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2006-08-12 - 9:26 a.m.

a long detailed description of the final arrival...

K and I have arrived in Vancouver. We are in our new home, still surrounded by boxes. In the past week we have visited the Badlands, Wall Drug (mmmm, fresh donuts), Rushmore, Crazy Horse ($20 entry to sit in a parking lot with cats in 100-degree weather, to take a photo - perhaps not a good choice given that we were traveling with furry companions).

As we drove west of Sturgis, the biker density decreased; we passed Wyoming tar fields, run-down overpriced Holiday Inns, casinos, wildfires, overturned Winnebagos, the scablands, Grand Coulee Dam (not worth it), the wheat-covered loess hills of eastern Washington (worth it), west coast coffee huts (definitely worth – sign that we’d at last entered coffee culture again), the Cascade Mtns on a 1/4 tank of gas (thrilling, and winding enough to make one of the cats toss her breakfast treats), bears (also thrilling), and finally sunset over the Sound (ahhhhhh.)

A few highlights:

- If you are ever in Deer Lodge, MT, I can highly recommend the Scharf Motor Inn, Restaurant, and Casino - friendly service, great huckleberry ice cream, and the first decent espresso I'd had in over 2000 miles.

- Just outside of Deer Lodge we passed an overturned Winnebago that had ripped in half twisted back on itself like a corkscrew, disgorging many frightened children who were still sitting on the side of the road with their cat. An ambulance was apparently carrying parents away as we saw no adults on the scene. The roads of MT are very windy – what a way to end a summer holiday with the kids.

- A description of our drive west would not be complete without including the beautiful, winding Clark Fork River, which we drove over more than a dozen times before we reached middle of nowhere on the Montana/Idaho border to stay with my childhood nanny S.

- S. and her husband M. (S and M?) bought property on the Montana/Idaho back in 1978 - sandwiched between lovely born-again, libertarian, and unibomber neighbors – where they decided to build their own home. They built a tremendous, A-frame timber house that remains entirely off the power grid. All electricity is solar or from a generator; all water is collected off the roof and stored in two gigantic cisterns in the basement. We stayed in the guesthouse, where our toilet was a nice private tree in the back. The place was incredible. And more importantly, I was so thrilled to see S. – she is so cheerful and lovable.

- We saw our first coffee hut when we entered Idaho – I was surprised (and thrilled) that the bean-box culture had stretched so far east. K and I filled up our car and ourselves with our respective fuels. The bean guy was impressed to have such grateful customers – he gave us some parting gifts of both ground and whole beans to sustain us until we reached civilization again.

- S. insisted that we take a scenic drive instead of the interstate across Washington State – directing us north through the rolling, wheat-covered hills of the Palouse Loess past the Grand Coulee Dam (where the visitor center would not allow any handbags, which miffed me greatly when I needed to pee badly. I thought of visibly hauling a tampon out of my bag right in front of all six male security guards who were standing there before handing my bag to K..but I didn’t.)

- The foothills of the Cascades were exceedingly tedious, and we had to stop in fatigue in Winthrop, WA, right near the sight of blazing wildfires.

- Fortunately the remaining half of Cascades were INCREDIBLE – a spectacular drive as the sun was setting and the wildlife were coming out of the woods – including a large lumbering brown bear in front of our speeding car. K and I made the drive even more thrilling by forgetting to tank up before the mountains – we drove through the wilderness area hoping that our gas would last us to the other side (it did).

- Our entry into Canada the next day was also somewhat eventful as we accidentally went to the wrong crossing to export the car. We had to pull another U-turn to return to the USA even though we had not left it, and waited an extra 30 minutes in line to get back in. Our last harassment by a border guard was brought to us by Canada, a border guy who thought that clarifying a question meant repeating it at a higher volume. It was rather irritating. Some border guards definitely have a strange power trip going on. But we made it through and were driving towards the skyline of Richmond, BC, by 10am. WOOHOO!

We have already moved somewhat from the ecstasy to disillusionment phase of being in a new country. Currently we are having small sense of humor failures over Canadian administration. In some senses Canada feels like part of a lost and antiquated age. (the banks have been frustratingly inefficient, costly, and user-unfriendly, and the socialized auto insurance is more than five-times the cost of the same service in the USA.. not feeling too great about the speed of Canada post or the electric company either....)

Yesterday we were feeling decidedly unpatriotic towards our new home. But there are some good things, and having experienced these types of moves on several occasions, I know that it is always more expensive and more hassle to be a foreigner, and there are always unpleasant financial surprises. The point is to just follow my parent’s advice:

“If it can be fixed in a boatyard, no one has to go to the hospital, and you won’t remember the money in ten years, then it’s not really a problem.”

With that thought I will take in the view of the mountains and downtown Vancouver from our front porch before I get myself dressed so that K and I can take the skytrain to the mall(public transportation should always remind you of Disneyland…).

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