A Full Day With a Visit to the Big Muddy Badlands and Castle Butte

Today was the day to go get my booster, but it was also the day that my internet situation exploded media-wise. I woke up to a link in a comment to a write-up by CBC about our internet situation. I was, of course, pissed off by our reeve’s lack of support for the project. I was misunderstood/misquoted in a remark I made about the number of people affected and instead of saying something like, “The number of people don’t matter,” he just dismissed my efforts. Lovely to have community support. I then made the mistake of looking at comments and spent too much time replying to trolls. I’ve decided to not go back and look at any other comments!

I finally got on the road around 8:20. I stopped at the gas bar in Coronach before the border to get a coffee and was told I didn’t have to pay! It’s such a small thing, but it really reset my mood! And the coffee was actually quite good, to my surprise!

I was at the border about an hour after leaving home. The crossing was painless beyond having to explain what a cell signal booster does and why I need one. I then enjoyed a drive across Montana landscape that looks a lot like ours to arrive in Plentywood around 10:15. I was picking up my package at the Little Muddy Dry Goods store, which offers a package service for Canadians, but discovered that Main Street isn’t the road that cuts west-east through town. I stopped for fuel (saving 20CAD even with the exchange rate) and got directions.

The package service pickup is at the back of a bright clean open store. I was a bit dismayed that the room was open to the public, like the bar in Opheim I’ve used in the past, but was assured that the door is closed and locked when there is no staff around… I paid my 5USD and then lugged the huge box back to the truck. There, I opened up the package to make sure everything was there and I knew what I was bringing back across the border.

It was about 10:50 by this point. I was an hour earlier than I had thought to be in Plentywood, so it felt like a weird time to hunt down lunch, but I was ready to eat. I’d done research ahead of time and so I headed to the Cousins Restaurant to see if I could order off the lunch menu that early. I got to the restaurant and was greeted very warmly by a server. I find that sometimes these small town restaurants are light on the customer service because they’re not used to seeing strangers and the locals know the drill, but this was not the case here. I was handed a menu that had all their options on it, not just breakfast, so I figured I could order lunch.

The menu was pretty typical American diner fare, so I opted for a ‘patty melt’ which is a fancy term for a hamburger between slices of toast rather than a bun. This turned out to be a slice of ground beef with heaps of perfectly sautéd onions and melty American ‘Swiss’ cheese’ between slices of pumpernickel bread. The menu had said ‘marble rye’, but the pumpernickel flavour was really strong, which was a plus! It elevated the sandwich from pretty ordinary to something special. The sandwich came with fries for 7.99USD. I gave the server my last 10USD (I’d withdrawn 50USD from my US account, so if you’re following my day, you’ll know that I had 10USD left!). I’m really glad I had lunch at Cousins Restaurant.

Then, it was time to head up to the border at Regway/Raymond, which I hadn’t even known existed between Portal and Scobey until John in Santa Fe told me about it! There, upon seeing my passport and being told where I live, the customs official exclaimed that he recognised me from the radio this morning…

I declared the booster and he had me go in to pay. Then something interesting happened. He clued in that I’d said I work from home as a transcriptionist/proofreader and that I was bringing in a booster, so he asked if I was bringing it in for commercial purposes. Oh, boy, I thought. This is going to cost me! I cautiously asked what’s the difference. He looked at me like I had snakes growing out of my head. “Has no one at the border ever told you that if you import stuff for your business you don’t have to pay the PST???!!!” HUH???!!! Well, that was news to me! Dang!

It was then time to figure out what I owed now that I was importing as a business. I had my USD invoice and my PayPal receipt showing what I’d paid in Canadian. He said that I’d probably get a better exchange rate through whatever system they use and I said that the exchange rate is worse now than it was when I bought the booster almost two weeks ago. He did the math and went, “Yup. According to your PayPal rate, you owe me $53. According to our rate right now, you owe me $61. That will be $53, please.”

First time I came away from the border having paid less than I expected to pay. Lovely guy. And yet, he and another guard then emptied out my truck (thankfully, I had very little in it) and even went through my purse, which I had left on the front seat. It’s so lovely to be waved through into a foreign country and be treated like a criminal when coming into your own. But, hey, I saved $53…

From the border, I headed north into the Big Muddy Badlands, eventually pulling over to check my emails. I had a voicemail from someone at CBC Radio wanting to schedule ad interview for later that day, so I was able to return that call and set up a time for them to call me.

Then, it was time to head on to Castle Butte, a famous landmark in the area. I thought I’d have trouble finding it, but there was a sign announcing the turnoff. Castle Butte is a particularly remarkable hill in the middle of lots of other hills and was used as a landmark in the old days. I arrived, changed into a hiking skirt and my Keen sandals and pretty much crab walked my way to the top. It was very slippery! But I got up there without much incident and was surprised when I reached the summit effortlessly.

The trip down was another story, though! I crouched down and pretty much slid my way to the bottom. Then, I had a walk around the entire structure.

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And people think Saskatchewan is flat…

From Castle Butte, I took the back road through Harp Tree to get to Willow Bunch. There were just one or two signs the whole way there to assure me that I was heading in the right direction. Just as I was certain I was completely misplaced, I saw the red tower of the Willow Bunch Museum! Whew, what an adventure! But I wouldn’t have really needed a search party since I had cell service the whole way through this particularly desolate part of the province…

When I got in, I called Caroline, who got home late last night, to check in as she’d left me a message and asked me to do that. I asked if I could come by around 4:00 so I could do my interview from their landline. Of course! So I called back my contact at CBC Radio and gave him C&C’s number.

I then very carefully unpacked my booster, making sure I kept the packing material and did as little damage to it as I could. The materials are really heavy and obviously of better quality than what I’ve received from Wilson.

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I tried to set the booster up temporarily without mounting the antenna at any great height, but I got the ‘you have oscillation’ error message that means that the interior and exterior antennas are too close together. I managed to get the old antenna off the pole and the new one mounted with a minimum amount of effort, but I still couldn’t get the booster to work. I went so far as to install the booster in the shed, which was as much horizontal separation as I had cable for, but that still wasn’t enough… Tomorrow, I’ll go to town and get another section of pole and hope that another 10′ of vertical separation will do the trick. If not, I’m at a loss and will contact the sellers to get their thoughts. I’m disappointed, to say the least. I had a feeling this unit would be overkill for my small property and I might be right… But I’m not giving up yet!

Then, it was time to head over to C&C’s, where I had a coffee and catchup before my interview. I think the interview went well and I was able to share how I lose internet during the day and have to pack up my things and race up the hill.

I think I’m done with this issue because nothing is going to get done. I’ve fought a good fight, but with SaskTel not having to answer to anyone and my community management not willing to get involved, this will never get resolved. Time to start thinking about where I’ll spend next summer since it won’t be here…

After my interview, I got another coffee and then Caroline asked if I could stay for supper! Of course! 😀 She made her amazing whisky-marinaded salmon with scarlet runner beans, corn on the cob, and grilled zucchini. She is such a good cook! It was a lovely meal where we all came away replete, but not stuffed. They don’t do dessert, but they do do wine! So we sat out for a bit to finish our glasses of fermented grape juice, then I headed home with a giant zucchini.

When I got in, I remounted the old antenna onto the broomstick and stuck the whole thing in the truck like I used to have it set up, then restarted the old booster. It’s going to rain tomorrow, but hopefully I can do more work on the new booster Sunday and Monday and get it working… Croft, you’d better be online this weekend! 😉

Whew, it’s been a very long and full day. Time for a hot shower and hopefully a good night’s sleep. I’ve been so stressed that I have been sleeping poorly, but hopefully the exercise I did today will help.

5 thoughts on “A Full Day With a Visit to the Big Muddy Badlands and Castle Butte

  1. That is a disappointing start to the setup. I thought when you sent me the link to the booster that they were not giving you enough cable to get the two items far enough away from each other. I recall there is only 75 feet of cable and yet they want the units 75 – 80 feet apart.

    You can maximize vertical separation by laying the booster on the floor or even on the ground as a test. You already discussed in your email turning the power down and protecting the booster from a direct signal from the yagi (place a cookie sheet or something in between). As a test, point the yagi directly away from the booster to see if that clears the alarm.

    Make sure you follow the instructions precisely in the order to set things up and when to power the booster up.

    Check to see if there is a reset button on the booster and try that. I will be around.

  2. Actually, there is enough cable since I get 75′ of exterior cable and 30′ of interior cable! 🙂

    And now that you mention it, there is a reset button. I’ll try that tomorrow when I can work on this project. Slightly damp out there today. 🙂

    • You should have stayed in Campbell River. It is beautiful here. 😉 Actually we are hoping for rain, it is too dry. I have not been allowed to use my outside fireplace since we got home.

      • I still have a hard time imagining Campbell River dry even though I have photographic proof on my old blog that it’s not always sopping wet there! 😀

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