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.