September 3, 2012

The Big Move - day 13

Today is Aug 31st , day 13 We drove 185 miles today from Port Huron, Michigan, USA to Inglewood, Ontario, Canada.

Well here we are at the last day of our adventure driving across the country. Its really been so much fun, but tiring all the same. I hope that at least by writing it down our kids will be able to remember something of the trip. They're such smart, growing little guys its cool to have a snapshot of them right here and now. Our trip today takes us across the border into Canada and to the farm Erica grew up on. We'll be spending a month at the farm in Inglewood, Ontario before moving into our new place in Brampton. So there's a bit more settling to do, and of course it will be complicated but I think we've really accomplished the toughest part of this trip already. Getting out of our old house and ready for the move was so incredibly tiring, I'm glad we can now finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. Just one more day, so lets begin shall we?

The morning started off very well. The kids had a great night and Erica and I we're able to get the car mostly packed up the night before. Exiting the hotel should definitely be simple enough. Breakfast today was good and intentionally quick. We want to be at the border right around 9am since we might be there for a while.

As you'll see here there aren't too many photos. Generally speaking they do not like you taking photos of the border and I am honestly looking to make this as smooth a transition as possible. Erica and I have A LOT of documentation with us covering everything from our house to ourselves and the kids, to the car. They probably won't ask us too much, but they could. Moving across the border into a new country is very difficult. Especially when there's assets including property in both countries. 

Our first stop was actually not at the Canadian border crossing though, it was at the US side. We pulled up to the start of the Blue Water Bridge toll road which connects the countries over a waterway. I'm not sure the waterway name, but its basically the river / channel that connects Lake Huron through Lake St Clair and into Lake Eerie. Port Huron is on the US side of the river and Sarnia Ontario is on the Canadian side. So anyhow, we pulled up to the toll bridge pay booth right at the start of the bridge and asked the woman where we were supposed to park to get across to the US customs and immigration. Obviously we were headed the wrong way to hit the US immigration naturally so we we're told to pull over before Canadian Customs alongside the big rigs and walk over to the US side.

This is all in order to get the paperwork signed off so that we can export our car to Canada. Yes we are exporting the car. Why else would we drive it across the country?! The woman at the toll booth let us know that we had of course missed the pull off and she actually held the entire flow of traffic for us so we could pull across all the lanes and park where we were. Then she gave some convoluted instructions on getting back, and over to the US side of the road, as well as finding the specific “Cargo” building. We parked well enough, but then we got out grabbed the kids, our paperwork and our coffees and started across the traffic to the US side buildings. Apparently that was the wrong move.

A US border guard was out with us very quickly asking us what we thought we were doing. After we explained and apologized he told us to go back to the car put down the drinks immediately, get only the paperwork needed and then just one of us go a different way down to the correct building. I guess walking in font of a line of big rigs that are supposed to be entering the country is a bad idea...

Erica stayed with the boys and I managed to eventually find the right building. Again though I went to the wrong place. I stepped into the building and saw a counter with someone working it. I went up to ask where I was supposed to be going. Well, I had the right building and desk, but I had apparently just accidentally budded in front of everyone else. He sent me to the back of the line. I waited for some 20 minutes before getting to the counter again. Not too bad considering everything (only two people ahead of me) There was again a no cell phones policy there so unfortunately I didn't get a photo. The other guys waiting in line with me were all truckers getting sign off on the goods they were exporting. They seemed pretty nice, and one of them told me a funny story about how one time he was at this desk and his phone rang; apparently everyone in the office just stopped and started to draw their weapons on him. Pretty scary stuff.

I got to the front of the line, and then had to wait through a system crash on their end, but finally finally got our car's original title stamped from the officers saying that it is good to go out of the country, and not stolen. From there on out we were set.

So we piled back into the car and drove across the bridge to the Canadian side of the border. There we had to park and the talk through everything with a Canadian agent. The Canadian agents were all vey nice. Not that the US ones were bad mind you, but I really liked the Canadian border guys. I spent a lot of the time chasing the kids around the office. They we're being exceptionally cute playing hide and seek.

My parents have recently made this same move from the States back to Canada, and had kind fo freaked us out that the entire process was going to be incredibly complicated. Franky, it wasn't. Yes we needed the right paperwork, but everyone was extremely friendly and helpful. Really a good experience all around. That said I'm glad we were prepared.

Beside us in lone at another counter in the Canadian secondary immigration office there was a guy having a full blown argument with the border guard. I am just amazed at how stupid people can be. I couldn't help but overhear some, since he was raising his voice a lot. But the guy was actually trying to file a formal complaint against the Canadian border patrol guards. I mean like asking for your identification is some sort of slight?! Apparently he didn't have ID with him and then got surly when they questioned him. My take on it was that he probably wasn't a US citizen. Why an illegal alien would even think the could travel to Canada without issue is beyond me. The border guard was being far too polite if you ask me, basically he told the man that he didn't have the right to complain. That even standing there having that conversation with him was a privilege. True enough.

So we made it through. We finished up our paperwork, got back in our car and headed on down the road into Canada and an exciting new future.

Ah Ontario... very nice to be back home. I grew up in downtown Toronto. Erica on the farm we're headed for in the Caledon area outside of the city. We headed east along highway 402 and then after London, Ontario onto one of the major highways crossing the Toronto area, the 401. We headed east to the sights of some pretty boring landscape. Is it because I grew up here? I don't generally find the landscape around here that exciting. I mean, southern ontario is really beautiful, but the roads always seem to go around pretty boring stuff. Mostly flat, some farmland, but often just empty meadowland and fields. Ah well, thankfully we're not planning on living beside the highways ;P

After Woodstock we turned more directly east and headed along the 403, through Brantford and towards the town of Burlington. Calum was sleeping, and Alec was listening to some music playing quietly so we decided that timing wise we could probably push and make it to Erica's sister Nicole's house for lunch. We're pretty thankful it only took such a short time at the border, definitely makes our timing for the day easier.

Aside from Erica's parents who live on the farm we've got a lot of extended family in the area. Erica's brother, his wife and their two kids, and her sister, husband, and their two kids are all here. We loved a lot of things about California, but having a network of family here. Giving the kids a chance to grow up really knowing at least some of their grandparents first hand, and having lots of cousins around to play with; well that's really what this whole move is about. 

Erica's sister Nicole, lives in Burlington and was home with the kids when we arrived. Her husband Roy was just heading off to work so we said a quick goodbye to him then headed in for some lunch and a chance for the kids to play. Alec and Calum are a bit younger than their cousins Katy and Mason, but they are all definitely still in the range where they can play well together. The kids we're very happy to see each other and they went out back to play with snails in the yard and chase the cat. Nicole made us all some delicious burgers for lunch and we had a nice visit.

After food we decided to pack up all the kids and walk over to the local park. Well actually Katy and Mason rode their bikes, but you get the idea. Its more than a park I suppose, I think there's a community center there, and there's definitely a cool skate park. But the best feature of the play area has to be the Splashpad. 

Essentially this is just a circular zone where there's water spouting up from jets in the ground at intervals. Not quite as elaborate as the water play area at that playground we stopped at in Green River, WY, but definitely fun. And on a day like today where its probably 90 degrees out the kids need some way to cool down.

The kids played and played. Alec got right in there in the water and had a great time running around with the local kids. And there were a lot of kids there. I suppose school hasn't quite started here yet for most kids. Last week of summer vacation, why not spend it at the park. Calum ran around, especially with Mason and checked out the playground.

Mason told me that he was keeping his eye on me and Calum, in case we did anything awesome. Good idea Mason. We regularly do awesome stuff. Katy was flying a homemade kite and trying to avoid the wet little Alec. He really looks up to her and wants her to play with him. She called him a little tornado, and that's pretty accurate most of the time.

We stayed and played at the splashpad playground for a good hour, maybe and hour and a half and then picked up and headed back to Nicole and Roy's house. Getting our gear together we said our goodbyes, this time thankfully only for a short time, and packed back into the car for the very final leg of our journey.

We across, and then up the 410 towards the Caledon area, specifically Inglewood, and the farm where we will be staying for the next month until our house is ready. The highway edged us past Brampton and we could see some of it. I'm not too familiar with the town, and will probably be working in Toronto instead of out there, but am interested to explore and gt to know our new place. Before that though we've got just a little ways further to go to the farm.

Getting off the highway and passing through some of the farmland its definitely good to be back here. I really love the farm. Erica and I were married there, and we've spent many Christmases there. Its a beautiful property, and we're always made so welcome. 

Looking at the mileage meter now that we're almost done the voyage I have to say we did really well. Even with all of our stuff weighing the car down we still got about 36 miles to the gallon. Good job Honda Fit!

Alec and Calum we're so excited to see their granny (and grandad too). When we finally pulled up, Alec ran up and hugged granny and immediately started talking her ear off about one thing or another. We went inside leaving everything in the car and had a good chance to sit and relax for a bit. Its great to finally be here!

After a great vegetable soup for dinner, we went for a walk around the property, well some of it at least. We saw the new kittens who we're very cute. There are perpetually new farm cats here. I'll start working on Erica to see if we can take one home with us when we move out. We also played a bit on the swing set and slide there. Not too big but good to have around with the way our kids feel about playgrounds. We walked around the house and barn looking at the trees. I think I'll have to get Erica's brother John to help me build a treehouse somewhere here for all the kids. And then we walked down to the pond. There's the stage there that Erica and I we're married on. There's a lot to describe here, and its all got memories and stories associated with it, so instead I'll just say this: Here we are at eh closest thing we have to our new home. We're all together and happy. I'm glad we did this trip, glad we all pulled together and had this adventure. I'm glad to be home.

Today we ended our trip across the country relocating from San Francisco, California, to Inglewood, Ontario. We drove a total of 2 971.8 miles. Thanks for reading and joining us on this journey.