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.

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.

It’s Going To Be a Long Day

YUCK. I awoke to sleet. I need to get to tomorrow, but home is pretty uncomfortable and the iPad and computer both need a good charge. I’m at the McDonalds right now on the iPad, but there are no power outlets. Definitely not a great start to my adventure!

The land owners have till 6:00 to accept or deny my offer. I hope I will be told sooner rather than later. I’m not sure I want to drive the rig in this weather, but it would be warmer in the cab!

There is still a promise of sun tomorrow and I do have place lined up to plug in on my second day in North Dakota, so I just need to hang in there. My priority is to keep enough power to run the fridge.

I still prefer being in my cold rig than in The Apartment!

Late Sun Is Better Than No Sun!

The sun finally came out a couple of hours ago. It’s too late to reach a full charge again today, but it was enough to get some juice into the computer and iPad with enough left over to run the furnace tonight. I also enjoyed a couple of hours in the front room with a cat in my lap, enjoying the warmth of the sun. It’s freezing again, but it was nice while it lasted. 🙂

I would have gladly moved to an RV park today, but there isn’t a single one that opens before mid-May in this area. It’s supposed to be nasty again tomorrow, but the promise of full sun on Wednesday is keeping me from being too depressed about this less than stellar start to what was supposed to be an attempt at a solid month of boondocking. Well, I haven’t given up yet and as long as my fridge is running, everything’s fine. At this point, my batteries are reaching the end of their natural lifespan and I will shortly be plugged into 120V for an extended period of time. So I don’t care about running the batteries too low. But they seem to be performing well for the time being.

This afternoon, I ran into Walmart to grab a cheap pair of gloves. I cut off the tips when I came in. Ah; warm hands! Not having sore joints is definitely improving my mood. I should have done this ages ago.

Dealing With Growing Disillusionment

I’ve had a lot of time in the last six months to think about what’s going to happen when it’s time to leave the east coast this fall. I have had a lot of thoughts rattling around in my brain that have been difficult to articulate precisely. These thoughts have been about the collision of my dream for a full-timing life and the reality of it.

My dream of full-time RVing is an American one. It falls apart in the face of Canadian reality. It is impossible in Canada to have the kind of freedom I wanted RVing to give me. There are a number factors which have led to my growing disillusionment with the full-time RV lifestyle in Canada:

-The Cost: living in this country is expensive and you don’t gain anything by being an RVer because Canada doesn’t have nice open tracts of land where you can spend months on end. I’ve stayed in places where RV park rent was twice the monthly payment on my house.

-The Constraints: It’s impossible to travel freely around Canada if you want to abide by the laws governing health care, vehicle registration, and insurance

-The Climate: There is no decent place to winter in this country.

My two months in the US last year confirmed that for me to continue RVing, I need to be able to travel in the US for a good part of the year. My expenses drop by 50% when I’m there. I can’t work there, so I need to spend the other part of the year in Canada to work and save money. But I can only do that if some nice folks will let me park in their yard or their driveway, otherwise all my income disappears into rent.

Since even before I hit the road, I thought of buying some land to use as a home base. The more I realised how much Canada was constraining me, the less I wanted to buy land to play by the rules. But going to the States changed my attitude. I can get that lot to satisfy the US’s concerns about my having ties to Canada. Now that I have satisfied my Canadian bucket list, I wouldn’t mind going back to the same place every year for four or five months to work without worrying about paying rent or overstaying my welcome.

Having traveled the breadth of this country, I knew that the only provinces where it made sense to buy land were Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Every other province is too expensive and too restrictive, with rules governing how long the lot can stay empty and forbidding turning them into RV pads.

Manitoba’s real estate prices have jumped 158% over the last six years. Saskatchewan is ripe for a comparable boost as it now boasts the only truly affordable acreages along the US border. The word on Bay Street is that now is the time for savvy investors to buy Saskatchewan property and that that investment will pay for itself shortly, just as those who were wise to buy in Manitoba a few years ago have made good on their investments.

So that’s why I decided to meander through the Saskatchewan countryside yesterday. I was checking out several possible pieces of property.

Today, I drove back out to Assiniboia to make a formal offer on the ideal piece of land and a backup offer on a slightly less suitable lot. And that’s all I have to say about that at this time.

Who doesn’t know what I’m talking about
Who’s never left home, who’s never struck out
To find a dream and a life of their own
A place in the clouds, a foundation of stone

Many precede and many will follow
A young girl’s dream no longer hollow
It takes the shape of a place out west
But what it holds for her, she hasn’t yet guessed