Showing posts with label moving to bc. Show all posts
Showing posts with label moving to bc. Show all posts


in which we reluctantly begin the search for a new vehicle

We were warned about this! We were half-expecting it.

Our car didn't pass the inspection for BC auto insurance. Supposedly this is what happens when you bring a car from another province.

We drive an old (2006) Kia Spectra, which we bought two years ago when our even older (2005) Chevy Optra was hit by a careless driver and our insurance carrier dumped it. Considering its age and its 155,000 kilometres, the Kia has been very solid. Before we drove west, we brought it in for a full check-up and got everything it needed, plus new snow tires. It drove across the continent without a hiccup.

Given that, it's a wee bit hard to believe that the car suddenly needs another $3,000 in repairs. But you can't get car insurance without the inspection, so the inspectors have you over a barrel. (If you enjoy word and phrase origins, over a barrel has an interesting story.)

It would be ridiculous to put another $3,000 into this car. It's more than we paid for it in the first place! Allan wants to get a second opinion, another inspection, but I'm not hopeful. So... we are car shopping. It had to happen sometime.

Now that we're in this rugged country, I'd like to get something slightly bigger and heavier. Almost everyone in our area drives a truck or an SUV. I don't think we want to spend that kind of money, but a bigger vehicle would be very useful here.

Here goes.


the north island report: update on us

Things continue to fall into place here, a little at a time.

I'm enjoying our quiet weekends. Allan is off every Saturday, Sunday, and Monday; I work Saturdays until 5:00, then I'm off Sunday and Monday. This is more time off together than we've had in a long time, and having two consecutive days off every week -- without the added work from union responsibilities -- is so nice.

Every weekend we get out to explore some local beauty. We'll walk on the paved walk path along the bay, or poke along seaweed, shells, and rocks at low tide, or drive 10 minutes to a sandy beach where Diego can run on the sand. We always see birds. My many birding friends may enjoy this: I picked up one of these pocket guides to local birds, and I put it -- along with binoculars -- in the glove box in the car. I'd like to expand the range of birds I can identify... without making it a whole big project. (My ongoing quest against all-or-nothing thinking continues.)

I purchased the field guide at Cafe Guido, also known as The Book Nook, our local cafe/bookstore/gift shop/craft shop, across the street from the library. It's the sweetest place. The coffee and food are top-notch, and it's full of work by local artists. It's the kind of place you find in overkill proportions in touristy areas, but in Port Hardy, it's the only place like it in town. It's directly across from the library.

We had dinner in Port McNeill, which is about a half-hour down the "highway," and where another one of my libraries is located. We were again pleasantly surprised, and can now add Archipelagos to our short list of good local restaurants. This makes three! I think we'll end up with four or five places that we can cycle through, once a week. And when I think about it, that's really what we did in Mississauga. The difference is that in the GTA if we felt like something different, pretty much anything at all, it was available. (I can tell that when we travel, sushi and dim sum will be priorities!)

This means I'm cooking more. I'm getting into a weekly habit of cooking one or two dishes in a large batch, usually in the slow-cooker, and freezing it in portions. This leads me to want to expand my cooking repertoire.

We bought a big load of firewood. Someone posts firewood for sale in the Port Hardy Buy/Sell/Trade Facebook group, and then her partner delivers it to your home. A few days later, the firewood guy was on our street for another delivery, so he knocked on the door, and arranged to drop off smaller, "starter wood" (that's what he called kindling) during the week.

The wood is fir, and comes dry and ready to burn. Allan is going to get an ax and get some exercise making smaller logs, something he's not done since his teenage years in Vermont. (Don't worry, all safety precautions will be taken.) At night our neighbourhood smells so sweet from the smoke drifting out of the chimneys. We're hoping to contribute to that soon, and hopefully cut down on our enormous hydro bills.

We got our BC driver's licenses! Only temporary licenses so far while the real ones are being processed, and we've started the auto insurance process. Car insurance is public in BC. The North Island has slightly higher rates than "down island", as the many unpaved roads and changeable weather leads to a greater number of claims. Even so, our monthly premiums will be about the same as they were in the GTA.

And -- drumroll, please -- I got my hair done! This was the scariest piece, and I finally got it over with. I had a great cut/colour/highlights -- and Allan got a haircut, too -- at one of two local salons. It was as good as what I had in Mississauga, although much less expensive and I didn't have to step foot in the dreaded mall. Plus the stylist, who owns the shop, was really cool, and we had a good time talking. I often have to suffer through those conversations, but this was genuinely nice.

Also, we did all this right in town: driver's licenses and insurance in one stop, plus hair, a little lunch and the bird book, all steps away from each other on our main street, which itself is a five minutes' drive from home.

There's not a lot here, but on the other hand, there's everything we need. And as expected, we need less, and I'm enjoying that.

Several people have asked about photos... but Google street view will have to do for now. I often prefer to go out with out a camera, and I'm not into posting cell-phone pics. Sorry!


more trip pics on flickr

More photos from our drive west are now on my Flickr page: here.

I'll also be adding to the sets vancouver island and vancouver island north as we explore.

looking back, looking ahead: the year that was 2018

Last year at this time, the wmtc i hate christmas tradition -- after being in decline for several years -- roared back in full swing.

This year we enjoyed the two extra days off, and I found nothing to hate, or even dislike. About half the houses in our neighbourhood have holiday lights. People wish each other Merry Christmas, and when I say Happy Holidays, it appears unremarkable.

And now it's New Year's Eve, one of the few holidays I really love. A time to look back and look forward, to take stock and to make plans. On this arbitrary date (it hasn't always been January 1!), the whole secular world flips the calendar and tries to make a fresh start.

This has been an eventful year! Events were fun, stressful, horrible, surreal, nerve-wracking, heartbreaking, amazing, and wonderful.

- We visited Vancouver Island with my brother and sister-in-law, to see if we wanted to live there.

- I was asked to stand for election in the Ontario provincial elections, and accepted the nomination.

- I took a leave of absence from the Mississauga library to campaign.

- I was targeted by a right-wing hack, and got doxed by wingnuts. I became a meme!

- The NDP came in second in our riding, beating the Liberal candidate who had vastly more resources. This was a first in Mississauga.

- I applied for a job with the Vancouver Island library.

- We spent two weeks in provincial parks in Northern Ontario.

- We decided if I was offered the position, we would move to a tiny town in the remote North Island.

- We signed a lease before I was even interviewed.

- I got the job!

- Allan was asked to keep his same position, working from home!

- I resigned as president of CUPE Local 1989.

- We said goodbye to friends, comrades, and union family.

- We drove from Mississauga to Port Hardy! We did this with my brother, a huge truck, our tiny car, and our dog. Our sister-in-law joined the party in Calgary.

2019 promises to be much less eventful. I very much hope it keeps its promise.

As always, thanks for reading. I wish you all the best in the year ahead. Stay in touch, eh?


the north island report: expense check

One thing we had heard about Vancouver Island as compared to the mainland is that everything would be more expensive -- groceries, wine, personal care products, and so on. We've been looking at our receipts and discussing them (practically daily!) and we don't find this to be true.

I was also concerned about the quality of the supermarket, hoping moving to a small town where there is one supermarket would not mean a return to the crappy grocery stores we had in New York City. Now that I've been to the supermarket a few times, I'm actually pleased: it has a good selection and quality products. The building itself is a bit old and run-down (Save-On-Foods: please renovate!) but the store is actually quite good. That's a relief.

But simply put, groceries do not cost more than they did in the GTA, and many items are less expensive.

We knew that the nearest town with big-box stores is Campbell River, almost three hours away, and we were fine with that. The only thing I find challenging is housewares, things for which I would normally pop in to a Canadian Tire -- which are just the kind of things you need when you're settling in to a new place. There's a Home Hardware and an Ace Hardware in town, but for housewares, the selection is minimal and the prices are not good. We could save up a list for a trip to Campbell River, or shop online, or just settle for what's available. We'll probably do all three, depending on the item.

(I'm not complaining, by the way. The insane amount of shopping available in Mississauga is part of what I found unpleasant.)

Internet and cell phone both cost more here, because we used alternative providers. There are a few alternative providers on the Island, but only in the Victoria and Nanaimo areas. (Driving from Campbell River to Port Hardy, or between any of the other North Island towns, there is no coverage. No phone, no data.)

We haven't seen a utility ("hydro") bill yet, so I don't know how that compares.

Our rent is significantly less than what we were paying in Mississauga, or anything we could hope to find in the GTA. The difference may be made up by internet, phone, and utilities. We'll see.

Gasoline prices are slightly more than in the GTA, and significantly more than we saw as we drove through the prairies. We're very fortunate in that we will need very little gas, with Allan working at home, and my work -- and everything else in town -- five minutes away. When I travel to the other library branches, I'll be reimbursed by my employer, which is typical.

One thing I haven't mentioned is that I'm earning less. Think three tiers of professional staff: librarian, senior librarian, manager. As a senior librarian here, I'm earning what a librarian is paid in Mississauga. Managers in my current system are paid what senior librarians earn in my old system. Everything is one step back, so I've moved back to my old salary. This is not a big deal.

It will be interesting to see how things shake down.

Today: first day of work in my library! Reports to follow.

Little update: the Rexall across the street from the Save-On will be great for toiletries, personal care products, and prescriptions. I am pleased to see this.


home at last: three days between the end of training and the start of work

I am so happy to be home! I got home late Friday night and on Saturday gave myself a full day off from all devices.

My last few days of training were very interesting. I went back to Nanaimo for an all-day meeting for professional staff -- regular librarians, next-step-up librarians such as me, managers, and system executives. To my delight, this meeting was followed by an annual union meeting, the BCGEU local of which I am now a member. Both meetings were very interesting and positive.

The librarians' meeting was a look at goals and plans for 2019. It gave me great ideas on what committees I hope to join and specific work I'd like to accomplish in the new year.

The union meeting had nearly 100% attendance. Comparing turnouts to my former CUPE local's meetings isn't really fair, as the circumstances and access to the meetings are very different. Even so, there was excellent engagement and participation, and in general a strong understanding of why our union matters. Union leadership seems very smart, strong, and transparent.

Many people have asked if I plan to be active in my union. To me, there's no question. How can I not be? But not yet. I'm enjoying an intentional break from activism right now. More on that in my next post.

In general I'm very impressed with the quality of both my employer and my union. I fully understand that there will be some issues with both. Organizations of made of people, and people are not perfect, so there are no perfect organizations. But in general, I'm very pleased.

I spent the night in Nanaimo, then it was back up to Campbell River -- I'm getting a lot of experience and confidence in driving in the rain -- for another few days of training. I also had the opportunity to jump in and help some customers, which made me happy. The staff at Campbell River couldn't have been nicer, and were so generous with their time. Library people are the best.

I had been planning on driving home on Saturday morning, but I just couldn't take it anymore. People here are careful about driving in the dark, as there's a real danger of wildlife on the roads. But I would have left very early anyway, so it's either drive in the dark at night, or drive in the dark in the morning. More importantly, I checked weather and road reports: there was a window of clear weather in between rain and more rain, and I decided to go for it.

It was actually a lovely drive. There was a bright moon, I had music blasting, and I cruised right along. Now that I know what to expect, the stretch of rural road between Campbell River and the North Island is fun to drive. Some areas are perpetually shrouded in mist; in other areas snow appears out of nowhere -- but you know that will usually clear up in a few kilometres. As long as I stay at around 80 or 90 kms/hour (about 50-55 miles/hour), it's not scary or stressful.

Allan and I had arranged to meet at the airport, to return the rental car I was driving. Naturally he brought Diego, who went insane with joy when he saw me -- and I did the same! I am incredibly happy and relieved to be home.

My libraries are closed on Mondays, so I have three days to work on the house, and also read, take walks, and watch some shows. Allan did a huge grocery shopping and I plan to spend some time in the kitchen, to make big batches of soups and stews to freeze. On Monday I hope to scope out an appointment at a hair salon (scary!) and our new vet. I still don't feel like I live here, but this should help.


guest post: allan and diego's first week in port hardy

Allan wrote some really nice things about our new life, both in emails to me and on one of his non-baseball blog. With his permission, I've collected some of them here.

* * * *

I drove into town today, thinking I would go to the library and museum, but I forgot they are closed on Monday. I went into the Cafe/Book Nook. Small book area in a semi-lower floor, way more new books than used. There is a craft store upstairs that has all kinds of nice things, including earrings I'm pretty sure you like - and a wonderful golden-haired adorable young dog. Quiet as a mouse, s/he followed me around and then went back to the register and laid down. I got a tea and walked over to the library (sign on door said something like "No bathrooms - Key is missing"), went over to Mo's pizza/sub place (they deliver for an extra $2, fwiw).

I found the Ministry office but this was the 12-1 PM closing time, so nothing was going on. I walked back to the main street. One business had a handwritten sign saying it was closed ("More Medical Procedures!"). I saw the post office down one street, so I went and got our mail. There was a taped green envelope addressed to "Laura and Allan". No return address. I figured it was one of those 'welcome' flyer things with junk mail inside. I opened it and it was a card for you from library people. They said extremely nice things about you. I walked back to the car and came home.

I sat out on the deck reading for a bit with Diego on the stake in the side yard area. Our neighbour in the house beyond the deck came over and said hello to Diego. Brenda and her husband are retired and they travel a lot in their massive RV (Arizona, Florida, "down island"). She asked if we were retired. (I guess I looked really old today.) When she heard you were a librarian, she said she used to work as a librarian and her husband was a school principal. They apparently are famous for having the most Xmas lights on their house, but they are getting a late start. She wanted to know if she could come into our yard to string lights on the fence because there are plants and whatnot on their side. I said sure. (I think that was the real reason for introducing herself.)

I am going to grill some burgers tonight and maybe have a fire. M got it all prepared, so I can't really call it my first fire. ... Also, a lot of frost on the grass this morning. The roof looked like there was a very light dusting of snow.

I really liked walking around in the town. This seems like the right amount of town for me. (That may change, who knows?) Plus, I like the uniqueness of every single house, the water nearby, the cool weather, etc. And being in a house instead of an apartment is such a wonderful difference. Everything else has worked out according to plan - and then some - so that aspect had better do so, too.

* * * *

For more of Allan's thoughts and some pics, including one of the house we're renting, go here: Port Hardy After One Week.

I'm sorry I haven't posted any pics. This is all I can deal with right now.

Funny note: Cafe Guido, mentioned above, has the spare key to the library in case staff gets locked out.


first day of work braindump

I've just finished my first day of training and orientation at [my new library]. I have a lot to report on! Much of this may be of interest only to library workers, especially my union buddies.

I took notes all day, and I'm getting it all down here -- in no order, with no attempt to weave it together. All questions are FAQs I've been getting since announcing my move.

1. Who had this position before you and why did they leave?

It is a newly created position; I am the first person to hold the job. The position is part of a larger strategy to bring more robust library services to the North Island, to put them on par with the rest of the Island.

2. My position, the "Customer Services Librarian II", is the equivalent of the senior librarian position I recently left. However, there are only a handful of CSLIIs in the system.

3. Will the manager be in the branch with you?

I will mostly work on my own. I will report in to a manager, but he will work out of Campbell River, 2.5 hours away. The manager is also new to the North Island and has not yet been able to visit all five branches.

4. I have the opportunity to make this position what I want as I go along. Not only am I the first CSL II in this area, there has never been a CSL at all -- meaning no librarian.

5. What are you going to do for two full weeks of training?

Today I was given a schedule for my first three days, which are taking place in Nanaimo. I spent the day at the North Nanaimo branch, a beautiful facility that opened in 2015; it previously housed only the administration and back-office functions.

Today I met with senior staff representing HR, payroll, finances, health/safety, and IT. A full hour with each. This is so amazing. For almost my entire working life, I've been accustomed to being thrown in with no or minimal training. This system is also way more efficient. I can't begin to describe how much time is wasted trying to track down the appropriate person for an issue.

I also had a tour of this branch, and I met the union steward for my union. (There are two unions.)

Tomorrow I will be at the Nanaimo Harbourfront branch, right near the hotel.

6. I was given a laptop and a cell phone. There are eight hours of online training to complete, and I can do it in bits as I find time over the next two weeks.

7. As professional staff, I am allowed to modify my hours as needed. For example, one of my branches is on a different island. If I need to adjust my work different hours because of the ferry schedule, I can do that.

8. I will be responsible for approving payroll for my branch. Many of my responsibilities are managerial responsibilities in my former library system.

9. VIRL has 39 branches -- on the Vancouver Island, Haida Gwaii, the Queen Charlotte islands, and in two mainland locations. They have been building or renovating branches since 2010. By 2020 or thereabouts, all branches will either be renovated, rebuilt, or newly created.

10. With a few exceptions, the entire collection is floating! Customers must be adept at using the catalogue and placing holds to get what they want. There is a lot of staff instruction available for customers.

11. There is a YNF collection! I first saw a youth nonfiction collection in Vancouver Public Library and absolutely loved the idea. I developed a proposal and pitched it to the Mississauga Library. They rejected it, of course, but I love that VIRL has this.

The youth collection also includes "Playaways" -- digital audiobooks with a rechargeable battery. They are very popular.

12. How long does it take for a hold to come in? "It depends."

There are long distances between branches. Some branches get weekly deliveries, others twice weekly.

13. Books are sent by mail -- delivered by float plane -- to customers in remote locations. These are sent weekly. Loans are six weeks with no fines.

14. Next year children's materials will all be fine-free. !!!!

15. On December 12, there is an all-librarians meeting in Nanaimo -- CSLs, CSLIIs, and managers. It's perfect timing for me, as I'll still be in training.

16. Today I felt and appreciated how much I've learned in the last five and a half years as a working librarian. I was very comfortable with the information and asked a lot of good questions. I didn't feel like I was faking it. That is huge.

17. Yesterday I had a horrific getting-lost experience, and so was a bit anxious about driving to the branch and back to the hotel. Both drives went smoothly, and I even did the last bit by feel.

18. Their intranet is friggin amazing. This is a huge help for staff, and very different from what I'm accustomed to.

19. The provincial government here is often referred to as a "fragile coalition" of NDP and Green. One NDP MLA stepped down to become mayor of Nanaimo. This means a byelection could shift the balance of power. Scary!

20. There is a room in the admin offices called "hotel". Guests can park their stuff, login to a computer, and take breaks there.

21. For one of today's meetings, I was sitting next to someone who was walking me through some processes on her computer. The desk and monitor were too high for me, so my neck was straining the whole time. Her screen backgrounds were the default white, and the room had harsh flourescent lighting -- all of which give me headaches. I was becoming very uncomfortable. This made me think about accessibility for interviews and training. I repeatedly tried to adjust myself, but was unwilling to straight-up say I need help.

22. I will be coming in to my branches as the new senior supervisor -- the new boss. Typically in those situations, some people will like this and feel relieved and happy, and others will be threatened and see me as encroaching on their turf. I will enjoy the challenge.


a walk on the bay and a drive to nanaimo, plus photos of the rockies

I am in Nanaimo and will be in Campbell River, for two weeks of training. My former co-workers in the Mississauga Library are amazed and envious. Training in Mississauga ranged from nonexistent to inadequate.

I'm at a lovely hotel in Nanaimo with a view of the harbour, but I'd much rather be home setting up my office or organizing closets. Allan and Diego are going to visit me on the weekend. I don't know what this training will entail, other than mandatory first aid. I'll keep you posted.

Yesterday we took a break from working on the house to take a walk on the bay. We drove five minutes from the house to a paved path right on the water. It was so quiet and peaceful. A few other people were walking, some families were in a playground. Mostly it was just water, trees, and sky. It was overcast, making the scenery even more dramatic. It's hard to believe that this is our backyard. (Photos to follow.)

On the walkway, there are interpretative signs posted about the wildlife. Even better, there is wildlife. I saw a bald eagle swoop down over the water, then sail up to the top of a tree. By the time I got the attention of Allan, M, and SIL, there were two of them, perched on two nearby trees, surveying their kingdom. It made my day.

Also yesterday, we drove to the tiny Port Hardy Airport to rent a car. No one was at the counter, but there was a phone number to call. A woman asked, "You're at the airport? You have a credit card, driver's license? OK, I'll be right over."

Ten minutes later, she appeared, her feet in slippers. "I was pickling. Beets! I think I brought some with me on my shirt." Later: "You're lucky, yesterday a guy called, said he got a ride. That's the only reason I have anything available." The Ontario driver's license raised a few questions, which we answered; she shook my hand and welcomed us to town. She was hilarious.

Unfortunately we forgot to make both of us drivers... so we ended up calling her in (and possibly waking her up) today as well. The rental car outlet is supposed to be open on Sundays, but if there are no reservations, no one comes in. Who can blame them? After all, the airport was locked! We were very apologetic, she was very good-humoured.

While Allan and I were dealing with the rental car, M and SIL were driving to Campbell River to return the U-Haul truck. I drove down shortly after them, then we met up and went to Nanaimo.

This was my first opportunity to see the north island drive during the day. It is beautiful. A winding, hilly road, forest all around, with mountains beyond. Often the hills were shrouded in mist and low-lying clouds. Sometimes you can see the mountains on the island's west coast, huge and snow-capped. Signs are posted for the turnoffs to the few north island communities, but the road feels so remote and solitary.

On a decidedly less beautiful note, I'm not happy about all the damage from the careless movers. I know they're only material things, and replaceable. But it was all completely preventable. This makes the scam with the US dollar conversion rate even worse. I don't know what recourse we have, if any. I'll investigate this week.

Bonus: photos of our drive through the Rockies are here on Flickr. They're not great -- taken on the fly through the windshield -- but it might give some idea. By the way, I believe those two black animals are dogs.


eleven things about our new life in port hardy

Here are some really nice things about our new life in Port Hardy.

1. It is very quiet. In the house, we hear bird song, the occasional barking dog, a car going by. No sirens, car alarms, bus announcements, school bells, screaming children. We have never lived anywhere quiet. It's lovely.

2. People are friendly. Very friendly. Also lovely.

3. It has not rained since we got here. It is sometimes misty or foggy. I can tell the air is humid by how long it takes damp laundry to dry. But so far, no rain.

4. We are very near water. Mississauga and Toronto are technically on a huge body of water, but you never feel it unless you're right beside it.

5. Having laundry in our own living space again is very wonderful.

6. All of the appliances in this house are shiny and new, and not the bare-bones that we usually find in rentals. I always say, I am destined to have crappy kitchens. This seems to have changed.

7. We have had two very good meals in restaurants in town, including really good pizza at a pub. There are still two or three cafes we haven't tried.

8. We have outdoor space again. There's no describing how wonderful that is.

9. Diego seems completely adjusted and at home.

10. Allan is happy. This sometimes feels like a rare event, so seeing him happy fills me with joy.

11. Having M and SIL with us for the move-in has been so wonderful. SIL is a great organizer and has unpacked a ton of stuff. M is Mr. Fix-It -- actually more like Mr. Fix-It, Break Down and Rebuild It, Repurpose It. All that plus the four of us have been having a great time together.

Life is good.


port hardy day one: perfect fish and chips, bad movers, wild wildlife

Coming to you live from my own desk and my own computer, from internet in our own place -- after my first full night's sleep in ten days.

Yesterday was quite the day. The people who I hired to unload the truck arrived early, and unpacked the truck in record time. In fact, they would have put themselves out of a job, but we paid a four-hour minimum. After all, they may have turned down other work to do the unloading.

Interesting story of how I found these guys. I posted ads on Craigslist and Kijiji: heard nothing. I contacted moving companies, but (a) they were based in Campbell River, and we'd have to pay for all the travel time, back and forth, and (b) they don't want to only unload, it's not worth their time. I even contacted a temp labour company, but they had no clients in Port Hardy.

A kind Port Hardy resident saw my Craigslist ad and emailed with a suggestion: join the Port Hardy Buy/Sell/Trade Facebook group.

I looked it up and sent a request to join. The Facebook group has the same number of members as the population of the town! The moderator who approved me said, "What brings you from Toronto to our little hamlet?" She is originally from the US, then Kingston, Ontario -- a path similar to ours.

From the Facebook group, I had a flood of responses. I was very concerned that people show up, so I paid very generously, feeling that would be good incentive, in addition to just plain good. A few people stayed in touch by email, and they were the four men who came yesterday -- a father and two adult sons, plus one other guy.

This was one of those times when I was acutely, uncomfortably aware of my own privilege. Here I am moving into this big house, with all this stuff, with my dog who has better health care than half the population of the United States. And we're here because I wanted to be, out of choice rather than necessity.

These feelings were exacerbated by the fact that three of the men were Indigenous. Perhaps that shouldn't matter, and perhaps I will feel differently as I spend more time in this area with a significant Indigenous population. But yesterday, I was not entirely comfortable with it. Offering the men sandwiches and coffee, and hanging out with them a bit on a break, helped. I think all one can do in those situations is be aware, be respectful, and look for ways to connect as people.

It turned out there was good reason to distrust the guys who packed the truck. Our dining room table has deep gouges from where the points of other furniture was digging into it through the entire move. There's a kitchen chair with two similar gouges. Two broken lamps.

All this easily could have been prevented by using some of the three dozen blankets we ordered from U-Haul -- which were still in plastic bags in the truck, untouched. This morning we found some broken wine glasses; unsurprising, since I had to ask the men to not throw and toss a box marked FRAGILE onto the top of a pile.

On the day they loaded the truck, the owner of the company offered me an $8.00 rebate in exchange for a five-star review. Now that I've seen the results of their work, I will definitely write a review. Can't wait. I'll share it here, of course.

When the men left, M, SIL, and Allan went to work. I was exhausted from being up since 2:00 a.m. and did very little except for a mountain of laundry, but everyone else did a lot. SIL unpacked and set up the entire kitchen! Allan and I had to force SIL and M to stop working -- or try to, anyway. M never stops.

Allan went out to the post office to see if anything was waiting in our mailbox. No door-to-door delivery here; P.O. boxes only. He came back happy and buoyant, saying, "I really like this town." For Allan, that's practically gushing.

Later on, we managed to get ourselves together enough to go out to dinner. We had a bit of trouble finding the restaurant, because it appears to have two different names -- Captain Hardy's, but also Fire Chefs. I guessed that they changed their name at some point, but wanted to be recognized by old customers; this turns out to be correct.

It's a one-room restaurant that looks like a coffee shop or diner. And, I kid you not, I had the best fish-and-chips I have every eaten. Incredibly fresh halibut, cooked to perfection, with whisper-thin batter, perfectly crispy, perfectly flaky, plus perfect fresh-cut fries. Even the coleslaw was outstanding. There was also a lot of it. We were all so happy and amazed with dinner!

We strolled a bit on the sweet little main street, which is about five-minutes driving from our place. (Everything is five-minutes from everywhere else.) There's a couple of hair/aesthetics salons, an Ace Hardware and a Home Hardware, a clothing store, a bookstore/cafe combination, and several restaurants. It seems both a bit touristy and also very sweet and homey. And, right there on the main drag: my library, attached to the Port Hardy Museum. Very, very exciting for me.

The main street was almost completely empty when we came out of dinner at 7:00 pm. Restaurants here close at 8:00, at least this time of year. And you know what? That's fine. It's been a long time since Allan and I needed a nightlife.

This morning I felt like a new person after getting a good night's sleep. Diego and I walked around our neighbourhood, a few curving streets of very large houses, fairly close together, although with big front and back yards. More than half the homes have an RV or a boat in the driveway.

An interesting note about our yard. There had been a line of big trees between this house and the house next door, as well as a few big trees in the front yard. They have all been cut down to stumps. In Mississauga, this might be from the ash borer infestation. Here, a cougar had been hanging out in the trees, and killed a small dog next door.

We've spent the morning unpacking and setting up, but after I post this, we're going into town. We now have internet, next step is a cellphone service that isn't roaming from Ontario.

Thank you all for bothering to read this. I must admit I don't entirely get it, but it's great to write, and I'm very happy that you're reading.


the move west: day nine: delta to port hardy

We are here! At our new home! Very excited!

We had a reservation on the 10:15 ferry from Tsawwassen to Nanaimo, but we had to get there super early. If you get a lower berth, you cannot stay in the car -- which means we'd have to stay in the designated pet area with Diego. (You can leave your dog in the car by itself, but you know that's not gonna happen.) We wanted to make sure we had a spot on the upper deck, but you can't reserve that. This meant getting to the ferry very early. We were the second or third vehicle to check in, and M & SIL were right behind us in the truck.

Waiting to board, we listened to the end of the Westlake book and an interview with David Yaffee, who wrote the recent biography of Joni Mitchell. That was notable mainly for our disagreements with the author.

Eventually the boarding began. We happened to be parked right near the pet area. Turns out that is a little glass enclosure, about the size of an elevator, with a few built-in crates and two small benches. That would mean Diego would have to be in an enclosed area, on his leash, with other dogs. If you remember our Diego training, his issue was leash reactivity. He came a long, long way, further than I ever imagined he could do. But on-leash in an enclosed space with other dogs? Round two of not gonna happen.

So Diego slept in the back seat, and we mostly stayed in the car with him. The captain announced that a whale was visible on one side of the boat. We went to the wrong side -- and saw school of dolphins! A few moments later, the captain announced those, too. There must have been 10 of them, white and black, diving through the waves, very close to the boat. Beautiful.

Once off the boat, we all drove to Campbell River for some shopping. Campbell River is the closest big town to the north island towns -- the closest collection of big-box stores. Allan has been obsessed with buying a dehumidifier before we move in (as opposed to a few weeks later when we'll be there again). We used to have a dehumidifier, lost in the flood, and it was really effective. So to Campbell River we went for Canadian Tire, and while we were there, a bit of food shopping and a liquor store.

Then we drove. And drove and drove and drove. A winding country road, dense forests on both sides, intermittent heavy rain, and plenty of fog, just to keep things interesting. I thought Allan was driving fast, but every other vehicle on the road passed us as if it was bright daylight. Hundreds of kilometres of deep forest, rain, and fog. The mileage signs were all "my" libraries! All the libraries that I'll be responsible for: Woss, the ferry to Sointula, Port Alice, Port McNeill, and Port Hardy. It was a long, tiring drive, mostly because it was night, and we had had enough driving, and also because we didn't know where we were going. Eventually, the road ended, and voila, there was a town! Lights, stores, houses. Port Hardy!

We knew the house as soon as we saw it, and the rental agent was waiting for us -- with a fire going in the fireplace! The house is way nicer than I imagined. For many reasons, I don't like to go into details about living spaces; suffice to say that we were very pleased. You know, many people have remarked that it's amazing (or crazy or foolish) that we're renting a house we had never seen, in a town we'd never been to. But really, isn't that what people have always done? Before there was modern technology, anytime people emigrated or relocated, they went to towns and cities they had never seen before. When I graduated university, I applied for theatre administration positions in regional theatres all over the US. I was hoping for someplace fun like San Francisco or Chicago, but wherever I landed a job, I was going to move, and chances were good I would never have been there before. (As it turned out, I did the thing I was told was impossible: got a job in New York City.) All this to say that moving to a place you've never been is far from unprecedented, and in some situations, it's the norm.

I called my mom to say we were here and that we love the new place. She was overjoyed. Overjoyed is my mom's default setting these days, so when she's extra happy, it's through the roof.

M and SIL were in town before us, but they went to the local supermarket and waited for us to get in touch. We had no phone service on the drive up, but we all had signals in Port Hardy. (I expected that, but it was still nice to get confirmation.) We did a little house tour with the agent, then M and Allan started to bring in the "back of truck" stuff, the boxes and bags we had reserved for our first night and the following morning in an empty house. Then things went south. Spoiler alert: it ended up OK. Spoiler spoiler alert: we think, we hope, we still don't know for sure.

The back-of-truck boxes were soaking wet. The cardboard was pulp and came away in chunks. The plastic around the mattress was filthy with mud. The futon was wet. Boxes with sheets and towels were soaked through. What did this mean for our books, our furniture? Had everything in the truck been getting wet all along? Was our stuff mostly ruined?

We stood in the garage, trying to figure out next steps. Someone noticed the emergency water jugs... and then we realized what happened. Or what we think and hope happened. We had two huge water jugs, probably 5 gallons (20 litres) each. The water froze, the plastic containers cracked, then the ice melted, and things in the very back of the truck got wet. My computer was in one of these -- but it was bubble-wrapped, and was dry. Towels and sheets, washable. The mattress, under the plastic sheeting, had a few splats of mud, but there's an outer cover that's also washable. The futon will dry and we'll vacuum it. All told, no real damage done -- if that's what happened. I am reasonably certain that all is well. But we'll feel much better when we see everything is safe and dry.

Eventually we put a blanket on the floor, busted out the champagne, and had a picnic. My system worked: we found sheets, pillows, towels, and the all-important equipment for morning: coffee, coffee maker, kettle, tea bags.

People we've hired to unload the truck are coming (we hope) later this morning. All systems are go.


the move west: day eight: sicamous to delta bc

Sicamous looked like a sweet little town, nestled on the shore of the Shuswap River, with mountains visible on two sides. We had breakfast at Grandma's and Grandpa's Family Restaurant. Most of the customers -- seniors at that time of day -- seemed to know each other and were talking very loudly. When I went to pay at the front, the woman said, "So where are you folks bound for now?"

I said, "Port Hardy."

She said, "That's an interesting place for a vacation."

I said, smiling, "Actually, to live."

"To live? Now that's really interesting!" She looked eager, so I thought I'd pile it on.

"Yes, relocating from Toronto."

Her face lit up. "Oh my! Everyone will be very interested to hear this!" What a riot.

The drive out of Sicamous towards Vancouver started out very scenic and lovely. When we reached the Coquihalla Highway, it started to rain lightly and was sometimes icy. We had been warned that this highway, which runs through the mountains, is prone to sudden changes in weather, from sun to rain to snow and back again in an instant. It was a beautiful, dramatic drive around and through mountains, until it started to rain hard, and was just a nuisance.

In Hope, where the highway straightens out, on the way to Chilliwack and Abbottsford, we stopped for more A&W -- not quite the In-N-Out saga I've indulged in when in California, but still more fast food than I need for a long time to come. I did try their "Beyond Beef" meatless burger. Great idea, glad that they're offering it... nowhere near as yummy.

After that it was rain, rain, rain for the rest of the drive. Yes, we were warned!

We're staying at the Coast Tsawwassen Inn, a few minutes from the ferry to the Island. It's a cut above our Super 8s -- actually several cuts above -- and very pet-friendly. They gave me a little bag of dog treats, tied with a ribbon, when I checked in!

The room has a little sitting area. I lay down on the couch, and woke up three hours later. Allan, M, and SIL had eaten dinner; Allan brought something back for me, and I dimly recalled half waking up to answer some questions.

This is our last night in a hotel! Tomorrow night, Tuesday, we'll be in the house. Wednesday, people are coming to unload the truck, and our internet is being installed on Thursday. Until then, I'm hoping to compose in another app, then post through a data connection. I moderate comments on my phone, so we should be able to keep the blog running.

I've gotten so much great feedback about this travel journal, both here and on Facebook. I really appreciate you reading this. It's wonderful to know you're out there.

We're super excited! It's especially wonderful to see Allan so happy.

the move west: day seven: calgary alberta to sicamous british columbia

It's very exciting to be past the mountains and in BC! We're having a really good time. It feels like we're on some kind of weird vacation where we don't do anything but drive and eat, and when we're done, we'll go back to where we live -- in Mississauga.

Yesterday we had breakfast at an IHOP, then hit the road. It was cold, bright, and sunny. I had been checking weather conditions regularly, and there was no snow in the forecast at any location on the route.

From other people's photos, I knew at some point, leaving Calgary, we'd be on a straight, flat highway with the mountains in front of us. It was exciting to get our first glimpse of the Canadian Rockies!

The drive through the mountains was spectacularly scenic. All the evergreens were laced with snow, or sometimes covered in ice. And the snowy trees seemed to go on forever in all directions, undulating hills upon hills of snow-covered trees. Behind the trees, huge walls of brown rock jutting into the sky, and behind those, snow-covered peaks. We were both bowled over by the beauty, not really talking much -- no music and certainly no Dortmunder! -- just drinking it all in. Allan drove and I took a lot of photos.

Once when we stopped for Diego, there was an interpretative exhibit about the animal crossings built around the TCH in Banff National Park (the section of road we were on). I didn't know that Parks Canada pioneered the use of animal crossings. I also didn't realize that the funny-looking overpasses we saw were overground animal crossings.

The exhibit had a display version of the crossings, both underground and overhead. There are 44 animal crossings in Banff. The exhibit said that even the most secretive animals -- the lynx and the wolverine -- use the crossings. There are evidently tiny cameras set up in at least some of the crossings, and some photos were on display.

There are also high fences on either side of the highway. When these were first built, animals could jump over or burrow under them, so Parks Canada made the fences both taller and deeper.

I found this exhibit really touching. It had some lovely text on how the Trans Canada Highway connects the country and allows us to visit our families and experience all regions, and how the highway crossings has allowed animal families to live their lives, and resulted in more coexistence with nature. If you're interested, there are some faqs here, more links here, and very good images of the crossings and animals using them.

The road itself was completely oversold, in terms of challenging or scary driving. There's one section with a series of S curves -- and that's about it. It's actually a less challenging road than the drive around Lake Superior. Sure, you want to do this in good weather, and you want to have a full tank of gas and good brakes -- in other words, basic preparation -- but other than that, there is nothing to be concerned about. Even if you had to drive it in snowy conditions, it would be doable, although unpleasant.

During this drive, we passed the provincial border into BC -- whoo-hooo! -- and at some point entered the Pacific time zone. Ohmygod, this is where I live now. In the west! Whoa.

When the mountains and parks end, there's a town called Golden, and we stopped there to pick up some food. It has a sweet little historic downtown, and we got amazingly delicious grilled sandwiches at the Big Bend Cafe. When we got back on the highway, we saw our truck at a gas stop. I texted SIL to ask if it was them, and it was. For once, we would arrive first -- although only by a minute or two.

The rest of the drive was lovely, through forested areas and lots of mountain resorts. It would be much nicer, however, without all the billboards. There are a lot of them. There is no escaping advertising; I find it so depressing. Once we passed Revelstoke, we knew we were almost there. I purposely booked in the less famous and less expensive town of Sicamous, just a little further down the road.

We're staying at another Super 8. The parking lot adjoins a pub and liquor store. We all (including Diego, of course) hung out in SIL/M's room for some wine, then popped Diego in his little house, and walked over for dinner. Unbeknownst to us, it was Grey Cup, and most people at the pub were watching the game.

I've been waking up at crazy hours, even for me, and unable to go back to sleep. Then at night I'm tired and fall asleep early... so I wake up even earlier. It's getting really ridiculous. I'll have to have one night without alcohol, so I can stay up later and maybe reset my body clock. But a night without wine?! Life is so unfair.

Today we drive to the Vancouver area, and are staying very near the Tsawwassen ferry terminal. Tomorrow morning, we'll take the ferry to Nanaimo, and drive home... to a place we've never been!

Photos of our drive through the Rockies are here.


the move west: day six: swift current saskatchewan to calgary alberta

Greetings from Mountain Time! I had a friend from Denver who always said Mountain was the forgotten time zone. He may have been right: we forgot about the hour time difference until we saw the time on a bank sign.

On the way out of Swift Current, the highway was a bit slippery, not from recent snow, but from compacted snow and ice that hadn't been cleared. We saw a few trucks in the median that had slipped off the road; we did have to drive a bit more carefully, but nothing scary.

The land looked more like ranch and grazing land than farmland, and we did see a lot of cows and some buffalo. I'm glad to see them out eating grass the way they should be. I spotted a few animal crossings, the tunnels built under highways. The land was also less flat, with low, rolling hills, but still unbroken to the horizon. There were looong stretches without a town in sight.

We listened to more Dortmunder -- we're both getting a little bored and want the book to end soon -- and coordinated the airport pickup and a U-Haul issue with M. An engine light is on, and although the truck is driving fine, we want to get it sorted before driving into the mountains. U-Haul is supposed to have roadside assistance.

Speaking of "supposed to have," I was unsurprised to learn that the "third stay free" Super 8 promotion is pretty much a bait-and-switch. It's a program through the parent company, Wyndham, and the front desk person at the Calgary Super 8 didn't know anything about it. After some discussion, we checked in in the usual way, then once in the room, I poked around the Wyndham Rewards website.

Yes, we are earning points for these stays, but they aren't credited right away, and they have an expiry date. In other words, the program is worthless. I plan to complain, only because I think companies should hear from us (all of us), but I know it will do absolutely no good. Luckily the Super 8s have been fine, actually pretty nice, and the rates have been good.

While I'm complaining about hotels, here's my recurring complaint about the supposed green policies at most hotels. Reusing towels or sleeping on the same sheets two nights in a row are logical actions to take -- except that those actions end up cutting hours for underpaid hotel workers. Meanwhile, the hotels are using disposal cups in all the rooms. Even worse, many of the in-room coffee makers use disposable filter holders -- instead of putting the filter pack in a tray that's part of the coffee maker, the filter pack comes with its own single-use tray. It's incredibly wasteful. And of course there are the little bottles of shampoo and other hygiene products. We've stayed in hotels with good environmental practices, I know it's possible to do. It's not green to push more families into poverty and to increase income inequality.

My former co-workers and union team will be interested to hear there was a strong scented air "freshener" in our room when we got in. I'm one of the people who benefited from the City of Mississauga's scent-free workplace policy, and several times had to deal with violations, both as a supervisor and a sufferer. We were in our room for about 30 seconds when I started coughing violently. Allan got rid of the scent thingies and I opened a window, and avoided a full-scale asthma attack. I will definitely mention it to the manager on our way out.

The room is much nicer than I expected for the price, once I was able to breathe.

I got Diego settled, M dealt with U-Haul, and Allan picked up SIL from the airport. Diego went absolutely berserk with happiness when he saw SIL -- leaping about, jumping up to kiss her over and over, then barking furiously to try to get SIL to greet him the way he wants -- hands-on. SIL was a bit freaked out; who wouldn't be? Of course, we all knew SIL was coming today, but Diego didn't. To him it was the most amazing and wonderful surprise! Ah, dogs. We are so loving traveling with him.

The hotel is in the middle of big shopping area -- it looks exactly like Mississauga -- so we went down the street to an East Side Mario's for dinner. (Non-Canadian readers, that's Canada's version of The Olive Garden.) After dinner all three of us went to M/SIL's room to drink wine, but SIL and I quickly conked out. I've been getting up ridiculously early every day; my brain is still on Eastern time.

Today, the mountains! There's no snow in the forecast and we're closing in on the end of the journey. Thanks for coming along. It's fun to know that friends are following our progress.


the move west: day five: brandon manitoba to swift current saskatchewan

Greetings from the prairies!

Yesterday was a good day. I fell asleep super early the night before, had a great sleep, then another amazing breakfast, this one at Smitty's, next door to the hotel. Then we hopped in the car, put it in cruise control, and went back to the Donald Westlake book. In northern Ontario I couldn't listen to a book while driving, but in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, it's a breeze.

Allan and I both find the landscape fascinating. The highway is a straight black ribbon in the middle of a vast expanse of land, stretching to the horizon in all directions. The sky is huge. For long stretches of time, the only buildings you see are grain elevators, and the occasional clumps of trees planted as a windbreak around a farmhouse.

The fields are mostly covered in snow, although it doesn't seem deep. Sometimes on first impression, we couldn't tell if an area was a snow-covered field or a frozen lake, that's how flat everything is. It looks like we won't catch one of the legendary sunsets, but driving west on a cloudless day, I end up cursing at the sun.

While Allan was driving, I took care of some business: confirmed with our move-in help, checked in with the house agent, and fixed a motel reservation in Calgary.

Other than Dortmunder, the event of the day was a food search. A&Ws are very common out here, and seeing so many of them, I wanted to have a (for me) very rare fast-food lunch. Does Tim's or Subway count as fast-food? I eat those. But I don't eat McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, or KFC. But once a year or so, I give in to a craving and eat A&W, which is an improvement over the others. There was an A&W at a gas stop in Ye Olde Middle of Nowhere, but we weren't hungry yet. And then, nothing.

We passed billboards advertising the tunnels of Moose Jaw. The show sounds like a cheesy tourist trap, but the tunnels themselves sound strange and interesting. Allan likes anything underground, so we'll make a note of that for a future visit. But no A&Ws, and practically no rest stops on the road.

Around Regina we were getting really hungry, so I searched online for an A&W off but near the highway. We had plenty of time, and the driving is so easy here, we figured an extra 10 or 15 minutes won't hurt. So outside Regina somewhere, we took an exit, found the restaurant, ate, and got back on the road. And about 500 metres down the highway: a rest stop with an A&W.

Then more Dortmunder, to which I fell asleep and missed a chunk of story, then we pulled into Swift Current, meeting M at the Comfort Inn.

None of us felt like going out, so A and M went out to forage, and I relaxed with Diego. Last night we all hung out in our room, listening to music, drinking beer, wine, and vodka (I'll let you guess who was drinking what). They had picked up food for dinner, but apparently eating burgers and onion rings at 3:00 is enough dinner for me. Good to know.

A couple of days ago, I thought Diego might be a little depressed. It's understandable -- many dogs would be upset by long days of driving without much pay-off at the end, night after night in strange surroundings. (That's why we brought his bed and a crate.) But our happy boy can't stay down for long. Yesterday he came roaring back, thrilled to jump in the car, bouncing all over with happiness and affection.

Diego also might have been reacting to the general stress levels, now greatly reduced. Our final week in Mississauga was pretty stressful, and we brought that with us for the first couple of days of the trip. But we're much more relaxed now, and have the car-truck-hotel thing down to a science. Allan hates the daily loading and unloading -- there are a lot of bags going in and out -- but at least we know what we need, and it goes quickly every day.

Leading up to this trip, so many people -- both online and in person -- acted like we were insane to even attempt this drive in late November. I am not exaggerating: they acted like we were crazy daredevils, as if there are white-out conditions every day, that we would be risking our lives daily.

It's quite ridiculous. Even in the deepest winter, it doesn't snow every day, and after a big snow, the roads get cleared, and people go about their lives. All of Canada doesn't shut down from snowstorms every day.

We bought snow tires, we packed emergency gear, and I am checking weather and road conditions frequently. But we're driving on roads that thousands of people drive on, without incident, every day.

Allan and I have talked about this a lot, in many different contexts. I find Canadian culture values what I consider an excess of caution.

Today we head to Calgary, where SIL will join our little caravan. We're all very excited about that. The mountains await, and then we're almost there.


the move west: bonus track

If you are following along, you might want to check comments, too. Allan often has interesting notes that he adds as comments. From yesterday:
So we passed the geographical centre of Canada today. Tomorrow morning (Friday), we will pass the halfway point in distance on the trip. That will be roughly in Fleming, a small town about 50 km across the border into Saskatchewan.

The deer carcass was amazing. Diego was riveted to a big clump of fur in the grass. Once I saw a few clumps of fur, I realized they were everywhere. They had not been snowed on, so the deer had probably not been there more than a day. I did not see anything resembling a skull, but there was a bottom-half of a leg that looked untouched. Seeing that a few hours after the wolf was pretty cool.

I love looking at maps and finding interesting town names. Here are a few from Manitoba: Overflowing River, Brokenhead, Tolstoi, Snowflake, Altamont. ... I found many more cool names in Saskatchewan, which I should save for tomorrow. Sneak peek: Laura, Allan.

Distance report:
Monday: Mississauga to Sudbury: 388.7 km / 241.5 miles
Tuesday: Sudbury to Wawa: 551.3 km / 342.5 miles
Wednesday: Wawa to Ignace: 744.2 km / 462.4 miles
Thursday: Ignace to Brandon: 672.2 km / 417.6 miles
TOTAL TO DATE: 2356.4 km / 1464.1 miles
Also in comments, reaction to "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" -- like a throwback to the early wmtc. Nice.


the move west: day four: ignace ontario to brandon manitoba

We are finally out of Ontario! We had a lovely and eventful day -- including a visit with a friend and a wolf sighting!

We got up and ready very early this morning, thanks to some insomnia on my part. Too much salt plus vodka before bed equals Laura doesn't sleep well. It's not like I don't know that. I just sometimes lack the discipline to do what I should.

It was decidedly less freezing today, with a low of only -10 C and a high of +2. I scouted out a spot for breakfast, about an hour down the road (the TCH) in the town of Dryden. Allan got us tea and coffee and muffins so my head wouldn't explode during that hour. The local chain is Robin's Donuts. We saw them all through northern Ontario, too. The muffins are really dense and seem to be whole grain. The glazed donuts give you a toothache just by looking at them. I'm not into donuts, so I can't tell you how they compare to Tim's or Krispy Kremes.

Right before we left Ignace, Allan remembered that Diego had been looking for something under the bed. He brought the flashlight in from the car... and found "planet" -- Tala's favourite comfort toy. Diego has inherited it, but during Tala's lifetime, he was not allowed to play with it. We would have been heartsick to realize it was gone.

In Dryden, the Patricia Inn Family Restaurant served a terrific diner breakfast, with a choice of home fries (cubed) or hash browns (shredded) potatoes, and fantastic omelets, plus friendly servers. These diners all have desserts that have gone out of fashion elsewhere. I may just have to have some lemon meringue pie before this trip is done.

After breakfast, we were motoring down the highway, still hilly and wooded at that point. As we came down a hill, I saw an animal loping across the road. I thought it was a coyote, but as we slowed down and got closer, I thought... could that be a wolf? It crossed the highway and then continued down a slope. As we drove by, I got a very clear look at its face: it was a Grey Wolf. My heart soared. If you read wmtc, you may know I am fascinated by wolves -- by all wild canids, but especially wolves, the most majestic animals on earth, the princes of nature. I've seen wolves in wolf centres, but the chances of spotting one by chance in North America is very slim. I was thrilled.

We started listening to an audiobook today. I normally can't do audio -- I can't concentrate -- but I thought I would try again on this trip, choosing something a little less challenging. I've been reading Donald Westlake's Dortmunder novels, comic crime capers that are so funny and entertaining. Allan also loves Westlake -- he reads the Parker novels -- so this is something we would both enjoy. I found two Dortmunders on audio. We also have a podcast Allan wants to hear, and a CBC radio documentary about George Orwell. I'm finding I can mostly listen to the book, but only as a passenger. I can't really drive and listen at the same time. I'm not sure this is going to work. But we'll keep trying.

We soon crossed into Manitoba; neither of us has been in this province before. Almost immediately, the terrain flattened and the road straightened. You can see forever.

One time when we stopped for Diego, Allan came hurrying back to the car to get the camera. When he returned, he told me there was a carcass of a deer in the woods, partially eaten. He saw clumps of hair from a deer all along the embankment, so we speculated that the animal may have been hit by a vehicle, then dragged into the woods by enterprising coyotes.

Our friend in Winnipeg texted us a link to the marker for the longitudinal centre of Canada. We stopped for a couple of pictures. As you can see, I'm not attempting a photo journal of our trip, but this was just too good to pass up.

Soon after that, we ran into M and the truck at a gas stop. He asked if we had pulled off the road to see a dead animal! Maybe our car is bugged.

In Winnipeg, we found our way to a Tim Hortons, and met J and J there. I know J through the War Resisters Support Campaign. They are both Quakers, and have lived on Vancouver Island, among other places. I learned that one of the Js is originally from the US, and emigrated to Canada the same time we did. It was wonderful to see them -- really a highlight of the trip. Plus they gave us a big batch of homemade cookies. (I know there's a lot of food in these posts!)

After Winnipeg, we continued down the highway two more hours to the town of Brandon. I fell asleep during a chapter of Dortmunder. (I wasn't driving!)

In Brandon, we're at another Super 8, this one crazy inexpensive and quite nice. Once we got Diego situated, we went next door to a Smitty's for dinner, this time with M. Smitty's is something like a less obnoxious Denny's. I had a cobb salad and my daily glass of red wine.

Today we did 670 kilometres, down from yesterday's peak of 706. From now on, we'll have a little less driving every day -- but that's deceptive, as one leg is through the mountains.

Thanks for reading!

the move west: day three: wawa to ignace

Yesterday was notable for several reasons.

We've made it to the Central time zone.

We've never been here before -- once we passed Kakabeka Falls, we're further west than we've driven in Canada.

This is the first night of five provinces in five days, something Allan loves, and I also think is cool.

And it didn't snow!

From Sudbury to Wawa was 488 kilometres and it was a long, grueling day. Yesterday we drove 706 kilometres and it was so much easier. Yesterday was also the longest planned leg of the whole trip. From now on the driving will be a little less each day.

We started the day with a big breakfast at North of 17, the same place we had dinner the previous night. This excellent breakfast included toast made from homemade bread. As I said, the diner of my dreams.

I was getting a bit stressed about the time. I woke up at 6:00, got Allan up at 7:00, yet somehow we were getting on the road close to 10. I was worried that we'd be driving at night again. A and M reassured me: a portion of every day's drive will be in darkness, and that's just the way it is. The daylight hours are short, and we can't start early enough to stop before dusk. If we did, we'd be driving in the dark anyway -- in the morning. This made me feel much better. One more thing to let go of.

The weather was sunny and cold again, emphasis on the cold. The windchill was -30 C (-22 F). For weeks I've been saying that on this trip, I'll go for a good walk with Diego every morning, and we'll walk him together every evening. It never occurred to be it might be too cold for that! Diego is getting a little antsy from lack of exercise, but there's not much we can do about it right now. It is just too damn cold. (PS: it's +8 C in Port Hardy right now.)

The first part of the drive was really beautiful, with amazing views of Lake Superior, and surrounded by snow-covered evergreens. The road was completely clear -- in fact, as soon as it started to snow the day before, there were plows out -- and seemed newly paved. We switched driving a few times and "made good time," as the saying goes. Somehow we can't find our ice scraper, so when we stopped for gas, I picked one up along with three (small) bags of chips, which became our lunch. Not good. I don't need a giant salt infusion in the middle of the day.

Speaking of which, we've had some discussion about what to do about eating on the road. M would prefer we stop at a supermarket, buy food to take with us, to save money and be more self-sufficient. Allan and I will sometimes do that on road trips, but on this trip, that just feels like too much work, and kind of unpleasant. We can't eat outside (obviously) so that means eating in the car. How much money or time would we really save? Allan and I agree that we don't want to go to a restaurant and spend an hour on lunch, but we could pop into a Tim's or something similar. With everything this move is costing us, spending a few more dollars on food is fine. Right now convenience and a bit of comfort are more important than economizing to that extent.

Around Thunder Bay, the highway widens and mostly straightens out, and we were able to drive faster. I'm using cruise control, hoping that will allow me to drive more without pain. So far, so good. Oh yes, speaking of pain, my finger hurts, and likely will for a long time -- but luckily it's on my left hand.

Somewhere west of Thunder Bay but before our planned stop, we passed a plaque marking the beginning of the Central time zone. I was driving, so Allan changed the clock in the car, and was very happy of suddenly "gaining" an hour.

We made it to the Westwood Motel in Ignace, Ontario, about ten minutes after M pulled in with the truck. It's a bit of a dump, but it's clean, the bed is comfy, the pillows are fluffy, and there's plenty of room for Diego's crate. We went around the corner to the Mystic Bar and Grill for dinner. M declined again, and picked up something to microwave in his room. I think at the end of a long day, he feels this is more relaxing. Me, when we stop for the night, I am going to a restaurant, eating dinner, and having a glass of wine. Non-negotiable!

When we did our last-minute packing, I found an almost-full bottle of vodka in the freezer, and we still had a carton of orange-peach-mango juice. So after dinner, M came to our room, we busted out the little plastic motel cups, and I tended bar. We had a good time... and then totally crashed. I very nearly slept in my clothes; it just seemed like too much work to do anything else. Allan kind of shamed me into being more civilized.

Today, Manitoba! We've never seen the prairies, and despite everyone saying there's nothing to see, it's a new landscape and we're looking forward to it. We're also hoping to connect with a friend in Winnipeg, on our way to Brandon.


the move west: day two: sudbury to wawa

I've retitled the last two posts. Original day one is now day zero, and day one is a new (different) post. I won't attempt to explain what I was thinking, but it's fixed now.
Yesterday morning we woke up to a bright blue sky and freezing cold weather. It was -17 C with a windchill of -27 C. Everyone at the motel was talking about how cold it was. I was thrilled because it was sunny and bright. Who cares how cold it is when we're driving all day?

We got off to a slow start, with so much of what we needed in the truck, including the damn netbook adapter (it wouldn't boot up without it), and various other delays. We thought that was fine because we had only 480 kilometres planned, so we assumed the whole trip would be in daylight. Ha!

Allan and M went off on another M quest, while I hammered away at the keyboard. About 45 later, when I hit publish, the post disappeared. So now I have no post and I've delayed us for nothing. Yay.

We finally hit the road around 11:00, getting the Trans Canada Highway in Sudbury, west towards Sault Ste Marie and beyond. It was very scenic, the road winding through snow-covered fields and evergreens, small towns, and frozen rivers. We stopped a few times for Diego and to pick up caffeine in various forms. Just a few stops here and there, no lunch break or anything substantial, yet somehow, it was growing dark and we were still 300 kilometres from our destination. Which would be less than three hours on a fast highway, but following Lake Superior from The Soo to Thunder Bay is decidedly not a fast highway. We knew this -- we just drove the damn thing in September! -- but that was in daylight. And dry weather.

As soon as it gets dark, it also starts to snow. And here we are again on a completely dark country road in the snow! We said we weren't going to do this again, and we're doing it again on the very next night. Plus this time the road is winding and hilly, and huge logging trucks are flying by, too. I had been driving, but once the snow started, we switched. It was stressful enough as a passenger. No way I could drive in that. Allan is great that way, though -- nerves of steel when it comes to driving.

The snow was coming down hard. During the day, it's a beautiful scenic drive. At night, in the snow, a painful crawl. Much of the time we were doing 40 or 50 kms/hour, just trying to stay on the road.

We had no phone signal for much of the time, so I had no idea how M was doing. When I reached him, he was already in the motel! He had seen a car in a ditch with highway patrol people and was very relieved to learn it wasn't us.

We pulled in to the Best Northern Motel and Restaurant at around 7:00, tired and hungry, but very happy to be there. Except for the big sign that said RESTAURANT CLOSED FOR SEASON. When I checked in, I asked, "So there's no restaurant right now?" The woman said, "There's a restaurant, but it's closed for winter." Ah yes, very helpful. To be fair, she gave me a dog bowl with the hotel logo on it, for use in the room.

She said two restaurants in Wawa would still be open -- if we hurried. We quickly got stuff in the room, Allan set up Diego's crate, and we set out in the snow, about 6 inches by then, and still coming down. M was done for the night, so we took his order, hoping we'd find something.

In Wawa we saw a Tim Hortons (of course) and a Subway, so we had a last resort. The two restaurants were side by side. The Embassy looked more promising, but they were closing early: "It's a slow night".

North of 17 was like the diner of my dreams. The server was an older woman who seemed to want to feed us. I ordered my favourite comfort food: hot turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes and gravy. I hadn't had that in eons. Real roast turkey, homemade gravy, and a $6 glass of red wine, a huge glass that costs $19.50 at Canyon Creek. The whole thing was heavenly.

We tried not to order dessert, but since we were taking food back for M, the server suggested she box up dessert as well. Who were we to refuse.
When we got back to the room, Diego was calm and happy. I don't know if he was barking while we were gone, but I've decided not to worry about it. I hear other people's TVs, they might have to hear my dog.