MĂ©rida or Bust — Day One: Haven to Douglas, WY

Total Kilometres to Drive: 5,400

Kilometres Driven Today: 830

Total Kilometres Driven: 830

Kilometres Left: 4,570

Amount of Trip Completed: 15.37%

Google says I did 871KM, but my odometre says 830KM.

Okay, I know I have A LOT to catch up on. What I’ve concluded from the last week is that it is no longer possible for me to be “semi-online.” My 10 months in Europe have made me accustomed to living in the 21st century and I’m lost without access to Siri and the ability to be able to do what needs doing online when I need to do it. It has nothing to do with not being able to unplug, which I absolutely can do, just not in the context of trying to plan an international move! I was so discombobulated and disorganised this past week. 🙁

I am going to try do proper backdated posts about the myriads of things I had to do to prepare to leave this morning, but here’s the short of it:

-I returned to Haven late last Tuesday night, thanks to my neighbours C&C picking me up in Regina;

-I stayed with C&C so that I could more easily pack up (never mind that Haven had no power, water, or Internet). They have tons of room and a similar routine to me so this worked out super well;

-Caroline kept me well fuelled with one delicious meal after another. Here’s the brunch she made for the two of us on Sunday, what she calls an “apple pancake,” but which I find is more like an apple upside down cake even if the apples end up floating to the top:

-I had some work done on Moya to ready her for her final epic voyage. Among the things I tasked my mechanic to resolve is why my overhead light stays on, requiring me to pull the fuse when I park lest I drain the battery. That wound up being harder to diagnose than expected, so he told me to keep pulling the fuse like I’ve been doing and gave me this to make it easier:

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I was suitably amused by his solution, especially since he didn’t charge me for poking around;

-I was able to renew my driver’s license, but it didn’t come before I left so now I have to figure out how to get it to Mexico (my host in Chelem suggested I have it sent to her in Ontario for her bring it down in the fall rather than have it couriered to Mexico);

-I got my property tax assessment and went to town ready to pick a fight because I thought that the amount was a mistake at best or a cash grab at worst. Turned out that the number was real and reflects the current market. So Haven is now valued at 5.35 times what it was valued the last couple of years and I’ve been assured I will only get a token property tax increase. Looks like the expected real estate boom has started!!!

-The traitorous weather was not conducive to packing:

It was freezing in Miranda and I was not able to give her a cleaning before taking off again. By the way, I had some serious mouse damage (my scarf drawer was decimated), so that’s another reason I couldn’t have stayed in Miranda since she needed serious disinfecting.;

-All the Tetris I played as a kid paid off. There isn’t an ounce of space left in the truck:

Here’s how I loaded the cab, filling it with boxes…

And then stuffing soft items into the gaps:

I got about 95% of my most prized possessions into the truck! I’m not that disappointed since I’m headed into a humid climate and so it doesn’t make sense to bring all my journals, photo albums, and the rest of the books into that climate until I fully commit to it. I am going to have to fully unpack when I get to Chelem otherwise I risk packed items moulding over the summer.

So today was departure day. I’d hoped to leave yesterday, but that was a moving target and I was fine with leaving as late as Friday. For one thing, I desperately wanted one day before departure where I could just stop to sit for a moment and think about anything I might have forgotten. I managed to get the afternoon and evening off.

Caroline made her amazing homemade pizza (with homemade venison salami!) for dinner so I could have leftovers for my drive today! After dinner, she and I sat down at her computer so I could show her a few things. She has moved to a Mac and has had basically no learning curve. I’m so proud of her and happy that she now has a computer that works well so we can keep in touch better. It’ll also be so much easier to help her troubleshoot issues, although based on an email she sent me today, I think she’ll be able to handle many of her own issues. We then played cards, visited a bit with my immediate neighbours K&T, and I ended up going to bed way, way, way, way too late, well past midnight.

I wanted to be up at 6:30, but was, of course, awake at 5:00. I got up around 6:15 and was delighted to find Charles up and the coffee already perking. The border didn’t open till 8:00 and I had less than an hour drive there, so I sat for a bit before dressing and putting the last of my bags in the truck, as well as mug of coffee for the road.

Goodbyes are always difficult, but we all three vowed to see one another again in two years in Mexico!!!

Standing by the truck, looking east. Goodbye, Canada, it’s been good knowing you, but I’m heading somewhere new…

I made a pit stop in Coronach and got to the border at 8:30. Based on my experience recently at airports, I made the decision to cross while wearing a wig rather than a headscarf. The atmosphere at the crossing was very different than it was under the Obama years, much more no nonsense than conversational and friendly. For example, I was greeted with “Passport?” rather than, “Hi! How are you today?” I was asked the usual questions about where I was going, where I live, did I have any ATF, etc. All seemed to be going well, but soon as the officer opened the rear of the truck, he asked me to step outside and go into the waiting room. There, he had me fill out a customs form. As I did so, I overheard him say to someone, “This one is going to take a while.”

Well, at least they weren’t making me unpack the truck, but, dang, I’d forgotten my coffee! When the officer came back after just a few minutes to get my declaration, I asked if I could get the coffee and he said, “We’ll be done in a few minutes.”

Curious.

Sure enough, he had me back in the truck a minute later, at most 12 minutes from the time I’d started the interview! The last thing he said to me was, “You wrote a book?” which tells me that they have Rae as an alias on file for me, that he Googled me, and that whatever he found told him that I likely was not carrying contraband or otherwise a threat (by the way, I had provided him an inventory of what I have in the truck).

One of the questions I was asked was how I plan to support myself in Mexico and he didn’t seem happy with my answer that I was going to work there for myself and that Mexico was satisfied with that. My answer should have been, “That’s what made it possible to get my residency visa.” He also asked me if I’m keeping a Canadian bank account and it was obvious that he liked my answer that I am not cutting ties with Canada at this time.

So it was another absolutely uneventful and easy, it not particularly welcoming, entry into the US. I pointed Moya south, fuelled up in Scobey, then continued south towards Circle, where I made another pit stop, before pulling into a Wendy’s in Miles City at 12:30 to get some lunch (most of the pizza had been breakfast, with a bit left for an afternoon snack!), use their WiFi, and find a room for the night. The greeting there was so friendly and a reminder of why I’ve so enjoyed my travels to the US in the past.

After a bit of research, I decided to push on to Douglas, Wyoming, where I would land around 6:00. That was a much longer day than I wanted to do, but there aren’t a lot of cities in that part of Wyoming so I would either stop too late or too early. I’m staying with one of you lovely readers just south of Denver tomorrow and will have a relatively short (400KM) day from Douglas, so I can get a late start.

I just love this corner of the US, just rolling hills not unlike home. It was a very isolated drive, of course. I stopped in Broadus for fuel and coffee and then drove straight to Douglas, with only one pit stop at a rest area about 45 minutes from my destination. After weeks of GREY, it was amazing to get blue sky the deeper I got into Wyoming. There was a brief thundershower right before Douglas, but it cleared quickly.

The hotel rate I was quoted was 79USD. I asked if they had an “Exhausted Canadian driving to Mexico” rate and… got a 14USD discount. WOW! That covered some takeout and a beer for dinner. The liquor store is right next to the hotel and the lady there was super helpful and friendly in showing me what they had for single beers. Interestingly, I no longer get carded when I buy booze in the US so I must be starting to look my age at last… 🙂

I’m sure there should be more to this already novel-length post, but I’m ready to drop. Hopefully, I’m back to a more regular posting schedule. April really has been sheer madness. But I’m on my way!

I learned about this song just before heading down to Mexico for the first time. It no longer applies to me, but I love the tune. So here’s an earworm for you. 🙂

Scobey, MT, to Gillette, WY (and Devils Tower National Monument at Very, Very, Very Long Last)

My first stop after the border was fuel, which was only about $2.74, and which would be very likely the most expensive I’d experience on the U.S. leg of my trip, a very good start!

There’s basically nothing in this part of Montana, so I just drove and drove and drove until I got to Miles City, where I had a quick lunch and checked in that I’d made it across the border.

Then, there was a whole lot more of nothing as I headed towards the Wyoming border, stopping in Broadus for more fuel.

This part of Wyoming is just like home, only with more trees!

I caught my first glimpse of Devils Tower around 3:15, from an angle I’d never seen in pictures, with it rising above the tree tops like a shark’s fin.

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I was exhausted by this point and so disappointed to finally be there in absolutely perfect hiking weather so late in the day. The views from the highway were quite good and I decided that I wouldn’t get my $10’s worth out of the access fee. But just before the turnoff to the entrance to the monument, I had a thought: my interagency pass that I bought last year! I pulled over and took it out of my centre console (I can’t believe I still had it so handy!). October 2015 was punched out. I couldn’t remember if that meant the card was good till the end of September or the end of October so I went to the entrance to find out. It was still valid all the rest of this month! So I drove the 3 miles up to the base of the monument.

Finally saw some fall colours on the way!

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The monument is a place of immense power. It’s not just a bunch of rock columns popping out of the ground. I’m so glad I got closer because I couldn’t see the incredible textures until I got up close.

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At its base is a boulder field that reminded me of the Chilkhoot Trail. (For those who track such things, that is NOT once ubiquitous pink hoodie. I found a similar one in my new size and it was like meeting up with an old friend! And I have no idea why I’m leaning that way…)

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Even though I was mentally exhausted, I had physical energy to burn, so I decided to do the 2KM hike around the base of the monument! It’s all paved, but hilly. There were places with amazing views to the valley below. I enjoyed the fresh air and scent of the ponderosa pines.

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I was surprised by the colour of the monument, a bright lime green.

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I could imagine people taking shelter from the rain under this overhang.

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Wonder what these holes were for…

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I had fun watching this little guy eat his lunch.

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There hasn’t been a major rock fall from the monument since 1906, so these boulders predate then.

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The monument is a tricky place for the Parks Service to manage. They consider rock climbing an acceptable sport, but that clashes with Native American beliefs in the holy nature of the site. A compromise is that there is no climbing of the monument during the entire month of June. A permit is required to climb to the top and you have to check in when you get down. Needless to say, there’s no chance of my ever seeing the top, but it’s apparently a fairly level surface about the size of a football field.

Detouring to Devils Tower was definitely worth my time today and I’m very grateful that my interagency pass was still valid.

From there, it was an hour to Gillette. I was in absolutely no mood to shop for a room, so I took the first one I enquired about and then walked across the street to the Applebee’s for dinner. I haven’t been there in a year and boy as it changed! Most of the menu is the same, but it is now really crazy expensive! The steak dinner I was looking forward to that would have cost $15 with a beer and the tip a year ago would have been over $30 tonight! Forget that! I ordered their beer special for $2.50, thinking it would be a tiny glass, and it was HUGE. Exactly what I wanted after a long day on the road! I chose a reasonably priced chicken and bacon wrap that was really delicious and satisfying. Got back to the hotel and the lady at the desk insisted on giving me a cookie (a soft chocolate one with white chocolate chips, hard to resist), so I had dessert, too. 🙂

Tomorrow is going to be another very long haul and I have two shopping stops to make so I’m going to turn in early and hope that I sleep well and can be on my way earlyish, and by that, I mean no later than 9:00, although, really, it should be 7:00. Hopefully, the traffic through Denver will be okay. I really should have done another hour today, but Gillette really was my limit!