From Vegas to Canada, Dec ’21

December 1, 2021

December started with pretty warm weather for most of that first week; cooled off a bit after that but still quite pleasant.

We went for our COVID booster shot at Walmart today and that evening began to feel soreness in that arm and neither of us slept well that night. Doug was pretty wiped on Thursday and Fran had a headache for several hours.

We have had an older couple from Alberta parked beside us all week and had several daily “happy hours” before it gets too chilly out. Tom and Carol have been RVing in Europe and New Zealand for years and had some good tidbits of information for us.  Thank you!

Last month, Serena and Kurt put an offer on a house in Reno; they heard that they were approved for the financing and on the 2nd the inspection took place. By the weekend they learned that there was nothing major wrong with the house and the one recommendation by the inspector was for something that Kurt could DIY and they are happy. The Lender now has to put its ducks in a row and perhaps they’ll close before Christmas. The house is a two bedroom, two bath bungalow on a corner lot with a large garage and a huge fenced yard. To celebrate they invited a new member of the family to join them:

Meet Titan – a Chihuahua Pug mix:

So now our grand-dog, Heidi, has a sibling.

The waiting game for progress in France begins; things apparently do not move quickly there and it can be trying on the patience. As we’ve paid the deposit and sent the info for the creation of our French company, we await confirmation that they are ready to proceed with the filing, we’ll wire the fees and then continue trying to be patient.

With the new COVID variant now beginning to make its way around the world, we, naturally, are keeping this in the back of our minds with regard to continuing to travel; until we all learn more about this Omicron, we feel we’re being safe having just gotten our boosters, continuing to wear masks indoors/in crowds and being hygienic. Hopefully by the time you are reading this blog post, we will be on our way to Nairobi.

Friday, our passports arrived in our mail that we ordered earlier this week. They sure pull a fast one though; they give you two envelopes each. We opened one and inside was our OLD passport so we initially thought our applications had been rejected! Then we saw the other envelopes and phew,  the new passports were inside. For some unknown reason, they send the old passport separately – just to give you a heart attack.

Yeah! – that hurdle has been crossed; we did lose eight months on our first ten years but hey, at least we have them back now.

Saturday a couple of young Danish fellows pulled in beside us and later Doug saw a truck and camper with BC plates on it so we invited them all over for happy hour outside our trailer.

Kalee and Ethan are from London, Ontario but on their journey south from Alaska their truck broke down and they bought a new one in BC. They are heading to Baja, CA, Mexico. Johan and Christian, from Denmark, travelled from home to Brazil to Costa Rica to the US. They began on the east coast to see NYC and Washington and then flew to LA to rent a camper van and are gravelling the southwest for a few weeks until they fly to Hawaii.

Christmas decorations in the RV park:  (see the one above as well)

So, on Sunday we spent a few hours packing up a box of personal/household items to ship to France; Doug had found a service (PirateShip) that offers discounted shipping rates. After taking an inventory, photos and making a detailed list he started the process to get a shipping label. When asking the customs questions, there was no category that allows for this type of shipment. He emailed back and forth with them and then learned that there was really no option except to say “gift” and that might get us in trouble. So we nixed that plan and ordered two cheap large duffel bags from Amazon and we’ll go that route. Our flights once we leave the US have free checked bags, but all flights within charge for checked bags. It’s still much cheaper than the shipping would be but there is the “hassle factor”! So once they arrive on Tuesday, we’ll do a big repack and see if we can get away with one large checked bag each. We will, of course, make use of the free carry on allowances (packed to the gills) of one roller board and one “personal” item (backpack) in which we’ll keep all our valuables etc.

Doug got a new phone yesterday (same as Fran’s) and we spent most of today at the library using free Wi-Fi to get his set up done. We also had appointments at the blood donor clinic. We’ve not donated in about 8 years due to our travels and this clinic was convenient and we were going to be in town for the date. Both of us did well and had no issues.

Tuesday was our first cloudy day in a long time and the temperature is beginning to cool off; barely reaching 20C / 70F and supposed to get down to freezing at night by the weekend. That night it rained! That was not forecasted until possibly Thursday and it was not just a sprinkle. The sun did return Wednesday and dried it all up.

We heard back from the accountants in France with a couple of questions but still await their confirmation that we should wire their fee and how long it’s going to take. Aaaaaaaah the joys of dealing with things long distance – yes, it is a first world problem!

Thursday began cloudy and much cooler: 14C / 57Fwas the high and it was windy with a few sprinkles. Doug worked on getting our visa applications for East Africa which meant booking our flights from Kenya to Uganda, doing some bookings in Nairobi, and then getting a flight out of Uganda (which we cancelled right afterward as in truth, we don’t know if we will be going to France or the Middle East after our four weeks in Africa). Time will tell. Word on the Omicron virus is looking better but not conclusive in that the vaccine (especially a third dose) seems to be working and even better, that the symptoms of those with the new variant are mild.

Bad news today was that the nursing home that Fran’s mother is living in is requiring that you not have left the country (even been to the US) in the fourteen days prior to your visit so it looks like those visits are off the table. Sad as we won’t be back in Canada until May for her 90th. Let’s hope things have improved by then, PLEASE!

So Friday we awoke again to sunny skies but only a high of 13C /55 F and tonight it’s supposed to dip to near freezing again. Guess summer in Vegas is over! After brunch we went down to the Strip for our weekly “gambling fix”. We walked the middle of the strip, using the free parking at the Venetian and wandering through Treasure Island, The Mirage, Caesar’s, Flamingo, O’Shea’s, The Linq, Harrah’s and ended at the Venetian – each time trying to find our kind of slot machines and if we did, we played a bit and sometimes got a drink. We did not do Fat Tuesday’s today; firstly because no one seems to have the mudslide here in Vegas (we called) and secondly it was too cold to carry around and drink a frozen drink.

When we began gambling here in Vegas in October, we had a “kitty” of $39; to that we added only $20 one weekend (when we placed bigger bets than a nickel at the pricier casinos) and then $28 from our garage sale earnings. Today we had $12 left and ended the day with the same amount even after paying for tips for three sets of drinks; we can’t complain! We have just over a week left before leaving so maybe one more gambling trip.

Saturday (especially) and Sunday were quite cool (for us!). Saturday night we ran our electric heater on low all night and left the kitchen and bathroom taps dripping to prevent freezing and it dipped just below overnight. Turned out well and this upcoming final week of our in Vegas will not get quite as cold but also not warm up to the temps we had earlier in the month.

We have booked free PCR tests for our trip to Canada for next Sunday, found out where we can get in Canada (not free) before flying to Kenya and also looked into where to get in both Nairobi and Kampala before we leave Kenya and Uganda (also not free but not as pricey as in North America by any means) – still not certain where we’ll be going after Uganda as we need to know the date our purchase can complete. Here’s hoping we hear something from France this week.

Monday was quite a decent day – last warm day before the holidays and Tuesday it was a mostly cloudy day with rain in the afternoon. The wind was quite fierce as well. We are very thankful for the new little electric heater we bought (the power button died on the old one). This one is stronger, has a thermostat, oscillates and seems sturdier.

Tuesday and Wednesday were rather uneventful other than the rain on Tuesday afternoon into the evening; we discovered a tiny leak at the lower edge of the dinette window though. Doug washed the trailer on Wednesday after doing some caulking where we thought it was coming in but, of course, it still leaked a bit, so he caulked in the next best guess of a spot and that seemed to do it.

We are continuing to do things to ready ourselves for the next steps; Doug’s application for an East African Visa was approved so he’ll submit Fran’s now. We don’t have a full itinerary booked yet and are not sure if we’ll do a safari or a self-drive but they didn’t seem to mind.

Thursday Doug took the truck in for its 20,000 mile checkup and oil change and Fran went for a pedicure. It’s barely into the teen’s C these days / 50F so it was rather cool coming out of the saloon in flip flops!

Our overlanding friend, Kirsi and her little dog, Jack, are in town so they came over for a visit in the afternoon. We sat outside in the sunshine for about an hour and then the sun hid behind the clouds and it got too cool and moved it indoors (we are all vaccinated and boostered) for another hour and a half – having an early happy hour. They are camped on BLM land outside the city and they left before the sun went down.

Friday after doing some errands in the morning, we went downtown to visit Fremont Street as our last “hurrah” gambling in Vegas. Now if you recall from above, we had twelve bucks left in our “kitty”. Well after five casinos, five drinks each, we had sixteen bucks! Not bad, eh?

That day we received an email from the accountants in France that they are ready to proceed and wanted their money. Doug set up the wire the next day.

Sunday morning we continued with a few readiness chores before heading to the CVS Pharmacy for our free COVID PCR test – they claimed that results would take 1-2 days so we are crossing our fingers they are right. We have until Wednesday within which to cross the border.

Serena called to advise that their house escrow had closed and they were going to be able to move in staring tomorrow!  They will rent a truck on her day off (Thursday) and get the big stuff moved in.

Saturday we did a few more errands, Fran got a haircut, Doug got a pedi and we went through our lists of “to do”s and “to pack” to get ready for our final two days in Nevada. We will do a big pack tomorrow after Fran does the laundry, pay our electric bill before the office closes and we’ll be ready to head to Pahrump first thing Monday morning. We have arranged a one day car rental, so Doug will drop Fran off at the airport to get that and he will head to the storage place to get the paperwork done and then we’ll get it all parked and storage ready.

We arrived at the Pahrump storage place (Highway 160 where we left Tigger last winter) when it was supposed to open at nine. By 9:15 still no one showed up. We both called and left messages and then Fran called around and found another place that was actually even cheaper as they charge per foot not per spot. So we drove back through town and got set up at Pahrump Valley Storage – this actually might be even more secure as the owner lives right next door and has a really cool reticulating camera that he watches a lot he claims. After getting the paperwork done, he took us inside the gate and showed us the two spots. Doug parked the trailer and unhooked it and moved the truck to its spot. Fran got the trailer ready while he did the truck. A couple of hours later we were out of there and heading back to Vegas in the rental car.  Fran called Highway 160 again, still getting the machine and asked for a refund of our deposit. Doug had booked the Motel 6 for the night (cheap and close to the airport and strip – but wouldn’t recommend it) and we dropped off all the luggage.

Fran took the car back and walked back to the hotel (one 4 km – 2.8 mi) after which we walked over to the Excalibur looking for a Dairy Queen to celebrate completing the first part of our transition to a new chapter in our lives. After almost giving up we found it and enjoyed a light dinner with a yummy Blizzard each.

We both had a rather crappy night’s sleep that night and had to get up at 3:30 AM to get to the airport to catch our flight out of Las Vegas at six. We tried to check in online without success so we hope the airport desks are not busy.

After catching an Uber to the airport we had a very nice attendant at the American counter, who had to call in to sort out the issue of why we couldn’t check in.  It turns out that although we had a reservation we had no ticket number! After about fifteen minutes on the phone she had it sorted, we checked our two big duffel bags and headed to security enroute to the gate.  She also gave us the new confirmation number for our flight on January 3rd which is on JetBlue – their affilliate.

At the gate they were asking that if possible, people gate check their carry on roller boards at no charge and after a bit of shifting around (we had spare small duffel bag inside one of the roller boards into which we transferred anything we didn’t want to be checked) and then we didn’t have as much to deal with. Boarding began on time and from that point, things went to h*ll in a hand basket for the day.

We taxied out to the runway where we sat and sat, and then they said there was “an issue” and we returned to the gate. At 7:30 they asked us to disembark – never a good sign. They said mechanics were coming to check out the issue and we’d leave at 9 and if people were going to miss their connections, they should line up and new arrangements would be attempted to be made. Well it started out as four lines and they asked us to reduce to two – one at each gate counter (where in theory, two agents could work but they didn’t have enough). Fran called the 1 800 number and was told it was a minimum 1.5 hour wait but they could do a call back so she left her number. A ticket agent was brought in to help and the line to the right of us was shorter and seemed to be moving faster so Fran moved over there and then we were helped within about 30 minutes of waiting.

The original flight was then changed to a departure time of 10 and a half hour later, we were told the problem had been that “they were smelling smoke in the cockpit” and now :””the mechanics think it’s fixed so they are taking the plane for a test drive”??? and the new departure time was now noon. There was no way we were going to make our second flight so we were glad we managed to change it albeit to a much later time; instead of departing at 4:20 pm from Charlotte, NC the flight was at 10:40 pm. After that got changed, Fran got the callback from American Airlines and she asked if we could get on a different flight to Charlotte or go a different way entirely to get to Buffalo. She was told since the original flight was not “yet” cancelled, she couldn’t change the first leg since we’d already changed the second one so we had to wait.

At 11:45 they boarded us on the plan and we finally took off at nearly 2. The plane was now one third less full as others had had to reroute and so we had an empty seat beside us. Our luggage was put back on board and away we went.

We landed in Charlotte safely and had a few hours to kill so we had some dinner and that flight went off as scheduled.

In the airport:

We landed in Buffalo (to maybe a couple of inches of snow) and all our luggage followed us; we caught an Uber to pick up our car (it was late so we didn’t want to wake the homeowners), all our Amazon shopping was in the car and we headed to a nearby hotel as it was after 1:00 and far too late to drive up to Josh’s. We hauled all the luggage up to our room, opened all the packages, managed to load as much as possible into two large boxes and a bag and we went to bed.

Our luggage WITH our Amazon shop (there’s two LARGE duffel bags on top of each other behind the boxes, two roller boards, two backpacks as well as the smaller purple duffel):

Luckily, the sun does not come up early this time of year to wake us up too early as we are still on Pacific time in our bodies/minds so we slept until past 7:30 and decided to get up and hit the road. We both got a good solid five hours.

We had already submitted what information we could into the “Arrive Canada” app to cross the border and wanted to make a quick stop at Walmart to pick up a few groceries for ourselves and Joshua.

We got to the border only 20 minutes past the time we’d guestimated for the app, there was no lines and the whole thing took about 90 seconds; he asked the usual questions about where are we going, do we have guns, alcohol or cigarettes  and if we had a negative PCR test – didn’t ask to see it – but as you know from above, we had it to show.

We stopped for some Egg McMuffins taking advantage of the all-day breakfast at McDonald’s here in Canada (they no longer have it in the US) and arrived at Josh’s around noon. Thursday when Josh went to work, we went to Alliston to do some stocking stuffer shopping. Friday he was off work and is taking all of next week off too. It’s too cold for us and we really had to pile on the clothes. In reality, it was just barely below freezing but “just barely” is more than enough to make us feel super chilled! It did warm up to above freezing on Christmas Day.

Seems the grandkids are quite paranoid about COVID and don’t want to spend the night here while we’re in the house and want us all to wear masks when we are together – they feel while sleeping, masks can’t be worn and they might catch it. They know we are vaccinated and boostered, that their dad is fully vaccinated, and they themselves have had their first shot, but still insist things are not safe enough. We offered to stay at a hotel so Josh could have the kids with him and we could do the driving back and forth, but he felt that was giving in to their fears. Their mom is on board with us being here and the entire visit, including them sleeping here, but the kids are still anxious.

So for the next three days Josh met their mom half way and they “exchanged” the kids twice a day. Christmas Eve they arrived in time for lunch and stayed until after dinner; Christmas Day was 9 am till 7:30 and Sunday was the afternoon till after dinner. Strange times but it is what it is and at least we got to spend time with them. They didn’t want us to eat the same table as them either so sometimes we eat in the living room at different ends of the room while watching The Grinch and then sometime they ate in the living room and the adults ate in the dining room.

Christmas Eve night we had tortiere (French Canadian meat pies) for dinner and a cake Josh made and Arya and Grammie decorated.

Grammie & Arya decorating the cake for Christmas Dinner

For Santa

Christmas Day it warmed up some and much of the snow that was on the ground was melted away, aided by some early morning rain that day. We opened gifts on and off all day as much time was spent playing with things upon opening them.

Fran got Old Dutch salt & Vinegar chips in her stocking

Grandkids wrapped Dad’s gift in gorilla tape

We had a Pokemon fireplace going on the tv

we got Pokemon Oreos from Grammie and Grandpa

Opening Stockings

That night Fran made a roasted ham, roasted potatoes, stuffing, broccoli and rolls for dinner and it was yummy.

Boxing Day (Sunday) the rest of the gifts were opened and we shared leftovers for dinner. We went out to play street hockey (so Canadian, eh?) as Cyrus got a ball shooter as a gift. Turns out that it might just be for use in the summer, as we managed to crack open a ball in the cold!

Both kids have been receptive to our presence and had no qualms about playing with us as long as we all were masked when indoors and there was no touching – which meant no hugs but at this age, those are rare anyway especially with Cyrus. We’re not sure we’ll see them again before we leave as their mom gets them for New Years weekend but we may sneak a visit in the day Josh goes for his booster shot or maybe she’ll let him have Sunday afternoon with us.

We awoke Monday to a colder morning again but it was snowing!

We spent the week at Josh’s going nowhere to stay safe for our PCR test on Sunday before our flights.  The weather stayed around freezing more or less and we did our daily walks, Spanish, meditation etc.

footprints in some fresh snow

Between Doug and Joshua, they have purchased seven old Kindle e-readers and three old laptops for us to take to Kitojo in Uganda with us.  They spent a great deal of time this week scrubbing, adding books, data and upgrading these items.  Not sure how it’s all going in our luggage, but we’ll make it work.

 

Since it’s been cold and our car has just been sitting in the driveway for a week now, Fran went out to see if our car would start – nope!  – the battery was dead!  Josh gave us a jump start and he and Doug went to the Walmart in Alliston to get a new battery; they got one but it’s a tad large so we need a new battery “hold down”.  Josh called around and found one and all seems good now.

In the neighbourhood:

Wednesday night Fran got an email from JetBlue (the carrier we are flying from Buffalo to NYC – an affiliate of American Airlines) that they changed our flight on Tuesday from 7:15 am to 7:35 pm – not going to work as we fly to Kenya that afternoon.

As I’m sure you heard, so many flights have been cancelled over the holidays due to staffing shortages caused by COVID.  We had hoped since our flights were not until the 4th, we were past the Christmas rush…..She got on the phone and as she waited on hold to speak to someone, she tried chatting with their online assistant who agreed that our flight shows 7:15 am and that that flight was cancelled but that the 7:35 pm was not ticketed for us and that we had to speak to an agent on the phone.  While she was still waiting on the phone, she received a second email saying the flight was changed again to 7:35pm on Monday night so that works but apparently it’s not ticketed so she got back on the phone and wait 2.5 hours with no luck and went to bed.

Thursday morning, she tried again; after nearly 2 hours someone got on the phone and confirmed the above but said a Supervisor had to do the ticketing so she was put on hold once again and waited over 4.5 hours to speak to another person who then put her on hold for two minutes to get in touch with American Airlines and supposedly we are good for the Monday night flight.  Guess time will tell.  Later that afternoon, the AA app showed us as rebooked on the Monday flight so we changed our hotel reservation for Monday from a Buffalo hotel to a New York one.

Josh went to get his COVID booster shot and did a bit of shopping for us.

Friday – New Year’s Eve Day – Josh is feeling a little rough from his shot, but is managing and it shouldn’t last long.  There’s not much snow left on the ground although they say it will snow and get colder over the weekend.  Doug went out to get yet another Kindle because we had issues with one and enroute, he and Josh picked up a second fridge for Josh; he brews his own beer so he wants a keg fridge.  It’s an apartment size fridge that  needs some TLC but he and Fran went out later and got some “wrap” for it and we’ll see how that goes.

No plans of course for NYE due to COVID.  We’ll spend it here at Josh’s and doubt any of us will make it to midnight! 😉

Let’s hope this coming year sees the world getting vaccinated, people seeing loved ones again and people getting out as normally as is safe.  Cheers all!

 

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