antennas, install radios and vacuum up satellite signals, all from the comfort of my west coast home controlled via the Internet. The property was the former cable TV headend for the town and had been decommissioned some 5-10 years previous. It came with a functional shed and was pre-installed with 3 10ft solid C-Band satellite dishes, which if were being honest, was what sold me on the property. Purchasing the land was an ordeal in and of itself, which you can read all about in one of my previous posts, but suffice to say buying a plot of land when both the seller and buyer are remote can be an exercise in frustration. Nevertheless, I persevered and by September 11th I was the confirmed owner of my future remote radio site.

Following my successful purchase, I knew I would need to make a visit to the property for an inspection (until now the interior of the building was sight unseen) and to try and set up power as well as some form of remote monitoring of the site. I had booked a trip with the plan to work on the property on September 14th through 17th, with travel days on the 13th and 18th. Somehow, I also managed to convince two friends to join me for my week of hard labor and sketchy electrical work for the low price of the cost of flights and accommodations and a few meals. So it was that my buddies Kyle and Blair found themselves beside me at Victoria’s International airport waiting in a bag drop line.

Getting to Coronation

Getting to Coronation is no small undertaking. You first need to fly to one of the closest major cities – either Calgary, Edmonton or Saskatoon and then rent a car and drive for two to four hours (depending on which city you arrived in). My itinerary had us flying into Edmonton, renting a car at the airport, followed by a drive to the town of Stettler where we would spend the night at the Super-8 motel. I had opted to book our accommodations in Stettler, rather then on Coronation since the reviews of the motel in town were terrifying – including references to bloodstains and cockroaches. While Stettler was an hours drive to and from the property, the three of us agreed that the additional time and cost of gas was worth our health and sanity.

One of the reviews which led to us staying in Stettler

Even before getting on the plane, our trip started off on the wrong foot. I had booked our flights through Flair Airlines, which is a relatively new budget airline in Canada. I had flown Flair before with few issues, so I was not anticipating much in the way of friction. Boy was I wrong!

Upon arrival at the airport we were immediately assaulted with demands that we pay for additional baggage. One of the reasons Flair is so cheap is because they charge you for each bag (including carry on). You are entitled one free personal item (such as a backpack or briefcase) that can be stowed under your seat, however, our check-in agent insisted that all our bags were too large to be be considered personal items and needed to be paid for separately. For context, I had traveled with the same cases in the past without incident, so it seemed like a cash-grab to me, but I begrudgingly paid the $120 and the three of us made it to Edmonton without incident.

Western European travelers are often made fun of for underestimating the vastness that is the Canadian countryside, and I’ll confess that after growing up on a small island I had done the same. The first leg of our drive took us from Edmonton to our accommodations in Stettler took around 2 and a half hours. Our second leg was the hour long drive from Stettler to Coronation which, after taking it at least twice a day, was a drive we become intimately familiar with.

On paper, an hour commute didn’t sound so bad, but it got old real fast owing at least in part due to the fact that the drive itself was just so uninteresting – a straight two lane highway surrounded on either side by seemingly endless fields of cattle. Occasionally we would be treated to a small community which had sprung up along the highway, but it was quickly back to just road and field as far as the eye could see. Our rental car had cruise control as well as lane assist and with both technologies enabled the car was able to drive itself. I can understand why falling asleep at the wheel is a real concern. And it’s not just us out of towners who felt this way – whenever I mentioned to people that we were staying in Stettler the general consensus seemed to be ‘yeah that’s a boring drive.’ No one ever questioned our decision to stay in Stettler though, I suppose the local motel has a reputation beyond the online reviews.

To break up the monotony of our daily drive my motley crew even invented a new card game we dubbed ‘Coronation.’ The game is essentially crazy 8’s but with one of the face cards taking the place of the wild card and the victor must yell ‘coronation’ when placing their last card, otherwise they have to pick up 3 more. There could also be other rule differences, since none of us could properly remember the rules of crazy-8’s.


My goal for the property was to build out a remote ham radio and satellite downlink site – essentially a remote ‘man cave’ where I could put up antennas and dishes to my hearts content, without needing ro worry about stratas or yard space. In the past few years, IP-based software-defined radios had become quite popular, so I was confident I would be able to set something up, however, all of this hinged on getting a reliable Internet connection to the property.

Since I now owned the town’s only cable-tv headend, I knew there was no cable Internet service to the community, but on my initial visit to the site I observed that it did have a phone connection and there was a local WISP (Wireless Internet provider) just down the street. Prior to purchasing the property I did qualify it for DSL Internet service and was pleasantly surprised to find that the local telco supports VDSL, offering speeds of up to 100/30. It was no fiber Internet, but it would do for my purposes, and it beat the local WISP’s higest speed offerings of 25/2. I setup an order for Internet from a popular reseller and booked the install for our first full day in town.

I did my homework and qualified the property for VDSL service

The telco had given us an installation window of 8AM – 8PM which was…. less then ideal. It meant that at least one person needed to be on site all day long, severely hampering our ability to go out and purchase anything. Nevertheless, I was keeping my fingers crossed that Coronation would be ‘home base’ for the technician and we could be the first appointment of the day.

It was around 8:30 that I heard some kind of disturbance and turned around only to find Blair jumping up and down excitedly, waving his arms in the air as a telco trunk drove past. I can only imagine what the driver thought since he was clearly not there for us and continued on his way. Dang, no early morning install, glad we all dragged ourselves out of bed to be here by 8.

Fortunately it wasn’t much longer before my cellphone rang and the tech confirmed he’d be coming by shortly. By 10:15 he was onsite, and before 11 he had finished up and I had a solid green ‘DSL’ light illuminated on my modem. Unfortunately, the good news ended there. While I now had a physical connection to the network, I didn’t have Internet service, and since I had ordered through a reseller I needed to call them for support. 30 minutes of on hold time later I was given PPPoE credentials to try – why they weren’t provided from the start is beyond me. By this point it was getting close to noon and we had solar panels to buy in Red Deer so I deferred the testing to later.

Of course the credentials didn’t work so on Friday morning I found myself on hold with tech support for another hour. After multiple factory resets they eventually determined it was a provisioning issue (I suggested that to begin with) and the ticket was kicked back to the telco with a promise it would be addressed urgently. Great, here I was on Friday morning with no Internet service while I was due to leave on Monday. Not a great start.

I decided to set a noon deadline. If by then I hadn’t received DSL service I’d wander over to the local WISP and try to sweet talk them into urgently provisioning service.

Noon came and went, so off to the WISP I went. They were actually pretty nice about the whole situation and I wandered back to my property with a skip in my step after receiving a promise that someone would be follow up in a few hours. Sure enough by 2PM the father-son tech team were onsite installing a Ubiquiti Powerbeam dish.

The install went off without a hitch and the guys were even willing to climb the 20ft mini-tower attached to my building, something that I was prepared to do should it be deemed too sketchy. At one pint I hear Blair say “yeah, that’s not going to work” and I turned around to find the tech plugging the antenna’s power injector into the wall. Of course you would see an electrical outlet and naturally plug into it for power, but of course in this case it simply wasn’t going to work. Out came the inverter and a 100ft extension cord to the rental car so we could power it up.

The Ubiquiti power injector did leave me with a bit of a problem – while all the equipment we had installed so far was DC-powered, the Ubiquiti injector only had an AC connector. Being that it was the afternoon of a Friday I highly doubted I was going to be able to source a DC-power injector before I needed to leave on Monday, so it was back up the road to the friendly WISP to see what else they might be able to sell me! $120 later I had a Ubiquiti edgerouter which provides passive PoE out on a single port – enough to supply power to the dish on the tower. I’m not usually a fan of Ubiquiti routing hardware, but this was a classic case of beggars can’t be choosers, so I made the most of the situation and by the evening I finally had a slow but reliable Internet connection into the shack. Hooray!

My professionally installed backup plan for internet
My somewhat less professional solution to a lack of AC power

Overall, I’m really quite pleased with the service provided by the WISP. They were willing to slot me in at the last minute and everyone there was quite friendly. I even got caught up on some of the history of my property – including the fact that the old 50ft TV tower blew down in a windstorm two years back. I suppose the collapse of the old tower was the impetus the company needed to sell the site – it was clearly becoming a liability. I’m also lucky the tower blew down before the site went up for sale – as that would have been one heck of a problem to deal with had it had happened on my watch.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what happened with my DSL installation. On Monday, while on the way to the airport, I received a phone call from the reseller saying that the port had finally been provisioned and they could see the modem was online. Sure enough, when I logged in through the WISP connection I found I was indeed receiving a valid IP address. So, for the time being I have two internet feeds – one fast connection from the telco I can route all my production traffic over and a separate slow feed from the WSIP I can use for management. Side note, the minute the WISP rolls out some faster packages (supposedly it is in the planning stages) I think I’ll ditch the DSL line entirely.


As I indicated in the introduction my property does not yet have power. For the full horror story, feel free to read up on the property purchase blog post, but suffice to say I was not expecting to have conventional power for this trip. So, without power I really had two options – either wait for spring when electrical service could be connected, or build out an off-grid solution to at least run the internet and some basic management (there was actually a 3d option which was to find an outdoor electrical plug and sweet talk a nearby business into selling access to it, but no one close by seems to have outdoor outlets). Being the impatient Millennial that I am, I naturally decided to go with option two and thus it was that I began my journey into off-grid solar systems.

At least I knew going into my trip that I wouldn’t have access to grid power so I was able to plan ahead of time. I learned the biggest factor when designing a solar system is having sufficient battery capacity to carry you through dark periods, and fortunately for me the average number of days without sunshine in a row for Coronation is about 3. So, I needed to account for 3 days without sun. Doing some napkin math gives me about 1400Wh of capacity needed to run my 20W of basic equipment 24×7. 1400 Wh at 12V is 120AH of battery capacity – well within the size of a couple of car batteries.

So far so good, however, the thing to keep in mind about car batteries is that they are generally not suitable for solar installations; since they don’t expect to be discharged over a long period of time (the purpose of a car battery is to provide a tremendous amount of current for a short period of time to start the engine, and then get immediately re-charged). There are types of lead-acid batteries called deep-cycle batteries which are more suitable for this purpose, but even then you generally don’t want to discharge them more then 50% to avoid damage to the battery chemistry. This meant my 120AH of battery capacity needed to be doubled to 240. I ended up settling on 4 90AH batteries connected in parallel for a total capacity of 320AH, or a real world capacity of 160AH – giving me a decent chunk of buffer for my 20W load.

Fortunately, the batteries were in stock at a local Canadian tire in Leduic (just south of Edmonton) and we were able to pick them up on the way out to Stettler. Sadly, these batteries did not come cheap, and the bro at the Canadian Tire automotive counter spoke the truth when he told me “dude, I feel sorry for your bank account.”

I had the batteries, but needed a way to connect them all in parallel, and, while Canadian Tire sold cables to do just that at a cost of about $15 per cable the cheaper option was to just by the terminals and chop up a bunch of jumper cables. Blair actually did a pretty nice job wiring it all up and the bank of batteries looks pretty professional in the shed.

My 400AH battery array

While batteries were relatively easy to acquire, the solar panels and the charging circuitry were less so. The closest supplier for such things was in Red Deer – 190km and a roughly 4 hour round trip away. It was what it was – solar solutions are not a common commodity and at least this was better then a 7 hour round trip to Calgary.

The main guy at CBI Solar was awesome to work with. He really knows his stuff and alleviated some of my concerns about battery capacity, saying that the 300AH I had would be plenty of capacity to last through the winter. We picked up a 300W panel, some cable, a charge controller and some monitoring equipment so I would be able to track the charge state of the batteries remotely. $800 later the three of us found ourselves loading up the car to try and make it back to Coronation before dark.

In hindsight, trying to squeeze 3 guys and a solar panel in an SUV was not the brightest plan. These panels are not small; it barley fit in the vehicle with just a driver, let alone 2 passengers! We eventually decided the ‘best’ plan was to tie the solar panel to the roof of the vehicle with ratchet straps, and then all of us would slouch low down in the seats with the panel above our heads.

You can see we strapped the panel to the inside of the car roof

Believe it or not, this actually worked – although it was… less then comfortable. Even less great was the fact that once the straps were ratcheted, none of the doors opened, so someone had to crawl into the car from the back door. Somehow we made this work and were all set to roll out to Coronation when I realized that we had forgotten to fill up with gas!

I don’t want to imagine what the other patrons thought when we rolled up in our SUV, the back door opens and Blair pops out to loosen the ratchets and let the rest of us out. All I can say is we got a LOT of interesting looks. One full tank later we were on the road for real which is when we discovered the next problem with our plan.

Because we ran the straps through the car windows we had to drive with the windows open. We had accounted for this, but what we didn’t account for was ear piercing screech the ratchet straps made when the wind slapped them against the car when we got above 70km/h. I am sure we were the loudest thing on the road, far louder then any other vehicle and competing with the likes of construction equipment like jackhammers. We made it about 30km before we needed to pull over and asses the situation.

As it turned out we were just idiots and instead of needing to use ratchet straps we could just wedge the solar panel between the roof and the headrests of the seats. At least we were able to drive the remaining 160km in peace.

Back in Coronation, Blair and Kyle managed to re-purpose a leftover satellite dish mount to install the solar panel on an unused pole while I started running the power cables into the building. Naturally, our measurements were off (more of an estimate) and we didn’t have enough cable to make it into the building. I found myself splicing and dicing an extension cord to make up the difference.

By Saturday the frame was complete, and I have to say Blair and Kyle really did a good job – it is a well-put together piece of hardware. The use of the satellite mount and the pre-installed pole made the entire job much easier vs needing to construct an entire frame from scratch.

We repurposed an old satellite mount and pole for mounting the panel

As the three of us struggled with the panel, trying to slide 4 bolts into the most awkward slots on the back I suddenly heard out of nowhere “is one of you guys Chris?” What fresh hell could this be!?

Before I lost all hope of getting grid power hooked up, I had put a call into a local electrician in the hopes of getting someone out that week to inspect my building’s service mast and electrical panel in order to get the necessary permits to connect the site to power. Following the transformer fiasco the call had slipped my mind and the company never called back to schedule a visit, but here they were on a Saturday of all days to take a look. At least something was going my way.

The electrician spent about 15 minutes looking at the service mast and panel and remarked that not only did it look fine, but the original work was probably completed by his dad about 30 years back. I got the rubber stamp I needed and a promise for a call from the office the following week to arrange for the permit to be sent out. At least all the paperwork would be in place prior to getting grid power.

The rest of the solar setup went well and after two days of discharging the battery bank we were finally pumping power back into the system.

The Projects

This trip was a unique blend of projects all compressed into a short 4 day timeframe. The most important goal was to build out a 12VDC off-grid solar system to keep Internet service, an embedded management computer and a couple of security cameras online. Blair and Kyle managed to build a very serviceable frame for the panel, Blair put together a clean and professional looking battery bank, I built out a functional DC distribution grid and banged together a python application to read battery statistics such as voltage and current onto the management PC. I even built out a dashboard in Grafana for some ‘at a glace’ stats

My awesome solar dashboard I use to track how much power I am generating

On short notice, I managed to configure a Ubiquiti Edgerouter to provide Internet service and remote-access, installed two security cameras, setup an RTLDSR with a random-wire HF antenna to monitor the noise floor and even began to assess the serviceability of the existing LNBs on the old dishes (I was only able to get usable single from one).

Outside of the technical stuff, Kyle did a fantastic job building some steps out of a collection of old cinder blocks and all 3 of us worked our asses off cleaning out the decades-old junk that was left in the shed and on the property. We managed to fill 6 garbage bags of crap, which we were fortunate enough to be able to unload in the dumpster behind our hotel.

Kyle made some awesome steps out of some old cinder blocks

The building itself is in very good condition – the roof is in good shape, the walls are insulated and there was only a small chunk of siding that was missing which we managed to locate and re-install. We went through a tube and a half of caulk, plugging all the old holes where various cables and conduit used to enter the building in an effort to provide improved heat retention for the winter.

Overall, I’m happy with how all the various projects turned out and I couldn’t have asked for a better couple of buddies to help. I now have a site which I should be able to monitor throughout the winter before I plan my next trip to install the next batch of gear.

The Town

The town of Coronation is an interesting place. It has a population of just under 900, and has all services (well, except for maybe cable TV). The town has four restaurants: Me-Maw’s kitchen, Extreme Pizza, the Tasty Mill along with the Coronation Cafe and I am pleased to report we tried every single restaurant in town.

The first place we tried was Me-Maw’s kitchen on Friday which is a unique place where you can order just about anything; from a burger and fries to a donair to fish and chips, not to mention some home made pastries or pie for dessert. When we first stopped in it was ‘Fish Friday’ so I treated myself to an order of fish and chips. The meal was good, though probably not the best fish and chips I’ve had. It was definitely better then some of the tourist-trap fish and chips places I’ve been to around my home town. We went back for round two on the Sunday where I tried one of the donairs and I have to say I was impressed. I’d place it probably in the top 3 donair places I’ve been to.

Next up was Extreme Pizza on Friday evening. The pizza was tasty and in my opinion beat the pants of a lot of chain pizza-joints such as Domino’s or AliBaba, though probably not quite in the same league as my all time favorite joint Pizza Face. It was also great to pull up a couple of chairs and devour some slices of pizza while watching the sun set over the rolling prairie. While the landscape is a boring drive, it does become quite magical at sunset.

Saturday’s lunch was at the Coronation Cafe which is a Greek place just across the highway. In addition to classic Western fair like burgers, pizza and sandwiches you can order a variety of pita wraps and I was very pleased with my lamb-pita.

Our final restaurant was the Tasty Mill which is a Chinese place just down the road from my property. We rolled in around 5:30PM on Saturday and were taken aback by the fact that there was no one to be found. The place seemed completely empty. We stood around awkwardly for a few minutes and then sat ourselves and waited a few more minutes before Kyle finally called out asking if anyone was there. We were finally greeted and got our orders in without incident and all of us were quite pleased with the quality. As 6:30 approached, the place began to fill up a bit more; I guess we were just on the early side for dinner.

Overall, I was happy with all of the restaurants in town and I’d be pleased to return to any of them in the future.

Coronation is a pretty quiet town; for the most part people seem to keep to themselves, but once you ‘break the ice’ seem to be generally quite friendly. The owner of the grocery store behind my property came over to say hello and I was surprised to learn that he used to work building radio towers – something that’s right up my ally. Almost every time we found ourselves passing someone through a door they’d hold it open for you – something that I confess came as a bit of a culture shock to me, since I was definitely the rude outsider who didn’t do that for other people. Sorry Coronation, I’ll do better next time!

The Coronation Home Hardware is another neat place to visit. Prior to arriving in Coronation I found myself frequenting the local Facebook group where most of the questions where people were looking for contact information were answered with “check at the Home Hardware.” Upon visiting the store I quickly discovered why.

The Coronation Home Hardware is a hub of local activity. I think it was probably one of the busiest places we visited in town. The owners are very friendly and have their finger on the pulse of the town – if you want to get caught up on town gossip, this is the place to be. After about our third or fourth trip we started becoming regulars and were also able to get caught up on all the town gossip.

As amusing as it may sound, one of the most challenging aspects of this trip was where to use the bathroom. Because my property was never intended for long term occupation there is naturally no bathroom and no running water, yet spending all day at the site meant we all needed to use the facilities more then once during the day. Being in the middle of town just taking a piss in the bush was not something I felt super comfortable with! We all found ourselves planning our water consumption around our trips to a restaurant or to Home Hardware (which thankfully had a customer washroom). Never before had I needed to so carefully consider when and how to pee!

One of our most amusing urination-related incidents came on the first night we were working at the property. By 8PM everything had pretty much closed-up shop, and I wasn’t about to start door-knocking to beg for a bathroom. The three of us decided we would head a few minutes out of town and use the side of the highway – a sight not uncommon on these long rural roads. Unfortunately, we had the misfortune to pick a spot patrolled by a farm dog and it wasn’t long before I heard barking, followed by Kyle yelling “they’re coming closer!” Needless to say we hightailed it out of there before we had the chance to discover which side of the fence the dogs were on. At least I finished my pee.

For future trips I’m going to seriously look at the cost of renting one of those portable chemical toilets. They’re unpleasant, but at least it offers flexibility when using the bathroom!

Some Recreation

By early Sunday afternoon we had finished all the essential work to get the property into a minimally functional state. Internet was active (at least the WISP service was), the building had been re-sealed, cables tucked away, solar panels were operating normally and the landscaping complete. I hadn’t yet tried to re-aim any of the dishes, but knowing how long it usually takes I didn’t want to subject my already generously amenable friends to a potentially long day of pointing round panels at the sky. We decided to take the rest of the day off as a recreation day – a well deserved break.

But, what is there to do in East-Central Alberta on a Sunday afternoon? We stopped by Me-Maw’s kitchen for some lunch and some thought.

It should come as no surprise that our plan involved driving, and a lot of it! We decided to take the two hour drive to Red Deer and hit up the recreational community of Sylvan Lake. The community, about 25 minutes past Red Deer, is a small town on shore of (you guessed it) Sylvan Lake which is a popular vacation spot for people all over Alberta. When we rolled into town we were targeting one place in particular – Go Karts and Mini Golf! The Lakeside Go-Kart and Mini-Golf was a neat place right alongside the water where you could do both of the afore-mentioned items along with a round of bumper-cars. We opted for two rounds on the go karts separated by a round of mini golf.

Go karts an mini golf was our solution to some much needed recreation time

This was the first time I had ever driven a go kart, and even though they were speed limited to 30km/h being so close to the ground made it feel much faster. Zipping around the track on these little vehicles was a blast, though I’ll confess I did basically end up dead last since I was always the responsible driver; yielding to others and even slowing down for the curves. Apparently this isn’t required as the karts are nearly impossible to roll, but I still felt a little unsettled ripping around the corners at full speed (even if full speed was only 30km/h).

The mini-golf was also pretty fun with 18 holes crammed into the small space. I’ll confess that when it comes to putting (or really golf in general) I kinda suck and I tend to get frustrated after a few holes, though in this case my frustration paid off when I WHACKED the ball after a particularly bad shot, it hit Blair in the leg and bounced right into the hole for a par! This was sadly one of my best results of the day, but I still had fun nonetheless.

After our fun we popped back into Red Deer for dinner at the casino – after all it was pretty tough to beat $19 for a buffet! I was pleased to discover the casino buffet was a Chinese buffet – this was the first times I had been able to visit a Chinese buffet since the COVID pandemic shuttered all of my local haunts.

The last thing I wanted to do while we were in Red Deer was to visit the location of the new defunct CHCA-TV; Red Deer’s only television station which operated from 1957 until August 31, 2009. Visiting this station was of particular interest to me since I had personally lived through the shutdown after the stations former owner, Canwest, drove an entire network of TV stations into the ground. Even though I had never watched CHCA, I felt connected to it since one of my hometown stations (CHEK-DT) was part of the same ill-fated network and was slated to go dark on the same day. CHEK was saved at the 11th hour by an employee buyout. You can actually watch a video I made about the whole event back in 2009 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjLhdflAx9c

CHCA’s former studios were not terribly interesting as they have now been re-purposed into office space and some local radio stations, but the former station’s transmitter site, just outside town still stands tall overlooking the city of 100K.

CHCA-TV served Red Deer from 1957 – 2009

My pilgrimage to CHCA complete, the three of us began our drive back to Stettler to get some rest ahead of the flight home. Before going to sleep I checked my emails and saw that our noon flight had been delayed almost 4 hours to 3:55PM. Sigh, Flair airlines strikes again. At least we no longer had to get up crazy early the next day.

Getting Home

Normally my trip home would be an afterthought, deserving barely a mention in the post. This trip, however, was quite the opposite – our journey back home was a tale in and of itself.

It all started back in Stettler where we departed an hour later then planned since our flight had been delayed by 4 hours. I was actually OK with this since it meant we could stop for a breakfast and generally take our time. The drive back to Edmonton was uneventful and we arrived at the airport around the time our original flight was scheduled to leave. I figured we would stop at the airport, check our bags in and then head back into town to kill some time, however, upon arrival at the baggage counter I was told in no uncertain terms that they would NOT be taking our bags until 3 hours before the newly scheduled departure time. Thanks Flair.

So, we loaded our bags back into the rental car and decided to drive into town and check out the world-famous West Edmonton Mall.

The West Edmonton Mall is the second largest mall in North America and features an ice rink, water park, roller coaster and two mini-golf courses along with over 300 shops. The mall is over 4 million square feet and I walked a good portion of that since I wanted to see the sights. As far as malls go it is pretty neat, I especially enjoyed the themed areas, such as Bourbon St which was modeled to look like a street in New Orleans.

After the walk around the mall, I hung out in the food court and got some decent work done on my solar dashboard, while Kyle and Blair went to ride the roller coaster. I suppose I ended up being a bit of a spoil-sport, but I refused to pay $18 for a ride.

After we had finished reconnecting with our inner teenager’s, the three of us headed back to Leduic, stopped for some lunch and went back to the airport to check-in for our flight.

By this time, our flight had been delayed, but only by another 10 minutes. After returning the rental car and waiting at an impossibly long bag-drop line, we were permitted to deposit our bags and head to security. By this time it was about 1 hour 15 minutes prior to our flight’s scheduled departure and the security line was… long. I was starting to stress.

It didn’t help my stress levels when both of my bags got pulled aside for secondary inspection. I guess carrying a couple of drill batteries is enough to rouse suspicion. After getting the 3rd degree from CATSA I was finally allowed into the secured area of the airport and the three of us sat down beside our gate about 20 minutes before departure.

Departure time came and went with no sign of anyone being allowed to board the plane. Not long later our fight was delayed by another 30 minutes. Great. 30 minutes went by and along came another 60 minute delay, then another 30. By 5PM communication from the gate staff hadn’t improved, and our fellow passengers were starting to become increasingly agitated. Not long after the latest deadline was missed our flight’s departure time was once again updated…. to 1:25AM. What the actual fuck.

We were never given the whole story, but after overhearing bits and pieces of conversation it sounded a lot like the emergency life raft deployment system was malfunctioning, and because our plane had to fly over water flying it in that condition was no bueno. Instead of doing the responsible thing and ordering another plane (recall this flight had been delayed the previous evening so they knew it was a problem), Flair was counting on it getting repaired, which clearly didn’t happen. We were now left with a couple of shitty choices – either wait in the airport for another 8 hours (assuming it left on according to the new schedule) and arrive in Victoria to a closed airport with no transit options, or re-book onto a different flight the next day to Vancouver (there were no more Victoria flights). Flair, by the way, offered us a grand total of $20 compensation per person to be redeemed for food at the airport. No offer of hotel accommodations for our now 13-hour delayed flight.

I was all for shit-canning this hell-flight and finding a hotel for the night so we could re-book the following day, however, the travel gods decided to throw yet another wrench into our plans – Kyle’s cat who was alone and needed feeding.

The situation was this – during our Coronation trip, Kyle’s father who would ordinarily look after the cat was also away, having left earlier the same day we were supposed to be coming back. There was no spare house-key and Kyle’s sister who was the only one with keys was incommunicado. My entire potential for a half decent night’s sleep hinged on finding some way to get this cat fed.

Bags were a second complicating factor. Because we had checked bags we had to leave the secured area to be able to access them. Even if we just wanted to be able to retrieve a toothbrush, it was leave the secured area, and then wait until 11PM before we would be allowed to check back in (recall the 3-hour checked bag policy that screwed us earlier). Thanks Flair. We made the call to get our bags and at least get the hell out of the same seats we had been stuck in for the past several hours, all the while putting calls in to try and get the cat looked after.

While leaving the secured area we did have an offer to go party til 1AM with Paul, some Russian dude who was supposed to be on the same flight. As enticing as the offer was to party with Crazy Russian Paul, the three of us declined as it was already one hell of a day.

We also decided to use our $60 in food vouchers to their full-potential, and kudos to the cashier at Tim Horton’s who helped us put together an order for the exact amount – this was not his first rodeo. I think we ended up leaving only about $0.30 on the vouchers. After way too much airport food and a change of scenery to put things into perspective, we decided to book a hotel and would proceed to take one of the two Vancouver flights the next day. If, by some miracle, the cat got taken care of we’d take the later noon flight, otherwise it was going to be a 7AM departure for us.

By the time we got to the hotel it was around 9PM and Kyle had finally heard back from his father – the cat would be dealt with. Hallelujah! We could take the later flight and I would get a decent night’s sleep.

One of the reasons we had booked this particular hotel was because it had a laundry facility. Being at the end of our trip, none of us had clean clothes to wear and I really wanted to not be wearing the same thing for what was going to be a long day. Of course, it was just our luck that the hotel was out of detergent, and so it was that I found myself shaving bar soap into the washing machine to try and get some halfway clean clothes. I think this was probably the low point of the trip.

Back in the room, I attempted to check in for our flights, which naturally failed because of some obscure system error. Phoning customer service was out of the question since they were closed, so it meant getting to the airport even earlier to argue with the check in agent to try and get on the flight. Thanks Flair. At least we could take the noon departure.

Following a halfway decent night of sleep, a solid hotel breakfast and a mad dash to the airport, Blair Kyle and I found ourselves at the check-in counter, explaining to the bemused agent that we really just wanted to get anywhere West of the Rocky Mountains at this point. Turns out all our troubles were caused by our bags – the system would let us transfer ourselves to the new flight, but not our bags. I hate travelling with checked baggage – this is why. Next trip I’m shipping them FedEx.

By 10AM we had breezed through a much shorter security line and found ourselves playing a rousing game of Coronation (the card game we invented what seemed like a lifetime ago) outside the gate. To satisfy my own curiosity I asked the agent what time the Victoria flight actually got in, the answer? “around 4:20AM.” Jesus, clearly we had made the correct call.

This flight actually departed on time (well, 15 minutes late but after the previous night I consider that on time) and some 24 hours after I was supposed to be arriving home I found myself waiting at baggage claim in a city some 90km away from my final destination.

Naturally, there was nothing quick about getting our bags unloaded from the plane, which meant that we missed the bus which would have gotten us onto the 3PM ferry sailing back to Vancouver Island. Did I mention I hated traveling with checked bags? Had we only traveled with carry-on we probably could have made it home 2 hours earlier.

I am pleased to report that our last 90km passed without incident. We killed some time in the food court of the Tswassan Mills Mall, caught our ferry on time and made it back home for some well-deserved rest some 30 hours after our original scheduled arrival. One thing is for certain, Flair is off the table as an airline I will use in the future.

Overlooking the total catastrophe that was the journey home, I quite enjoyed my trip to Coronation. We managed to get all the crucial work done on my property, I got to try 4 new restaurants (all of which I enjoyed), we managed to get some recreational time in and, I even found I enjoyed the quaint little town more then I thought I would. While I won’t be picking up and moving to Coronation I’m genuinely looking forward to my next trip out there – hopefully with grid power and a toilet to use!

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