Archive for September, 2013

The strangeness of Saskatchewan car insurance

Posted in Car insurance, Driving, Saskatchewan with tags , , on September 17, 2013 by Amanda

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I was very surprised to receive a letter in the mail from SGI today.  As Saskatchewan, unlike other provinces I’ve lived in, has government insurance it is everyone’s insurance company.  Upon opening the envelope, I immediately saw that a cheque was included; so, I knew it wouldn’t be bad news.  The arrival of this letter was perplexing as my insurance isn’t due to be renewed until March and I already went through the arduous process of getting a partial refund once I proved that I’m not really as bad of trouble as some people think!  When I moved here I was given a neutral rating until I provided letters from previous insurance companies showing that I had no at-fault claims.  It seems like a silly system as anyone with anything bad on their claims history could just not bother to provide SGI with that information and save a fair bit of money.  Before moving here I had heard that government car insurance was cheaper than private insurance companies but I am actually paying slightly more than I did in Labrador though I would definitely be paying more for insurance if I lived in Ontario.  It sounds like male drivers under 25 save a lot with SGI which I’m not so sure is such a good thing.  Anyway, a $12 cheque accompanied this letter.  While I’ll certainly cash the cheque, I really wonder why SGI went to all this hassle.  Couldn’t they just charge me $12 less come March?  Doesn’t it cost a fair bit of money to issue these cheques and send these letters?  I’m not really complaining but the car insurance system is Saskatchewan definitely seems strange to me!

San Francisco & Yosemite

Posted in Alcatraz, Cable cars, California, Giant Sequoias, Golden Gate Bridge, Green Tortoise, Hiking, Mariposa Grove, San Francisco, Sausalito, Segway, Travel, Treasure Island, Vacation, Yosemite with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 8, 2013 by Amanda

I arrived back home yesterday evening after a week’s vacation. It was nice to finally take my first vacation days since I started this job back in February.

Anyway, on Saturday, August 31 I flew from Saskatoon to Denver to San Francisco. The pilot on the first flight provided the temperature in Fahrenheit and “Canadian degrees!” At the Denver airport I noticed signs for tornado shelters which sounded really interesting … until I realized they were just signs for washrooms and such!

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Tornado shelter/washroom in the Denver airport

As I arrived in San Francisco rather late in the evening, I didn’t start exploring the city until Sunday morning. I began the morning by walking around for a few minutes and then buying a MUNI passport right at 8 am. I then took a streetcar over to the Ferry Terminal and looked around before walking up to Pier 33 where I took a boat to Alcatraz Island. I enjoyed the audio tour (I normally don’t bother with audio tours but this one was included in the price!) though the areas covered in the audio tour were rather crowded. I also listened to a talk about escape attempts. I found the actual cellblock is area was a lot smaller than I had anticipated and was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t visit the upper levels. The rest of the island wasn’t really very crowded at all which I assume means that a lot of people only bother with the audio tour.

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Alcatraz Island

As there is no food on Alcatraz Island and the boat only has snack food, I ended up not eating lunch until 3pm which wouldn’t have been so bad if I’d ate more than a small muffin for breakfast. Anyway, I ended up having lunch in a very nice food court in the basement of the Westfield Mall which reminded me quite a lot of the food court in the basement of Dubai Mall.

I went on a Segway tour Sunday evening. We spent a bit of time practicing on the Segways in a parking lot which was good as I hadn’t been on one before! As Segways aren’t allowed on sidewalks in San Francisco, we had to go on the road but it really wasn’t too scary. By the end of the tour it felt normal to standing on my toes to go forward! After a bit of a wait, I took a cable car back to close to my hotel.

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Me on a Segway!

I woke up pretty early Monday morning and I was the fifth person in line to go on a cable car but it still took quite a while for one to actually come and have people board. I guess the cable cars are interesting but I was disappointed with all the waiting it seemed to involve even when there wasn’t a long line. After getting off the cable car, I walked up and down Lombard Street and then wandered around North Beach, Chinatown and the Financial District before eventually ending up back at my hotel. I rested for a while and then checked out and stored my bag. I then took a street car to the Castro and walked to the Mission where I saw some interesting murals but I found that part of the city to be rather dirty. I then took a bus to Alamo Square and then I took another to Ocean Beach and then I walked through parts of Golden Gate Park which was very large but I was disappointed with how much car traffic the park had.

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Some of the murals in the Mission

I had dinner at a Chinese vegetarian restaurant and then I went back to pick up bag and went to meet my Green Tortoise bus which was going to Yosemite for a four nights/three days. It was kind of chaotic at the departure point as there were a buses returning for Burning Man around the same time. Once we boarded the bus, we sat around for a while waiting for the Bay Bridge to reopen (it had been closed all weekend and was reopening earlier than it’s scheduled time of 5 am Tuesday). We had 27 passengers on the bus which was short of the 36 person capacity but still felt a bit crowded; I really wouldn’t have wanted to be on a bus that was at full capacity!

On Tuesday morning, we were in the Yosemite Valley. I went on a hike that was described as being of “medium difficulty” but which I found rather difficult. I guess I must be out of shape though I certainly wasn’t the only one who found it a struggle!

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View from the top point of the hike

The fire in Yosemite caused us to deviate for the expected itinerary due to a road closure but luckily the air wasn’t smoky. We had to stay on the west side of the park and at the same campground for two nights which had really small campsites and no grass which made it feel like camping in a parking lot but I really wasn’t a bad as I’m making it sound!

On Wednesday, we went to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. The hiking here was much easier than the views were somewhat repetitive and not as interesting as the day before.

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Some of the trees in the Mariposa Grove

On Thursday, we went back into the Yosemite Valley. It was a very lazy day was a lot of us as we just sat on a beach and we swimming though the water was rather cold. We did have the excitement of getting (sort of) attacked by ducks. In the evening we spent the evening in the town of Mariposa which had an interesting gold rush history.

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The view from the beach

We awoke to a great view of San Francisco from Treasure Island and arrived back in San Francisco very early Friday morning. The weather was really nice on Friday!

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The view of San Francisco from Treasure Island

After breakfast on Friday, I took a streetcar to Fisherman’s Wharf and then walked to and over the Golden Gate Bridge. There quite a lot of people walking over the bridge. There was a rescue going on in the water which I think was some sort of drill as the people in the water were in bright orange; regardless, it gave me something to watch while walking over the bridge. The viewing around on the other side of the bridge was quite busy. However, I only saw two other pedestrians on the walk into Sausalito. I’m not sure why so few people were walking as it was a really easy three mile walk. I thought Sausalito was very nice though a bit too touristy. I then returned on a ferry to San Francisco and checked in my hotel.

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The start of the walk across the Golden Gate Bridge

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Sausalito

I had a neatloaf dinner at a very good vegetarian restaurant Friday evening and then I did a bit more shopping and went on the California cable car line which was a lot less busy than the other lines but a bit tricky to board.

I had a really good night sleep Friday night (probably because my hotel room was so quiet and I was so tired) and wish I could have slept past 5 am but I had a morning flight to catch. As I am cheap and I got more miles this way, I flew from San Francisco to Edmonton to Calgary to Saskatoon. All of my flights were full from full. The flight from Edmonton to Calgary may have been the least busy I’ve ever been on and I had the middle of the plane to myself: two entire rows of seats in front of me and three entire rows of seats behind me were empty! The Edmonton airport was also pretty dead feeling but it has a surprisingly large number of stores and restaurants and got the have a Harvey’s veggie burger! Saskatoon airport was also quite quiet and I had my bag, paid for parking and left the airport within fifteen minutes of landing.