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. πŸ™

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, withΒ  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. πŸ™ 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! πŸ™ So no internet at home. πŸ™ πŸ™ πŸ™ 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.

Border Day

It’s a cooooold morning in Minot.

It’s amazing how much longer the days are up here. I’d noticed a gradual increase to daylight hours in the past weeks, but it was really remarkable yesterday. It was still bright out at 10:00 p.m. and there was almost full sun at 6:00 a.m.

Last night, I found myself effectively boxed in, so I spent the night where I was and went to bed early so I could get up early and get myself into a better departure location and then I went back to bed. There really won’t be any stopping opportunities between here and the border, so there was no sense pulling out. I’m finishing off my coffee and will make a couple of calls, including one to Verizon to cancel my data package.

There was some major news out of Alberta this morning, what with the announcement that Donna and Ken are officially turning in their keys. πŸ™



Hankinson to Minot

Well, I made it to Minot only three hours later than expected. Too late for dinner. πŸ™ The only thing that makes me feel better about today is that the tire that blew is NOT one of the original tires, but rather the one that was put on in Brandon. And the one that blew in Oklahoma also wasn’t one of the originals. Moral of the story: buy Michelins.

It was a good morning in Hankinson, a little cold because of the wind, but the sun was warm. It took about two and a half hours to get all my chores done, with the longest one being trying to get Google to load a satellite image of the Minot Walmart (which did not happen). It was exactly 10:00 when I pulled onto I-29, with my ETA being 15:45.

The wind was horrible, but otherwise the driving was easy. When I pulled into the Oriska rest stop at noon, I was unusually smart and had lunch!

I then decided to try the diagonal route on US-52 from Jamestown rather that 90 degree angling it through Bismarck like I did in the opposite direction last year, just to avoid driving through Bismarck. I’ll take US-52 from now on; it was an easier drive.

The gas at the casino was surprisingly expensive (still cheaper than the environs), so I hadn’t left with a full tank. I had a quarter left when I hit US-52, with the next gas station being just 50KM away. I can usually do 125 to 175KM on a quarter tank. I was on fumes when I got to the gas station!!!!!!!

Getting out of the gas station was surprisingly tricky because I needed to make two sharp turns, one right, one left. I was certain that was going to end in disaster with the toad hitting something, so I walked the area and discovered that I could just pull ahead into the neighbouring bank’s parking lot and make my right turn from there. Well, that wasn’t going to work either; too much traffic. I decided to turn left since I would have had to turn left at some point to rejoin US-52. That took me through downtown. The GPS told me to turn right to rejoin US-52. Uh, not going to happen, there were low lying branches in the middle of the road! Next right turn option had construction. Thankfully, the absolute last option worked out and I was able to rejoin US-52. Have I mentioned recently how much I loathe getting gas?

The wind died down after and I was making good time to Minot when the blowout happened. I am convinced that the rumble strip caused the tire to fail. Don’t look at me like that! I have had a rumble strip shred a tire before, and a much newer one than this. If you hit it at just the right angle with a hot tire, BOOM. And I had gone into the rumble strip to avoid a hole. πŸ™

There are only two things for which I can be grateful. Number one, I was on a very narrow road with almost no shoulder and this happened right at the entrance to a nice big scenic turnout. Two, I had cell service, albeit barely.

My GPS wasn’t too helpful this time, so I got online (in text mode only, and even that was sloooooow) and Googled ‘mobile tire repair minot.’ I called the first number and not only did they not do mobile service, they didn’t know who did. The next number also didn’t do mobile service, but gave me the number of those who do.

It took about an hour for the repair guy to get to me. Besides having a hard time getting the old tire off the rim, the job seemed fairly easy. I am not going to name the company until the payment issue is resolved. I was quoted $300 over the phone and when I got the bill it was $400, the difference being a service call fee on top of the mileage fee. The driver said he would have the manager call me before putting the charge through. So I don’t want to say anything about the company before I know if I should advise the world that they took advantage of my plight or if they did right by me.



The turnout was scenic, so you might wonder why I didn’t just spend the night there. Well, I didn’t have a good feeling about the place. This hasn’t happened many times in my five years on the road, but I got a very strong “you don’t want to be here after dark” vibe. So I hooked the truck back up while the guy was packing his tools and preparing the invoice and then drove the final 40 minutes into Minot.

The Walmart is as it was last time, crowded and busy. I am going to try to get myself turned around into an easier departure location if the cars thin out.

I had planned to stock up on some dry goods here and then do a good grocery in Estevan, but those plans and those to cross the border with a full tank of gas in the truck went out the window with my $400. πŸ™ I had a little breathing room and it’s all gone again. What is the universe trying to tell me?

What makes me most mad about today is that I absolutely needed to be relaxed tonight since the border crossing is tomorrow morning. That’s enough to fret about. πŸ™

I don’t know how I am going to reconcile this conflict of mine, my love for taking my home with me everywhere and my absolute hatred of actually driving it anywhere. πŸ™

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ™‚