Wednesday, 28 September 2016

My First Day - Across The Water

So there I am... it's not yet noon and I'm driving off the ferry towards Burning Man!  I did it!  (Well, the first part/fear anyway... I got on and off the ferry... and no, my van didn't smash into anything despite my lack of e-brake, sweet!)  I was really happy I'd made that ferry.  It meant I could get further along on my drive than if I'd been on the next ferry.  Success!

I always get a little nervous going through borders, but I always have a smooth time so I was my usual amount of nervous.  I had my passport and polite smile ready and was keeping my phone out of my hands (the temptation to text that I'd made it was high!) and I told the border guard where I was going and all was well and he handed me back my passport and told me to just pull over there for an RV inspection.

Wait.. what?  A... I... oh...crap.  I kind of immediately went into calm panic mode.  Pull over where?  Just let me make sure?  Behind that van?  Ok, thank you.

Panic, panic, panic.  See, I grew up near the US/Canada border so went through it quite regularly.  For milk, gas, and cheese, of all things.  And new runners.  But going through so often (and so slowly) you see things.  And hear stories.  About vehicles that get pulled apart.  Quite literally.  And inspected for.... whatever.  And then just left.  I'd never been pulled over before.  Not with Connor.  Not with my parents or when I was a teenager.  This... was ... new.... and possibly not good.

I texted Jason.  "Getting inspected"  And I tried to maintain my calm.  I quite literally had nothing to hide, so there was nothing for me to be nervous about them finding.  This was something Jason and I hadn't talked about as a possibility other than him pointing out that if I was at a border I should get out using my driver's door (the locks don't work very well and so the passenger side door is stuck closed... and I almost broke a key off in it, which Jason spazzed about... no... really... so it's safest... key wise, to get in and out using the middle van door, but Jason had said guards wouldn't like that.  So... I unlocked the middle door and the driver door and sat with my passport at the ready... being calm.  Half smile on my face... because calm.

I then saw the guard walking over with a bag of fruit and I was relieved.  Ok.  This wasn't a trash your vehicle kind of inspection, this was a "looking through coolers" kind of inspection.  Phew. 

I figured.  Probably.  Right?  Calm.

So I lifted up the lid of my main (empty except for "fake ice" packs... which OMG leaked later in the week I've just remembered that!  Don't get the soft side ones, they can puncture UGH! I had to clean stuff and dispose of them a few days later!) cooler in the main part of the van and the red one (pictured above!  See?  There was a reason for me to repeat use this picture!  I bought this cooler for my first trip and have used it as dry goods storage every year.  I don't know if this thing has ever held ice!)  And I waited patiently.  The nice border guard came over and took my passport and the slip of paper (with magic code I guess) I'd been handed and asked to see inside.  "Sure, side door's open, come on in!"  I said, really not having any idea of proper protocol here.  Did I... open the door for him?  Just sit there?  I had no idea.

He asked if I had any food, I said no, just dried goods like chips and crackers.. you know, not so healthy!  "So processed goods."  He said.  Ok, I told myself, not really a joking situation... got it.  "Yes, processed goods."  He looked inside the big cooler and dug through the small (dry goods) one a bit and then asked about the back.  I'd forgotten I had another (empty) big cooler in the back storage area and suddenly wondered if he'd think I was trying to hide something.  And then I didn't know if I could easily get to it BECAUSE JASON PACKED MY VAN DAMNIT! But I got the door open (a little fiddly) and I only had to move one thing a little and I opened the empty cooler and that was it.  "Thank you, have a nice trip."  "Thanks!"  Phew.. relief.

Until I saw the other two border guards walking over towards me.  Aw crap.

Smile and calm, Victoria... smile and calm.

"So, where are you headed?"  they said, and I told them Burning Man and we talked about the weather (so brutally hot, I always say, because it's so true) and there was some small talk and I realized that's all this was... just small talk.  I was relieved.  And polite.  Of course.  And I mean I imagine that if they'd chatted with me and I'd seemed off in some way they might have.. who knows, whatever their job entails.. inspected or something, but I also wonder if maybe the single woman with the giant old camper van is a bit of an interesting thing on a regular old Friday.

One of them left and the other chatted a bit longer, mentioning how nice the tires I had were.  I explained that my friend had insisted on them and he told me again how great they were.  (I dunno.. tires are black and... uh.. have knobby bits on them... I don't know, except how much they cost... oh, and Jason had insisted I bring all my receipts with me in case someone at the border thought I'd bought things in the states.... like the shiny new tires.)  But yeah, apparently the tires on my van are impressive.  Not that I knew what that meant when the border guard (who I'm still at this point kind of nervous about) points to my van and said "you've got mud flaps on there."  And I think, oh man, have I screwed up?  Is my vehicle in trouble somehow?  But the blank look I gave him was followed by him pointing at the tires... "nice tires..."  Oh... right... thanks.  Geez.  "Where are you off to now?"  He says... "Uh... Safeway for... ice?"  I say... wanting to be polite but also wanting to get out of there before they change their mind and something bad happens.  He gives me directions which I don't understand at all and only half listen to and I thank him and wish him a good day and I get back in the van and text Jason that it's all ok and I fire up Google maps (faster than getting the GPS out and I type in Safeway and I... drive away.  Made it through the border and woah.. I survived that.  An inspection.  First time for everything I guess.  Connor and I never got inspected.  Maybe it's specific to camping type vehicles.  But.. I don't think we were inspected our first year either (when he had his camper thing)  But hey... it turned out fine in the end, just was a little nerve wracking.

So I head up the road to Safeway (not sure why there in particular, but that was the destination that'd been chosen) and I top up the gas tank (after getting a "postal code" or whatever they're called... Zip code) and it costs like... nothing.  I get kind of weirded out.  Text Jason... uh... a quarter tank cost, like, ten bucks?  Is the gas gaugue broken????

No, he says, that's just how much cheaper gas is in the States.


I park.  "Park"  because Jason's told me it's ok if I take two spaces... a little extra in the back so that I don't feel blocked in, but the parking lot's not too full so I don't feel too bad.... plus I'd like that extra room to pull out into... still trying to figure out the turning radius or whatever.  I call him.  In the parking lot.  Because I'm revving pretty high stress wise and he's the one person I can count on.  He's also the one person I know who's working from home right now so I can actually call him.  No idea what we talk about.... I mention the border.  The cost of gas.  How it's hot and I'm scared.  I just want to stand there talking to him on the phone and never leave.  Or maybe just come home.  I keep talking to him.  Watching the people.  I know I should do something... get on the road... find my grocery list...  but if I just keep talking to him I'll be ok.  It'll be ok.  I can just not... do anything.

But eventually I tell him I should go.

I head into the store.  I buy things... like booze I told my camp I'd pick up.  It's expensive but who knows when I'll be at a grocery store again.. not sure of my time line.... so I may not be shopping in Klamath Falls like usual and I'd hate to show up without what I said I'd bring so better safe than sorry... get it now.  So I get booze and fruit (but just for today, can't take it across into California... they inspect) and a steak... because I'm camping for the next few days and... Jason has talked me through managing my ice in my coolers and suggested I try cooking a steak.... which I've only ever done at home but ok.  And a few things for the trip.  Like Gatorade.  But they don't have the big bottles.  But again, for whatever reason, I'm feeling a lot of stress about getting what I need NOW.  So I do.  And I ask about getting ice as I'm paying, and they tell me they're out.

The store is Out.  Of.  Ice.


Our entire plan revolved around me getting ice at this stop and doing my food cooler this way and my ice only cooler than way and now I have no ice. 

I look on my way out and there are a few bags of block ice.  I go back and buy them.  (They were part of the plan and better than no ice at all because I bought a steak damnit!  And cheese!  And why am I doing this I am so not prepared for this I never camp by myself.  I haven't camped in ages anyway and now I'm going to do it by myself AND I'm going to try to feed myself and what the bleep am I thinking.  This is such a stupid idea.

But I go back to the van to unpack my stuff.

And someone has parked RIGHT behind me... in the 3/4 spot I left.  Cuz Jason said I could.  Sigh.

I open the van.  It's roasting in there.  Like super hot.  Ugh.

I transfer my groceries into whatever areas I can.  Remember... I didn't pack the van.. I only discover what's there as I'm going.  While maneuvering around the bike and coolers and good lord it's awful.  And hot.  This is stupid.

I pack my food into the cooler that was supposed to have more ice in it than it does and I just cross my fingers that I don't poison myself.  The steak should be fine, and the cheese too... not much else that would kill me but still... who sells out of ice, I tell you...

I check the thermometer... it's 40 degrees "outside"... I take the part of the thermometer that's meant to measure outside down off the window because it's not helping to have it register that hot.  The thermometer says it's 35 degrees "inside"... which is.. where I'm sitting.  With both windows down... and this is so uncomfortable and I'm not even in the desert yet.  Could this be any dumber of an idea?

But I sit, and text Jason, and pull myself together and I program.. wherever.. into the GPS... and Google Maps and I connect my phone to the bluetooth speaker I got and I have some tunes and I have some food and I'm heading to Oregon!  Or at least as far south in Washington state as I can get before it's either dark or I'm done for the day. 

I start her up (she's fine once you've had her going for a while and it's not the morning cold start.. well she's not fine, but she's way better) and we pull out and on the road we go and all of a sudden I'm beaming.

Look at me!  I'm driving!  By myself! This big old van!  In the States!  I'm doing it! I'm on a solo road trip!  ME!  I'M DOING IT THIS IS AWESOME!!!!!  YES!!!!!!  Here I go!!!!!

And I'm happy.  I'm happy and I'm proud and I'm actually seeming to drive her ok and yeah, maybe I can't see out the rear (no mirror) but I could see out of the side mirrors if I was relaxed enough to look at them and no, I can't glance down at the gagues but my GPS has a readout of how fast I'm going and it glows red if I'm too fast so I'll be ok.  Oooh and it beeps when there's a school zone!  Thanks GPS! 

And then the crosswinds hit.

Or not maybe even crosswinds.  But they felt like crosswinds because the entire van started to wobble.

Which wasn't fun.  I realize now that I'd made it out of town and onto the highway so the speeds were higher, but at the time all I knew was that I wasn't really feeling like I could control the van and it was wobbling and I felt like I was going to get pushed over and toppled over and now all I could hear was the wind rushing by, no music at all, and the zoom of drivers as they passed me by at full speed.



Blogger kandijay said...

I have a good friend who is a border guard in Detroit. He told me back in August that they had been instructed to be "extra diligent" in the weeks leading up to the 15th anniversary of 9/11. Granted, Detroit/Windsor is waaaaay closer to where everything went down than where you were crossing, but I wouldn't be surprised if that was the reason you were inspected this time. Nothing to do with you, just what they have been instructed to do.

Also, California inspects for fruit? I never knew that... But I have always arrived there by plane. With no food.

I am totally feeling your stress. I think the hardest part for me would be HOT, alone, with not music to distract me. Augh!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016 8:40:00 am  
Blogger Jason Langlois said...

Having driven the Seattle to Portland highway route, that wind-shimmy isn't just from the van. My car would do the same thing.

Just reading this still thinking how hard this trip was pushing every anxiety button you had, yet you're still functioning.

So proud.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016 6:53:00 pm  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Love reading these posts each year. You have such a great memory for the details.

Thursday, September 29, 2016 6:32:00 am  
Blogger Victoria said...

That's a REALLY good point Kandijay! Didn't even think about that. Encountered that on my way home, had no idea it was the anniversary and everyone would be on high alert. Strange new world we live in, eh? And yes, when you're driving into California, you have to go through this little stop where they ask if you have any fruits or veg. And yeah, being overheated and having no music sucked. Being alone didn't help either. :(

Jason, that wind-shimmy is no fun at all! But in a car, I've never been as bothered by it, ugh! And thank you. Now that I'm starting to come down (calm down?) I'm starting to feel proud of me too. :)

Thanks Jonathan! It helps when I write notes, and helps that I was fairly traumatized. Heh ;)

Thursday, September 29, 2016 5:49:00 pm  

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