VA-NS Road Trips

Two views over the same point along the USA/Canada border from Calais, Maine and Saint Stephen, New Brunswick: a border crossing I made twice as I brought our cars from Virginia to Nova Scotia.

View of St Stephen from Calais St Stephen NB

First drive: Amy’s Ford Fiesta, the week before Christmas. The day I was supposed to leave, the battery died, taking an already faulty transmission controller with it. Took an extra day to get the battery replaced at the service centre, which meant emptying the car of moving items beforehand and then repacking it afterward. (This was okay; strategizing the repack allowed me to cram way more leftover house stuff into the car.)

VA-NS

Finally got to leave VA at 10PM, detour up I-81 and I-84 through Pennsylvania to avoid late night road work on I-95 and generally skip NJ/NYC unpleasantness. Drove all night and all day while chugging canned coffee, surrounded by trucks for much of the route, was amazed at the rows and rows of trucks stopped for driver sleep breaks at every rest area and adjacent shoulders. Finally stopped in Bangor, Maine to rest at a hotel when my eyes could no longer stay open on the road.

Downtown Bangor, ME at Christmas time

Fun bit of serendipity in Bangor: after napping till about 11PM I took a taxi down to the local Irish pub, Paddy Murphy’s to get some food, but the kitchen had closed, so I just ordered the most filling dark stout on draft. While nursing a pint of Gunner’s Daughter, I struck up a conversation with the guy beside me, who turned out to be Sean Faircloth, author and former Bangor mayor and Maine state legislator. Not only did that make for an hour of fun politics conversation, but he knew a place across the street where they still had food for another hour — and a pint of some Narragansett IPA.

US/Canada border crossing, Calais ME to St Stephen NB

Next day, drove an hour and a half to the border, crossing over at the new border crossing to officially export the vehicle from the US and import it into Canada. (This involved tons of paperwork and stopping at both border offices, plus contacting and paying a broker a week beforehand to facilitate the export and provide 72 hour notice to the US CBP facility.) I was glad to have picked Calais to cross rather than the I-95 facility in Houlton — there was no line, and the whole process was done fairly quickly on both ends. I celebrated in Saint Stephen, NB with a Five Kings salad and a contemplative sunset walk along the snowy waterfront facing the border.

St Stephen NB

From St Stephen it was about six more hours to Halifax, mostly uneventful, no need to stop in St John, Moncton, or Truro. (I did try stopping for a pee break at the Nova Scotia Welcome Centre after crossing the provincial border that evening, but it closes at 4:30PM so I ended up at shopping mall in Amherst, NS.)

Second drive, Fiat 500, mid-January. I went a bit slower this trip, taking time to see some sights and visit friends and family.

Map of Second VA-NS drive

Left VA at 6PM and had my fastest trip up I-95 to NJ ever, dropped in on the in-laws in Union, then headed to Brooklyn to meet up with tmkf. Also did that NYC thing were you get food at 3AM, in my case a spicy halal platter from the grill at the back of Union Deli Grocery.

Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn

Walked around Brooklyn a bit the next day and ate at Dinosaur BBQ before heading out to drive across Manhattan and up into North NJ to visit stynxno, then striking out across Connecticut to have dinner with vee and duckstab before turning in for the night in Boston.

View of Boston from Dock Square parking garage

Next morning I dropped in on my cousin Kara, and had oysters with helicomatic at Union Oyster House, then hung around the Boston waterfront for a bit before getting back on the road and heading north to Maine.

Union Oyster House

Stopped back at Paddy Murphy’s in Bangor again to have a bread bowl of Guinness Stew and another pint of Gunner’s Daughter.

Guinness Stew, Paddy Murphy’s, Bangor

Stood on the waterfront for a bit to stare at the frozen Penobscot river before driving back out on narrow mountain roads towards the coast to spend the night at Quimby House Inn in Bar Harbor.

Bar Harbor, Maine

Next morning I wanted to try the famous Lobster Ice Cream at Ben and Bill’s but they were closed for the season. I did get to walk the Shore Path and see an Atlantic sunrise from the icy, tree-lined waterfront, and that made the whole detour worth it. Also got to chat Star Trek with the owners at Trailhead Cafe, which made for a very fun breakfast.

Bar Harbor Shore Path Sunrise

I wish I had stopped at a scenic outlook shortly after leaving Bar Harbor; Cadillac Mountain glistened with ice in the late morning sun in a view from the mainland I’d probably never see again, but I didn’t stop for a photo. Two hours later I had reached Calais, ME once more.

Calais Free Library, Maine

Parked by the Calais Free Library for a bit to gaze over the St Croix River before crossing the border once again, repeating the paperwork rigmarole on both US and Canada sides.

Fiat at the border (Canada side)

Six hours of driving through New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to Halifax, with just a brief stop at an Ultramar to get coffee and cash for the Cobequid Pass toll. Got to experience the exhilarating panic of a minor skid on the ice while getting back on the highway but otherwise the trip was uneventful, and I got to Halifax around 10PM.

There’s still stuff to do: the cars need to be modified and inspected within 45 days of entry to meet Canadian import requirements, and registered with Nova Scotia RMV. For now it’s good to have two very long solo road trips out of the way.

Total Trip Distance 2,104.6 km

Border crossing dashcam video, and photo album from both road trips.

Caturday!

In case you were wondering how the cats are adapting to their new life in Canada, Martha appears to have commandeered Yarmouth and the South Shore of Nova Scotia.

Martha #cat with Nova Scotia map

Meanwhile Amelia has been diving under the sheets for warmth.

Amelia #cat seeks warmth

Arrival of our moving boxes meant additional feline climbing adventures.

Cats and moving boxes
Martha Cat and moving boxes

So far, they’ve had a good time with their new surroundings. We did have to keep them out of the basement for a bit till a loose crawlspace hatch could be properly blocked but now they have free reign of the entire house and have been fearlessly exploring.

Cats on Stairs

I think the cats are going to be okay.

Ottawa Layover

The move to Canada has been a back-and-forth thing for me as I shuttle between Halifax and DC to sort out affairs on either end. On one of these trips I had a 7 hour layover in the Canadian capital city of Ottawa, and used that time to go see the sights for a bit rather than wait at the airport.

Canadian Parliament, Ottawa

OCTranspo Bus 97 took me right downtown, where I got off just a couple blocks from Parliament Hill to go on a guided tour of Centre Block, the famous Gothic Revival building that is home to Canada’s federal legislature — and features prominently in the early intro of “You Can’t Do That On Television”.

House of Commons, Canadian Parliament, Ottawa
Senate Chamber, Canadian Parliament, Ottawa

I saw the House of Commons, the Senate, and the Hall of Honour. (Sadly missed the Library of Parliament which was closed due to door problems that day.)

Hall of Honour, Canadian Parliament, Ottawa

Also got to go up the Peace Tower to get a good view of Ottawa and the neighboring Quebecois city of Gatineau over the St. Lawrence River.

View from Peace Tower, Canadian Parliament, Ottawa

I had lunch at Nate’s on Sparks Street, where I saw the “South Block Lager” item on the menu and thought to myself “Hey I wouldn’t mind trying a local microbrew with my smoked meat sandwich.” Turns out the “South Block Lager” means “random draft from our bar, South Block” — in this case, a PBR. And that’s how I ended up drinking a PBR in Ottawa. It tasted like flat, bland disappointment.

PBR at Nate's, Sparks Street, Ottawa

Rest of Ottawa was cool, though. To a T.

Sparks Street, Ottawa

More in my Ottawa Layover photoset, and a video of the trip up to Peace Tower.

Sunset at Peggy’s Cove

Visited Peggy’s Cove on a cold and windy but clear November day to catch the famous historic lighthouse at sunset, and walk around town a bit to see what was open in the off-season.

Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia
Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia
Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia
Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

Also enjoyed a meal of lobster roll and fries at The Sou’Wester restaurant and gift shop, sitting by the window watching darkness settle over the lighthouse and the Atlantic Ocean.

Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia
Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia
Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

More photos from Peggy’s Cove, plus GoPro video of the walk to the lighthouse (remember to stay off the black rocks near the waves!), and a live webcam of the lighthouse from the Sou’Wester.

Christmas Tree

For our first Christmas in Canada we purchased our first real live Christmas tree from the IKEA Halifax parking lot for $25 (which got us a $25 gift certificate valid after Dec. 26). I think it’s a balsam fir. I had it sawed down to about 5’8″ to fit in our rental Kia Soul and stored it on the deck.

IKEA Halifax Christmas Tree Lot

While I was away Amy got the tree into a stand and decked it out with a skirt, ornaments, and battery LED lights. It smells wonderful in the living room, and adds a delightful holiday ambience of pastoral simplicity. Plus, so far the cats have not wrecked it or tried to climb it or munch on the needles.

Christmas Tree

Merry Christmas.

Moving to Halifax, Canada

We have moved to Canada! Specifically we have attained Canadian permanent residency through the Express Entry process and moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia.

View of Ferry from Murphy’s Restaurant, Halifax waterfront

Yes, it has been cold and snowy; yes, we have eaten donairs, poutine, and donair poutine; and yes, we have had Timbits and double-doubles at Tim Horton’s (although I find I prefer a single cream and sugar, which they term a “regular”). No, we have not sampled Beavertails or Alexander Keith’s with Clamato…yet.

Fisherman’s Cove, Eastern Passage, NS

Why Halifax, you ask? Originally our plan was Toronto (one reason we were there to scout it out last summer), but it’s a pricey city and we wanted someplace cheaper, on the East Coast, closer to the ocean, somewhat remote but with urban amenities, and still relatively accessible to Amy’s family in New Jersey. Halifax fit these criteria nicely, with friendly people, good seafood, salt in the air, and fully subsidized universal health care.

Halifax on World Atlas

Plus, ever since I was a child I would look at world maps and “Halifax” just jumped out at me as an amazingly cool name. (Apparently derived from Old English “halh-feax”.)

Crab Claw on Pier

On our first trip up here in October we found a nice house to rent in Cole Harbour, a suburb of Dartmouth, Halifax’s sister city across the harbour, though still part of the Halifax Regional Municipality. (Hockey fans may know Cole Harbour as the birthplace of Sidney Crosby.) We sold most of our furniture, shipped the rest of the stuff up through international movers (still en route at the time of this writing), and flew up with the cats early this month. I’m back and forth a few more times to get our old house ready to sell, drive up the cars, and wrap up work and other loose ends around DC. Amy has been furnishing the house with stuff from Kijiji, Canadian Tire, and IKEA Halifax. Ezra has been enjoying the snow. We’ll of course have to find some work.

Ezra in Snow Ezra in Snow

This wasn’t an easy decision, a new step out into the void, but it seemed like the best course of action given this whole situation. The Lord has not steered us wrong in this and we have faith he’ll land us on our feet. Meanwhile, the lobster flows like wine, and we get some nice Nova Scotia sunrises on clear mornings from this new house.

Cole Harbour Sunrise
Live and Plush Lobsters at Halifax Stanfield International Airport

More photos from our first months in Halifax as we get our bearings and learn more about Nova Scotia and Canadian life.

State of Things

He wants to end birthright citizenship with an executive order, a violation of the 14th Amendment that would render me non-American. The day after he said that, he was still president like it was okay.

A significant chunk of the country has actively decided to be represented by belligerent ignorance and bigoted ethno-nationalism, ripe for a wealthy grifter to leverage populist conspiratorial frenzy into an obnoxious and obvious con job. Cultural, economic, environmental, and social effects of this administration and its policies, appointments, and nominations will not end with it, and will be felt for not just years but decades and generations after. I have little confidence the new Dem majority in Congress will be able to do much.

It’s not just the US: global fascism is on the rise and authoritarianism is trendy again in places where populations are prone to nationalist populism that appeals to their worst instincts of fear and hatred of The Other. I’ve read too much history not to know what comes next.

Dark clouds over the Capitol

It’s hard not to despair, hard not to have faith. I’m in a fairly insulated position where I am, but I know that can change fast. Sometimes there’s a ray of hope, sometimes I see shadows coming closer. So we are going to make a change.

Update: We made a change.

Social Media Regret

Short version: I’m not on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram anymore. Get me on this site, on Flickr, or on Mastodon.

In case you were wondering why my Facebook profile has looked like this for the last few months:

Blank Facebook profile

Five years ago in “Re-owning” I lamented that social media sites incentivized us to post our content to ephemeral walled gardens rather than our own web spaces. We spent years feeding our souls in short bursts to marketing data aggregators, in exchange for the momentary thrill of a fave or a retweet — or just because that was the online space where our family and friends had gone.

And then it got worse. These days posting to Twitter or Facebook feels more like being complicit in their own crimes of negligence against society as social media matures into a viral disinformation amplifier rather than an authentic communications medium.

Given all this I decided the best course of action would be to stop posting to Twitter and Instagram, and use the Social Book Post Manager plugin to “blank” out my Facebook profile, deleting all posts, tags, likes, comments, and other FB content. (I don’t want to delete those accounts, at least not yet, while certain logins are still tied to them, and to keep public permalinks active. And hey, maybe they’ll clean up and I can go back.)

For quick and whimsical status updates I’ve moved over to Mastodon, and for pictures Flickr has always been a steadfast paid service. Given time I’d like to set up my own Mastodon instance and tie it in to WordPress somehow. I think should have some time to try that in about *looks at watch* 16 years, so around 2034.

“Spider” Donut

"Spider" Donut

This seasonal Halloween Dunkin’ Donut was called “Spider” and I think it was supposed to be a lot more involved than just “munchkin in hole.” Sure enough, the official press release shows frosting eyes and spider legs, but eh, it was a donut and I ate it.

"Purple Potion" Halloween donut

“Purple Potion” was another seasonal Halloween donut which I consumed with my mouth.

Halloween 2018

Ezra was an astronaut for Halloween, his first time trick-or-treating around the neighborhood, Grandpa and Grandma coming along for the fun of it.

Ezra as astronaut for Halloween
Ezra as astronaut for Halloween

I also let him be a creeper for a bit but that box head is not well-sized for toddler use.

Creeper Son