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The weather has been gorgeous the whole trip so far. It looks like it’ll hold until Edmonton, where weather.com suggests “cold and rainy.” That’s two days out, though, so it’s hard to say. It’s still hitting 80 degrees Fahrenheit and has been all through every state/province so far; George has a thing that shows the external temperature, and it got up to 82, in Manitoba, yesterday. I figured I’d be wearing my jacket by now. Not complaining, just sharing my experience. :D

As I move north, I’m noticing some autumn colors in the trees–when there are trees. North Dakota was a little sparse, as was a lot of Manitoba. Half of Wisconsin was sparse, and half was this beautiful, hilly, tree-y area with rock upcroppings(?); that was where I first noticed some color change in the trees. Part of my drive yesterday seemed to be moving into some hills and tree-covered areas, as well, so I’m pretty excited to see what today holds. I’m a smidge further south than I’d originally anticipated (I did ponder driving through Regina–locals seem to pronounce this with a hard “i”–but decided against … and the GPS decided for, so that’s where I’ll be this afternoon–I’m hoping to make Saskatoon today, which will put me right on schedule).

The schedule in my head now looks kind of like this (though I still haven’t sat down and really examined The Milepost the way I’d hoped to):
* 9/1 – Indiana/Michigan border – 329.2 miles
* 9/2 – Madison, WI – 283.9 miles (that’s a measure to my morning coffee, not to my friends’ house)
* 9/3 – Fargo, ND – 553.9 miles (that will be the record for the trip)
* 9/4 – Brandon, MB – 348.9 miles (see? shorter? not worth it to drive so much in one day that I can’t the next)

* 9/5 – Saskatoon, SK – 385 miles
* 9/6 – Edmonton, Alberta – 326 mi
* 9/7 – Dawson Creek, British Columbia – 367 mi – beginning of the Alcan
* 9/8 – Fort Nelson, British Columbia – 283 mi
* 9/9 – Watson Lake, Yukon – 318 mi
* 9/10 – Haines Junction, Yukon (stopping in Whitehorse) – 367 mi
* 9/11 – Tok, AK – 293 mi (and customs)
* 9/12 – Anchorage, AK – 320 miles

I was going to try to go a little further per day to get into Anchorage by Friday, to sign the lease on my apartment. But I just don’t think it can be done. There’s little enough between stops that, unless I want to sleep in the car, I’m kind of going to have to go with these locations and mileages. It sounds like the woman at the rental company might be willing to meet me on Saturday. So, fingers crossed, there. Also, that puts me in town in time for the last farmer’s market of the season!

The other thing that occurred to me, while I was driving, that I meant to mention, was that maybe this is the right way to do this move. I think a flight and, bam, I’m in Anchorage… that might be a little too sudden. This really gives me time to think and transition and absorb the change. Also, I’m on the road all day and too tired when I get to the hotel to really be doing much, with respect to the library world. It’s a good break.

I do wish I had a travel companion. The birds are by turns wonderful/adorable and miserable/screamy, much like a travel companion might be. But they aren’t interested in my snark about Minnesota drivers (seriously, people, you have all this space out here–use it and don’t merge in front of me and then slow down!), and they don’t tell me jokes or sing along with musicals with me. (If the government has a monitoring device in my vehicle–there’s no reason to believe they do, except that it’s funny–I pity the fool who has to listen to it. All of Dr. Horrible is more or less sung in my range, but some of the other things I like singing along with aren’t.) I could make better time with another driver, as well, obviously.

So, if anyone’s reading this blog and pondering doing a similar trip… take someone with you. For real. If you have an unemployed friend with a penchant for travel, offer to buy their ticket back home. It would be money well spent, not just logistically (more driving per day) but also for companionship. I’m not desperately lonely, but I’m missing conversation… as Dale can tell you. I think we spent an hour and a half or more on Skype last night. … I’d just call more people when I take breaks, but I think Verizon would be really terrible to me, as far as roaming charges go. :/

Anyway, didn’t mean to end on a complainy note. Really, the trip’s been going well. I’m tired, but holding up. I like Comfort Inn a lot. Motel 6 is also fine–the one in Fargo seemed like some sort of weird dorm, in some ways–though I wish they had wifi. Super 8 is my least favorite, just because that one branch was built out of cardboard; I’d give them another chance, figuring that can’t always be the case. But, yeah, I’ve been sleeping OK. The birds are holding up all right. (They get really grumpy after about 4pm, on the road. But so do I, so that’s OK.) Like I said, beautiful weather. So, you know, things are good.

Also, I’m far enough north that all the motel parking spots have electrical outlets.

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So, here I am, in Brandon, Manitoba. The GPS disagrees with Google Maps on big decisions, and I don’t know why. It wanted me to drive back down I-29 and get on I-94, this morning. (Since I’d already wasted a bunch of time driving past Fargo–it did not impress me–and then driving back, when I learned that there aren’t motels between Fargo and Grand Forks, I was disinclined to acquiesce to its suggestion. Also, I wanted to get out of the US before the holiday traffic started.) Now, it has me taking 1 all the way across Canada, rather than going the faster way to Saskatoon, then hopping on 1 (aka the Trans-Canada Highway). I didn’t really notice until I was committed to the route. So, there you go, I guess I’m taking the south road.

Things have been going OK, mostly. Some bloopers: The GPS thing. The motel-search thing. Grace broke a blood feather, and it bled (just a little) two nights… pretty much up until I bought styptic powder, which I have not yet (knock on wood) applied. The other night I got a beer with one of my Madison friends at BW3 (does anyone know where the third W comes from?) and had a hard time walking straight–who knew “pint” was not the standard size? Today, I drove away from a gas station with my fuel thing open; I heard it making noise and realized it just before a car full of guys–who seemed friendly and hippie-ish–passed me and indicated it. I think they saw the tail end of a curse word–one of the obvious ones–because they moved from pointing helpfully to laughing sympathetically, then drove off. Also, we could solve the continent’s power problems by installing wind generators along the Trans-Canada Highway in Manitoba. Seriously, the cross-winds were terrible. Are terrible, always, I suspect. And the non-highwayness of it is very strange, to me. There are traffic lights, which isn’t so strange after life in northern Virginia, but there are these weird cross-roads where people have to speed across the highway… two of those people, right in front of me, were tractor trailers; I had to pretty much stop, to keep from hitting them. All over ND and MB, it’s super flat, and it’s hard not to get distracted by the antennas when I see them–they’re huge, and they must have awesome coverage. (No, seriously, it seems like Canada has taller antennas.) Which is to say, I had to correct so as not to drive off the road, one or two times, so now I try not to look at them.

I found a fruit stand! I can’t get the photo off my phone, because Canada is apparently a “roaming” area for Verizon (not just “extended network”). Eventually, I will. It’s notable because there were none between Pennsylvania and Manitoba! I had this fantastic Wisconsin cheese and some Triscuits, but no tasty fruit to go with them. The first couple stands in MB had signs that said “turn now,” rather than “turn in 3km”; the people who planned well made the sale! (Maybe I will spin this into a library-themed post, at some point in the future.) Other photos I promise: a field of sunflowers (out the side window), some kind of giant grain-processing thing (out the side window … taken because man are those things huge!), a poor picture of the Budweiser plant, and probably some other things. I didn’t get any photos of it, but the soil in North Dakota is this weird blackish brown.

The Canadian border crossing was painless. I had to park and go into the office, but nobody wanted to see the birds or make me fill out a form or anything. They just wanted to see the health certificates and have me wait five minutes, and then I was on my way.

Two days without being able to really post–I know more happened. But I’m super sleepy and kind of distracted. I’ll share my pictures, and that’ll be the end of today’s post. I’ll do what I can to find Internet-enabled accommodations tomorrow, as well, since the phone’s spazzy.

There’s the car, packed. There’s Grace, in front of the Pittsburgh skyline from 279. There’s a truck being dragged, so that it faces like it’s driving toward you, which terrifies me. There’s the Chicago skyline from … maybe too far away to see it well. And there’s a mobile chapel, which I found rather strange (note the antenna … whoa). My Twitter stream has a picture of me in front of the Wisconsin sign (Dale’s right–it was an awful picture of me) and a picture of a car dragging a big cheeseburger and ice cream cone, which seemed odd.

Seriously, I’m distracted, so, you know, sorry if the phrasing and paragraph structure are a little weak. I’ll compose better tomorrow. ;)

Apparently, Fargo hotels make you choose between pet-friendliness or internet-access…ness.  But other than that, all is well.

Tomorrow: Canada!

On the home front, I found the floor of the bedroom, and have turned up a number of items that had been presumed-lost durring the last month’s frantic packing. So I’ll be getting friendly with the post office in a couple weeks. But first, to straighten up the rest of this disaster area enough for a new roommate to put their stuff down.

Finally… WordPress and Opera’s spell check don’t seem to get along, so I absolve myself of responsibility for any misspellings.

I’ll keep this post quick, since the birds are in the car. My phone’s not working (maybe I should have updated my preferred roaming provider list, or whatever that’s called–crud). I went to a coffee shop for wifi, to let everyone know all’s well.

Real post later tonight or after my drive tomorrow. For today: weather was great, and I hate Chicago drivers/driving with a fiery passion; I hope never EVER to have to drive to/through/near Chicago again and will go hundreds of miles out of my way to make sure that’s the case. Also, oases above highways are strange. Also-also, the birds were grumpy–will have to check their wings, since I know one got damaged at some point last night or this morning, though all the evidence points to it having healed.

I reserve the right to edit this for language, grammar, punctuation, or meaning later. :)

Distance: 329.2 miles (from the gas station in Pittsburgh). George has also passed the thousand-mile mark. And made slightly above her rated highway miles-per-gallon pretty much the whole time, which is awesome, considering that she’s loaded down!

Not much else to report. I went further than I’d planned–into Indiana, instead of stopping on the Ohio border. I didn’t sleep a lot last night, so I sort of had to stop when I did, to stay safe. No sense in worrying about trying to get ahead of schedule, yet: tomorrow’s stopping point is set. (Safety note: I wouldn’t have gone further today even if that weren’t the case!) I have a couple of pictures, but they have to stay on my phone until I get to a better place to send them–this motel blocks Verizon’s wireless, it seems. (Besides, Gmail’s down.) Dale has the “real camera,” so all of my pictures will be taken with the phone, until I find myself at a Costco, to pick up a new camera.

The birds did great. The plants seem a little wilted. I’m dehydrated, but will be having some water before I sleep tonight.

Playlist (roughly in order for today–and I probably won’t keep track every day): Eve 6 (great roadtrip-starting music), Dr. Horrible, Once More With Feeling (the Buffy musical :)), 2 Girl Talk albums, Repo: The Genetic Opera, Dr. Horrible, a little KT Tunstall, and a little iPod randomization.

Administrivia: I deleted the Platial map from the sidebar and replaced it with Twitter (which doesn’t help you much if you use RSS or Facebook, but helps anyone who comes to the blog directly). It’ll give a more up-to-date view of what’s going on. Also, I’m starting a Google Map of the trip. It’s less elegant than Rob’s solution for his cross-country trip, but costs me less in equipment and setup time. :D

The car’s packed (not everything I’d have liked to have fit in the car will fit, but that’s life). The birds are ready. The houseplants are ready. [Most] Friends are hugged. My iPod is loaded up with good music and audiobooks. The GPS is programmed and tested. Tomorrow morning we’re getting a bagel and coffee, then some gas, and we’re heading out onto the Turnpike!

I’ll miss Dale and Ella for the next four months. And I’ll miss my friends and family for longer–though I expect every single one to stay in touch online and as many as can do so to visit! I’ll visit, too: Boston in the middle of January (that’s mostly business–ALA–but I’m hoping to take a couple of days to see Dale’s family) and, barring great financial difficulties, DC late next June (also ALA, but I’ll base my summer vacation around it); depending on his work schedule, Dale will come with me.

I’m excited and nervous about the drive, and I’m really psyched about exploring Anchorage and starting work. It’s going to be good. :)

The car’s about full. We gave up for the night, but there’s very little stuff left to fit in–and a bit less space in which to put it. I’ll try to get a picture of the full car before I take off!

It’s weird to be so close to leaving. Seriously, it seems like I should have weeks left! (Looking at the apartment, that is certainly what one would assume.) But my Pittsburgh going-away dinner is over (I’ll miss people!); the birds had their vet appointment (clean bills of health); I got my Canadian insurance card; the car is outfitted for the trip; the bulk of the most important things are packed; and Dale and I are going back to my hometown for a day to visit my family before returning to Pittsburgh to pack madly, fill the car with my belongings, and head out. It’s just about time.

I still haven’t got word on that apartment. I haven’t reserved any motel rooms–or even chosen them for all of my stops, yet. (Part of me wants to have it all set up, and part of me really wants to mostly wing it, because I may find that I can do better than 6 hours a day of driving.) There’s a lot left to do. And I’m just going to have to be Zen enough to realize it won’t all be done in precisely the timeframe I had in mind.

ellaIt’s come to my attention that I have pretty much exactly one week to finish packing (or at least sorting–Dale assures me he can pack things as well as I can, provided I’ve pulled out the “want to keep!” things from the “sell” things). If you know anybody who needs a couch, an awesome indigo microsuede-covered beanbag, a very inexpensive table and chairs, or a coffee table, send them my way. If Subaru gets in gear with this car thing, we may even be able to deliver.

My to-do list for the next week (besides finishing packing):

  • Print and fax apartment application. Or demand check back and prepare to wing it. Whichever.
  • Print up a bunch of other stuff.
  • Get Canadian insurance card from Geico (and print it).
  • Upgrade AAA coverage.
  • Take the birds to the vet.
  • Pick up a case of cup ‘o noodles and an electric kettle.
  • Finish finding motel rooms along the route, while finalizing mileages. Make backup plans.
  • Get a bird cage small enough I can carry–two, if they’re ideal for travel. (This should be done before the vet trip.)
  • Finish up two time-sensitive knitting projects before I go.
  • Two friend dinners, a coffee date, another meeting, and, of course, the trip down to VA.
  • Drop off my SCALA notebook.
  • Don’t forget my passport.
  • Have a date with Dale. We let our 4-and-a-halfth anniversary go by in the rush, and I won’t see him until almost our 5th.

Speaking of… After I made sure I could get the time off in order to properly chair my committee during ALA Midwinter (in Boston, which isn’t so very far from Dale’s parents’ place), we got to talking, and Dale’s just going to fly back with me from there. It makes more sense than his trying to fly at the end of the Christmas rush, and, that way, Ella has two parents to keep an eye on her during the trip. And I don’t have to freak out about getting them from the airport while I try to move between apartments, at New Year’s. Plus, my birthday’s that weekend, so an exciting librarian conference and a joyous reunion with Dale and a visit with Dale’s family seems like a perfect present!

I guess I am not going to be couch surfing this trip, beyond one night with my lovely Madison friends, who have said it’s fine to stay on their couch, even if I have birds with me. Otherwise, I’m hotelling it. And driving very carefully. And not getting out of the car for very long at a stretch. … The trip will be tougher on me, but having the birds with me will also be somewhat therapeutic. Who can get lonely with near-constant chirping, right? :)

As far as the car goes, there is apparently a long line at the finance office at the Subaru dealer, but I’m really, really crossing my fingers that that’ll work out. I trust Grover to carry me, more or less; I don’t trust Grover to carry me and my three birds.

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