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Vancouver Vacation 2004


I spent the better part of last week in Vancouver, BC. For those of you who may not know, that’s not short for ‘Baja California.’ I am referring to the other BC – British Columbia, as in Canada, our neighbor to the often-frozen north. I am telling you this because I still remember a vacation trip by car with my parents decades ago to California, during which the gas station attendant (see, it was a long time ago) noticed our Alberta license plates and asked, in all sincerity, “What state is that?” I’m not kidding. That really happened. Since then I generally don’t assume that everyone knows about Canadian geography. Of course all of my readers know better than that, right?

Anyway, this trip, like last year’s, made good use of cars and has plenty of automotive references to tell you about. The first concerns getting to Canada. Stop, I know what you’re probably thinking. There’s no way on earth that I would drive all the way from San Diego to Vancouver with my daughter, do lots of stuff there, and return – all in less than one week. That’s true. However, my car did play an important and interesting role in my trip.

This time I decided to try something new, something that involved driving. Instead of calling an airport shuttle or parking and flying out of San Diego International Airport, I decided to try an experiment that would involve auto-mobility. I decided to fly out of LAX.

The benefits of such a plan are obvious. With the combination of shorter flight distances and one less leg each way, the airfares are understandably lower. No matter where I flew out of, I’d have to either pay for parking or take an airport shuttle. I would cut out the time of flights between San Diego and Los Angeles and also any layover time required to change planes. The key for me was finding a good Park & Ride facility near LAX. The answer to that came almost by accident.

johnnypark near LAX

One afternoon, after attending one of my monthly Motor Press Guild meetings at the Proud Bird restaurant near Los Angeles International Airport, I noticed a Park & Ride facility named “johnnypark.” I stopped, checked them out and made my reservation. “johnnypark” ( offers convenient indoor and outdoor parking, and very competitive parking rates. They are located nearby LAX, at 11101 South Hindry Avenue in Los Angeles (90045). They give free shuttle rides to and from the airport.

Parking there was easy, as was the drive from San Diego. In less than two hours I got there from my home, left my car and was off to the airport in one of their shuttles. It really could not have been easier or more convenient, and they took me straight to the terminal so there was no long walk around the airport. The return trip was just as easy. Even though I had a phone number to call to request a shuttle back, when I got out of the terminal one of their shuttle busses was just about to pass. I flagged it down, got on and we drove to their facility. It couldn’t have been faster if I’d had a chauffer-driven limo waiting for me. Really.

Next time you need to fly somewhere, compare airfares from LAX and San Diego, and consider parking at “johnnypark” like I did. I heartily recommend it.

                     Stanley Park                              Downtown Vancouver               Queen Elizabeth Park      

Vancouver is almost like a second home city to me. Every summer as I was growing up my parents used to take me there on vacation. Then, during a break from college, I lived there for a couple of years. It really is a beautiful city – if you can take the winter rains. I imagine the climate is similar to Seattle’s. This time my main reason for going there was to attend a wedding.

A beautiful residential street in Vancouver

You’ve possibly heard me alternate between raving and ranting about my Garmin StreetPilot III portable GPS unit. Well, this year Garmin came out with a brand new and extremely improved model – the StreetPilot 2620. I contacted Garmin and arranged to take one on my trip to Vancouver for evaluation. I’m very glad that I did.

This GPS addresses all of the shortcomings of my much older model, while retaining the easy user interface and computational reliability (another popular make that I recently tried kept crashing).

The Garmin StreetPilot 2620 comes with all of the maps fully loaded into its on-board hard drive. That is extremely convenient. I had to download much smaller map sets before I could use my older model.

There is a touch screen now for input and option selection. There is even a handy, although somewhat fragile, remote control (we broke the joystick on our first day of the trip and had to use the touchscreen after that).

The unit is smaller (the antenna is concealed) and lighter (it no longer has the option of running on self-contained batteries), and can sit in a special bean bag mount on a vehicle’s dashboard. The combination speaker (for voice prompts in your choice of many languages) and power cord plug into the cigarette lighter socket. This unit should work well in any car, which makes it very practical.

Perhaps what I like best about the new model is its speed of calculation and recalculation. Now, whenever I went “off route,” recalculation was almost instantaneous. That is very important when you’re in a strange place and need updated directions RIGHT NOW. Having the GPS along is much like having someone beside you who patiently tells you where to go and how long it will be until you arrive. It is a tremendous stress reducer.

I used the Garmin StreetPilot 2620 to navigate almost everywhere. Whenever a relative started to give me directions from place to place I stopped them. All I needed or wanted was the address. I can thank the GPS for getting me to the wedding just in the nick of time. I used the GPS to find the nearest Safeway for breakfast groceries, the department store that maintained the bride and groom’s gift registry, and a nearby gas station before I returned my rental to Avis. You can visit Garmin and find out more at I ordered a StreetPilot 2620 for myself.

     Capilano Suspension Bridge          Produce at the Granville Market       Aberdeen Center Asian food  

While in the greater Vancouver area I visited the Capilano Suspension Bridge; a Chinese outdoor street market; the Granville Market (featuring food, art and Canadian crafts); the ultra-modern, $130 million Aberdeen Centre ( (still under construction and featuring an Asian theme, including a huge, two-storey Japanese $2-only store named Daiso); and even a Canadian Costco (I had to see what it was like. The products were similar to ours but the prices and brand names tended to be different).

1:18 scale 1966 Porsche 906LE Longtail Le Mans racer

Car nuts will really appreciate one store in particular on a visit to Vancouver. Wilkinson’s Automobilia ( offers one of the best selections of diecast cars, vintage literature and more that I have ever seen. Almost every square inch of the store is packed with stuff. I was in heaven. Even though I really didn’t come prepared with enough free luggage space to take them back home, I ended up buying two 1:18 scale cars to add to my large collection: a ’91 Vector W-8 TWINTURBO, which had just arrived, and a sleek 1966 Porsche 906LE longtail Le Mans racer.

Let’s see, what else? Oh, for your next vacation be sure to check out Get this. For five nights at the Marriott Vancouver Airport Hotel (in Richmond), including rental of a mid-size car (a Grand Am) from Avis I was quoted just $500. That’s $100 per day for a nice hotel room and a roomy car. Of course the hotel did charge me extra for parking and local phone calls, and I needlessly paid another $20 per person for trip cancellation insurance, but it was still an incredible deal. I waived the optional car insurance and didn’t need it. I’ll use Hotwire again. It was completely legitimate. The room had a kitchenette, complete with microwave and fridge, which we used every morning for breakfast. The hotel even offered us a free upgrade to a mini-suite when I pointed out a problem. They and Avis gave us first class treatment all the way.

I could tell you more about our Vancouver, BC trip but I’m afraid I’m out of space. As always, please share your stories and send your comments to Enjoy the archives and more at Drive safely and do join me again next time.


Copyright © 2004, 2006 Jan R. Wagner – #116r1 AutoMatters

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