Waiting in Houston, TX USA

July 1, 2020, Trip: COVID 19 Times
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Tigger travelled 6733 nautical miles at about 15.5 knots a hour speed in 19 days; that is equivalent to 12469 km / 7748 mi. At least Tigger got to get closer to the easternmost point of the southern continent even if we didn’t. We have extended our hotel stay for three more nights.

July 1st, 2020

After our red eye from São Paulo, we checked into the Sleep Inn near the airport early and spent one night here then we moved to a hotel not too far away but in an area with more amenities like restaurants, shops and groceries. It also had a fridge, microwave, sitting area and a guest laundry; better suited to a longer stay. We booked for a week over the 4th of July weekend as Choice Hotels was having a special rate from July 1-7th. We’ll take it from there for the following week hoping by then we will know which port Tigger is coming into.

We were able to go online and see where the ship carrying Tigger is currently:

It left the Suape port near Recife, Brazil (near the eastern hump of the continent) yesterday afternoon; next stop Santa Marta, Colombia on July 7th.

After checking in, we took a walk to the shops today wearing masks and observing physical distancing. There are shops less than a kilometre away and maybe another half a klik to the Walmart and a Kroger Grocery Store. We are in the city of Humble, north of Houston and although we are seeing the majority of people in masks, they are not all being worn properly. The Walmart Supercentre has hand sanitizer at the door, signs about masks and 6’ distancing, direction signs in the aisle but we figure some people cannot read……

Kroger had masks signs but no sanitizer or directional signage but they did have an announcement reminding their staff to wash their hands often.

We had arranged for our mail to be delivered via our mail service in South Dakota; inside we finally received the postcard we’d mailed to ourselves while at the Ukrainian research station in Antarctica back in March 2019: Must have been sent “swimming sloth mail”!!

Happy Canada Day – it’s July 1st and we’re suffering from joint pain again and Doug’s left knee is extremely painful and he thinks it’s not related to the ChikV as those meds don’t help that spot so much and the pain bending his left knee is excruciating – so lots of rest and elevation is the order for the next few days. Wednesday morning, Fran (not Doug; our health forms each had our different cell numbers on them) received a voicemail and later a text message (actually two: one in English and one in Spanish) from the Texas Health Department recommending her to stay home for fourteen days – this is AFTER we’ve been here more than 48 hours and we’ve been out shopping……There is no indication they will check up on us – just a “recommendation” but seems weird that we were not told upon arrival. We will do our best as it’s not like we have anywhere to go for the next few weeks other than shopping. Since Doug’s knee is bothering him, Fran will switch to the role of shopper for the next little while. Lucky for her the shops are mostly within a one kilometre radius not 3 or 4 like Doug used to do in Salvador.

Most of our Amazon order arrived today and Doug was able to receive his father’s day gifts: The weather here has been partly cloudy so far and rather hot – temps in the mid 30’s C/ upper 90’s F and there’s some humidity.

Happy 4th of July to all our American friends! For us it was a pretty quiet day. The Governor of Texas mandated mask wearing as of yesterday and shut down all bars. We did hear some fireworks in the evening for about 2 minutes but nothing else going on around us anyway.

Monday, Doug self-diagnosed that he’s injured his tendon and Fran picked him up a knee strap and tried to get crutches but no shops around us had any so we’ve ordered some from Amazon to arrive in two days so at least he can get up and get out without any weight bearing on that leg. Fun, fun, fun!

We ordered in Chinese takeout tonight to celebrate Fran’s birthday over two nights. It was delivered fast and was excellent. Tuesday morning after opening gifts, she video chatted with Josh, then at noon with her sisters and mom and later with Serena.

We saw today that the ship carrying Tigger had made it to Colombia but are not sure what the next stop is. We’ll check back tomorrow. Wednesday we changed hotels; not sure why we didn’t look at Marriott hotels very closely before, but we found a really good rate for a TownePlace Suites for a week with a full kitchen. Doug received the crutches we ordered on Amazon and can now go for walks without putting weight on his bum knee. He’s pretty darn happy as he hasn’t been out since last Wednesday!

That afternoon we saw that the ship had left Colombia and was enroute to Colon, Panama now. It’s stinking hot here in Houston and supposed to be triple digits this coming weekend. The crutches caused too much pain the armpits, so Doug gave up on them and returned to taking prednisone for a few days. That helped a great deal and he’s back to normal walking but still can’t bend his left knee back when standing; his shoulder pain is almost all gone. Fran went back on the Tylenol on Thursday and then Friday after doing some research, hit a CBD store and got some tincture and cream to try to see if that helps. Saturday she felt walking was almost normal but rising from a seated position continues to cause tightness and pain. Her left hand seems no worse and possibly a bit better but she’s not being too optimistic.

The ship approaching Panama:

Friday we received word that the paperwork was in order for the ship and we got the invoice for the US broker which we paid by wire transfer over the weekend. Some of the documents seem to suggest an early arrival so we are “holding thumbs” as we’d love to get out of Texas, especially Houston, as things are ridiculous COVID wise here. We have filed our “quarantine plan” with the BC government and filled in the Canadian mobile app regarding entry. Now we just have to get moving!

By Monday we could see the ship was in the Gulf of Mexico scheduled to get to Houston Wednesday morning (not Monday). Fran got in touch with Kathleen, our US agent, and began discussing the next steps.

Fran felt that the CBD products she bought were not helping with the ChikV pain so she returned to the shop and they gave her a full refund. She then recalled a cream her mom uses on her bad arthritic knee but it was by prescription so she looked into OTC creams and Doug picked up a spray which seemed to work but more like masking the pain than reducing it.

She reached out to the shipper’s agent to ask a couple of questions and after a bit of confusion got the answers she wanted and needed (we had to get our Brazilian agent involved). Tuesday she was to get in touch with the stevedores at the port and find out what they require; apparently (just our luck) the shipping line doesn’t normally dock at this port, but due to COVID, things are different.

The ship approaching the USA:

We also heard Monday that leaders in Houston are trying to get the Governor to lockdown Houston again and we sure hope that doesn’t affect us getting Tigger out. (update: never happened!)

So by end of the work day on Wednesday, the 15th of July, the Lord Vishnu had docked.

Tigger travelled 6733 nautical miles at about 15.5 knots a hour speed in 19 days to reunite with us; that is equivalent to 12469 km / 7748 mi. At least Tigger got to get closer to the easternmost point of the southern continent even if we didn’t. We ended up extending our hotel stay for three more nights (thank goodness for points!).

Fran was in the local grocery store today and saw Voltaren, the cream her mom used to use and it’s now OTC and prescription strength. So she bought a tube and it’s helping.

We were told by the port that morning, that the ship would unload on Thursday and they would advise when we can make an appointment to pick up Tigger on Friday. In order to enter the port, we need an escort so Doug has already reached out to a few from a list we received from the port where the ship is docked.

So Thursday we sit and wait for the word to make an appointment. They will open on weekends but at an cost of $3000! By mid-day we heard that the shipping company will not “release any cargo” until it’s all unloaded and that for some reason we are not being told, it’s going to take another day so that means the releases will not be issued until Monday morning; so we’ve had to extend our hotel stay again.

Fran is feeling less pain today and Doug’s comes and goes in his knee mostly if he turns it the wrong way. The strap helps. Friday morning, our agent confirmed that the ship has been unloaded/discharged so the port needs the release from the shipping line, NYK, and we are good to go. Well, that was an adventure; port says they did not get the release, the Brazilian shipper’s agent says they cannot get through to anyone at the shipping company; our agent tries by phone and email to reach NYK. She then suggests we reach out ourselves to the shipper’s agent. Fran did reach Interlog in MN and asked for a phone number for NYK. He gave her one and she called; got voice mail with an email and a different number. She tried the other number; got voice mail. She sent an email and then received a call back from the first NYK contact. She told her they were never advised that the ship was unloaded yet! She said she’d call to confirm and then send the release required. This was done around 12:30 pm finally. The Port advised that we could skip their online appointment system and as long as we arrived before 4pm we could pick up the rig.

So, Doug called the port escort service and arranged an Uber to meet the escort at the port entrance a 1:30. He was not where Doug was waiting so he called him and they met at the Main Truck Office (not the main office).

Fran stayed behind and arrange for the insurance on Tigger and began packing up our hotel room so we can leave tomorrow morning.

At the Main Truck Office he showed the woman behind the glass the Delivery Order and Release; she asked questions (including what his trucking company name was and she was confused that he was not with a trucking company). She then had him fax her the form from his side of the glass where there was a fax machine. She received the fax, stamped it and returned the form to him – all took about five minutes.

Doug and the escort were told to go to building 35A but enroute me someone the escort knew and were told to go to 29A instead. Upon finding 29A Doug could see Tigger across in a parking lot.

Doug to Tigger to wait for the man who’d told them to go to 29A and while waiting Doug began to get Tigger ready; ie turn on solar panels and check inside to see if it was all still there. When he man arrived, they did a walk around and the man went to get the exit paperwork.  YEAH Tigger looked no worse for ware and nothing appeared damaged or broken into!  hip hip hooray!

While he went to get paperwork, Doug paid the escort his $75 fee and when paperwork arrived a few minutes later, he headed out following escort. Tigger started up no problem. Doug showed paperwork to the lady at the gate, she got out and looked inside of vehicle. He then followed escort to a gas station as we’d left Tigger in Brazil with only a quarter of a tank so it was nearly empty.  BTW the gas prices here in Houston are in the $1.60’s!  (they did get higher on our way north).

Before returning to the hotel, Doug had an appointment at a transmission specialist to have an issue we’ve had for several months now diagnosed. Unfortunately, in the 45 minutes Doug drove around with the man from the shop, the truck never acted up! He was told we should have the left front wheel bearing as well as a small leak in the exhaust manifold looked at but Doug decided we’d wait on that for now. So we’ll have it looked at elsewhere. We have a way of dealing with the tranny issue it so it’s not a major problem (yet). Then it was off to get an oil change. Fran found a Jiffy Lube near the hotel and Doug stopped by there.

Upon arriving at the hotel, we got a few things done like putting the stereo back in, removing the security wall, and a few things to make the ride in the cab comfy until we could squat and get everything unpacked.

Fran did a final load of laundry throwing in towels from Tigger at the free laundry machines in the hotels and we had a final quiet night in the hotel.

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