Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Following Night

After my one-week long little journey to Florida and back I have felt “a little bit beside of myself” today. But that isn’t really anything more than what could be expected.

But lets jump right in to where I left the story yesterday – in Newburgh,NY or rather at FISHKILL, NY, cause that’s where I found the I-84 Diner.

After I had made up my mind to spend the night behind the wheel, I took off running down the Interstate.
It was almost dark when I had finished my sandwich at the diner, so I had turned on my lights.  Connecticut came up soon. There was the turn-off to Newtown and Sandy-Hook. I couldn’t but think of that senseless act of violence which had happened there this winter.

My GPS was programmed to Welshpool, NB (home) so I didn’t have to do much speculating on which turn-off I would have to take, I simply followed instructions. The I-84, also called “Yankee Highway”, runs North-West into Massachusetts, where it finally merges with the I-90 Mass. Turnpike where I paid the credible amount of 50 cents in toll. Now, the I-90 runs straight into Boston, but we usually take the I-290 turn-off which runs through Worcester,MA then enters the outer ring road around Boston, the I-495. It’s the only sensible way to avoid the big city.  reaching the coast the I-495 merges with the good old I-95 north into New Hampshire and finally Maine.

But now I have left out a good deal of the “fun part” of my nightly drive.

It was very dark when I noticed a light flicker from my headlights. I thought nothing of it, and “blamed” the vehicles behind me. Shortly after I got a bit more than healthy tired and decided to take a little nap on the rear bench. I parked in a rest area locked the doors and made my jacket into a pillow. Pretty soon it became apparent that a chill had settled in the bus. So I went to my suitcase and took on a few more “layers”. Also tried to make do without my pillow, using the jacket for what it is intended for, but without a pillow I couldn’t sleep at all.
I guess I was in lala-land for the better part of an hour when I got up again, and climbed behind the wheel.
When turning the key nothing happened. I tried the lights – nothing. I tried the key clicker – nothing! I was completely out of power!
My first reaction was…fear?  I feared for having to spend the night there, in the cold, not being able to make any headway. But then common sense prevailed and I got thinking. Suddenly I remembered the flickering headlights. Couldn’t it be that…oh no…the alternator…or maybe just the battery?
I opened the hood. Luckily there was a street light not far away. I grabbed the battery clamps…and would you believe it, they were loose. Not off, but loose. As soon as I wriggled them I got all floodlights going. Yaaay…
I felt tremendously relieved, got the engine running and made it out of the rest area. Of course, the trouble was I had no wrench to tighten the clamp screws. Hoping it would hold I dashed into Massachusetts. It seemed to work for a long time, but then the road got bumpy and all of a sudden my headlights just quit completely. Nothing but darkness in front of me. I stopped on the shoulder and repeated the procedure on the battery. Lights came back on and I really pressed and wriggled the clamps down as best as I could.
I made two more short rest stops during the night. After I got up the last time I could see a very faint shimmer of daylight in the east. It was 4.45am and I decided to make a break for home. Once I had reached the coast, everything became familiar. It was fully daylight when I reached
Portsmouth, NH and finally the state line to Maine. I had 5 more hours to go, but was in need of  coffee. Found an open Burger King where I was the first customer of the day.
I’m certainly not a friend of fast-food joints but the best part of these places are that they all offer coffee. It’s usually strong and cheap. Many, many gas stations also offer coffee early on in the morning.

From Bangor,ME i took coastal highway 1 and with a big Yahooy I ended up at our border crossing in Lubec, ME. I had faxed relevant papers for the van to the U.S. Customs station and took now the originals in to them. I can’t say other than these people gotta be the friendliest on any customs station along the U.S.-Canada border. They are so efficient and friendly that they make you feel you could come there any day and do it all over again. No stress whatsoever here.

They put on their stamps, handed me the whole bunch of copies, and off I went across the FDR-bridge to see their Canadian colleagues.
To make the story short, it didn’t go differently there than on the U.S. side.
Two officers (the only ones present) got busy helping me with everything and while one calculated the dues to pay, the other got on the computer and put the whole data into the RIV registry. (RIV = Registrar for imported Motor vehicles) They subtracted my personal free amount which is $800 from the value of the vehicle which left 161 Bucks to pay for 5%GST. I have to pay another 8% provincial tax later when the van will be registered. I also paid about 220 Bucks to the RIV.
I had called Bea when I was at the border station. The clock was ticking towards noon and I was looking forward to some decent food after my night adventure.
When I rolled up the driveway I saw Molly rocketing out from the house eager to say hello.

So, was it worth the effort to buy a vehicle through Ebay and in a location that far away?

To me the answer is YES, even though there clearly was a risk. The vehicle could have broken down with some undetected defect. It didn’t.
The seller could have been a crook, but his 198 feedbacks were all raving positive.
The cost of bringing the vehicle home is amounting to about $1100, about the half what a shipping company had quoted me.
Picking it up myself also gave me the benefit of checking it out before I actually paid for it in full. I would not have send the full amount before I’d had inspected it.
Re. the far-away location it does only make sense when one is looking for a very special vehicle. Buying it in the U.S. also offers a clear price advantage. Even if I’d found a similar bus in Canada it would have been way more expensive. Importing a vehicle or trailer (which is even easier) can be done by anyone, but Canadian dealers will always try to convince you not to do it citing all kind of imaginary problems. One even tried to pull the “I’m a loyal Canadian and support my country’s economy” stuff on me. I would buy in Canada as well, if we had comparable prices. But when we purchased our trailer this loyalty would have cost us minimum 12,000 Bucks extra.

So what was on today’s agenda? Precious little. I started cleaning out the bus and washed off layers of big-city grime. I used chrome polish on the bumpers and would you believe it, they appear to be in pristine condition. A few touch-ups on the paint are gonna be necessary here and there, and what I did know was that the hood needs a repaint. There are just too many rock chips on it.

Other than that I just relaxed, took a few walks with Molly and enjoyed a beautiful sunny day.

See ya later – gator!


  1. You were certainly lucky with just loose wires and not a dead battery!

  2. Road trips of any kind are always an experience. Running that home stretch all night was another great part too.

  3. What a trip1 Glad to see you made it home.


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