Minot to My Property

I’m glad I hung out this morning because I got a call from Sheree at GCR Tire Centers about my service call yesterday and that I wanted to dispute the $100 service call fee I hadn’t been told about. I said that if I had known the bill was going to be that high, I would have likely left the motorhome, gone to Minot in the toad to pick up a used tire, and then followed a service truck back.

She was very understanding and said she would speak to her manager then get back to me. She did so very quickly and told me she could take $50 off the bill since they had sold me the tire at cost (!). Good enough! I recommend GCR Tires for mobile tire repair in the Minot area. They got to me FAST and got me back on the road in no time at all.

I left Minot at about 9:00. I had about a quarter tank of fuel left so I decided to wait till Kenmare to tank up (60KM) so as to arrive in Canada with as much U.S. fuel as possible.

That first part of the day SUCKED. It was just soooooooooooooooooo windy. And, spoiler alert, the rest of the day’s driving was like that, too. 🙁

I was surprised that the folks at the Kenmare gas station (the one right on the highway) let me gas up without prepaying.

From there, it was about a half hour to the border.

The Portal crossing really confused me. There was a sign saying commercial vehicles thataway to an area with no overhang. The non-commercial lanes were under an overhang marked with a 12′ clearance, but in front of that was another sign saying that the clearance was just 10′ 5″ (I need 11′ 3″). The obvious thing was to get in the commercial lane, but I know better than to presume in such situations! I waited at the junction until a lady came out of a booth and waved me over to the commercial lane.

She was really nice! She asked me how long I’d been gone, how much I had to declare, where I’d gone (nodding when I mentioned the Mexico trip, so I obviously pre-empted her on that), and the usual questions about booze, firearms, and tobacco. She then asked me to park so that someone could look inside and confirm there was no one with me. This was, of course, a reasonable request, but her tone really made me okay with the search as it felt like routine, not suspicion.

Would you believe that my secondary inspection guy looked like the secondary inspection guy who interrogated me at Coutts? Just a mini version of him, shorter and less muscly.

He started by asking me a few questions about my trip, why I went to the U.S., why I stayed as long as I did, how I supported myself, and how I met the friends I visited along the way. His tone was neutral and I didn’t know yet how the inspection was going to go. He then asked me to go to the rig with him because of Neelix.

I knew I was clear the minute we stepped outside because he handed me my passport.

The two times I had a difficult crossing, my passport was held until the very end. Last night, I Googled what my rights are reentering Canada and basically you have NO charter rights until you are detained, at which point you have the right to remain silent and get counsel. What being ‘detained’ means is fuzzy. For me, the line is crossed when I lose control of my passport.

As we walked, I brought up the subject of food, and his, “We really don’t care about that” made me realise that I have never been asked about food coming back into Canada! Yes, there are rules, but it’s at the bottom of their priority list. Dang, I should have smuggled in more cheese!

He asked me if I wanted to go grab Neelix and I suggested instead that I just guard the door. He thought that was a good idea. He continued to ask his questions as he poked through the rig and I made a mistake, not telling him that all the renovations were done in Canada (they are worried about mods being made to hide drugs). This wasn’t a huge deal, but I wish I had thought to tell him.

We talked about work and money and whatnot and his tone was 100% American: curious and open-minded, not suspicious. SO REFRESHING. He asked to look in the cab of the motorhome and then asked me one more time about any mods or repairs made to the vehicles. I told him what I had told the lady, about the throttle cable and the three blowouts (all tires declared), and then he told me I was clear, to be safe on the road, and to have a nice day.

Not anywhere near the easiest border crossing of my life, but that’s two good ones coming back into Canada in a row and I think I will be A LOT less stressed next year.

I’m just surprised that I wasn’t sent to the cashier. Between new batteries, a watering system, several tires, glasses, a computer hard drive, and all the goodies I bought this winter with Amazon gift certificates, I was WELL over my limit. And, yes, I declare everything. I can do basic math and know roughly how much I’ll be asked to pony up. Last month, some morons imported an RV at the same crossing, underdeclared the purchase value by about $13,000 to save about $300 in taxes… and had to pay $9,000 in penalties to get their rig back. Stupid!

From the border, it was a quick drive to Estevan. It was only 11:00 (I had gained an hour) and super windy out. It seemed stupid to hang out at Walmart when another 3.5 hours or so of driving would get me to my property. I grabbed lunch and then figured out where The Source store is located. It was just 1KM away, but I’d been to the mall before and knew it was barely walkable from the Walmart. So I just drove out there and, thankfully, found a place to park.

I went into the mall, found The Source, and was greeted by Joel. I told him I wanted a Turbo stick. The only Bell product they had in stock was a Mifi 2. I really didn’t care what the device is as long as a) it has the flex plan that starts at $10 and gives you up to 15GB for $100 and b) it doesn’t need 120V power to run. Joel made several calls to make sure that the Mifi 2 was eligible for the plan and then he got it up and running for me and we tested it on my Macbook Pro. What I like about it is that it’s like a wifi router, so I can connect my computers, iPad, and iPod Touch to it all at once. The stick would have been $0 down for a two-year commitment and the Mifi 2 was $50, with  no activation fee. Good enough. The device has an 11-hour lithium battery that can be recharged through the computer (like I charge my phone) and it also comes with a wall wart.

From Estevan, it was another windy hour to Weyburn, where I planned to refuel. Halfway there, I glanced in a side mirror to see the plastic wheel well cover over the driver’s side rear dually snap loose and fly away! CRAP! Thankfully, I saw this happen, it didn’t hit anyone, and it happened at the first place I could pull over in about 40KM! I parked and then walked the side of the road until I found the part. It is really banged up, but I can likely effect a decent repair. Anything will look better than no cover at all! I’ll have pictures of that later.

There was a gas station right at the junction of 13 and 39 that looked like easy access, but I had to make a sharp turn into the pumps and I really didn’t think the toad was going to get clear without damage when I pulled out. I inched my way out of there and discovered that I really do know how to handle my rig because I was able to effect the necessary corrections to not only get the toad clear but also still make a very tight turn away from the pumps. A guy coming out of the c-store actually complimented me on my driving skills!

I think the GPS has the wrong speed limit programed for highway 13 because it always way overestimates how long it will take to get to my property. My ETA was 6:00 and I got there at just past 5:00. The drive in was scenic beyond description. In terms of wintering options, it would have made so much more sense to buy land in B.C. (never mind that I will never be able to afford to live there, much less buy property), but I so much prefer the landscapes and climate here (sunny hot dry summers, sunny cold dry winters). This is the land of my dreams and I am so lucky to own a piece of it.

I unhooked and made many failed attempts at backing Miranda into the lot. There is the beginning of a driveway entrance where the curb drops and it took several passes to finally get lined up with the entrance and backed in. The ground was SOFT and I completely failed at getting onto levelers, with my rear tires now in pretty deep. Dang. 🙁 But the front ones are on cement, so I am optimistic that I will be able to get out of there once the ground firms up a bit. For one thing, I’d like to be much further back.

As I suspected, the village is too low in the valley to get a cell signal! 🙁 So no internet at home. 🙁 🙁 🙁 I only have to go 1KM to get a signal and 3.5KM total to get to a spot where I can pull over safely. So I will head here once or twice a day to do online stuff. I’m going to make the back of the truck comfortable for hanging out so that I can do what I need to do without feeling too put upon. I just don’t like not being more reachable. I’ll figure out how to make this work. At least, the Mifi 2 is FAST. I came up here tonight to download some files for work to do over the weekend and thought I’d be here for hours trying to download stuff. Nope. So that almost makes up for no signal at home.

I’m wiped. I’m in work mode for the next bit, so the blog will be quieter than it has been. I’ll check in with pictures at some point tomorrow.

Quick Update From Estevan

I’ll have more later, but I just wanted to say that I made it back to Canada!

It is crazy windy in Estevan and I have work to do this weekend, so I am heading to my property. I have an Internet device, but I don’t know if it will work at my lot. Worst case scenario, it’s 20-minute drive to Assiniboia where I will have coverage for sure.

So check back tonight or tomorrow for details about the border crossing.

Why Not Minot?

I am at the Applebee’s in Minot, North Dakota posting from my iPad. I’m off to Verizon next to see about getting the US cell phone activated with a data plan.

As I approached the border this morning, the last words spoken to me by the customs supervisor last year echoed in my mind. I made some notes in your file. As long as you’re back in Canada by April 7th, your next crossing should be easier.

He wasn’t kidding. Had the agents not struggled with getting the front door opened, I would have been through in under four minutes. My having to get out and unlock the door for them delayed the process by a whole 30 seconds. They rummaged around for a bit and then the lady handed me my passport and told me to move ahead. I asked her where she wanted me to park because her instructions seemed vague. “No. You’re clear. Have a nice trip!” Yahoo!!!

Miranda is parked at the Walmart, one of the worst lots I have stayed in, hard to get around in and on a slope. But there aren’t any obvious alternates and it’s just for a night.

I seem to have changed time zones as my iPad says it’s 12:45 and I distinctly remember pulling into Minot at that time. It’s been a short driving day having left Estevan less than four hours ago, but I’m beat and glad to call this drizzly day done.

Inching Towards the Border

I am at the Walmart in Estevan (The Energy City), still in Saskatchewan. I didn’t get much sleep last night and drove about 500km total today in the toad, so I was tempted to stay in Weyburn. But I felt that three nights there were already pushing it, that another 80km wouldn’t kill me, and that it’d be nice to start the day so close to the border (40km). If the border crossing goes smoothly, I will have a chance to do my business in Minot and still make it to the RV park I have in mind. But I have managed to get a full charge today (THANK YOU GALARNEAU), so tomorrow’s cold and overcast forecast isn’t too scary, not with sun being promised from Friday onward, and I will keep open the option of detouring to Bismarck if I do not manage to find the required services in Minot.

Estevan is rather a large city for this part of Canada. The Walmart isn’t as convenient to access as I had to drive through town, but the lot, like that in Weyburn, is nice and big with plenty of space to tuck away a 50′ rig on level spot.