Day 1: Saturday, September 25
On Saturday, September 25, my wife and I set out on our trip from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Windsor, Ontario. I had a new postdoc position starting October 1, and we were uprooting everything and moving. We had spent the previous two days packing the 26′ UHaul truck. On Saturday morning, we completed packing and secured the auto transport to haul our car. We had stuffed bare essentials and supplies within the car, in the anticipation that the truck would be sealed at the border to ensure we do not leave anything behind during transit through the United States. We had our pet rabbits up in the UHaul truck cab with us, in their own hard plastic carriers.
After a final packing and securing of all things, we gave a farewell to family at my father’s place. On the way out the city, we stopped at a Red River Co-op to gas up the beast. It occurred to me that this was the first, and (quite possibly) the last time we would get gas at such a place.
The travel path for the first day is shown at this link. We were limited to a top speed of 55 mph due to the car in tow behind the UHaul, and so the trip took longer than expected.
To navigate the trip, we loaded our iPods with a Google Maps plotting of the route for the day. With two iPods, we had redundant maps in case something were to go wrong. In addition, I had downloaded static map images using the OffMaps application, and inserted bookmarks for our destinations along the trip.
When we hit the border, we presented our passports and stated that we are moving for a new job. We had prepared documents proving the new work (postdoc appointment offer letter) and proof of residence in Windsor (lease agreement), as well as an itemized list of everything we were carrying. The border kiosk only asked to see the passports, and asked the licence plate of the truck. We were pulled aside for further questioning.
One border guard asked us about organic materials we were carrying, and told us not to give the rabbits timothy hay anywhere but in the truck due to the possibility of seeds spreading and contaminating the US. I had thought timothy hay was indigenous to both US and Canada, but we complied without question.
Another border guard asked a series of questions about our trip, what we were carrying, and who we were. He asked the question, “Have you ever been fingerprinted?”, and I hesitated on the answer. I had recalled that, as a child, there was some event where a series of kids were fingerprinted. I didn’t know if that counted, so I said “I’m not sure”. He told me that answer was not good enough, and needed a more straight answer. I said, “To the best of my knowledge, no.” He left us, probably to go look up my name on some database, and came back to ask it a third time. This time, I gave him a straight “no”, hoping to avoid an unnecessarily long stay at the border. One problem with an academic background is that I don’t believe in straight “yes” and “no” answers. As a wise man from the U of M always says, “Nothing is 100%”. Once we were over that wrinkle, he continued on, and sent us on his way. He apologized for having to be so blunt with the questioning, and I explained to him the reason for my hesitation. He suggested that it could have been for some kind of child find program.
The border guard had taken a quick peek in the back of the truck, and sent us on our way. There was no offer to seal the truck to ensure we don’t smuggle anything, and I decided not to ask. They also had no interest in our itemized list of truck contents. I felt a little disappointed, since we spent so much time preparing it. We were apprehensive that since the truck was not sealed, a detailed search may occur on the returning border crossing, since we had no way of proving that we didn’t load the truck up with smuggled goods.
We were off and on the road again. The first thing I noticed was the improved quality of the roads, and I was we decided to take the US route.
En route, we stopped in a parking lot in a small town for rest, food, and to give the bunnies a chance to stretch their legs. As I was pulling in, I noticed that our car alarm was going haywire. Apparently the bumps and jumps of the trailer are enough to set off a motion sensor on the car, which I had not known existed until that moment. I made sure to lock the car using the internal locks, rather than the electronic key fob.
We opened up the back of the truck, and laid down some rabbit essentials (blanket, houses, food, water, litter pan). From this point on, we were glad that we had access to the truck, as it provided a safe place to spread out the girls. They took to the amenities immediately, and spent some time exploring their makeshift rest area. We were laughing about the fact that we were technically homeless, and wondered if our girls thought we were now poor.
We made at least one more rest stop on the route, and set the girls out each time. We came into Minneapolis much later than expected due to the lower top speed of the truck with the trailer attached. The driving experience got progressively more difficult. As we approached Minneapolis, the interstate opened up to more lanes, and the traffic volume increased considerably. As the sun set, I had to get accustomed to night driving. We were able to find our route to the hotel, and were relieved to be off the busy roads.
It was around 11 PM when we finally checked in at the Ramada Mall of America. We had hoped to arrive earlier so we could spend some time visiting the Mall of America, and the Ikea. Unfortunately it was all closed. Disappointed, we settled into our room and ordered a pizza. The bunnies were having a grand old time exploring the place, and we made sure they were well fed before going to bed.
Day 2: Sunday, September 27
The next day, we got up early enough to tend the girls, get breakfast, and explore the Ikea before we had to set out. Over the night, the girls’ lettuce had frozen in the fridge. I went down to the restaurant and appealed to the hostess’ good nature. “Please, my bunnies need breakfast!”. She loaded up our plastic tote with green leaf lettuce, and didn’t charge me. We had breakfast at the hotel, and departed across the street to Ikea. With the limited time we had before checkout, we managed to secure a few useful pieces of furniture for our new place.
A detour and several u-turns started our trip, but once we got our bearings, we were on our way. The trip map can be found at this link. We were off and made good time, as I was able to reliably overdrive the truck and trailer to a steady 65 mph on the smooth roads.
On the way out of Wisconsin, we were delayed by construction on I-90. It took us 2 hours to go 20 miles, and it wouldn’t have been so bad if we weren’t stuck in the middle of it with an empty tank. A feeling of panic and claustrophobia set in as we are at a dead stop with cars everywhere, no gas, and no exit ramp for miles. We made it, though, and had to push in at a gas station. Luckily no one wanted to argue with the beast, or the 6’7″ driving it.
Nerves were frayed, and patience was wearing thin, especially when we crossed a toll booth in Illinois with no money to spare. Apparently they don’t take kindly to offers of Canadian currency or Visa. I thought asking for Interac would land me a punch in the face, so I abstained. We took an unpaid toll citation that we had to settle when we arrived in Windsor. Sanity was restored when we arrived at the Oasis, which provided not only bank account access, but Starbucks. It was the first coffee since we left, and the warmth was comforting. The rest of the drive was fairly straightforward, where the toll booth operators offered reassurance that we were on course, and provided estimates for distances to our next exits.
We arrived fairly late at the Quality Inn, and set in for a good sleep. The buns were holding up fairly well through the entire trip. They were eating, drinking, and doing all other good stuff. My wife, on the other hand, was starting to show signs of a cold. Lots of coughing, and weakness. The long hours in the truck, the stress, and the travel must have worn her down.
Day 3: Monday, September 27
We departed fairly early from Chicago, in hopes we could stop by the Tabor Hill winery in Michigan on the way to our destination. I had been there last year during a social event for the ICPEAC conference in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I loaded my iPod with the trip from Chicago to Tabor Hill, and loaded my wife’s iPod with the trip from Tabor Hill to the Embassador Bridge. Once we hit the bridge, I was familiar enough with Windsor to get us to our new house.
The trip map for day 3 can be found at this link. The onset of the trip was fairly uneventful, though we got a bit confused when looking for our exit for Tabor Hill. Our exit number had come and passed very early, and we soon realized that we would have to wait until we crossed into Michigan before we stated counting exit numbers.
The exit from the interstate took us almost immediately to small country roads. Luckily they were paved, but they were so narrow that I was forced to drive the beast in the middle of the road, at about 35 mph, to avoid disastrous results. The pileup of cars behind me were thankful when I turned off, and left them on their way.
Arrival at the winery was restful, as we got to stretch our legs, browse the giftshop a bit, and pick up our mission objective: four bottles of Tabor Hill cherry wine. They make the wine using cherries, rather than grapes, and boast that it is the closest thing to cherry pie in a bottle. We picked up a couple for ourselves, as well as a couple for gifts. Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed Mondays and Tuesdays. We decided to set off and eat snacks on the way.
The departure from Tabor Hill took us through the small town of Baroda. As I rounded a corner, I noticed that the car alarm was once again going off. I must have remotely locked the car out of habit when departing Tabor Hill. A simple stop on the red cobblestone main street of Baroda corrected this problem, and we were off.
As we approached the Detroit area, we realized that our Google Maps directions were missing. We did not have a redundant map in this situation, since each iPod was loaded with each half of the trip. We briefly debated stopping at a hotel to pilfer some wifi, but decided to brave it and try the hands-on approach of OffMaps. This landed us a slight detour, where we left the M-14 onto Ford road. After driving for a bit and realizing this would only get from bad to worse, we pulled aside, planned out our route, and set off. We quickly reconnectd with the M-14 and were on our way.
I was shouting out intersecting street names while my wife tracked our progress and advised about upcoming turns and bends. In addition to the hands-on approach, we were dealing with the highest traffic density we had ever seen. This was, by far, the most involved and stressful part of the drive, where we had to watch for traffic, exits, street names, and run on the hope that you have not made a wrong turn.
Once I saw signs pointing the way to Canada, I could breathe again. We went through a series of loops, paid the toll for the bridge, and slowly made our way across the bridge. We were stopped for about 10 minutes due to construction on the bridge, and then we were on our way to Canada.
The border guard asked some regular questions, and we explained our move. We declared $175 in Ikea purchases, and 4 bottles of wine, at a cost of about $50. He asked how he could be sure that we didn’t load up the truck with illegal goods, and I offered for him to look in the back. I also offered the itemized list describing our original contents. He nodded and waved us on, saying we’re good to go. I also declared that we had our pet rabbits, and had paperwork for them, but he declined and said it was fine. My wife commented on how yuppie we must look, declaring some Ikea furniture and wine as we cross the border.
Arrival in Windsor
We easily navigated the streets of Windsor, and arrived at our new place at about 4:30 PM local time. As I had anticipated, the previous residents (and also our landlords) were still moving out. We had agreed to meet at 6 PM to transfer keys, so we were a bit early. I introduced myself, and asked him if he would be done by 6. He said yes, and we agreed to meet back at that time. I detached the car from the car tow, and drove the car tow to a local UHaul centre.
We returned to the house with the truck and parked it on the street. I took the car down to get some food, while my wife stayed with the truck and pets. At 6, the landlords were still moving out, and I pushed in. I asserted that they should have been out of the place on the 27th, as per our lease agreement. I was frustrated since I had set everything up to pay utilities and everything, yet they were still in our place. He argued that they only got possession of their new place on the same day.
That was not my responsibility though, as he had agreed to the possession date. I feel that he should have done everything in his power, including properly packing beforehand and possibly using personal storage, to ensure the changeover was smooth. After about two more hours, they finally gave up trying to move their stuff out and left a whole pile of things in the basement, to be picked up at a later date.
We set into cleaning the place, as it was left in quite a state of disrepair. We vacuumed the bedroom and established bare essentials to sleep for the night. My brother had come from Ottawa to help unpack, and he told me he needed to leave by 1 PM the next day. We decided to unload the whole truck that night, while we had his help for moving the big stuff.
No more than 3 hours later, the truck was vacant and swept. There is a saying that if you put two Hein boys together, you can accomplish almost anything. This night was no exception.
The next morning, my brother and I returned the UHaul truck, went for breakfast, and I saw him on his way earlier than 1 PM. We began the long and still ongoing process of renovating, repairing, and cleaning this place. The previous owners apparently had little interest in simple-to-intermediate maintenance tasks, and we are currently crippled in our unpacking because we’re working to clean the place and make it reasonably safe to live in.
A brief list of things that were discovered so far:
- Peeling paint on porch pillars,
- Wood trims and borders not taped when walls were painted,
- Walls full of holes, improper anchors, and screws with no anchors at all,
- Derelict satellite dishes installed on front porch, with cables draping everywhere,
- Filthy bathrooms, including tub, toilet, and overhead fan,
- Exterior light fixture sagging due to improper mounting job,
- Hornet’s nest in exterior light,
- Destroyed doorbell (landlord justified this by claiming he never used his doorbell; that’s like saying you don’t need a cell phone because you never call yourself),
- Light fixture in laundry room hanging by live wires,
- non-GFI plug in bathroom,
- Bathroom mirror mounted with window putty and a little clear caulking,
- Improperly wired switches (down = on),
- Stripped threads on several electrical boxes,
- Overtightening on cover plates, leading to cracks in plastic,
- No key for backdoor deadbolt or handle,
- Front door handle installed backwards, missing a screw, and loose,
- Heavily rusted shower curtain bar,
- Old, dust-filled light fixtures with cobwebs,
- Burnt-out, mismatched lightbulbs,
- No doorstops on any door except one; damage to walls as a result of handle bashing when door opened,
- Rotting wood used as anchors for front handrail installed in brick,
- Concrete step sunk on front and back porches,
- Sump pump hole covered with clutter and garbage, some of which was submerged,
- Bathroom sink drain plugs not working,
- Bathroom toilet flushing mechanism needs to be held down to flush,
- Plastic boot guards nailed down to carpet at front entry, where most nails have protruded through boot guards, leaving them loose,
- Sticky surfaces all over kitchen, including wall behind stove that was covered with tinfoil without cleaning, and
- Messy washer/drier, including huge ball of lint in drier lint catcher.
To date, much of this list has been addressed. I feel like I have been channeling my father’s handy instincts while cleaning and renovating this place. I have spent a good amount of time and money doing so, and I have told the landlord that I will be sending him the bill for materials. As I see it, I should not be responsible for these renovations. Clearly, however, I cannot rely on him to do them, so I am best to do them myself. I am saving him time, and possibly money if he had to hire someone to do them. He has agreed to it, but I will have to wait and see his reaction when I send him the total list of materials.
When we complete the cleaning and renovations, we hope to finally begin setting up the place to be livable.
New Postdoc Work
I have almost everything set up for work at the University of Windsor with Bill McConkey. I met several department members, and plan to go through the various experimental setups next week while the current postdoc is still around.