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We Go Solo, PAN


Fran’s three weeks in US/Canada

April 26th, 2017

I flew into MSP after a short layover in Atlanta and our friend, Kathi, picked me up and I stayed with her until the 29th. The weather here just got cold and I am not a happy camper! Some of our Amazon orders had arrived as well as four months’ worth of mail (which was surprisingly not that much thanks to paperless statements nowadays).

The neighbourhood where I am staying is the one we lived in back from 2004-08 when we lived on Eriks Blvd., Eagan MN – awesome bunch of people for sure!

Kathi kindly took me shopping and errand running on Thursday (it snowed this morning!) and we went out for happy hours both that night and the next, along with her hubby, Joe. I shipped off both cameras for repair. Friday, some of their grandkids came over (they have six) and that afternoon they went to Grandparents Day at the school of the older children and Kathi lent me her car to do more errands. As on Saturday, their younger daughter was coming for a few days, I went to another friend’s house around the corner, Christine and Matt, and spent the next five nights there. Christine is having a fundraiser garage sale in two weeks so that first day I helped her with getting ready for that, pricing and sorting.

Sunday, it was cold and wet so the three of us took in a movie in the afternoon: Gifted. Monday, the cold wet weather continued and that evening Christine had a meeting to attend near the Mall of America so I tagged along and walked the mall for 90 minutes to get some exercise. Tuesday it got a bit warmer in the afternoon so I was able to take a pleasant walk around Thomas Lake. That evening some of the neighbourhood ladies came over for wine and appies. Linda, Lori and Kathi as well as Jenn from the book club I belonged to back in the day came by and we had a very pleasant evening around Christine’s outdoor fire pit out back; such good friends in our favourite neighbourhood.

Considering we are in some fairly dense suburbs, it’s quite amazing how much wildlife continues to roam through this neighbourhood.  There are deer, wild turkeys and a fox with five kits!  I also saw a turtle one day crossing Kathi’s driveway!

Wednesday was a lovely day and I started by walking over to Kathi’s to get my eyeglasses which had arrived and then walked to my former doctor’s office for an annual physical while Christine worked from home; appointment went well: no surprises. Christine took the afternoon off and we met up for lunch and took in a visit to a National Historic site: The James J. Hill house; he was a railroad magnate and is still the 36th wealthiest man in US history. The house is 36,000 square feet and super well maintained.

That evening they drove me to Enterprise to pick up my rental car and then we joined a number of Christine’s family members at a restaurant in Minneapolis for a birthday dinner celebration for her brother, Tim.

I was up early on Thursday and hit the road by 6 to begin the drive to Kingston via Josh’s place in Bolton.

My plan was to drive to almost Flint, MI – about 675 miles by six and spend the night there. Well I forgot about the time change and arrived by 5:15. Left around 7:30 on Friday morning and made it to a hotel outside Toronto in Brampton and went to Joshua’s for dinner and to play with Arya & Cyrus. It was a fun night as they hugged me almost right away and seemed super stoked to see me. Next morning, they came to my hotel (where I’d been upgraded to a Jacuzzi suite – nice for a free night!) and they had a blast in the tub with bubbles (I had enjoyed a soak myself the night before – not often we get a chance to soak in a tub living on the road).

I heard today from the camera repair place where our Nikon went, that it is repaired and should be at Kathi’s in a couple of days – one down, one to go!

We left the hotel just after ten with me finishing the drive to Kingston where I went directly to the care facility where my Mom lives. She was surprised and so happy to see me (I had not told her I was coming at all). I then drove to my youngest sister’s place in on the east side of the city where I stayed for the next five nights. I ran errands each morning and visited Mom each afternoon for three hours or so.

In two afternoons we did a 300 piece puzzle:

The weather is cold here again and we had snow Monday morning so it’s been too cold to take Mom in her wheelchair to go for walks so we’ve been doing puzzles and looking at photos of trips she had taken in her life, reminiscing. Saturday night I joined Cynthia and her husband, Serge, for another movie: The Circle with Tom Hanks (was okay).

I also heard today from the repair place about our waterproof camera and although they tried to claim it was not covered, I argued and they are sending us a refurnished newer version of the same camera and when I said it wasn’t worth the same as the one we’d sent it, they gave us the difference in an amazon gift card. Done!

Sidebar: A few people have asked me to put up pics of the inside of our rig so I have created a gallery of exactly that. You can also always check out Tigger on the Tigger tab on the home page. To see the gallery we just created, click on the link at the top of this page that says “Panama galleries” and you will see the new album called “Inside Tigger”.

The normal temp this time of year is 17C/63F and it barely touched 6C/43F today!  Kingston has had over 100mm of rain in the past six days and flooded fields, streets and basements abound around the lake.  You can actually see the lake level has risen.  Much of Toronto, Ottawa and large parts of Quebec are experiencing flooding as well.

Snow one morning but the tulips are still blooming:

Wednesday that big yellow ball appeared in a bright blue sky!  I went to Mom’s early so I could take her for an early mother’s day lunch since it was warm enough to go outside.  I pushed her wheelchair and walked 3 blocks to the main drag, Princess Street, where we had lunch at The Copper Penny and then we sat outside the manor for about a half hour in the sun on the patio before heading in at which time it was Bingo hour so we did that and Mom won some cookies.

Got an early start Thursday morning and made it to Chicago by dinnertime where I spent the night on the northwest side of the city.  Making my way east the previous week I spent $13 on tolls getting around Chicago.  On the way back I was taking a slightly different route to the area and only spent $6 and Friday I opted to go toll-free; took almost an extra hour but was not busy at least.

I arrived back at Christine & Matt’s by 1:30, dropped off my suitcase/backpack and then drove to drop the car back to Enterprise then walked the 5.6km/3.5 miles back to her place – it was sunny and high 60’sF so a pleasant 45 minute walk.

“Awesome” Matt had put out the garage sale signs and the garage sale started that afternoon so we worked until 5ish continuing to put out stuff while selling.  Matt took down the signs around 5, we put tables inside the garage and ordered a pizza for dinner and the three of us enjoyed it and beer out back by the fire pit.  All three of us were quite wiped.

Saturday it was up at 7 and setting up by 8; her mother and sister came out to help as did some of the friends from the neighbourhood. The weather was awesome – sunny, a slight breeze and temps in the low 20C/mid 70F.

Sunday was Mother’s Day and again a gorgeous day.  Josh and the grandkids video chatted with me in the morning, Serena called me in the afternoon and of course, I called my mom. After a walk with Christine, I packed up my bags and “moved” back down the street to Kathi’s. Both cameras were here (as well as our final Amazon order) and both seem to be working just fine – mission accomplished – one package more to come and I’ll be ready to pack or rather try to pack it all up.  Joe & Kathi had to go out to their daughter’s today and were staying overnight so I had their house to myself.  It was quite relaxing.

Kathi lent me her car on Monday and I went for my mammogram and a couple more errands.  They got home around dinner time and we walked over to a pub for appies for dinner.  Tuesday we awoke to rain but it cleared up by lunch time and Kathi and I did some walking in Lebonan Hills Park where we spotted two snakes and a frog.

Wednesday, I was up at 3:30AM with Kathi who had volunteered to get up with me and took me to the airport for a long day of travel through Atlanta (with an 8 hour layover).  It was SO good to get “home”.


and while the Cat was away, here’s what the mouse did:

Doug’s alone time after his isthmus crossings

Thursday, May 4th
I spent a good chunk of the day going through photos, summarizing by crossings of the isthmus report, catching up on emails, Spanish and little else. Friday quite a bit of time was taken up socializing with new overlanders, Mark and Saskia from England and Scott and Gail from Oregon who joined me here at ProCars. Both couples are headed north/home. I also got to put a little of Tigger back together as the rear leaks and repairs were completed.  That night I joined Mark and Saskia at a jazz club in Casco Viejo. They had previously arranged to go with our friends Joe and Josée so it was great to spend some time with them. After months of trailing us they will get to Colombia almost a month ahead of us. We hope to catch up to them there. Jazz club wise it was OK-a few opportunities to dance, which I love, and with thanks to Saskia.
Saturday I walked 14 miles to Cerro Ancon and back, through two rain storms. Was worthwhile though as the hill has some interesting history and good views of the Canal, Casco Viejo, the Cinta Costera, the Bridge of the Americas and Panama City – although it was hazy. Sunday, after two nights without electricity (due to two of us overlanders being on the same circuit) I got the problem resolved. Next problem was significant water  leakage during heavy rains, after it had been “repaired”, and then drying everything out, again.
Monday they recaulked the window and outside security camera. I walked to Panama Viejo but it was closed. Was supposed to be interviewed by local media (thanks to the owner of ProCars telling a friend of his of my adventure) about my isthmus crossing but the interviewer never showed. I tested the window and camera – still leaking. I’m getting tired of drying out the carpet and my bed.
Tuesday I walked to Panama Viejo again – third time was a charm. Surprising how big it was and that there was more to learn than I expected, given the reports of how little was remaining.
Wednesday we got the news that we’d have to drop off Tigger for shipping 5 days earlier than expected! Screws up our plans to go to the end of the PanAm highway in Panama (Yaviza), but we’ll make it work. The garage started to expedite the final repairs (more caulking, and some other minor stuff, and washing Tigger). I also walked to the Miraflores locks and museum that day. Didn’t learn too much more than I already knew from reading the history of the canal and transiting it, but was a healthy walk in the heat (16 miles).
Thursday, the repairs were finished and I got the bill and was pleasantly surprised. Had a frustrating evening though when I discovered my bed was wet from water through the fantastic fan, through the window that still leaks and then through another window that never leaked. Pretty sure two were from power washing (still to verify). And the water pump was tripping again. Didn’t sleep well that night. Got up at 5 and repaired the cause of the tripping pump. I got all the copies needed to do the inspection to be able to ship.
Friday I went for the police inspection that is required in order to ship – took only 2 minutes checking the VIN. I walked back in the afternoon when the form was supposed to be ready, but the system was down and I have to return Monday at 10 am. I stopped in at Tommy Guardia National Geographic Institute to hopefully source location information on the Camino Real. They were aware of it but couldn’t find any information, even after looking at detailed maps. It’s rather disappointing that so little care/significance is attached to an important part of their history.
Saturday I had a sweaty walk out to Camino de Las Cruces – walked about two miles of it when I got there. I had hoped to see more sign of its use/construction but it looks like any trail. No regrets though as I still got to walk where they walked and learn some more of the history. I inquired there about the Camino Real location as well and they told me with all confidence that it was this other trail on their map, to the west – this is impossible as it is to the east, and it would have had a name, just like the las cruces does.
Saturday was another attempt of sealing the window, testing it, then drying out the wet inside. I then got out a magnifying glass and saw two potential entry points. So early Sunday I caulked it myself and was able to test just after lunch – oooweee – no leak! Finally after at least half a dozen attempts.
I heard about the Desfile de Las Reinas (Parade of Queens) so decided to take the train as my foot was bothering me a little and didn’t feel I needed another big walking day after the previous day’s 16 miler. I timed it right as the parade didn’t get underway until the sun was a little weaker – 3:30. Still impressive how much energy the people exerted and how much was put into the floats. $1 beer was a nice bonus (only on the city side of the parade – $1.50 on the ocean side).
Monday I got the inspection permit, then I tried to go to PanaPass to get a toll pass. Learned that the station shown on all the signage doesn’t actually function/exist. I thought I was in for a longer walk to get to the PanaPass office but a gringo spotted me and advised you can only drive to it and need vehicle papers, but that I didn’t need a PanaPass for the toll road outside of Panama and he showed me how to get to it. I then went to the Afro-Antillano museum, but it wasn’t where the internet said it was. I searched again on the internet and it indicated an intersection that doesn’t exist on my map. I’ll look into it some more, but not sure I’ll go now.
Tuesday and Wednesday were spent putting things away, getting ready to ship, doing laundry in time for Fran’s return on Wednesday night.
We’re back together now and the escapes can continue!