09 October: Adios to “Friendly Manitoba” – Hello to “Grand Canyon State”

Yup, so there it is.  Got my Arizona driver’s licence, and rear plates for the 1957 Cadillac (BCT2613) and 2005 Cadillac (BCT2614).  Sigh.

Getting them was a bit of fun.  I had to do a computer based multiple choice test of the rules of the road (some were difficult, about distance to follow an emergency vehicle etc), get an eye test, explain my right eye being blind.  Then, get the cars titled, show all the import documentation, then had to actually present the car for inspection to see the “safety and emissions decal” which, oops, wasn’t there, after waiting 1/2 hour for someone to look.  They needed the “attestation letter” from GM that I paid $110 for, before leaving.  Sigh.

The first clerk insisted that I had to bring down the 1957 for inspection as well.  Fortunately, the second one dismissed that with a wave of the hand, because for heaven’s sake, it’s from before there were emissions and safety stickers.

Anyway, there it is – the new plates and the driver’s licence.  It’s official now.

Arizona Licence Plates and Arizona Driver’s Licence

It turns out that they do not use a front licence plate on their vehicles here in Arizona.  I don’t have anything to put on there, for now.  Hmm…

17 July: Makin’ a Run for Phoenix

We woke up in Las Vegas, New Mexico.  We gassed up and headed south, jumping off of Interstate 25 and heading a bit back east on highway 84.  This avoids Santa Fe and the dipsy-doodle around the mountains. 

Then on through Alburquerque, stopping briefly at a truck stop near Gallup, new Mexico, and onward into Arizona!

Overpass in Albuquerque

Wide open New Mexico

Welcome to Arizona!

Rather than continue on Interstate 40 to Flagstaff then down Interstate 17 to Phoenix, we decided to hop off onto highway 377 at Holbrook, then drive the scenic route through Payson and into Phoenix from the west.

Did I say “scenic route”?  I guess I did.  It certainly was!  And, the temperature just kept rising and rising, all the way into Phoenix.

The road was windy, twisty, up and down.  The car started to get grumpy during this last stretch – at least the transmission did.  It downshifted when it wasn’t supposed to, and at one point, refused to upshift when it was supposed to.

Eric drives the last stretch, focussed intently, both hands on the wheel, 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock!

Every time we came around a mountain or over a pass, we expected to see the city.  It sure took a long time before we saw Phoenix.

Once we entered the city, Eric was like a machine – he knew exactly where he was going.  Some of his best friends’ parents have units in this same complex.  We arrived around supper time.

All this photo proves is that I made it – Eric is taking the picture!

In the picture of me and the car at the complex, you can see a black Pontiac behind me.  Shortly after we arrived, and while we were still unloading our stuff, a young fellow was fussing about in the engine compartment, talking to his buddy on his iPhone and waving a part in front of the camera, asking his friend if it was important.  I wandered over and asked if I could have a look.  It was the pulley from the power steering pump, broken clean off!  Worse, everything on this engine, air conditioning, alternator, and the water pump, appears to run off of that same serpentine belt.  The fellow was some upset when I advised him that although the power steering pump wasn’t all that important, some of the other stuff that the belt was driving was important, and the car should not be driven.

Eric chatted with that fellow, Darnell, later.  It turns out that he’s from Los Angeles, was working in a warehouse for the Fresh-n-Easy grocery store chain, and was laid off.  He’s out here at a relative’s place, looking for work.  He has a little girl back in LA that he’s trying to support.  Yikes.  I hope he finds something.

Anyway, we arrived, moved the junk indoors, and went out for pizza.  We got zero service at the Pizza Hut take-out store, so we just bought a bunch of fixins at Fry’s and made it ourselves.  Then crashed, well past time to rest.

Postscript: a week later, that black car hasn’t turned a wheel. 

16 July: Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse, and meeting the Lincoln Highway Tour

In the morning, we set out for Mount Rushmore.  Wow, it’s pretty impressive.

Dean at the entrance

Eric in front of the memorial view

Corridor of State Flags

We also saw a few old cars – hey, I heard about these guys from the “1958 Cadillac Owner’s Association” mailing list – there’s a guy in a 1958 Cadillac driving the tour, but didn’t see him – it’s a group from Europe, something like 20 or 30 cars, all driving across the USA all the month of July – the Lincoln Highway Centennial Tour.   Yes, all from Europe – cool huh?  I just got pictures of a couple of them, but there are bunch more – check out their web site.

1955 Oldsmobile convertible

1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible

A ragtop with air conditioning!

Onward to the Crazy Horse memorial, which isn’t quite as impressive – well, it will be when it is done – man, how do they ever complete these things, so much material to blast, carve, and move?

Crazy Horse’s face way off in the distance – eventually will be mounted on horse with arm outstretched

Then we blasted out on the two lane highways, off into Colorado.  We stopped for fuel & supper in Boulder, Colorado, and pushed onward.  We made it to Las Vegas!  Relax – not Nevada, but Las Vegas, New Mexico, near Albuquerque 🙂

Wide open as far as you can see!
Small Town USA

Country highways – 2 lanes through rolling countryside
Back on the Interstate – wide open four lane highway for a hundred miles!

14-15 July: Quel Catastrophe!!!!

It was time to refuel the old beast in Fargo.  The de Ville would have done much further, but might as well fuel it up too.

Oh boy, as soon as we slowed down off of the freeway, I knew something was wrong with the ’57.  There was a loud engine knock, and she was idling very rough.  Oh, no.

Oh my word, what is that knocking sound?

Thinking it was an overheat problem, we fuelled up anyway, then went to eat.  Nope, still there.  Very loud, and seemingly deep in the engine.  Just like Bob had found at Seven Oaks a few days before, only this time it wasn’t going away.

Sigh – have to face up to the fact that Elizabeth won’t be making the trip under her own steam

We checked out local area storage facilities, but the offices were all closed on Sunday.  We stopped by a local shop that happened to be open, but they only did big semi trucks.  They suggested we try some Lucas Oil Modifier, which we did, and it did not help.  Double yikes.

I wondered if the proper Engine Oil Supplement (EOS) was added when the oil was changed the week before.  Doesn’t matter, whatever is done is done.

OK, so we have to stay the night in Fargo.  Oh well, I booked the hotel that I had stayed in when I was down on my TN visa trip, and we made our way to the hotel.  It was only 3 miles or so away, so I drove the ’57 over.  Ugh, it sounded horrible!  And, to get enough power to go up over the Interstate, it sounded even worse, and had no power!  Eric was behind me, and said it blew a nice shade of blue out the tailpipe.  Argh.  We got to the hotel and parked it.

If you know me, you know I was stressed about the whole thing.  What I did though, was just say, “I can’t do anything about it, so forget it.”  And, I did.  I actually slept well – perhaps due to the lack of sleep the night before, but it felt good.

We spent Monday morning, 15 July, zooming around looking for places to store the car.  A self storage facility couldn’t open its gates to us until after 5 PM, an RV centre with a large compound just said “no”, but a great little company right on the main street said they would think about it.  Friends in the antique auto club got to work and found a place nearby for the car.  We heard back from the little company, Roll-A-Ramp, that they would allow me to put it in their compound, mostly because the company owner had old cars and sympathized with me.   Not free of course – nothing is, in this life – but we had a safe place to put her.  Yay!

The rain let up just long enough to allow Eric and I to empty the contents of both cars onto the parking lot behind them, then rationalize it all down.  Some tote bins were innocuous and could be left in the ’57.  Some had liquids in them that really shouldn’t sit too long (could leak and damage upholstery – especially when loading / unloading onto a car carrier).  Some stuff was low value and was discarded.  In the end, we cut down to the bare minimum in the 2005 de Ville, and all the stuff I don’t need for a while into the ’57.

AAA couldn’t pick the car up for over 6 hours, ugh.  The contact from the club got us in touch with a local tow agency, and they moved the car almost immediately, yay.  Poor operator, though – he had to crawl under the car to hook it up, and got completely soaked.  We had to put wood down to ensure that the back end wouldn’t drag or hang up on the tow truck.  Good thing we did, we cleared by about 1/2 an inch. 

 So we put her under the shelter in the compound, covered her up, and finally got underway in the de Ville around 2 PM, only a full day behind schedule.

There Elizabeth sits – sadly – waiting for pickup some day soon
Oh my poor “little” Cadillac!

Let’s have a moment of silence for Elizabeth’s grand tour – planned but not completed…

Remarkably, once we were on the road again, I felt at peace.  We did what we could, all situation stable now, let’s get on with the trip.  Eric was driving, and we just rolled on down the Interstate.

We decided that, since we were in a well equipped modern car, we’d take a bit of a detour and go to Mount Rushmore.  Great idea!  So we headed west through South Dakota, to Rapid City.  There was a lot of construction on the Interstate, but then again, it was a nice open highway, and with the mountains in the far background, mmmmm.

14 July: Saddle up!

What was the line from Good Morning Vietnam?  “Oh six hundred, with the oh standing for, oh my God it’s early!!”  Yup, I concur.

Eric arrived right around 06h00, and we said our final goodbyes to my mom and to Terena, and away we went.

Yeah, so you can be early but not bright, or bright but not early.  Which one is this?

I had to fill the thirsty old Fleetwood up with fuel.  I had also forgotten something, don’t forget what, but Eric went back for it while I fuelled up.  He had the faster, more modern machine, after all.

Fuelling up at Flying J just outside the Perimeter

Then, off to the USA.  Don’t look back, that’s a trail of sobs and tears on the highway…

Getting into the USA was uneventful.  I went through first, and had to formally import the Fleetwood.  Eric was sure we’d get put into the “you sit here while we empty and search the car” garage, but we didn’t.  He and I dutifully allowed the customs and immigrations officers to do their work.

It was good we were there again, because the officer on 30 June when I “imported” the 2005 de Ville said that he didn’t have to sign the import form, which seemed wrong.  Sure enough, it was wrong.  This fellow was a good guy, but he wanted to inspect the car, look for the emissions certificate, find the country of origin of the car (yikes, all mainstream Cadillacs are built in Lansing, MI, USA).  It was all good, so he signed off, and we were on our way.

I had purchased a pair of long range FRS radio transceivers for Eric and I to use on the trip, and a pair of car chargers.  We chatted on and off on the way.  Kind of fun, although someone said that it wasn’t really a father-son trip because we weren’t in the same car.

We stopped in Grand Forks, which was fine.  It was too early to eat, but with my small middle aged bladder… enough said.  Then by Fargo, we were hungry, so we stopped for a bite, and it was time to fuel up.   [ cue ominous music again ]

06 to 13 July: Busy, busy, busy!

The week running up to our departure was a really hectic one.  I met with so many people, said my goodbyes, and shed a few tears.  You would think I was never coming back!  Well, of course I will come back, but this represents such a big change for me.  I keep telling myself, “change can be good, this change will be good!”  Somehow, the little tremor in the back of my mind is, “how well will I cope?”  Time will tell.  Of course, I’ve never completely crashed and burned, have always managed to survive, but there’s always this little doubt…

I worked at ERLPhase up to and including 08 July.  The fact was, I was supposed to be done on Friday, 05 July, but I spent so much time dealing with move related stuff in the 2 weeks prior, that even with the extra time I spent in India, etc., I felt the need to come back for an extra day.  Which was good – I was able to finish a few important things.

I managed to have the locker empty on Sunday, 07 July, so I didn’t have to pay the extra month, yay!  There were 15 bins at my mom’s place now, but 13 of them were going into the cars, 1 was going to Eric, and only 1 was staying.  This was a big improvement from the 70 or so bins that were there only six weeks before!

ERLPhase management agreed to let me work with the good folks in India on a part-time “as available, as needed” basis for the next few weeks.  They would keep my E-mail account active to facilitate communications – I would use the MS-Exchange webmail client, and Skype, to keep in touch.

Unfortunately, the contract IT person didn’t get the memo, and on 09 July, he cancelled my account.  I asked for it to be reinstated, which began a 3 day slow dance where reinstatement was performed using a trivial everybody-knows-it password, then failed attempts at updating to a private password.  Well, in the end, we were thwarted by a recent change to the wireless which moved it to the outside of the firewall, ugh.  Fixed, new private password implemented on Thursday, just in time, ugh.  A good way to waste a few hours and a few trips to the office.  Anyway… all fixed, all good now.

I was driving the ’57 as much as possible that last week, just to give her a bit of exercise and make sure I was comfortable with the way she was running.  I had a bit of unease about the RPMs she was turning at highway speeds, and wondered if she was reaching up into 4th gear.  I just wasn’t sure – it has been a long time since I put some real highway miles on a Cadillac of this vintage.  I wasn’t sure about the 1-2 upshift, it seemed as though maybe it was there, maybe it wasn’t – and if it wasn’t, then I was in 3rd at highway speeds, which would not be cool.

Thursday morning, I took the ’57 in to Bob Degraves of Seven Oaks Transmission, to have him give the transmission a quick check.  He and I took the car for a spin, and sure enough, all four gears were there.

He pulled it into the shop to pull the dipstick, and wow, the engine had a knock!  Yikes!  He snagged his stethoscope and figured that it was central in the engine – not from either side – so probably not a lifter.  It sounded low down, perhaps a crank bearing or a connecting rod bearing?  Well it sounded bad, but it went away when we stopped and restarted the engine, so I figured it might just be a transient issue.  Little did I know….  [ cue the ominous music ]

On Friday morning, I transferred the registration of the B.U.T. and the flatdeck trailer over to my mom, since when I change my driver’s licence to Arizona, I won’t be able to keep it registered under my name.  

Originally, I had arranged for Eric and I to leave on Sunday, 14 July.  He would drive the 2005 de Ville, I would drive the 1957 Fleetwood.  We would take our time, driving at or just under the limit, say 60 to 65 miles per hour, putting in 10 to 12 hours a day, and get to Phoenix in 3 to 4 days.

But then, we changed our minds, and arranged to leave on Friday, 12 July, so we could drive to Grand Forks and see the races that evening, stay overnight in Grand Forks, before continuing onward on Saturday.  The World of Outlaws Late Model Stock Car races were going on, and Eric really wanted to see them.

Then, it turns out that the Half Moon’s 75th Anniversary celebration was on this particular weekend 13 & 14 July, and I kind of wanted to go there with the other members of the Manitoba Classic and Antique Auto Club (MCAAC) and check it out.

Also, there was a Winnipeg Blue Bomber football game on Saturday evening in Hamilton, and we certainly wouldn’t be able to pick it up on radio in the U.S. while driving.   Well, I have a US T-Mobile SIM for my cell phone, and could get it using Internet radio on the data network, but no such luck for Eric.

We figured that we’d go to the races on Friday in Grand Forks, then come back late Friday night, spend Saturday back in Winnipeg, and get rolling on Sunday morning.

However, the US immigration lawyer got all out of joint with this idea, saying that I might be denied entry into the US because I would be violating the terms of my TN visa – that is, going into the US for a reason other than work.  Ugh!  I told him that if he understood how often we hop across the border for shopping and entertainment, it’s ridiculous to think that it would change just because I had a TN visa.

In the end, we decided not to go to the races.   There was a lot of rain that day, and with the prospect of it causing trouble with my immigration and TN visa, we just decided against it.  So, I spent the time organizing my bins and running around with last minute stuff.

The running around continued on Saturday, as I put the B.U.T. out to pasture in Warren, dropping off some bins into the storage shelter out there, and picking up a couple of small items.  Oh yes, and then the shelter had damage from falling ice last winter, so I put a tarp over the damage.   Mom picked me up, we raced into the city, where I had a bit of banking to do at RBC, then snag the 57 Cadillac and off to the Half Moon.  I was a half hour late – ugh, I thought I was doing better than that these days!!  Oh well, it was a very busy place, lots going on, and the Caddy looked good.

I chatted with a number of folks.  Denise and two of her sons came by and checked it out.  A bunch of the antique auto club guys shook my hand and said, “see you in the wintertime!”  I was parked next to an Amphicar, which generally gives rides in the water for charity (unfortunately, the water was low so the docking wasn’t suitable for it, and the current so swift that it was dangerous anyway), and we had a good chat too.

It turned out that Wayne Doherty, a good friend from high school and university, was back home for a couple of weeks, just ending a weeks’ stay at Victoria Beach before heading into Winnipeg for several days.  He connected with me by text and was astounded to hear that I was leaving the next day.  He came by the Half Moon and we had a good visit.  It was great to see him before heading out.

Back to my mom’s place, where I finished rationalizing the contents of the remaining bins.  Then, with a storm coming in and the threat of an early morning thunderstorm, I loaded up the cars, and made up a manifest of what was in each car, in case the folks at the US border asked.  I wanted to know exactly the nature of the contents of each bin, so they could ask and I could tell them.

I got very little sleep, up at 5:30 AM on Sunday, 14 July.  Time to move ’em out!

03 July: Load ’em up!

The inevitability of my move to Phoenix is creeping up on me.  It was hypothetical, a dream I had for a long time that was coming to fruition…  New experiences, new people, wow.  But now it’s taking physical form!

The first thing was the pack-up of my apartment on 25 June.  I had been shuffling things around for a couple of weeks, organizing what was going to get packed and what wasn’t.  But all my stuff was there.  Then on the 25th, a nice lady came by and brought a bunch of boxes and paper material.  I zoomed off to get my TN visa that day, but realized that I didn’t have all the proper documentation, turned around and came back.  When I got back to the apartment, there was so little left out that I had to immediately move to my mom’s that day.  This wasn’t a surprise, of course – but it was kind of shocking to walk in and see everything packed into boxes.

I don’t have much.  Not like the last time, moving from Markham, when it was something like 12,000 lbs (yes, yes, most of it was in my silly tote bins and my tools, sorry, didn’t mean to cart them across the country and back).  This time, my apartment was quite Spartan – all used furniture, mostly from Goodwill.  I was going to leave it behind, return it to Goodwill, give it away – but Eric convinced me that I should take it, so I would at least have something when I arrive down there, not having to replace everything immediately.  Very wise – this allows me to get new stuff gradually – I cannot really afford to go on a spending spree like in Markham – it’s all got to go to reducing my (ugh) debt load.

The next day, on 26 June, the movers showed up and emptied the apartment in a matter of about 1-1/2 hours.  Wow, they were efficient.  When the apartment was empty, it really hit me.  I felt empty.  I flopped and did a Vitruvian Man thing on my back on the carpet in what was my bedroom – stared at the ceiling for a long time, and wept softly…  This wasn’t how it was all supposed to turn out.  What the Hell was going on?

I recovered, set my jaw and clenched my teeth (not supposed to do that any more because of TMJ trouble, but I did not care), and said, “Well, it may not be what I expected nor what I wanted, but it is what it is, let’s get on with it.”

I went back on Saturday the 29th and cleaned the place.  It really didn’t need much, although the baseboards were dusty and needed a wipe.   Eric came by and helped guide me out of the parkade with the ’57 Cadillac (had done an eensie weensie scrape on the side when pulling in once), and I parked it at mom’s place.

On Sunday the 30th, I returned the keys, did the walk-through, and left for the last time.  Damn, I liked that apartment.  Oh well.  I’ll like whatever I have in Phoenix even more – or so the optimist in me says.

Now initially, the movers were supposed to pick up the stuff in the locker on the same day as the apartment, but I managed to get them to hold off at the locker until Wednesday, 03 July. 

I guess I should rewind a bit.  In early June, I went and booked a locker at Total Storage, the same place that I had a locker when we moved back from Markham.  What do you know, got the exact same locker too (cue “Twilight Zone” theme in the background).   Eric and I moved everything from my mother’s basement into the locker (well we left a couple of items that won’t be making the trip).  Quite a bit – as I recall, we had about 95 tote bins coming back from Markham.  I vowed to cut that down substantially before the movers picked it up.

So now I had until 03 July to cut down.  I had started to weed the sheep from the goats, so to speak, and continued to do so.  Took a trip to get my TN visa (see related article), that took some time away, but I managed to get it cut down to an astonishing 46 tote bins!  Well a lot of stuff went out, let me tell you… and some tools stored in Warren are not making the trip.

The boys showed up on Wednesday and said, “OK, so where’s the other locker?  We were told to load about 4,000 lbs, and this entire locker is about half of that.”

Then I told them that they were only taking the stuff on the left hand side of the locker.  I suspect it was more like 1,500 lbs – then again, what do I know?

So then the locker was mostly empty again.  Today I spent a few hours sorting the “discard” pile into “E-Waste”, “Manitoba Amateur Radio Museum”, “Goodwill”, “Back out to Warren”, “To go in the Cars”, and “Landfill”.  Then, I managed to deliver the first three.  The locker is even more empty now.  Hopefully it will be entirely empty by Monday night, in which case I’ll save $200 on a second month’s rent, yay!

Tickety tick, tickety tick, moving towards departure date.  Sigh.

30 June: Ode on a TN Visa

So, now it’s kinda official.  I have authorization to work in the good ol’ USA.  At least for Alstom Grid in Phoenix, Arizona, anyway.

On Sunday, 30 July, I drove the to Emerson border crossing, told the inspector that I wanted to get my TN visa, and went inside.  It took about an hour and cost me some cash, but then it was done.

I had to present my original university degree, and official transcripts of my marks.  I also took my original APEGM (Manitoba) P.Eng. certificate and my PEO (Ontario) P.Eng. certificate, for good measure.  The inspector actually looked carefully at everything, and remarked about my university GPA.  That made me smile.  The marks I got in a course I took 30 years ago, means nothing to anybody, except to me… and a US Customs & Immigration official.

Then I officially imported my car into the USA.  I had to obtain an Emissions & Safety Letter from GM Vintage Vehicle Services at a cost of $110, and present that with my valid registration.  Boom – done!

Because it was the long weekend, I had not tried to get a room in Grand Forks but instead booked at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fargo – although when I went into Grand Forks for dinner, I saw that I probably would not have had a problem.  Well, by that time, it was after 6 PM, and I wouldn’t be able to cancel the Fargo room anyway.  I had a nice dinner, then on to Fargo to crash and to sleep.

I always travel heavy, and this was no exception.  They don’t like it when TN visa applicants go out of the country right away (kinda makes them wonder whether they should be letting our household goods come in on a semi, if the person has skeedaddled back out).   Regardless, if you know me, you know that I take a lot of stuff.  I took a bunch of magazines that I need to read – and then recycle 🙂   I took a bunch of financials and receipts that I had to enter into Quicken.  Of course, a few days’ clothes, my briefcase with laptop computer, my swimming stuff… ugh.  No worries, I drive a big car, right?

I arrived at the hotel at 10 PM, just as the pool closed.  Well, one activity off the list.  I worked on my receipts until midnight – another one completed.  I never did do any reading, really, so all the magazines came back with me.

The next morning, on 01 July, I went to a local Wal-Mart and bought a pair of long-range top-notch FRS radios that Eric and I will use when we drive down to Phoenix next weekend, then headed for the border.  A quick stop in Grand Forks for lunch, then off back to Canada.

The Canadian border inspector was fine with me being down for a day, bringing back $90 worth of stuff, and having obtained my TN visa on my way down.  He asked to see in the trunk, and was concerned about “all the stuff” that I had back there.  He rummaged around in there for a bit.  He asked about it.  I mumbled that I travel heavy, and that I had planned to do much more on my overnight getaway than I actually got done… He asked if it was all mine – which of course it was – so I advised in the affirmative, and he let me roll on.  Yay!  I think.