Friday, September 13, 2013
This weekend we took the new trailer down to Bellingham, WA. It was to be both a learning and outfitting trip, figuring out what we need for the trailer and purchasing the items that will be needed along the way. We left about 5pm on Friday, after last minute runs to BCAA and the bank. News1130 warned us to stay away from the Cape Horn Interchange and Pattullo bridge as there were to be 38 scheduled closings over the weekend, so we took the Golden Ears bridge instead.
I have to admit to being a little jumpy on the ride to the border. While I have experience travelling and driving while towing and driving larger vehicles, it’s my first experience with Harold, and it will take time to stop seeing all the things he might do wrong. As I’ve found in other circumstances, he definitely handles my nervousness well and pulls off the attitude that he is fully capable, which helps relax me.
It was our first time across the border together, both using Nexus. I’ve had it for years, but Harold was never able to get it in the past, due to being in the middle of his immigrancy. Just as we scanned our cards, the border guard put on the red lights and slammed down a red cone in the middle of the lane. A younger woman sauntered over to the kiosk and they chatted for a few moments, before he left and she turned on the green light again. Another moment passed and she looked up, waving at us impatiently to move forward. Her glare turned to a smile and a shrug as we pointed at the cone blocking our way. Her demeanor softened, she laughed with us over her mistake and waved us on through. She even asked if we needed to have the barriers moved so we could get through. These border moments seem more magical and significant because they are so seldom.
We arrived at our destination, the Silver Reef Casino on the Lummi Reservation, about 7pm and were setup quickly. Casinos are a great place to stay overnight. They don’t charge you anything, often have dump and water stations, 24 hour security, restaurants and entertainment, and even shuttle service from the RV area to the front door for the elderly or anyone who can’t or doesn’t want to walk there.
For some reason unknown to us, the gas station no longer sells any kind of liquor, so Harold ran up the road to buy some wine and dog food (some dog foods are not allowed across the border, and if they see your dog, they will often ask if you have food. If you say yes, they send you in to have it checked. We find it much easier to just not take it down.) before we wandered over to the casino to look around and have dinner.
The Silver Reef has grown dramatically since we were there last year, adding a large area that has easily doubled the space, including more restaurants and a showroom, and a much larger RV and parking area. The new area has a much better air system so the smell of cigarette smoke is almost undetectable, at least, in contrast to the older section. It always takes me by surprise when I go inside anywhere that still allows smoking. It’s been such a long time since it was made illegal here in Vancouver. I honestly can’t say I miss that smell.
We had dinner at the Mexican Cantina in the new section and it was really good. Better than the typical Tex-Mex place. I had a great Taco salad and Harold had the Pork Torta, a sandwich layered with pintos refritos, jalapeño, avocado, cilantro, lettuce, tomato, onion and lime crema. With a bottle of wine, our bill came to just over $40. Compare that to Vancouver, where a similar meal would have been $100. Socialized healthcare and a living wage, we remind ourselves … that’s the reason we pay more.
We wandered back out to the trailer, and made ourselves comfortable. Toonie was quite happy in her crate, but very nervous when we let her out, not wanting to leave my side. There was an open Wifi signal in the casino, but it was much too faint out in the parking lot. With no tv, and no internet, we were left with chatter and reading before heading to bed. We need to remember the cards next time!Lesson #1: Play cards! A crib board would be great. Look up some new card games online.
RVs in the lot tonight: approximately 30
Saturday, September 14, 2013
We had a pretty amazing sleep for such a slim, cardboardy mattress. The gel foam mattress topper we stole off the bed in our guest room at home was a huge improvement, and we slept just as well as we do at home. Still, we were up by 5:30am due to having had an early night. We realized we couldn’t make coffee as we didn’t have any instant coffee and our coffee machine wouldn’t work off propane power, so Harold went over to the coffee shop in the casino and came back with two soy lattes. He was all excited about the bargain he got because the server gave him the senior discount. I would have been broken-hearted and gravely insulted if the same had happened to me, but it’s as my Mother has said to me, young people just see grey hair and think the person is old. They can’t tell the difference between 40 and 65. I’ll stay a brunette and pay more, thank you. It was hard enough the first time I had some youngun call me “Ma’am”!
Lesson learned #2: Always send Harold in to get grey hair discounts!
Our first stop was Walmart, which is open 24 hours, so we drove over there to get a Tracfone (Net10 phones were all sold out and Tracfone is owned by Net10) and kitchen and organizational stuff for the trailer. Across the road is a store called BevMo, a private liquor store. We’d noticed it the last few times we’d been down but didn’t have the option to buy alcohol so we didn’t look in. This time we went in for just a look and fell in love. It is like a warehouse of everything you would want for good times, including glasses, gourmet foods, cool doo-dads and a ton of wine. Best part about it? They had two bottles of my all-time favorite wine, Earthquake Petite-Sirah 2009, that our other wine stores in Bellingham can no longer get.
As I wrote about in my last blog entry, Harold is only able to take two weeks of his annual five week allotted vacation time right now, so we need to put our plan into action earlier to work on the road. That means we can’t just rely on free wifi access we find along the way. I had been looking into alternatives that charge less for more data than Verizon, but when it came down to it, reliability is our top priority so we went with Verizon.
Having made that decision, we then had to choose between “Pre-paid” and “Post-paid”. If we chose “Pre-Paid”, it was as easy as walking into any Walmart, and buying a hotspot device for $269. We could then buy pre-paid cards to input into our account and pay for what we need. The monthly charges are $60 for 3GB, $80 for 4GB etc.
On the other hand, if we locked ourselves into a 2 year contract, the hotspot is $19.95, and the monthly charges are much lower, $50 for 6GB, $60 for 8GB etc. We are also free to suspend the account when we aren’t using it, so we only end up paying when we are going to be down in the US enough to warrant it. We chose option 2, since we see ourselves leaving it on 6-8 months of the year, with a lot of weekends down there in the warmer months and our longer trips to the south states in the cold months.
We rounded out our day with visits to our two favorite Bellingham spots, Purple Smile Wines for tastings and Trader Joe’s. Purple Smile was sampling eight Grenaches from all over the world. The two best were left for last, and one, Alto Moncayo 2010, was especially wonderful. We typically don’t have an issue paying $40-60 for a really good bottle of wine we just love, but decided to put it on the list for another time since we have been spending so much on everything else lately. The more expensive bottle fit into the same group as all other $100+ bottles we’ve tried to date. The “OMG I’m so glad we don’t like that one!”
We headed back to the trailer with our new purchases, got it all organized, and feeling homey, then settled in for a night of Internet, wine, and a wonderful Mandarin Orange Chicken, we had purchased from Trader Joe’s.
RVs in the lot tonight: easily 50 or more
Sunday, September 15, 2013
Due to being up later the night before, we slept in some this day, and didn’t get on our way until 11am or so. We planned to drive down to Burlington, where we were to visit Camping World, a much bigger Walmart, and a Pet food store. Unfortunately, right as we passed the first Burlington I-5 exit, we got stuck in a never-ending detour backup caused by road crews installing the new I-5 bridge. Four months ago the old bridge collapsed and since then there has been a temporary bridge in place. Now they are putting in a permanent bridge. The traffic had to be funnelled down to one lane, and it crawled at a snail’s pace. It took us 45 minutes to get to the next exit. Lucky for us, that was our exit. We were surprised to see that the subsidiary roads that run alongside the I-5 were also backed up, so we decided to just go to Camping World, then head back to Bellingham.
Lesson learned #3: Check traffic info more often. A GPS would help here. Patience goes a long way.
Camping World is a great place with everything you might need for your RV. If you know your prices from elsewhere you can get some amazing deals. They have two levels of pricing, one for members ($25 per year) and another for everyone else. We opted to become members since we figure we’ll be in there a lot. We managed to escape without spending too much.
After the pet store in Bellingham, and another trip to BevMo, we went back to the trailer to have dinner and pack up to go home. Harold went out to hook up the trailer hitch while I cooked dinner, TJ’s Butter Chicken and Lamb Vindaloo. Moments later he came back in to tell me he’d lost the pin for the hitch and didn’t have an extra, so he was back off to Walmart where he bought a few more. While he was gone, he missed a wonderful lightning storm and some very good wine.
Lesson learned #4: Always have multiple hitch pins!
RVs in the lot tonight: way down, only 10-15
Lesson learned #5: Take more pictures!