One more trip back to DCA to say goodbye to our old North Virginia townhouse before finally selling it and ending our official residence in the United States.
Visited a couple of old friends.
And one last takeoff from DCA with a view of the National Mall. Goodbye and godspeed, Washington, District of Columbia. (So sorry to all you DC friends I wasn’t able to see, I’ll hopefully be back sometime for a proper get-together over some nice Virginia oysters or something.)
Postscript: A detour through Montreal, Quebec (as my original departing flight through Newark was rebooked due to a dent in the engine), where I conversed briefly with a restaurant robot who persuaded me to order a salad.
Also browsed the #YULArt “Le Montréaler” exhibit, in which local artists imagined covers for a Montreal-based magazine in homage to the New Yorker.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stopped back at Paddy Murphy’s in Bangor again to have a bread bowl of Guinness Stew and another pint of Gunner’s Daughter.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Meanwhile Amelia has been diving under the sheets for warmth.
Arrival of our moving boxes meant additional feline climbing adventures.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.)
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.
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.
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.
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.