Saskatchewan Stopover

Approaching Regina’s airport, I got my first glimpse of my beloved coulees.

I’m home at Haven, “living off the land with Charles and Caroline” (that’s what they told me to tell you).

The first part of April has been about racking up as many billable hours as possible. I haven’t had much leisure time and haven’t been in the mood to blog. I’ll pick it up again as I head south and I do have a bunch of drafts in the pipeline, but there just haven’t been enough brain cells left at the end of the day to string together two sentences.

So my parents came back from their holiday on Friday (the 14th) and on Tuesday (the 18th) I headed to Haven. I had an absolutely uneventful and pleasant flights with Westjet, with a short layover in Winnipeg. It was a week where Air Canada and United Airlines were in the news a lot for being despicable to their customers so I want to publicly thank Westjet for reliably being the airline that gets me around without any drama and with smiling personnel who seem to love their job.

Charles and Caroline were waiting for me in Regina when I landed on time at 5:23PM. We were at our hamlet just past 8PM. I’m staying with them since Haven has no water, power, or internet, plus it’ll be easier to pack if I’m not trying to live and cook in my space.

Wednesday morning, Charles and I went to Haven to see if we could start my truck. He reconnected the battery and it took only two tries for my Moya to roar to life, no boost needed! Haven itself was in fine shape, just more mouse poop and spider webs than I expected. The only thing of note is that I now have a proper street address rather than just a land description!

It wound up being a pretty lazy day. I spent a few hours at home figuring out a plan of attack for packing, including reaching the conclusion that I’m better off using cardboard boxes rather than Rubbermaid totes. I plan to unpack quite a bit even while housesitting because I’ll be staying in the guest casita for six month and so it’s not like all my things will spend the summer in cardboard boxes getting mouldy. This way, I don’t have to buy new storage containers for Haven and I won’t have a bunch of useless Rubbermaid totes to store in Mexico.

I also made a call to schedule some service for Moya since she needed two new tires, an oil change, and a minor repair. They couldn’t fit me in till Monday, which didn’t work for me since I wanted to go to Moose Jaw to stretch Moya’s legs. Plus, I had to drive a certain distance and then have the wheels retorqued (the fact that Moose Jaw has a great all you can eat sushi restaurant is purely coincidental). The garage managed to fit me in today, Thursday, for the new tires and we put the rest to Monday.

It was an early morning since I had a largish job to do before heading out in the afternoon to run errands with Caroline in Assiniboia and get the tires put on Moya. I got it done in the nick of time, but, of course, Google is not compatible with the crap internet here. I remembered at the last minute that Bing works well here and was able to do the research I needed to do to get the job sent off. I then headed out with Caroline, dropping her off for her appointment before going to the SGI office (DMV).

There, I picked up the registration I’d paid for by phone on Wednesday. Moya will be duly registered and insured for the next 28 days. After that, she will have a valid plate, but not be street legal in the US and Canada since the Mexico insurance will take over. I also had a new driver’s license done since my current one expires next spring and I don’t want to have to fly back here to renew it! I want to keep it active so that I don’t have a gap in my Canadian driving history even if I end up getting a Mexican license as well. Slight hiccup, the new license won’t come for two weeks and I’m hoping to leave on Tuesday. So added to the list is trying to figure out how to DHL my license to Mérida. There’s always something!

I tested my new real address and their system took it, so it’s legit! It’ll be great to have a proper address on my driver’s license now. It also means that people who wouldn’t ship to me for lack of a street address would now. Actual unexpected progress. Getting an address was going to be my next fight…

The SGI stuff was quick so I went to the bank to drain my USD account to cover my meals on the way down. It’s not much, but whatever I don’t have to convert from CAD will be appreciated.

I then picked Caroline up and we went for a nice lunch at the Greek restaurant where my immediate neighbour works as a server. It was lovely to catch up with her. After, I left Caroline at the library to do the updates on her new Mac. I headed to the gas station to fill up and went next door to the home store to get house numbers for my property. 🙂

It was then time to drop off the truck and I kicked myself for forgetting the laptop so I could do a post, but they wound up being too fast for me to do that anyway! I was able to start the post on my phone and upload a photo, though, so that’s why you get a picture. 🙂

The tires weren’t cheap, but now Moya has shoes I can trust to get me to Mérida. She’s had enough service there for the mechanic to say that my road warrior might not be pretty, but he’d bet that she’ll get me there without incident, which was good news! I found she handled a lot better after the tire service.

I picked up Caroline, we ran a few more errands for her, and then we headed home. She made us a lovely dinner (coquilles St. Jacques!) while I was on standby to run to the basement to pick up pantry items as needed. 🙂

So tomorrow will be a Moose Jaw run for a 300KM run to work out any of Moya’s kinks in case I need the garage to look for anything else on Monday. I’m also going to Bulk Barn to pick up spices.

Saturday, I’ll do a thrift store run to drop some stuff off and start packing. Sunday will be another packing day. Monday will be an Assiniboia day and then I should be able to leave on Tuesday. We shall see if that comes to pass since I still have a bunch of paperwork to sort out, including my bilingual inventory. But I prefer to aim for Tuesday as that’s going to light a fire under my butt.

But let me tell you, I wish I could stay home for a spell.

Sleep Deprived

I’m home from my very brief trip to Quebec! Between the sleep deprivation (I always sleep poorly at my mother’s for a variety of reasons), a cold (thanks, kids!), and the high carb diet, I’m feeling surprisingly rundown. But I am glad to have seen everyone.

Sunday, my mother and I spent the bulk of the afternoon working on the floor plan for my cabin! So exciting! 🙂 I’m nowhere near ready to start on construction, but having a very rough plan will help me make some decisions over the winter.

Monday, I borrowed the car and drove to Ville LaSalle to see my cousin. We had lunch and she sent me on my way with books and Japanese treats!

I was out later than planned (lost track of time gabbing…), but I made it back to Chambly in time to have dinner with my family and my grand-mother. We had pâté chinois (shepherd’s pie), so that was two times in one day eating beef! I very rarely seek out red meat, but I do eat it if it is offered, no problem.

It was a very early start today, 6AM, with just enough time to finish packing and gobble down a cup of coffee and a little cottage cheese. My step-mother gave me two beautiful wool vests that I’ve always admired and my sister gave me two tops, a pair of brand new jeans, and an incredible jean dress (yay for a 60lb weight loss!), so let’s just say my suitcase was VERY full.  So full, in fact, that I wound up layering the two vests!

I managed to squeeze the books from my cousin into my tote, but the Japanese treats and a small loaf of my mother’s fruitcake had to travel in a plastic grocery bag. I love my new carry on bag (a Grand Traveler by Vera Bradley), but I could have carried a bigger tote than I did, been better able to distribute my load, and would have looked less overloaded for carry on. My bag still fit fine under the seat since it was 100% squishable, but I got a scolding from the flight attendant for the Montreal to Winnipeg flight. She also made me put my tote in the overhead compartment even though it had traveled between my legs the whole way east and barely gave me time to get what I needed from it for the flight. It was only a 2.5 hour flight, so it wasn’t worth getting up and opening bins to find the one with my iPad, computer, wallet, passport, etc…, but I was one of the first ones up to claim her bag when we arrived!

I had hoped to be at the airport for 7:30 this morning, but Montreal traffic is disastrous and we got to the terminal around 8:10. Boarding was to commence at 8:20 and the flight was departing at 8:55. Thankfully, there was no line up at security! I learned from my Regina security experience and was not wearing a belt or under-wire! My head scarf did get patted down, a first, but I was asked beforehand if I was wearing it for religious purposes and if it was okay to touch my head. It was one of my easiest and quickest security checks ever! Even my mother’s fruitcake, which looks like a block of hashish, got through no questions asked!

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My mother’s fruitcake didn’t raise any eyebrows. Dang that stuff is GOOD. It’s going to be a nice treat on high activity days. I have it with a piece of cheese and it makes a full meal. Next to it, some of the Japanese treats!

After security, it was a mad dash across most of the airport to get to a gate that felt like it was halfway to Winnipeg! I arrived just as boarding started, so I had just enough time to use the washroom first.

Other than being in an aisle seat and not having access to my tote, the flight to Winnipeg was good. It was my fourth time (at minimum) landing in Winnipeg in six years and I can officially say that there’s something up with landing in Winnipeg. I have never had a smooth landing there and I always arrive with my ears blocked!

I was quite hungry by the time I deplaned, but I only had about 40 minutes till boarding for the next flight, not enough time to get a meal at TGI Fridays (a YWG treat when I have time). I settled on some of the strangest sushi I have ever seen as it contained HUMMUS. Made with brown rice, it was a satisfying meal, but rather strange!

The flight to Regina was super quick. We were in the air less than an hour, barely enough time to receive and drink a cup of coffee! This commuter flight had ‘Skycheck’, which I love!!! It’s the best of both worlds: you don’t have your big bag on the plane, but you don’t have to wait at baggage claim to get it back. I also had Skycheck’ from Ottawa to Montreal. There, we boarded at ground level and put our bag on a trolley. In Winnipeg, we boarded higher up and our bags were sent down to ground level on a conveyer belt.

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Can you spot my bag? I’m such a girl! 😀 There’s no mistaking mine, though, in that sea of black!

I left Montreal in a cold drizzle and arrived back on my beloved Prairies in sun drenched HEAT. Landing in Regina, I didn’t have a feeling of ‘being home’, but I still had 2.5 hours of driving to do! I found my truck without any trouble, it started fine (wasn’t worried!), and then it was time to pay for parking. That’s $11 per day, so I expected to pay $77, but was only charged $71. Six bucks is six bucks! 🙂

I probably should have picked up food while I was in the city, but I just wanted to get home. It wasn’t until the Moose Jaw skyline (what little there is!) disappeared behind me and the landscape started to undulate that I started to get that little hit of emotion that told me that I was heading HOME.

It was wonderful to pull into my very own property for the very first time in my life after a long trip far away! I topped up the water tank, fired up the water heater, had a shower, and then collapsed in my very comfy bed for a much needed nap!

Tomorrow, it’s back to work and between spurts of that, time to close up the property, pack up the truck, and get back on the road!

Winnipeg Layover

I made it safely and even a little early to Winnipeg, where I have a two-hour layover. I just had dinner at the TGI Fridays (didn’t know we had one in Canada) and now there’s only an hour left till boarding starts.

It was a painful flight. I’ve been fighting a cold for about a week now and am still stuffy. So the change in air pressure was excruciating on the ear drums and my left ear refuses to clear. I’ll be glad when I get to Calgary tonight.

I did manage to squeeze in a solid hour of work on a translation and coding project, but I have to admit that a 17″ MacBook Pro is too big if you have someone sitting next to you. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case today since I was in a row of three seats and the middle one was unoccupied.

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Travels Without Miranda, #6: Watching a Light Show in Manitoba

I can thank hurricane Katrina for my road trip around the Great Lakes in 2005. I had scheduled a tour of the southern US, including Savannah, Pensacola, and New Orleans, but two days before I was slated to depart, Katrina swept in and my plans for my first vacation in four years went down the toilet. Needless to say, I didn’t take it personally, but I could have acted like a petulant child and cancelled my vacation.

Instead, I took the few days I had to come up with another interesting road trip idea and off I went on a fantastic adventure that might not have been the one I’d planned and looked forward to, but which was special in its own way. I even managed to see in Minneapolis one thing that I had looked forward to seeing while I toured the south, the Mississippi River.

My tour around the Great Lakes was to be broken up with a several day stay in Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba. It was a city I had always wanted to visit, so ending up there instead of New Orleans wasn’t a huge disappointment even if some people proclaimed Winnipeg to be plan Q. I guess that I have a soft spot for the places that get a bum rap. 🙂

To stretch my budget, I decided to camp at Bird’s Hill provincial park, just north of the city and within easy commuting distance. When I arrived there, I had had quite a full day, waking up in Melrose, Minnesota, speeding through my first glimpse of the prairies in North Dakota, and then crossing over into Manitoba for the first time, bringing me further west in Canada than I had ever been.

sunrise at Birds Hill Provincial Park (photo by the government of Manitoba)

sunrise at Birds Hill Provincial Park (photo by the government of Manitoba)

My trip was winding down and even if I hadn’t seen anything as spectacular as Savannah’s historic district or New Orlean’s French Quarter, I was racking up a lot of memories and I was satisfied even if I hadn’t seen anything that particularly stuck out in my mind.

After dinner that night, I went for a walk on the prairie to wind down a bit and watch the sunset, then went to bed. I couldn’t sleep, so after some tossing and turning I got up and went back to the walking trail to watch the stars. Those plans changed when I found that the sky was alive with dancing green lights. It was the aurora borealis, the northern lights! I had never seen it before and it was even more beautiful than I would ever have imagined. Acid green swirled against ebony, shimmering and popping, and I could swear I heard all that energy crackling. The prairie sky is open and endless, so the dance seemed to stretch on forever, as far as I could see.

stock photo of the northern lights that quite accurate represents what I saw that night

stock photo of the northern lights that quite accurately represents what I saw that night

Had I gone south that fall, I would have missed this spectacular natural phenomenon. I believe that things happen, and plans change, for a reason. I’m not afraid of taking the unbeaten path or doing something that at first glance seems illogical. Sometimes being flexible in your travel plans pays off in big ways. This is what was going through my mind last summer when I decided on a whim to push on to Dawson City instead of settling in Whitehorse.