Friday, March 27, 2015

Trans-Canada road trip: Ottawa to Brunswick

Trans-Canada road trip: Day 6

August 19, 2012

Click for larger image (Link to map)

Sunday morning we woke up early and were on the road around 6 a.m. My sister sent us with some leftovers and snacks, so we ate those for our breakfast.

We knew we would have a very long day of driving. To drive from Ottawa to Brunswick, Maine should only really take about seven hours, but we had special circumstances that would make our trip much longer. Since I wasn't officially a resident of the US yet, I wouldn't be able to bring my belongings across the border until I'd had my immigration interview and gotten my US visa and green card, which we had already submitted paperwork for, but didn't have an interview date yet. Because of this, we had arranged ahead of time with my mother's cousin and his wife, who live in New Brunswick, to store my things at their house. They had graciously allowed us to do so until I had my immigration interview and would legally be able to bring my possessions into the US. While this was very, very kind of them, it did mean that we would have to drive through Quebec and New Brunswick all the way around the north and east of Maine to unpack our trailer before going through the border, which more than doubled our driving time for the day.

We managed to time our trip just right to arrive in Montreal right around morning rush hour time, and the fact that there was construction on the road as well didn't help matters much. In all the hubbub, we accidentally got onto the wrong highway and crossed over the river on a large and traffic-filled bridge. We realized our mistake as we were driving over the bridge and as soon as we got across we found the first place to turn around and headed back to the Trans-Can. Luckily the traffic heading back on the bridge was moving smoothly, so our return trip didn't take us too long. After finally getting through Montreal, we continued through the province of Quebec, following along the St. Lawrence River. Eventually we left the river and headed south into New Brunswick.

Sunrise from outside Becky's house in Ottawa
Interesting clouds
Quebec mountains from the road
Start of the watch for wildlife signs in Quebec, New Brunswick & Maine
Dirty-looking St. Lawrence River beside the Trans-Canada Hwy
Entering our last province of the road trip
Another wildlife sign in NB (the only official bilingual Canadian province)
Fun to see this along the road as we drove by

In the early afternoon, we arrived at my mum's cousin's house. They were actually on a trip that weekend, so their across-the-street neighbours had been asked to let us into the house. They were such a sweet couple and even helped us unload some of the larger items. We unpacked the U-Haul trailer in about an hour, stacking everything in piles as neat as we could manage, then locked the garage back up, returned the house key to the neighbours, and continued on our journey.

We arrived at the US border near Houlton, Maine about an hour later and got in line. We didn't have too long to wait to get to the front of the line and talk to the border guard. With me trying to get into the country, but not having US resident status yet, our situation was a little different and after explaining everything to him, he asked us to come inside to talk with a different border guard so the outside line could keep on moving. We figured this would happen, so we went in with all my paperwork that I had so far. We had to explain everything again to the border guard inside, and then he had to go talk to his superior so we sat on the benches and waited. Finally he returned and talked to us again. We were wondering why this process was taking so long until he made a comment about my possessions. We then realized that he had been thinking this whole time that we had been trying to take a full U-Haul trailer across (we were bringing the trailer with us the rest of the way to Brunswick since that was cheaper than dropping it off in New Brunswick). We quickly assured him that we had left my belongings in Canada and were just taking the empty trailer with us into the US (and wondered why the outside border guard hadn't informed him of that fact). As soon as we had told him that, he seemed quite a bit more at ease, and after he checked in with his superior again, he came back, gave us all our papers back, and sent us on our way. All in all, we probably spent about 45 minutes at the border, but we were glad it had all worked out that I would actually be able to come across and stay with Jonathan until my immigration interview.

Sun starting to set nearing the US border
Entering our new home state for the next two+ years

It was getting close to sundown as we started driving southeast on I-95 from Houlton, so I spent most of the rest of the trip carefully scanning the edges of the interstate to watch for wildlife. Fortunately we didn't see any and the three-hour drive to Brunswick passed without any difficulty. We were so happy to finally pull up to Jonathan's parents' house around midnight that night, and see the lights from the windows that they had left on for us. We just brought in the essentials for getting ready for bed, and quickly got settled and fell asleep after our 18-hour day. Although we had a great road trip and had been able to see some great places, we were very glad to have reached our destination, and very thankful for our safe travels!

- Ali

Daily driving total: 1,320 km (820 mi)

For fun and to wrap up this series, here is a map of our whole road trip across the majority of southern Canada. It was quite a trip to make in five days of driving!

Click for larger image (link to map)

Total trip distance: 5,975 km (3,712 mi)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

24 weeks

Another month has flown by. I can't believe how fast this pregnancy is going!

The big news to share is that starting on Monday, the little fluttery movements that I've been feeling off and on since about week 20 or so have become a lot stronger and more persistent. It's been so fun to feel these stronger movements, although there are two downsides so far: 1) it seems this baby's favourite work-out time is right around when I'm getting into bed... and 2) my bladder seems to be receiving most of the brunt of these little punches and kicks. I know this is still pretty early on and the kicks will only get stronger, but I'm already wondering if this baby won't end up a martial arts expert someday... Really, though, I am thrilled to be able to feel these movements and know my baby is growing and getting stronger!

And in other less exciting news, last week I finally bought my first pieces of maternity clothes. This is something I have been dreading since I was a teenager in high school. As someone who didn't ever really love shopping to begin with, maternity clothes shopping seemed like the most awful and embarrassing kind of shopping, and I imagined everyone staring at me and my baby bump as I entered the store or watching me as I looked through clothes and stood in line at the changing room. In reality, though, it wasn't near as bad as I had imagined all those years ago, although that could be because the four stores we visited were all consignment/thrift stores. As the number of clothing items I could fit into grew smaller (I was down to wearing one pair of regular pants outside the house and lounge pants most of the time at home), I realized that soon I would have to buy some maternity clothes, but it pained me to think about buying brand new pieces that I would only wear for a few months (well, hopefully not too many months after the baby arrives...). So I looked up maternity consignment stores in town and found a store that had two locations. Last Wednesday, Jonathan and I stopped at both, as well as looked at the maternity sections at Goodwill and another thrift store in town. Although I was self-conscious going into the maternity stores, no one stared or made any comments. In fact, no one seemed to notice us at all, which is exactly the way I prefer to shop. All in all, I didn't find what I was actually looking for, which was long-sleeved shirts (all except for three of mine are getting much too short), but I did find two pairs of maternity jeans and one T-shirt that fit me. After trying on the jeans, I really kind of wish I'd gone looking sooner; they are SO comfortable! I am someone who likes to wear clothes that look nice, but not at the expense of comfort, so I was very pleased to find such comfortable maternity options. Plus there's the added benefit of not having to fiddle with buttons and zippers during all those many bathroom trips, nor having to worry about forgetting to zip the zipper back up either. Now that I know these things, I may be tempted to keep on wearing these clothes even after I can fit back into my pre-pregnancy wardrobe again (or maybe I should say "if").

So that's the 24 week update. Baby kicks and maternity clothes mean it's been a pretty exciting and interesting past week!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Trans-Canada road trip: Sabbath in Ottawa

Trans-Canada road trip: Day 5

August 18, 2012

We got into Ottawa rather late on Friday night, and after visiting with my sister, Becky, for a few minutes, we were happy to stretch out on the air mattress she had ready for us. We had planned to make it to church the next morning, but we ended up having a really wonderful sleep and slept in too late to make it to church on Sabbath. After a relaxed morning and breakfast, we got ready for the day and headed across the Ottawa River into Gatineau, Quebec to go hiking around Pink Lake in the Gatineau hills. The lake was beautiful, and the hike was pleasant and not too intense, but gave us good exercise after sitting in a car for the past four days. After our hike, we had a late afternoon picnic before returning to Becky's house to get ready for the interesting evening we had planned.

After changing into warmer clothes, Becky drove us to downtown Ottawa where we parked and walked to the Parliament buildings, the site of the annual Ottawa Mosaika Sound and Light Show projected on the buildings. We arrived early, so we wandered around the lawns watching the large projectors being set up and tested. The show was excellent, giving viewers a history of Canada using projected images, music, narration, and interviews. I had seen a small preview of it once before when my family and I had visited Becky a few years earlier, but this was the first time I had seen the actual production. It was very well done and wonderful to be able to see and hear Canadian history portrayed in this manner.

Once the Sound and Light Show was over, we took the opportunity to walk to a few streets over to a very tasty food stand selling the always-popular Ottawa beaver tails (fried dough). This stand has a whole lot of different options for toppings, both sweet and savoury. We each got a beaver tail, and all three flavours were delicious. We munched on the treats, sharing bites between each other, as we walked back to the car, and then headed back to Becky's house for another good night of sleep before getting back on the road the next day for our final leg of our cross-Canada trip.

- Ali

Daily driving total: 60 km (37.2 mi)

Next up: Ottawa to Brunswick