How Being Organized Can Help the Scatterbrained

In February, when I moved to Blaine and had the coffee shop nearby, I thought it would be good to bring my travel mug with me instead of using a disposable cup. But I couldn’t find the travel mug; it wasn’t anywhere in the kitchen and I wondered if I’d left it somewhere.

For the next few months, getting a new travel mug was at the back of my mind. Just a niggle. And I couldn’t help but wonder about the fate of my travel mug, that good Thermos-brand one I bought for the Chilkoot trip. But I never thought about it at a moment when I had time to think about the last time I remembered seeing it.

Last night, being unable to sleep, I decided to raid the cupboards one last time even though I’d just recently gone through them. All I could find was the stainless steel non-travel mug with tea strainer that I had bought in Inuvik.



Where I purchased the stainless steel mug with strainer because I’d bought a bunch of strong teas and didn’t like how they transferred their taste to my travel mug.

The light bulb that went on was as bright as the bat signal! I suddenly knew exactly where my travel mug was!

I grabbed a shawl and raced outside, never mind the rain and darkness. I opened up the driver’s side rear pass-through door, pulled out the water hose and  miscellaneous hook-up gear plastic drawer, grabbed the tote with the camping supplies, and voilà!

See, if I’d been disorganized, I would have had no idea where the heck I put my camping stuff after I came back from Inuvik. But because that stuff has a home, I was able to put the tote away immediately in the rush of getting back to the madness of my second Klondike summer.

I really do need to get going on my ’empty out the entire basement and inventory it’ project. 😀

Blaine to Chehalis (Washington)

I had a typical pre-departure night filled with strange dreams, with a particularly vivid one waking me up to the sound of pounding rain at 6AM. Weirdly enough, I’ve been on an ‘early’ schedule since I got to Blaine last month, with bedtime between 10 and 12 and wake up around 8. If this had been a normal morning, I would have just gotten up at six. But since I had a full day ahead of me, I plugged in the electric blanket against the chill and went back to sleep.

The rain had turned to a gentle mist when I woke up again at 8. I didn’t have much left to do since I’d taken advantage of yesterday’s warm and sunny weather to dump the tanks and load the car. I lingered over breakfast, then went out to top up the fresh water tank and put away the water hoses. I continued to putter until I saw the park manager entering the office and went to see her to finalize my stay.

I’d given a $100 deposit for power and was shocked to learn that I had used $62 worth of power this past month!!!!!!!! I didn’t even run the dehumidifier. The only explanation is that I’ve had the 12V lights blazing in the evening since I’ve been working on my embroidery project. I really do need to convert to LED, but I don’t find that LED lights up a room as well as the incandescent bulbs do.

The manager wanted to give me my refund by cheque, but I talked her into giving me cash since I wouldn’t have been able to do a deposit for four weeks.

I’ll finally mention where I’ve been staying the last four weeks: Lighthouse by the Bay RV Resort. Lovely park and well managed, with clean washrooms, a club house, and three washers. When I arrived there was a welcome package waiting for me by the door, with everything I needed to get settled in, plus tons of local info. A lot of people there are permanent residents. If I can’t afford the gas to go south next winter, I will happily consider going back there because of the affordable monthly rent, location, and lower cost of living.

I pulled out of the park at about 11 and went down to the Texaco to fill the on board propane tank. I had a third of a tank of gas left so I decided to wait to get fuel; I’d be due at about the same time I’d be glad to have a leg stretch and pee break.

It continued to rain gently as I headed south, but by the time I hit Marysville, just north of Seattle, the rain had stopped even if the clouds were still black and swollen. I saw a highway sign announcing ‘Donna’s Truck Stop’, so I figured that’d be an easy access station, which it was. I took on $125 worth of fuel at $3.76 a gallon, so 33 gallons. That put me at almost full, with more than enough to get to Eugene.

The sky continued to clear and there were patches of blue when I hit Seattle. I stuck to the centre lane and made it through the city uneventfully even with the construction. It was the same thing through Tacoma and Olympia, capital of Washington State. I saw the capitol from the highway.

I’d asked around about good options for overnighting between Blaine and Eugene and was told the Walmart in Chehalis is RV friendly and exactly halfway. Croft says that it is his first stop after the Port Angeles ferry. That was good enough for me, so that’s where I headed.

11AM departures are a pain; too early to have lunch before leaving, but arrival is too soon after lunch to make it worth stopping for food. So, I just drove straight through and had a snack on arrival at 3.

I think I may set up camp permanently at the Chehalis Walmart! What a perfect overnight stop! Besides the Walmart supercentre, there’s a Starbucks with wifi, an Applebee’s, a Home Depot, and more. I must mention my love affair with the Applebee’s chain: awesome food, cheap prices, and portions so huge I always get two meals out of my order. Since I wasn’t driving tonight, I splurged on a ginormous mojito. *hiccup*

The weather this afternoon and early evening has been gorgeous; sunny and warm. Except for a cat who got very RV sick today, it has been a perfect day. I love my life.


Haven't Had to Think About Internet In a Long Time

I’m all set to pull out of Blaine tomorrow morning and am wondering what sort of internet access the next month will bring. Obviously, for such a short period of time I don’t want to invest too much. If I manage to come south next year for three months or more, I will look into getting a US SIM card and air time for my modem, or whatever the best option is at the time.

There appears to be an abundance of wifi hotspots in Eugene, so the plan right now is to find the nearest one to where I’ll be staying and visit it once a day. I really can’t go for more than a day without internet, so now that I have a laptop doing a hotspot run isn’t going to be too onerous.


Bob’s Burgers and Brews, Birch Bay

I was told by several people this month that I just ‘had’ to try out Bob’s Burgers and Brews at some point. This local burger chain is apparently an institution. Well, I ran out of propane tonight and didn’t want to fill the small tank since I’ll be filling the on board one on Tuesday, so I decided that a burger and a brew sounded more appealing than a peanut butter sandwich.

The menu has burgers, salads, wraps, and a few platters. I opted for a chicken wrap with bacon, BBQ sauce, ranch dressing, lettuce, tomato, and crunchy tortilla strips in a tomato tortilla. It was one of the best sandwiches I have ever had! Very flavourful, with a good mix of textures. I wish I’d known how huge the sandwich was going to be and ordered a salad instead of ‘jojos’, which are potato wedges. Tasty, but I had about four out of about four dozen! The portions were insane!

With my meal I enjoyed the brew of the day, an Indian Pale Ale from Boundary Bay Brewery in Bellingham. Yu-um. A bit spicy and quite fruity. Washington beers are making me forget my favourite Yukon brews!

Service was excellent. The servers were very cheerful and attentive without being pushy. I was served promptly, brought water at the same time as my drink order was taken, did not have to sit long before my pint arrived,  waited a reasonable amount of time for my food, was allowed to eat in peace with only one interruption, and was promptly relieved of my plate and brought a bill when I asked for it.

The place was packed and I can understand why: excellent food + good service + reasonable prices. A winner! With the tip and taxes, dinner came to $18. Without the beer, it would have been $13.

American/Canadian Differences

I’ve been living in the US for a month now, and every day I encounter a little thing that is different from Canada.

Food (and Beer) Prices are Lower and Portions Are Huger

In the US, I can come out of a restaurant stuffed to the gills and with food left on my plate for $10, including the tip. $15 if I get a beer. In my first few days here, I found that funny, but now I think it’s sad; there’s just so much waste. Some things I can take home and end up with two meals for very little (thank you, Applebees!), but foods like potato wedges just aren’t worth taking home. I’m learning to ask for smaller portions and making it clear to the server that I don’t care if I get charged the same thing as for the full meal.

Cash is Currency

In Canada, we’ve been using the Interac debit system since 1994 and cash has really fallen by the wayside. I remember the old days when there were $5 minimums for using our debit cards, or a 50 cent transaction fee, but now you can use your card to buy as little as a stamp. I very rarely carry cash in Canada, and even more rarely more than $40 worth.

The US has a debit card system now, but it’s not the same as in Canada. I don’t quite get the nuance yet; it seems like it’s associated with the two major credit card systems. However it works, Americans seem quite distrustful of it in general and people carry cash. Moreover, I was shocked to discover that some gas stations here offer a discount for paying with cash, something that is illegal in Canada.

I’ve been using my credit cards as much as possible, but for smaller transactions for which I would normally use debit, I’ve been using cash. Doing so is very onerous because the bills all look the same. I’m learning to keep my bills in different sections of the wallet so as to better keep tabs on what I’ve got. It’s very easy to think I’m flush when all I have is a thick stack of singles!

Finally, in Canada we use US coins like they are our own. Most stores here have signs saying ‘No Canadian coins! (Our banks won’t take them)’. I understand that for the loonies and toonies, but for nickles, dimes, and pennies?

Cream Cheese and Hershey’s Chocolate Suck

The bakery at the Birch Bay Market sells a really nice pumpernickel loaf, so I’ve been having a lot of toast for my breakfasts. My favourite thing to put on black bread is cream cheese. I always buy the Philadelphia brand in the plastic tub, like so:

In Canada, the cream cheese is just moist and it spreads thickly. In the US, it’s viscous and melts into the bread like butter.

I actually discovered the Hershey thing during my Chicago jaunt back in ’99, but it hasn’t changed. It seems that water differences at the Canadian and US Hershey factories affect the flavour. US Hershey’s bars have an awful aftertaste. No Hershey’s with almonds for me while I’m here, but that’s okay because…

More Chocolate Bar Variations and Types

Americans have access to more varieties of Kit Kats, Reeses, and other chocolate bars. They have Milk Duds and my absolutely favourite, the Baby Ruth Bar. They don’t have Smarties or Coffee Crisp, however.

This translates to other foods, too. In Canada, we might have two or three different kinds of chips with onion as an ingredients. Americans probably have twenty, and all manner of flavours with cheese. But they don’t have ketchup! Oh, and Americans still have Bugles. Unfair!

(This section of the post might indicate that I eat an inordinate amount of junk food. I actually spend an inordinate amount of time looking at junk food while talking myself into buying fresh fruit!)

Americans Are More Cheerful and Friendlier

I hate to generalize, but I’ve traveled enough around North America to say that, generally, Americans are more cheerful and friendlier than are Canadians.

One thing that shocks me every time I go into a store is that there is customer service in the States! Maybe it’s because Americans have so many more stores with similar low pricing than we do, but I always come out of a store feeling that my business was appreciated.

I wonder what else I’ll learn about this country in my remaining time here…