Dear Diary,

As my faithful readers no doubt recall, the adventurous duo -- myself and Kat -- have decided to leave the gator-plagued land of the sun and head Northwest towards the ocean city of Vancouver. A very bright yellow truck has been rented for a too-large sum of American money; our home for the next 12 days. Friday was my last official day of work at IMI, as well as Kat's at the daycare in Jupiter. We finished packing, cleaned up the apartment, and now we're ready to leave early tomorrow monring, Saturday April 3rd, 1999.

   [S:\] cd moving
   [S:\moving] dir

      Volume in drive S is OS2    Serial number is 0437:3844
      Directory of S:\MOVING\*

   1973-02-10 01:32        0      0      .
   1973-02-10 01:32        0      0      ..
   1999-04-03 07:18        0      0      26° 55' 35"N,  80°  5' 40"W, 6m
   1999-04-10 13:45        0      0      49° 13' 55"N, 122° 59' 21"W, 138m
   1999-04-12 17:32   15 208    167      index.html

                15 208 bytes in 1 file and 4 dirs    16 384 bytes allocated
         3 915 423 667 bytes free

   [S:\moving] _

World map coordinates (© 1999 Mother Earth, Father Sky, and all things natural) courtesy of my 1998 Chrismas gift from Mom & Dad: a cool waterproof Magellan GPS 2000XL. I know it is waterproof because I was wearing it around my neck when my kayak flipped over in February while going over a dam. Long story -- don't worry, it doesn't matter.

Day -1, Thursday April 1, 1999
My very first day at IMI was April 1st, 1998. My last day is going to be Friday April 2nd, 1999. Kat and I have rented a 15' Ryder moving truck which I picked up after work, and we have 12 days to drive from Jupiter, Florida, to Vancouver, B.C. Total cost with full insurance is somewhere around 1900US$, which is much less than what it would cost to get a moving company to do the job.

We've been quite busy lately, packing the apartment, tying up loose ends, and saying good-bye to friends and co-workers. Two weekends ago, just after we made the decision to move, we drove to Pahokee on Saturday morning for some skydiving and then spent the rest of the weekend on the gulf coast digging for sand dollars and kayaking with the manatees. Now we try to come to grips with the fact that in less than 2 weeks, we'll be soaking our feet in the Pacific instead of the Atlantic.

Tonight, Dave L., Dave A. & Melanie, and of course Kat and I, spent the evening packing the truck. Eight hours, 2 large pizzas and 4L of pop later, almost everything we own has been packed into the truck. Kat and I will finish up the small stuff tomorrow after work.

Day 0, Friday April 2, 1999
While I had initially planned on leaving tonight, we never finished what we needed to do until close to 23:00. Dave invited us over to his place, where we'll spend the night before leaving early next morning. This will be our last night in Florida.
Day 1, Saturday April 3, 1999
Looking back at things, Saturday came and went rather fast. We skipped through Florida, and travelled through most of Georgia. The first thing we noticed in Georgia when we stopped to stretch our legs was: Wow! They have real grass! Those of you who have spent time in Florida must have noticed that what they call "grass" is actually sharp pieces of thick green fibers that can poke holes in 3" thick steel plates. (As an append, David Aaronson tells me that it is called Saint Augustine Grass.)

At night, we pulled off I75 at one of the service areas along the highway, and I drove the motorcycle out from the back of the truck. We then put the futton down in back, closed the door almost all the way, and tried to sleep. Just last summer, I had been backpacking not too far from here with some friends from work.
(34° 24' 34"N, 84° 55' 7"W, 682 miles completed today)

Day 2, Sunday April 4, 1999
Sunday took us through Chattanooga, Tennessee on I24, our first timezone change, and into Kentucky on I65 to the world's largest cave system at Mammoth Cave National Park. We spent a few hours taking a tour in the first few levels of the caves, which proved to be quite exciting. By this time, we could start to feel a real change in weather. No more palm trees (those had been left behind even before we crossed into Georgia I think), not even any leaves in the trees.

From Cave City (which doesn't qualify for the name 'city') we headed back down to Bowling Green, back to Cave City (don't ask...that guy thing about asking directions, and maybe we really did want to see the countryside for 2 hours on roads that have no names, just 4- and 3-digit identifiers) and eventually found our way to Green River Pkwy through a corner of Indiana and Illinois, onto I64 were we slept for the second night in the truck.
(38° 13' 54"N, 87° 59' 20"W, 521 miles completed today)

Day 3, Monday April 5, 1999
We crossed Illinois pretty quickly -- probably because we couldn't find a reason to stop. Note: do not pass Mt. Vernon on an empty gas tank -- there really is nothing else in the middle of the state.

The famous Arch of St. Louis, on the banks of the Mississippi kept us for a few hours, before we continued across Missouri on I70 towards Kansas City. Unless I'm mistaken, the same note applies to most of Missouri. Other than the town of Boonville (I'm not kidding about the name!) halfway across the state, there really wasn't much to see. We spent our third night in the truck in yet another service station on I29 just past the Iowa border. By this time, Kat and I were thinking up of word games and puzzles to keep us occupied. Huh, maybe to keep me awake too. :)

Dave A.: yeah, that gas peddle is becoming harder and harder to hold down. By this time, I'd discovered the secret technique of wedging my foot between the gas peddle and the bottom panel of the dashboard, which served as a kind of cruise control.
(41° 4' 48"N, 95° 49' 33"W, 521 miles completed today)

Day 4, Tuesday April 6, 1999
We've had the truck for 1/2 of our alloted 12 days, and I must say that I'm getting really nervous. We drive through Dave's home state of Iowa, and turn West at Sioux Falls on I90 to South Dakota. Now, when Kat and I previously thought that parts of IL and MO took a long time...!

Dave L.: you were right; the Corn Palace in Mitchell is the only thing in the first half of the state! We didn't stop; driving by was plenty for us. For those of you with no knowledge of the Corn Palace -- it is a building entirely built (or just decorated?) with corn. No further comment; you'll just have to drive there to see it.

The second half of South Dakota, however, is where the real nice part of the trip started. We took a detour on Hwy 240 through Badlands National Park. This is REALLY worth it! I'd seen what they called the Badlands in Alberta, but it doesn't compare to this area! That night, for the first time on our trip since leaving Dave's house on Saturday, we slept in a motel in Rapid City.
(583 miles completed today)
Day 5, Wednesday April 7, 1999
Being in this neck of the woods, we took a detour on Hwy 16 to go see Mount Rushmore. It is one thing being in grade school and hearing about it (you must remember I spent grades 2 to 5 in New York) and completely different to be standing before it. :) Note for future reference: Kathie, I promise, we'll go back some day while on vacation and check out the famous Jewel Caves, Wind Caves, et al... :)

The rest of the day was rather strange...we diverted way off the route you'd think we'd have taken. After leaving SD on I90 to go to Wyoming, we took route 14 to route 24, past Devils Tower National Monument and up route 112 into the town of Alzada (pop. 16?), Montana, before heading up on I212 to rejoin I90 at Crow Agency. Even though we weren't on the highway, the lack of a speed limit in Montana, the flat and even road, and virtually no traffic all afternoon, provided ideal conditions. Even for a fully loaded 15' truck. And the 14 miles of construction and gravel roads somewhere between Ashland and Lame Deer. Yes, you read that correctly, there actually is a town called Lame Deer. If you blink twice, you'll drive right through it, so pay attention!

That night, we slept in the truck again -- for the last time -- just past Billings, Montana.
(521 miles completed today)

Day 6, Thursday April 8, 1999
Today was the first day we saw the real mountains. Again for me, and the first time for Kat. Montana is a fairly long state to cross, and even when starting from halfway across at Billings, we didn't get out of the first mountain range until late afternoon. We'd seen a few patches of snow on the ground starting 2 days ago in South Dakota, but Montana provided us with our first snow-covered peaks.

The picture to the left is of Crazy Woman Mountains as seen from Big Timber, MT, but the story lost its appeal after I heard the part where her second husband went around eating the livers of the indians he killed to avenge her death.

Crossing the pass into Idaho, we witnessed our first real winter scene, with actual snow banks, and runaway truck lanes at the bottom of hills with double-digit inclines! Stopping for dinner in Coeur d'Alene, on the border between Idaho and Washington, I finally felt like I was close to Vancouver again. Kat, on the other hand, was getting more nervous with every mile closer to the Canadian-American border. :)

That night, we slept in a motel in Ellensburg, halfway through the state of Washington. Today was the longest drive during our trip, and this night will be the last one we spend in the U.S.
(658 miles completed today)

Day 7, Friday April 9, 1999
We made our way through snow storms and slush-covered roads in the Washington mountains, and turned north on I5. I saw one highway sign for an exit to Redmond, and I'm pretty sure the engine coughed a few times. Or maybe it was just me coughing. After 1 month of planning, and almost 4000 miles, I finally feel like the trip is coming to a close. Up ahead, not more than five cars are before us in line to cross the U.S.-Canada border.

It actually turned out to be very simple: the border guards asked us how long we'd been there, how long we'll be here, to which we replied something to the effect of "1 year/my whole life, 6 months/I don't know", they looked at the motorcycle, asked me to pay a 200$ (Canadian dollar! I had forgotten what they looked liked!) vehicle import fee, stamped a lot of papers, and sent us on our way! It really helped to be prepared; I had downloaded all of the forms beforehand from the Canadian Customs web site, and they were all filled out, which I believe that guards took to view as "this guy knows what he's doing, let him through..." Little did they know!

Eric: that paper you signed for me saying "Stéphane has been here for 1 year and IMI releases him of all duties and obligations" saved my day! They asked for exactly that; took one look at it, brought out the rubber stamp, and said "OK!"

We drove up to Vancouver, picked up a paper, booked ourselves into a motel on Kingsway, and started looking for apartments! Seven days ago, we left the Atlantic, and today, Kat saw the Pacific for the first time; I hadn't seen it for just slightly over 1 year. Welcome home!
(49° 13' 55"N, 122° 59' 21"W, 411 miles completed today)

Post-Trip Information
We saw 4 apartments in 2 days once we were in Vancouver; one near SFU, another in Westend, one in Point Grey, and the last in Burnaby. Pretty much all four suburbs next to Vancouver. The last one, near Royal Oak Skytrain station in Burnaby, is the one we chose on Saturday. We took 3 days to empty the truck, and I started work at HSBC on Monday morning, just 2 days after being back in the country!

The computer was hooked up the following Thursday, and that weekend we downloaded from the digital camera more than 200 pictures we took during the trip. Wow! :) But there are more than 30MB worth of images, which has taken me some time to convert to a viewable web page. Hope the wait has been worthwhile.
(3897 miles completed in 7 days)

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Stéphane Charette, 25 May, 1999