A Mattress Topper at Last

Since I had to go back to Plentywood today to pick up a piece for the booster, I decided to make the trip worthwhile and finally ordered myself for delivery there a mattress topper, something I badly need for my bed in Mexico. As I was shopping in earnest the other night and doing research, something hit me: those things are absolutely not portable!

They are vacuum packed and meant to expand on the bed. It would be impractical to think that I could fold it up and easily take it with me to Mexico. I’m already planning to spend money on an easy chair that I will leave behind after six months and didn’t want to spend over $100 on yet another thing that was going to have to stay. So I started searching for a travel or portable mattress topper and actually found one! It is amusingly called a Bag of Comfort by Sleep Innovations.


Now, this is meant to be portable, so it’s just a 1″ piece of memory foam, a far cry from the luxuriously thick cloud on John’s RV bed in Santa Fe, but it’s definitely better than nothing.


Reviews say that it’s easy to get back in the bag, so I should even be able to take it into a hotel for one night if that’s true. If I can have a more comfy bed at Totonaka in San Carlos, I would be happy to go back there because it’s so convenient.

The kit also includes a memory foam pillow! I needed a new pillow, too, and have been wanting to try a memory foam one, so this Bag of Comfort was quite a deal for me.


The topper is marked as being sized for a long XL twin (standard dorm bed, apparently). I have a full size bed and the topper is plenty big enough for me since I only sleep on one half of the bed anyway (it’s only a few inches narrower than the mattress). I think a couple could fit on it if they really wanted to as it’s a lot wider than I expected.

It was a good drive to go get both the topper and the piece of cable. My “Danger! Danger! Danger!” alert did go off at the U.S. border when they started to ask me questions about Mexico and what I do for a living. The question I have never flat out been asked, but was dreading, came, “Do you work in Mexico?”

I don’t lie at the border and I think people who do are idiots looking for trouble. So I replied in the affirmative. A very, very, very long beat passed and I wondered if they were making notes in my file that would cause me issues next month. Finally, the other officer came back to my window. “Sorry. We’re both confused. Do you work in Spanish or?”

He was curious, not suspicious. Classic U.S. customs scenario for me and I started to relax. “No, no, no. I work for my existing clients from the computer. I don’t have a visa to take a Mexican job.”

“Oh, that makes more sense! Mexico wouldn’t care since you’re not taking one of their jobs and you’re spending money. Good for you! Have a good afternoon in Montana!”

And that was that. American border officials are generally so lovely. It’s almost always, “Welcome to America! We’re glad to have you and your money, but, please, don’t overstay your welcome,” a sharp comparison to consistently being treated like a criminal by my country’s border officials.

I got to Plentywood around 11:30 and immediately went for lunch. Then, I got my packages, which cost me $10 ($5 each). I think the amount would add up really fast if I was frequently having stuff sent to them, but for these occasional situations, it’s a bargain since you get the confirmation that your packages are on site (something I don’t get in Opheim for the same price) and the package room is more secure.

After, I went across the street to a hardware store to get a faceplate for my booster project as well as some copper wire. The gal who served me was really helpful, but the surly man working there was rather unpleasant. Anyway, I got what I needed, so I was happy.

Then, I headed to a museum just east of town that I believed was open at 1:00 p.m. after Labour Day, but it wasn’t. Oh, well. I pointed the truck towards home and found a Dairy Queen tucked away off the main drag, so I popped in for a Blizzard. A ‘mini’ was still way more Blizzard than anyone should eat, but I highly recommend brownie cookie dough. 🙂

The border was quickly upon me after my snack and I sat at the window for what felt like ages but was probably only five minutes until someone acknowledged me. It was a very quick interview: where do I live, how long was I in the States, how much did I have to declare, and did I have any drugs or ATF? And that was it! I didn’t even have to go in to pay my $8.50 or so in taxes and no one emptied my truck (which was absolutely empty except for myself, my purse, and my purchases. This was my first easy crossing back into Canada since crossing at the Sault in 2012. I hate CBSA.

And then, it was just rolling hills and I think maybe passing one car all the way home. This picture didn’t turn out that well (my iPhone camera sucks compared to my Pentax), but I was struck by the golden trees contrasting with the olive hills. Fall is here!


When I got home, I spent about three hours finishing up my booster installation. I can’t believe it was that long, but time flew by since everything was coming together fairly easily and, so, I was having fun! That post will be next!

A Full Day With a Visit to the Big Muddy Badlands and Castle Butte

Today was the day to go get my booster, but it was also the day that my internet situation exploded media-wise. I woke up to a link in a comment to a write-up by CBC about our internet situation. I was, of course, pissed off by our reeve’s lack of support for the project. I was misunderstood/misquoted in a remark I made about the number of people affected and instead of saying something like, “The number of people don’t matter,” he just dismissed my efforts. Lovely to have community support. I then made the mistake of looking at comments and spent too much time replying to trolls. I’ve decided to not go back and look at any other comments!

I finally got on the road around 8:20. I stopped at the gas bar in Coronach before the border to get a coffee and was told I didn’t have to pay! It’s such a small thing, but it really reset my mood! And the coffee was actually quite good, to my surprise!

I was at the border about an hour after leaving home. The crossing was painless beyond having to explain what a cell signal booster does and why I need one. I then enjoyed a drive across Montana landscape that looks a lot like ours to arrive in Plentywood around 10:15. I was picking up my package at the Little Muddy Dry Goods store, which offers a package service for Canadians, but discovered that Main Street isn’t the road that cuts west-east through town. I stopped for fuel (saving 20CAD even with the exchange rate) and got directions.

The package service pickup is at the back of a bright clean open store. I was a bit dismayed that the room was open to the public, like the bar in Opheim I’ve used in the past, but was assured that the door is closed and locked when there is no staff around… I paid my 5USD and then lugged the huge box back to the truck. There, I opened up the package to make sure everything was there and I knew what I was bringing back across the border.

It was about 10:50 by this point. I was an hour earlier than I had thought to be in Plentywood, so it felt like a weird time to hunt down lunch, but I was ready to eat. I’d done research ahead of time and so I headed to the Cousins Restaurant to see if I could order off the lunch menu that early. I got to the restaurant and was greeted very warmly by a server. I find that sometimes these small town restaurants are light on the customer service because they’re not used to seeing strangers and the locals know the drill, but this was not the case here. I was handed a menu that had all their options on it, not just breakfast, so I figured I could order lunch.

The menu was pretty typical American diner fare, so I opted for a ‘patty melt’ which is a fancy term for a hamburger between slices of toast rather than a bun. This turned out to be a slice of ground beef with heaps of perfectly sautéd onions and melty American ‘Swiss’ cheese’ between slices of pumpernickel bread. The menu had said ‘marble rye’, but the pumpernickel flavour was really strong, which was a plus! It elevated the sandwich from pretty ordinary to something special. The sandwich came with fries for 7.99USD. I gave the server my last 10USD (I’d withdrawn 50USD from my US account, so if you’re following my day, you’ll know that I had 10USD left!). I’m really glad I had lunch at Cousins Restaurant.

Then, it was time to head up to the border at Regway/Raymond, which I hadn’t even known existed between Portal and Scobey until John in Santa Fe told me about it! There, upon seeing my passport and being told where I live, the customs official exclaimed that he recognised me from the radio this morning…

I declared the booster and he had me go in to pay. Then something interesting happened. He clued in that I’d said I work from home as a transcriptionist/proofreader and that I was bringing in a booster, so he asked if I was bringing it in for commercial purposes. Oh, boy, I thought. This is going to cost me! I cautiously asked what’s the difference. He looked at me like I had snakes growing out of my head. “Has no one at the border ever told you that if you import stuff for your business you don’t have to pay the PST???!!!” HUH???!!! Well, that was news to me! Dang!

It was then time to figure out what I owed now that I was importing as a business. I had my USD invoice and my PayPal receipt showing what I’d paid in Canadian. He said that I’d probably get a better exchange rate through whatever system they use and I said that the exchange rate is worse now than it was when I bought the booster almost two weeks ago. He did the math and went, “Yup. According to your PayPal rate, you owe me $53. According to our rate right now, you owe me $61. That will be $53, please.”

First time I came away from the border having paid less than I expected to pay. Lovely guy. And yet, he and another guard then emptied out my truck (thankfully, I had very little in it) and even went through my purse, which I had left on the front seat. It’s so lovely to be waved through into a foreign country and be treated like a criminal when coming into your own. But, hey, I saved $53…

From the border, I headed north into the Big Muddy Badlands, eventually pulling over to check my emails. I had a voicemail from someone at CBC Radio wanting to schedule ad interview for later that day, so I was able to return that call and set up a time for them to call me.

Then, it was time to head on to Castle Butte, a famous landmark in the area. I thought I’d have trouble finding it, but there was a sign announcing the turnoff. Castle Butte is a particularly remarkable hill in the middle of lots of other hills and was used as a landmark in the old days. I arrived, changed into a hiking skirt and my Keen sandals and pretty much crab walked my way to the top. It was very slippery! But I got up there without much incident and was surprised when I reached the summit effortlessly.

The trip down was another story, though! I crouched down and pretty much slid my way to the bottom. Then, I had a walk around the entire structure.














And people think Saskatchewan is flat…

From Castle Butte, I took the back road through Harp Tree to get to Willow Bunch. There were just one or two signs the whole way there to assure me that I was heading in the right direction. Just as I was certain I was completely misplaced, I saw the red tower of the Willow Bunch Museum! Whew, what an adventure! But I wouldn’t have really needed a search party since I had cell service the whole way through this particularly desolate part of the province…

When I got in, I called Caroline, who got home late last night, to check in as she’d left me a message and asked me to do that. I asked if I could come by around 4:00 so I could do my interview from their landline. Of course! So I called back my contact at CBC Radio and gave him C&C’s number.

I then very carefully unpacked my booster, making sure I kept the packing material and did as little damage to it as I could. The materials are really heavy and obviously of better quality than what I’ve received from Wilson.



I tried to set the booster up temporarily without mounting the antenna at any great height, but I got the ‘you have oscillation’ error message that means that the interior and exterior antennas are too close together. I managed to get the old antenna off the pole and the new one mounted with a minimum amount of effort, but I still couldn’t get the booster to work. I went so far as to install the booster in the shed, which was as much horizontal separation as I had cable for, but that still wasn’t enough… Tomorrow, I’ll go to town and get another section of pole and hope that another 10′ of vertical separation will do the trick. If not, I’m at a loss and will contact the sellers to get their thoughts. I’m disappointed, to say the least. I had a feeling this unit would be overkill for my small property and I might be right… But I’m not giving up yet!

Then, it was time to head over to C&C’s, where I had a coffee and catchup before my interview. I think the interview went well and I was able to share how I lose internet during the day and have to pack up my things and race up the hill.

I think I’m done with this issue because nothing is going to get done. I’ve fought a good fight, but with SaskTel not having to answer to anyone and my community management not willing to get involved, this will never get resolved. Time to start thinking about where I’ll spend next summer since it won’t be here…

After my interview, I got another coffee and then Caroline asked if I could stay for supper! Of course! 😀 She made her amazing whisky-marinaded salmon with scarlet runner beans, corn on the cob, and grilled zucchini. She is such a good cook! It was a lovely meal where we all came away replete, but not stuffed. They don’t do dessert, but they do do wine! So we sat out for a bit to finish our glasses of fermented grape juice, then I headed home with a giant zucchini.

When I got in, I remounted the old antenna onto the broomstick and stuck the whole thing in the truck like I used to have it set up, then restarted the old booster. It’s going to rain tomorrow, but hopefully I can do more work on the new booster Sunday and Monday and get it working… Croft, you’d better be online this weekend! 😉

Whew, it’s been a very long and full day. Time for a hot shower and hopefully a good night’s sleep. I’ve been so stressed that I have been sleeping poorly, but hopefully the exercise I did today will help.

At a Familiar Starbucks, or Stettler AB to Minot ND

I’m back at the Minot Starbucks where I got online last time I was here before getting my cell phone connection to work. It’s been a long couple of days and today is not over!

Going back to Stettler for a bit, there was a lot to celebrate on Tuesday night, so Donna, Ken, and I treated ourselves to dinner at Stettler’s White Goose Restaurant. The food was excellent and reasonably priced! I enjoyed their chicken souvlaki and would go back to this restaurant without hesitation.

Wednesday morning, I dropped the truck off at CR Glass at 8AM. The other glass place in town looked at me like I was an alien on Tuesday when I asked about the possibly of having my windshield replaced that day or first thing Wednesday. CR Glass said on Tuesday that they didn’t have one in stock, but that they’d have it by 8AM Wednesday and I could be on the road by 1:30ish. They were true to their word and the cost was only $262 with the tax. Thanks, CR Glass!

Goodbyes are always hard, and especially so when you know you won’t be seeing dear friends for another year. I mean, what would be the odds that I’d have to come back again to Alberta before my expected return date?! So I made sure to have everything packed up so I could leave straight from CR Glass instead of going back to Donna and Ken’s.

Donna made sure I was loaded down with electronic rejects, including a little inverter to charge my laptop and iPad when I’m driving! Croft had mentioned such a device, but I misunderstood what he meant, thinking he was talking about a 12V charger. Thanks, Donna!

Google Maps said I was looking at 10+ hours to my property, putting my ETA at about midnight, which was too late when I factored in breaks. But my GPS put the ETA at 11:00, which meant about midnight with breaks. I decided to try for it and reevaluate as I approached Swift Current.

The drive was smooth and uneventful until I got to about 30KM shy of Brooks and I discovered that my gas gauge is not properly calibrated. I went from having a quarter tank of fuel to being in the red in a matter of a couple of kilometres! I was on fumes when I pulled into the first gas station I could find and put in a full tank and then some. Talk about stressful! But my nerves were soothed when I was told, “You got plenty of gas. How about a free hot drink?” So I came out of there with a nice coffee with hazelnut creamer.

It was coming on 6:30ish or so when I hit Medicine Hat, so I took a bit of a detour to a Safeway to pick up a semblance of a picnic for dinner and breakfast.

By the time I turned onto SK highway 37 at Gull Lake, my ETA to my property was only 10:45. I was going to make it!

Next time I go to my property, I will stay on highway 1 to Swift Current and only turn to highway 13 from there. Highway 13 from Cadillac to Weyburn is beautiful, but the bit between the junction of 37 and Cadillac was pretty rough.

I was coming onto a quarter tank of fuel when I hit Cadillac (hilarious, I used to live in Pontiac, but I digress). No problem, there’s a Husky there. Except that I arrived at about 8:30 and it was closed, with the next gas station being more than 100KM away and just as likely to be closed. I just about had a heart attack! And then I noticed the note under the closed sign, that gas was still available after hours with a credit card. There was two pages worth of instructions, but I quickly ascertained that the process was just like getting fuel at AFD Petroleum in Dawson City. So I had no trouble getting my fuel.

It was just starting to get dark when I rolled into Assiniboia and there was still pink at the edges of the sky when I landed on my property at bang on 10PM! I was able to set up camp and was snug in bed by 10:30. I read till 11:00 and slept soundly till 5AM when I was awoken by the sun since my temporary window covering (garbage bag + duct tape) had come loose. That was still a good night for me and I dozed till 7AM, so I was quite well rested this morning.

It was pretty cold through the night and this morning, but my sleeping bag and blanket were sufficient even though I was just sleeping in a t-shirt and shorts. I even left the canopy door cracked open. My fleece was sufficient to ward off the morning chill. All in all, a very successful first night sleeping in Moya!

looking towards the rear of my property

looking towards the rear of my property

this whimsical addition to my radio antenna cracks me up!

this whimsical addition to my radio antenna cracks me up!

looking towards the street (kind of annoyed the for sale sign is still there, but anyway)

looking towards the street (kind of annoyed the for sale sign is still there, but anyway)

I pulled out of my lot at about 7:30. I put Duluth, MN, into my GPS, knowing that I’m not getting there tonight, but it would at least plot me on the shortest route to Quebec. I thought I would be stopping in Weyburn for coffee and internet a couple of hours later, but Moya scrapped those plans. You see, a pick up truck, even a small one, makes light of gravel roads, so I was able to take the road to Willow Bunch that I swore I would never take again in my Accent. That put me at only about a half hour from the US port of entry at Scobey, MT. It meant hours of rural driving and no internet break till Minot, but also immediate access to cheap US fuel!

I stopped just before the border in a town with a small campground and visitor centre with public washrooms (rough but clean). I had breakfast, washed up, and threw out my trash then drove the 10KM to the border.

This was the first crossing where I was asked why I had chosen that port of entry, a very sensible question considering the remoteness of the crossing and how far I was from ‘home.’ I explained that I’d spent the night at my vacation property in ____ and earned a ‘That makes sense! Have a great trip to Montreal!’ in reply.

Fuel was running low as I pulled into Plentywood, MT, around 10:00 so I stopped for gas and coffee. They were having trouble with their POS system, so I was there a bit since they would not let me go to the bank right next door to get cash. That earned me another free coffee, and a really good one at that. 🙂

It poured rain most of the way to North Dakota, but has since cleared up a little.

I’m heading to a casino in Minnesota about five hours away. That will make a full day, but I can do it now that I’ve had a rest.

The truck drives like a dream. I am so happy with it. 🙂