Slightly Jetlagged

I fell asleep at one am local time and was up at quarter to ten! I had a quiet morning chatting with my mother.

Lunch was a treat I haven’t had since the 20th century because I was a vegetarian for so long: a genuine Montreal smoked meat sandwich!

After lunch, I borrowed the car to go do a little shopping to buy my eldest nephew a birthday gift and his little brother something, too (my younger sister’s boys). I was given a specific list , so it was an easy enough task. I made a stop en route to visit my dad’s grave.

I came back home and headed out almost immediately to pick up my grand-mother, who lives 1km away. When we returned to my mother’s house, my brother, his girlfriend, and my youngest nephew had come to say hi (they live a few blocks away. My sis-in-law is due with another boy any day now!

My grand-mother and I had a chance to catch up a little over dinner. After she left, I took advantage of the shiny new tub in the freshly renovated guest bathroom!

The evening was winding down when the phone rang. It was my uncle calling with news that the girlfriend of my youngest cousin had her baby tonight! Talk about a baby boom!

Tomorrow, my older sister is driving down from Sherbrooke with her two girls. I haven’t met the younger one yet. They will spend a couple of nights.

Saturday, my little sister will be hosting all of us for my eldest nephew’s birthday. This gathering would have happened without me, but I think there is extra effort being made for attendance because I made it out.

I’m glad I didn’t plan anything for the week except lunch with a cousin on Monday. It won’t be hard to fill the days! In fact, I’ll be working tomorrow alongside my mother, doing some of the work she trained me in when I was here last.

Regina To Saskatoon To Ottawa To Montreal To Chambly

It was a good flight day, with no delays and a layover that was just the right length.

The first bit of the flight took us northwest to Saskatoon, where I did not have to deplane. I wound up being grateful for the detour because I didn’t have time in Regina to get comfortable for a long flight since a lady who really should have bought two seats made it impossible for me to get my boots off, remove my cardigan, and get my luggage sorted in a way that would give me some leg room. She got off in Saskatoon and I had time to settle in before my next seatmate arrived.

As it turned out, the Tim’s at the Regina airport only makes breakfast sandwiches, so my only options for food were bagels, pastries, and convenience store items. I decided not to bother and satisfy myself with the Cliff bar I got from the b&b.

But by the time food service started, I was feeling nauseous from the carb crash from the morning’s breakfast and no protein to speak of. So I decided to buy an on board chicken wrap and wound up being super impressed with it! I won’t be annoyed by my Visa bill for it at all. 🙂 It was loaded with crisp dark lettuce, a sharp cheese (likely Asiago), and chewy sun dried tomatoes. The wrap itself was lovely and fresh. I paired this with a cup of surprisingly decent (complimentary) coffee and ended up with a much tastier meal than Tim’s would have provided.

The flight was smooth and I was thoroughly engrossed in a novel I bought (used) just for the occasion. My seatmate asked me what the book was about and I told her to read the jacket because I couldn’t discuss it aloud. It’s a John Nance novel about a series of terrorist attacks on airplanes! What can I say, I’m not a nervous flier! 🙂

We got to Ottawa a little early. I wonder if I will ever get the “I’m home!!!” feeling landing in Regina that I have always gotten in Ottawa and never in Montreal…

I had about forty minutes to kill before boarding for the last leg of the trip, just enough time to grab an okay slice of pizza and treat myself to a magazine. I was too tired by this point to keep reading the novel, but the flight would be too short for a nap.

The weather was bad between Ottawa and Montreal and there was turbulence, enough that I was a little nauseated and glad to land when we arrived.

Dorval Airport is one of the larger ones in Canada, so I had quite a ways to go to get out beyond security, enough that there is even a moving sidewalk that surprised me and almost made me face plant!

My mother was waiting inside the terminal and we hurried out to the car. The drive to Chambly felt super fast.

I’m glad to be here and am beat! It’s late here, midnight, but 10:00 my time, which is my normal bedtime, so hopefully I’ll actually sleep and wake up at a reasonable hour.

So Much To Do!

The last couple of months have gone galloping by. I can’t believe September is just about at the halfway mark and that I’m still crazy enough to think that I’ll be en route to Mexico on or about October 1st!

One of the problems I’m having is that the weather has tanked and I still have some exterior Haven projects to wrap up. I need to paint the new shed door and finish cleaning the shed so that it will be usable in the spring. I also have cleaning and sorting to do in the cabin.

My truck also needs organizing and sorting since I plan to sleep in it quite a bit (weather permitting) for the trip down to Mexico. I love driving my truck and look forward to doing some exploring in a vehicle that isn’t a bear to stop and park! I’m hoping to hit a few tourist spots along the way, but I think we’re going into an early winter, so I may have to drive hard to get through the mountains. My truck just doesn’t do well in snow, unfortunately. I can always hit those attractions in the spring since I plan to come north fairly late in the season (Mayish).

Because I’ll need time to acclimatize in Mexico and get settled in, I don’t want to take a lot of time off on the way there. So I plan to drive and sleep in my truck (again, weather permitting) a couple of days and then stop at a hotel to work for three or four days. The income I’m getting now is such that I can afford a decent hotel with a proper desk and still actually make a profit at the end of the day. I’ll therefore be able to work nearly full-time in a compressed period of time and keep my clients happy. I plan to take about a full month to get to Mexico!

As for Mexico, most would say that I haven’t done any work at all to prepare, but there’s been a lot of thinking. My friend Croft has helped me figure out things like vehicle insurance and what sort of paperwork I’ll need at the border.

That said, I still don’t have the housing situation sorted because I keep waffling between getting a tiny inexpensive place and a larger more expensive one. I can afford the latter now and want to be comfortable (remember how claustrophobic I felt living in one BIG room in Lethbridge…), but I also want to put money away this winter. With finances not being super tight, I’m tempted to just show up and stay in a hotel for a bit while I sort out housing. But I might take advantage of super fast internet at my mother’s to make a few Skype calls.

My mother’s? Oh, you don’t know that I’m flying to Quebec on the 17th for a week? I try to visit every two years, so it was time to go back east for a bit. My eldest nephew just had his 10th birthday, so the timing is good. I’ll be home late on the 23rd and then I play to be in focused departure mode.

Leaving Miranda behind for eightish months is absolutely terrifying. I have no idea what I’ll be coming back to… Caroline and Charles, beloved friends and neighbours that they are, have promised to pop in every once in a while to make sure everything is okay. My roof is still leaking, so I plan to tarp the whole thing. I’ve also been having mouse issues now that I’m catless, so Charles will be providing me with plenty of mouse poison. I will be getting rid of all food and doing a thorough cleaning. Hopefully, I’ll come home to a dusty, but habitable, rig.

From a technical point of view, I have to remember things like disconnecting the batteries. They will be moved (with a dolly because they are super heavy!) to Charles’ workshop for the winter as will other things, like paint, that I don’t want to freeze. I also have to winterize the water system.

It sounds like a lot of work, but I know that once I get going, it will come together quickly. I’m still working on my packing list. I’ve grown so used to having everything I own with me at one time that it’s kind of fun to play the ‘house is on fire, you have time to grab what’s important’ game. Really, all I need are my electronics, the 2014 financial stuff folder, some other paperwork for the border crossings, and a bit of clothes. I’ll probably bring a bit of kitchen equipment and bedding as well. I want to take off and travel the world for a while in a backpack, so downsizing from an RV to a truck is a step in that direction!

My biggest concern about Mexico at this point will seem silly to many, but it’s crucial for me: internet bandwidth. My new contract has me downloading large video files and so I need a lot of bandwidth in a month, more than I can/should get from public wifi, and I’m supposed to avoid public wifi if I can for security purposes. But otherwise, there is no issue with my working from Mexico this winter and my clients are excited for me!

So that’s what’s going on in my little corner of Canada these days. I am eager to go, but not sick of being here, and hopeful that Mexico will have good weather to make up for the lack of a proper summer!


Uneventful Drive Down I-87 To Saratoga Springs

It was a perfect day for a drive, clear with few cars on the road. Except when she was stuck behind some impossibly slow rigs or was climbing a grade, Miranda effortlessly matched the speed limit. I could only feel the truck behind me when I slowed down or was climbing a hill. I need to measure my new rig, but, truly, it doesn’t feel any longer or more unwieldy than my old one! My gas consumpition was normal for a day going up and down grades!

Just ahead of the last area before Saratoga Springs, a long column of white cars appeared in my view screen. They roared past me and I saw that they were US Border Patrol vehicles. They merged in between myself and another rig plated in Quebec that was closely followed another Quebec-plated rig. The two Quebec vehicles pulled into the rest area and the border patrol vehicles followed suit. There were no lights or anything, but it was the darnedest thing to see as they appeared to be on a mission.

One exit before the raceway, I was running on a quarter tank of fuel when I noticed a sign saying ‘truck stop.’ I figured that I’d be able to find a gas station where I could get in easily with my toad, and I did.

At the raceway, I tucked myself into the far end of the parking lot, much like I did last time. There are a lot more cars here this time, however.

I called Verizon to reactivate my phone to get internet and then realised that I’d need wifi to get online, like I did in the spring. My GPS told me where was a McDonald’s fairly close by, but was useless at providing a neighbourhood map that would set me off in the right direction on foot. I set off in a couple of directions, easily covering the distance to the restaurant, and each time my GPS told me I was going the wrong way.

Even though I’d truly had enough toad excitement for one day, I unhooked the truck and drove around a bit until I found the McDonald’s, which was ludicrously close by. It almost wasn’t worth it to have unhooked except that I would have come home in the dark.

There, I downloaded the Lion version of the VZAccess Manager and then tried to connect. No dice. I called Verizon back and when I finally got to a live person, he informed me that the first guy I spoke to forgot to authorize use of my cell phone as a modem. I hung up with him, restarted my phone, and tried the internet again. It worked!

I drove home in the growing darkness and then spent a very frustrating 15 minutes or so trying to hook my truck up. It’ll go much more smoothly as I gain experience with the tow bar… and hook up while not completely exhausted.

The disappointing news of the day is that my battery bank is not working properly. I haven’t even tried my new inverter setup yet because my batteries are so low.

I unhooked from shore power on Monday and had a full charge on Tuesday morning, but haven’t had one since then. I really should have plugged back in. What happened is that I thought the propane was on, but it wasn’t, and the furnace kicked on for hours, completely draining the battery before I caught the mistake. It’s been pretty overcast since, I spent all of yesterday in a garage, and I didn’t drive enough today to get a full charge. At this point, I can’t tell if my problem is just that I need a charge or if I screwed up somewhere in my wiring and actually have a problem.

My battery monitor says that I’m at about 80% charge with a voltage in the high elevens, (which goes to show that voltage tells you nothing about the state of your batteries), and that I could run at my current amp draw for about 24 hours. Unfortunately, my current amp draw is just the fridge. As soon as I turn on the furnace, my fridge goes haywire. Forget running the water pump or even an LED light. It’s getting chilly, so I predict I’ll be going to bed early with the electric blanket. I’m not even going to bother to have my batteries load tested. As soon as I can get a deal on a good pair of Trojans with more amp hours, I’ll be switching. I should not be shivering my first night back on the road.

Tomorrow will be the hardest day of the drive south as I’ll be heading onto the New York Thruway. After that, it should be fairly smooth sailing. I do need to find a place to overnight between St Clair PA and Hampton Roads as I want to arrive at my destination in daylight. ETA at this point is Sunday afternoon.

Nothing But Respect For US Customs

My mother had time to make crêpes this morning, which felt like a proper send off and left me optimistic that I would get to Saratoga Springs tonight. I pulled out at about 9:00 and was waiting in line at customs by 9:55. It took about 10 minutes to get to the booth.

I got the same kind of customs agent as I did in 2011, one for whom even the most straightforward story would not make sense. “It doesn’t sound like you work.” “Driving through the US to get home makes no sense.” “Spending time with a friend over the holidays makes no sense.” “You see that green arrow that says secondary inspection? Go there, park, and go inside. Your documents will be waiting.”

My initial reaction was disbelief that I would have to go through what I went through in 2011 once again.

Then I realised that they had pulled over all the RVs and that the folks ahead of me had five yippy dogs. This meant customs wouldn’t go into their rig and they would get an extra grilling. If I stayed the course, kept my story as simple as possible, and emphasized that I had plenty of money of money for a few months in the US and that I was heading home, I suspected that I would get through in record time.

I was right. I had to expand on my story a couple of times, adding more details, until the agent literally threw up her hands, sighed, and said, “You’ve been asked these questions before; right?” Mm-hmm. “Never been denied entry?” Nope. She shook her head, handed me a slip of paper marked ‘cleared’ and said, “Just go.” I was out in less than five minutes.

I was getting back into the RV when another agent came up to me and asked me where I was going. I said I’d been cleared and he replied, “Not by me.” I wish text could convey tone because this guy was in a great mood and just going through the motions. I felt so comfortable that I actually replied, “Oh, you must be the fruit guy!” instead of, “Oh, you must mean the agricultural inspection!” He burst out laughing.

He asked if I had pets and I replied my cats. He then asked me to come inside with him to watch out for them. Every other inspection, I’ve had to wait well away from the rig.

Bitha and Nee’s papers are not up to date. Because of their age, vaccines are not recommended. I’ve never been asked for their paperwork and decided to take a chance. Well, the subject came up for the first time. He said, as he poked around the kitchen, “I’ve never heard of anyone being asked for papers for their cats. Are yours pretty old?” I replied that they were and he said the same thing the vet told me, that vaccinating older cats is bad for them! Then he said that anyone who would expect me to have them vaccinated to get across the border would be a ‘jerk.’

He finally opened my fridge and gasped. “Your relish jar exploded,” he informed me sadly. What is it with me and condiments?!

He cleared me for agriculture and then that’s when everything went to hell in the proverbial handbasket. You were expecting the other shoe to drop, weren’t you?

I’d had to unhook to park because there was so little room to park everyone. I was given the option not to, but I wanted to be as cooperative as possible. I don’t know if I was flustered and missed a step or what, but I could not get the e-brake back off the truck to move it into position to tow. It was cold and the agriculture agent guessed that it had seized up because of the weather. He got in and did something and got the e-brake working smoothly again. Then, he and another agent asked me to get my tow setup manual and helped me hook back up properly. I’m telling you, you haven’t lived until you’ve tried to hook up your tow bar for the first time while being assisted by US Customs Agents!

More later. I can’t get online with my cell phone without access to wifi first, so I’m at the McDonald’s doing that. I’ll write about my trip to Saratoga later.