Coming soon: the rest of the story!

For those who haven’t heard yet, we’re back home safe and sound! Sorry for the long delay in posts. We’ll be writing about the last couple of weeks of our trip soon. Meanwhile, here are some pics of us… this is my 2 month beard 🙂

Days 42-43: Fargo, ND to Winnipeg, MB, Canada

Monday, July 20th – Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Fargo, ND to Winnipeg, MB, Canada via Greyhound Bus

One more thing I wanted to mention about Steve and Sarah, with whom we stayed in Fargo. They really value “buying local”, not just with food, but with clothing, housewares… really, everything they can. This is something we’ve run into a lot on our trip, and has really got me thinking about what I buy, where I buy it from, and the impact of those decisions. I’m meeting more and more people who are really mindful of these choices, including the folks we are staying with right now in Winnipeg. But first…

The bus ride from Fargo to Winnipeg was not bad at all. There aren’t many stops along the way, as there aren’t many cities, and the countryside is quite beautiful to sit and watch go by, especially when the sky is full of scattered cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds, with a broken ceiling at about 9000 ft (insert push-the-glasses-up-the-nose nerd sign here… I’ve been learning more about clouds and weather after our scary experience in the thunderstorm). This area of North America is mostly commercial farmland, but was originally prairie, and retains most of the flatness and some of the openness, giving a nice big view of the sky.

I spent a lot of time daydreaming on the bus. We’re getting closer to the end of our trip, when I usually start thinking about home and about things I’d like to do and changes I’d like to make in my life, based on the experiences and people met during the trip. Thoughts drift to finding a good bakery with fresh bread, buying local produce and dairy from Central Florida farmers, and checking out the Homegrown Co-op. Making more things ourselves, both food and home related. Cleaning and organizing the house. Getting rid of that dang shed that’s starting to fall apart. Maybe I’ll start making bread and barter it for fresh sprouts from the Stedmans. Getting a bike stand to facilitate maintenance and repair. Learning how to preserve food – drying, canning, freezing, pickling. What works best in Florida? It’s so hot and humid… potatoes don’t last more than a week before sprouting or starting to rot.

There were a few random stops, when the bus driver would get off without saying anything and we didn’t really know what was going on. It was kind of funny. Eventually we made it to the border crossing at Pembina, where the bus pulled in and two immigration/customs officers got on. We had all filled out our customs cards and had our passports out, and one officer started at the front, and one at the back, where we were sitting. A few questions about our trip, and then we’re sent inside to the office, where we sit down and wait for an immigration officer to be available. It wasn’t a long wait – we were some of the first inside from our bus – and then we’re up at the counter, showing the woman our passports and customs card and answering a surprisingly large number of questions. Where are you from, what’s the purpose of your visit, what’s your business, where is the conference, do you have documentation for the conference… oh, I can see it online; what’s the website, how long will you be here, how are you getting home, how much money do you have on you?

I would suggest you print out all of this information if you are going to cross the border from the US into Canada. Receipts for your accommodations and travel, information about your conference if you’re going to one, etc. It will go smoothly and you’ll feel safer, being more prepared. The woman checked up on a few of our claims and papers, including checking out the Bridges website to see my name among the exhibiting artists.

I would also suggest you exchange some money before you cross the border, but I’ll let Amy tell you about that…

Okay seriously, we didn’t think it’d be that big of deal. So we spent the night at the Marlborough Hotel in downtown Winnipeg, about 5 blocks from the bus station. We unloaded our stuff in the swank hotel room and headed out for inexpensive Asian cuisine. Not much to say here, we ate and stopped and picked up a bottle of wine. We didn’t have an opener and so the store opened and recorked it for us. Nice relaxed night, every thing going smoothly, surely it would always be like this? No.

The next morning after a complimentary breakfast, we headed back to the bus station where I knew there were lockers. Things are going well. I ask if there is an ATM near and I was standing about 5 feet away from one. I put my card in and wait for the money, but of course…it said that it couldn’t communicate with the bank. Ah crap! Nathan says well it is probably that we forgot to tell our bank that we’d be out of the country. So I call the bank and set it up so I can use the card. No problem. Woohoo! So I go and try to use the card again, but I got the same error message. Maybe I just didn’t wait for Bank of America to undo the hold. So I wait 5 minutes and try again. Nope. Here I noticed that the machine wasn’t compatible with my card, no VISA logo or any of the other cards from the back either. So I set off to find an ATM in a nearby shopping center. I go up the escalator, look at the map and again I’m standing within a few feet of one.  Cool, I try that and of course it doesn’t work. So I head down the stairs and go into the Staples and ask if they do cash back and yup they do, so I find a cheap notebook and purchase it and put on cash back and of course it doesn’t work. Ugh! I didn’t have the phone on me so I had to walk back to the station. I walk back to the station and call the bank and talk with a different person and they ask me to hold (this is international!), but what can I do? I need money. Finally she comes back on and asks me to go to the ATM. I say okay and walk back and awkwardly talk for 5 minutes with this lady on the phone. I stick the card in and try the same thing. It doesn’t work. I’m on hold again. She comes back on and asks me to try again. The same thing. Doesn’t work. More holding. The bank can’t even see that I’ve tried to do any transactions. I go to another ATM in the same building, but it doesn’t work. I’m reasonably holding it together. I just want some money. Seriously. She finally gives me directions to a bank that is an associate of Bank of America called Scotiabank. So I went there and walked many blocks and finally made it and found the ATMs and took out a bunch of money, so please don’t send anyone to rob me.

More on our fun time in Winnipeg soon…

Days 41-42: Fargo Part II

Sunday, July 19th to Monday, July 20th, 2009

Fargo Part II with James, Daniel, and Raj

After staying with Steve and Sarah, we took up temporary residence with three young guys in their apartment just a few miles north. James was our Couchsurfing contact and the one who invited us to stay with him, and his roommates Raj and Daniel were also around, though all three of them have somewhat crazy schedules with night shifts, and half night shifts, at a pizza parlor, gas station, and nursing home, respectively. James did a long bike tour after high school, just by himself, all around the US – thousands of miles. Daniel had just come back from a bike tour with his dad. All three of the guys were really generous with their space and made us feel very welcome. James cooked us two excellent meals, spaghetti with homemade sauce, and stir fry. What more could you ask for? Well, he also offered to take our stuff to the UPS store, as you can see in the pic below, and dropped us off at the Greyhound station on our last day.

I finished boxing Amy’s bike, after wheeling it to the bike shop for some help getting the pedals off (I had the right wrench, just not enough torque).

Saturday night we spent some time with Eric, a couchsurfer who was in Fargo from Austin, TX and his cousin Reed, who attends college in Fargo. This was our introduction to Fargo’s bar scene, which is quite extensive, and varied… we started out at the Old Broadway, with its screaming bachelorette parties and thumping bass, and moved to the American Legion, with its excellent rock band and much more subdued, older crowd. Night and day. We had a good time, and decided to go see Public Enemies on Sunday, which we did, and enjoyed, then went out to eat at a nice restaurant.

More movies Sunday night – a crazy documentaryish about a street thief that if you google it, its just a movie NOT documentary, followed by The Bank Job, a Jason Statham movie (always fun). Sleep in a bit Monday morning, walk downtown to buy our bus tickets (a nice clean Greyhound station!), get breakfast, back to the apartment to finish packing, drop by the UPS store, and make it to the bus station just before the rain!