Monday, March 31, 2014

Almost Home

After a real long day we have reached Bangor,ME. And we are too tired to eat up the last 2 1/2hrs of road home. I am even too tired to write a long story tonight. Just going to mention that there was no ice on the road this morning, so we continued as planned via Scranton and the I-84 running down into the Boston area. There was no sun, but no new snow either. All slush from yesterday had either been plowed aside or melted. Only over the last 10 miles the road became wet and it began to sleet again. Just like the night before!
Another motel 6 was conveniently located just off the highway and we also found another home-made-food restaurant. We are really starting to be experts in this.

We might have a problem to post any updates for a few days as our land line needs to be re-activated and who knows when the company gets around to it. But you’ll know the moment it happens.

See ya later!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Danville, Pennsylvania: Big Change In The Weather!

Boy were we lucky today.
After a great breakfast at Eleni’s Restaurant we headed out and really had a terrific ride along I-80 all the way into Pennsylvania.

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Eleni’s Restaurant South Bend, IN

The high ceiling morning fog disappeared and pretty soon we had the greatest blue sky. However, coming higher up into the Appalachians, we noticed a grey cloud way out east. At first it didn’t seem that we were coming any closer, in fact it seemed to  retreat farther away.  But then all-of-a-sudden the clouds seemed a lot darker, the sun disappeared and we were hit by wind gales from the north. We had our radio tuned on a local channel, when we heard the weather man mentioning freezing rain and snow!
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Christmas Trees – ready just in time

Snow sleet!

A few more minutes we saw the first sleet landing on our windshield. We were 2 miles away from Danville, PA. Over the next 3 minutes it started snowing like if it was still February. We turned off the Interstate and saw the sign of a Super8 right ahead of us. The decision to stay wasn’t even a choice. We just pulled right up to the entrance and got a room. By now we had 2 inch of slush in the parking lot.
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We just couldn’t believe how fast this weather had changed.
Reading comments of yesterday’s posting I see that SASSY (Denise) had been only a few hours behind us when she pulled into Elkhart,IN around noon. We would have had a great meeting with her if she had been slightly earlier. Also, it could have resulted in another chance meeting on I-80.

Thanks for dropping by!

Eastern Time, Toll Booths And Pot Holes All Along

Again we hit the road early. Motel 6 does not provide any breakfast, so we stopped after an hour at a Wally World and ate some 3.rd class Subway breakfast. It filled our bellies, but it was nothing to write home about. It was our 4th day of traveling from Calgary. I-94 was still the same as the day before until we rolled into Illinois where road conditions were everything but… Yet, the toll road blues starts right there. You wonder why those toll roads are in such bad conditions when millions of dollars are coming in every day.
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Of course we by-passed Chicago. We went down Highway 39 towards Beloit and Rockford, finally hitting I-80 East. It passes Chicago way in the south and away from umpteen Chicago toll booths and terrible traffic. I have done Chicago once and I will never again make a new attempt. It is by far the worst city in the U.S. and beats even NYC.
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We were now rolling into Indiana – on a toll road again. South Bend, Elkhart – those names are known to every RVer in the country. Most RVs sold in North America are manufactured right here. The area took a major economic hit in 2007/2008, but has mostly recovered since then.
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We did find another Motel 6 in town and then went searching for a good place to eat. What we found was most astonishing: A local diner run by a Greek family. The place looked nothing from the outside, but kind of blew us away once inside. The food was very well-done and the service friendly. It’s called Eleni’s restaurant and the owners came from Cyprus. We will be back there for breakfast!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Down Wisconsin Way

It was a cold morning again, but no snow when we left the little town of Harvey. Highway 52 running all the way from Minot to I-94, is like an old friend to me. I know every bend and every turn-off. When we lived in Alberta, I drove down here quite a few times.  The road was still pretty empty – almost like years ago.
Once we hit the Interstate there was the old interstate blues. Rolling, rolling, rolling – from one gas station to another, from one rest area to another. Molly was sleeping in her little nest behind the driver’s seat. She is the most adapted car-driving dog we have ever known.
We stopped at Carrington and pulled into a GM-dealership. One of our front turn lights was out. You know it when you hear the frantic sounding tickitick. A mechanic pulled out the light fixture and put a new bulb in. A quick push and the thing was fixed. Didn’t take 10 minutes – great small town service. Would never have received that service in a city like Calgary. They are too busy there.
We ran through North Dakota, and then we ran through Minnesota. But before that we ha dto cross Minneapolis/St.Paul. I-94 runs straight through the middle, so we decided to take the outer ring I-494 which makes a dive south before it turns north again from where one can connect with the I-94 again. We hadn’t made half of it when traffic became tight, tighter and finally stalled – for a while. We toughed it out and were glad to finally hit the I-94 East again.
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                                    MINNESOTA:  Ice fishing and farms

Minnesota is still under a cover of snow. There is not the slightest sign of spring out here. The spread-out farms are ducking down under the snow between surrounding trees. It looks rather peaceful – almost like a Christmas card – as we go by. European roots are obvious in the small villages we pass. The church sits in the middle of a cluster of houses – just the way we know it from Europe. Fields are bordered with wind breakers, the same way I know it from my home state Schleswig Holstein.
Wisconsin was greeting us with another winter landscape – snow on spruce trees – frozen lakes and small creeks. It was getting late – from Minnesota border we had to adjust to Central Time.

Menomonie, another small town USA, was tempting with several possibilities of accommodations and restaurants. We left the big highway and went looking into town. We pulled up to a modern Motel 6 and ate at a Perkin’s Restaurant, before we retired to our room. Not a bad choice. We got 2 beds again and Molly has her little nest between the beds. Everybody is happy – and so am I.
Tomorrow is another day.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Riding Through North Dakota - From Havre,MT to Harvey,ND

Thanks to wonderful American bedding equipment (not) with ultra thin bed sheets I had the worst possible sleep last night. And since there was only one bed in the room this damn bed sheet was under constant tug & war all night, which did not contribute to a better sleep. I just cannot understand how an entire continent’s population can sleep under such circumstances. And finally I hear Molly begging for a walk outside.
At 5:30am as I must add!

Well, out we went and it was snowing.

Not good!

DSC_0092We leave Havre,Montana at 7:30am and are rolling into a long stretch of endlessly rolling prairie. Small dinky towns with nobody outside and traffic is non-existing. Finally, as we near the eastern border of the state oil machinery appears on the road and in the wide open spaces along the highway.
The presence of oil becomes more and more obvious as we run into North Dakota. Oil tanks and oil pumps are everywhere. A totally new economy is about to run old-time farmers and ranchers out of town. Everyone who hasn’t got a job in the new industry is loosing out.

Farmer couple on their way home
DSC_0097Prices are going through the roof and so are taxes.
Instead, we see single young men in fancy trucks, some of them pulling huge 5th-wheels. New buildings everywhere. Sure, small little North Dakota towns are having their renaissance with lots of money flowing around. It is all a repeat of the 1849 California boom towns when the call of GOLD  and SILVER resounded through the country and attracted all kind of dealers and wheelers and shady characters to town.
But of course, it is the Nation’s hope to be self sufficient with the ever-increasing demand of energy.
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                                                  old and new economy
As soon as we have passed the North Dakota city of Williston the sun peeks out and we get a clear blue sky for the rest of the day. We find a pretty nice new hotel in the town of Harvey,ND. It is so new that it doesn’t even show up on our GPS.
This time we make sure we have 2 beds in the room. Of course the dreadful bedding stuff is there again.

Oh well….

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.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Day 4: Idaho + Montana And Something Amazing Happened

The night in Pocatello was cold – very cold, and when you have a furnace acting up you just don’t appreciate that cold. We had a quick breakfast and were on the road shortly after. We had been rolling north for about 20 minutes when “some guy” pulled alongside us and honked the horn like crazy. It was first when he had passed us that I realized who “that guy” really was. They were Gerald and Theresa from Saskatchewan. We had been neighbours for 4 weeks at the Hot Springs LTVA. Gerald and Theresa had then left for spending some time at Quartzsite. And that was the last time we saw them – until now meeting them on I-15.
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RV Meeting at Twin Bridges, MT

We both turned off I-15 at Dillon,MT and coming to Twin Bridges we stopped and had lunch at “The Shack”.  Gerald and Theresa have a big white Pyrenees dog, called Buddy. Buddy was allowed to say Hello to Molly and I’m sure that Molly did not understand how in the world this dog, which she has seen every day in the desert did pop up out here all of a sudden.
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It was one of the great memorable moments one can experience when traveling.
We carried on down the road and reached Great Falls,MT at around 4:30pm. And that was enough driving for us. Wally World has a great location in town so that’s where you would have found us, if you would have looked.
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We have found an RV-storage in Calgary where we will drop off our trailer tomorrow. The place also has a U-Haul Truck rental which is the perfect combination for me, once I have returned to the city on April 15. I have also a reservation for an RV-Park in Canmore,AB and that’s where I’ll be living all summer while driving coach for Canada Coach Lines Inc.
We might get some flurries tomorrow, however serious snow will not start before Wednesday at which time we will have started on the next 3000 miles across the country.  :-)
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Thanks again for being our reader!