Thursday, March 27, 2014

Winter Land

Canada has been called the big white north and there are jokes about Americans coming to the border and changing over to snow mobiles.
We did not have to use snow mobiles, but we did see a lot of snow everywhere. And there was an increase as soon as we were across the border at about 11am yesterday morning. The landscape had that winter-typical bleak look – not a whole lot of colours, unless you call various shades of white colourful. I don’t.
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We had a one-hour stop at Canada Customs, mainly due to the overall traffic, not so much related to any problems with importing the trailer. We had all the necessary papers and met a very friendly and accommodating CBSA-officer.
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Continuing up through winter land went mostly uneventful. We were shocked to gas price reality, the cheapest we ever saw was $1.21/liter which amounts to well…$4.50/gal. Compare that to $3.18/gal in neighbouring Montana.
Our real adventure of the day started when rolling into Calgary. The address of the storage place did not exist on Garmin’s device, in spite of recent update, I must add.
So we pretty much ended up running up miles all around the north-eastern parts of the city, getting more and more annoyed about our Garmin which seemingly deliberately led us into all kind of wrong directions. Finally we rolled onto a Wally Mart parking lot, only to be met with that dreaded “No Overnight Parking” sign.

After having some rather basic supper we found a campground (on the other side of the city) which actually was open. It was the only one being open this time of winter and we paid the bloody price of $42 for a 15amp service with no water and no sewer and no WIFI-service. WELCOME TO CANADA!
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                                                                    And there it is…waiting for me to return

Reading the comments of my previous posting, I want to give a few answers.

- Yes, we imported the trailer into Canada (see further below)
- No, we are not giving up our sightseeing service on Campobello Island
- Yes, Bea is staying on Campobello
- Yes, we are actually driving the van all the way back to Campobello
- Yes, I will drive our Jeep over to Alberta and may or may not trade it for a bigger   vehicle later.
Lonely on the prairie

That should cover most of the topics. Now to the importation of a trailer.
It’s the easiest thing in the world, provided one has the right papers, namely
- a bill of sale (preferably from a dealer)
- an invoice
- a title or certificate of origin (if unit is new)
- trailer needs to have a label of compliance (every U.S. manufactured unit has)
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Canada customs is only collecting 5% GST on any unit imported. Any Provincial sales tax is going to be paid AT REGISTRATION. That is also the case for provinces which have HST (Harmonized sales tax)

After unit has passed the border one has to log onto the website of the Registrar of Imported Vehicles (RIV) and pay another fee (about $210). RIV will then send a vehicle inspection form for a federal inspection. One has to take the unit to an authorized facility (Canadian Tire) and get the VIN and other label information confirmed.
After that one can finally go to the registration office and get the unit plated.

Unfortunately, there is still a lot of purposely placed misinformation about importing vehicles into Canada. Part of that is spread by Canadian dealers who HATE that you will buy your unit from the U.S. Story #1 is that your warranty is no good in Canada. That is wrong for all trailers. But some motorized vehicle manufacturers are indeed voiding their warranty to protect Canadian dealers.
Story #2 is that Canadian dealers will not do service on your unit. That is a direct lie, and obviously wrong, as no dealer would ever know whether a trailer has been imported privately or not. And even if he knew it would be more than stupid to deny service as their shop would lose out on your service order.

And that is all I’m gonna say about it. We saved at least $10.000 by purchasing our unit in the States. For that kind of money I can take it, spending one hour at a customs office and maybe another 2 or 3 hours for running the unit to an inspection station.

UPDATE: March 26
This morning was a snowy one. We started out with fear being at the forefront of our minds - fear to slide into an accident on slippery roads. We drove cautiously down Stoney Trail, moved a few miles south on Deerfoot Trail until we found the turn-off to the storage.  After parking our unit, we left Calgary pronto heading east. A man at a gas station looked at the ISLAND TOURS and wondered whether we came from Vancouver Island. That’s all Albertans would know about any islands. I then told him that we were “from-the-other-side-of-the-country” and he could hardly believe it. Quite a few other guys also perked up. Yet, the first car we saw in the campground this morning was from New Brunswick.

The province of Alberta seems to be in a steady state of hailing to big money. The amount of recent and ongoing construction will blow you away. We have been in Calgary before – years ago. It’s hardly recognizable for us. If one day the flow of oil and gas will stop - because it is exhausted – cities like Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer and Ft.McMurray will turn into giant ghost towns. Prices are up and still increasing steadily. You wanna play you gotta pay, is the provincial mantra.
Compared to Alberta the three Maritime provinces are the poor cousins who don’t have anything, yet as a retiree, I would much prefer life in the Maritimes.

We traveled via Medicine Hat,AB south to a dinky little border crossing which is named Wildhorse in Montana. We decided to slip south of the border again, as we really don’t like paying those steep gas prices in Canada. Highway 41 south to Wildhorse must be the loneliest highway in Alberta. It turns off the Trans Canada Hwy1 and runs for over 145kms through endless grasslands with no sign of human habitation other than the fence lines  on both sides of the road.

Unfortunately, I failed to take pictures of the cute old-fashioned Canadian Border Station, but it could have featured in any old-time-western-movie.
The American station looked quite different in a modern era-style design. We were met by a real friendly border officer and after he had taken a quick glance at our California-purchased wine bottles we were given back our passports and “the show was back on the road”.

Another 43 miles and we arrived at “Havre” MT. We did not expect another boom town in this area, but that’s what this place has become. Lots of construction, the railroad and farming are the back bones of this town. “Havre” has a second meaning for us as it is a Norwegian word as well and means “Oats”. Could it be that some Norwegians once came here?

Well, thanks for hanging in here. Hmm…was kind of long this here.


  1. Lots and lots of Swedes and Norwegians in Montana. You do realize you are headed towards the Bakken Oil Field in eastern MT and ND. Be prepared for lots and lots of traffic and nowhere to stop. I was born and raised in Sidney. Thanks for the info on importing the rig.

  2. Not that I'll ever to need to import anything into Canada but I did find it interesting what you have to go through if you do. Lots of luck on the next part of your journey as you continue heading east. Watch the storms and stay safe.

  3. Well you certainly like to keep everyone on their toes. Interesting take on the importation. It just amazes me the length to which dealers will try and protect their turf. If I could have done it, any of the vehicles we've bought over the years would have been ordered on the internet. And if there were a return policy like the one that Amazon has, it would be a no brainer.
    Have a safe drive.

  4. You have been busy, travel safe and keep warm.

  5. It was good catching up with you and interesting reading too. Be safe

  6. Welcome back to the great white north! Interesting read on the import stuff. Makes me think I'll never even try it.

  7. Alberta actually has no provincial tax, so if you register the vehicle in Alberta, you don't need to pay it.
    When I brought up my Motorhome in 2011, I had no issues at the border crossing either. We crossed same place as you.
    The US and Canada customs people were very nice and after a brief look in the motorhome (without me present of course) they gave me the go ahead and we travelled on. I agree on the mechanic issues, most places don't even ask me where I got the Motorhome. They service it like they would service any vehicle. Even the RV place that re-did my entire front cab last year never asked.
    Welcome to Alberta (my birthplace). I probably could have helped you find that Storage place in Calgary, but then again you would need my email for that :( I stored my RV by Calaway Park on the West side of Calgary (straight down HWY 16 towards Banff). It was reasonable, lots of space and what I liked most was that they left room between the trailers so I felt comfortable that no one would hit my unit backing in/out or getting into their Rig.
    I know where your rig is sitting right now, that place is super expensive. Hope you are able to get it out of there soon.
    Welcome to WHITE Alberta.... (we live in BC now).

  8. I really should read the updates, glad you were able to find the storage place.... ugh!

  9. Oh the VERY HARSH realities of heading back to our own Country !!! I'm experiencing it myself as we speak.

    As for importing, well I imported my Harley from Florida back in '07 (can't remember now how much I saved on that but it was substantial); I also imported my current rig in 2011 and I saved about $30,000 !!! Yes, You read that right.

    And within the next week I'll be importing the little Tracker. People think it's a lot of work and quite complicated but it's NOT !! Have the right paperwork and away you go. Go to Canadian Tire and get their 'rubber stamp' and register it in your Province.

  10. Sorry you didn't like your visit to Alberta, but I am sure that once you get back into the east and start paying your high HST you will see things in a different light. Luckily for you us Albertans don't really require folks to like us to get a job here. I have worked all across Canada, including one year in New Brunswick and loved each place but Alberta will always be home and luckily with the oil sands here it will be a long, long, long time before we run out of oil. And with the strides being made to move the province into new and different economies we may well have left the oil business behind long before it leaves us. Have a great trip East and enjoy your summer working here in the New West.

    1. I honestly don't know what makes you believe that I don't like Alberta. The contrary is true. And I have lived there 6 years, so I know a little bit about the good sides and the not so good ones. The not so good ones I tried to mention in my posting. Oil and gas industry will always be a gamble. The day it is over there will be problems to face. Alberta will get its fair share of it, I can guarantee. But you're right, it probably is many, many years away. By the way I also have spent 25 years in another oil-producing country - NORWAY. Norway has managed to take care of their oil money by investing it wisely. Alberta's heritage fund, which is a lot older, has still a lot less money in it than the Norwegian which was started as late as in 1996. If you cannot see the problems this new oil economy has created, I can't help it. I know that work is important to everyone, but the trouble is not everyone can participate in it, and those who can't will lose out. We just saw the same development in North Dakota.
      But rest assured, I love Alberta, as much as I love the East Coast for its beauty. :-))


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