Friday, August 31, 2007

One Tonne Of Fun

Today we decided to take a load to the dump. R's parents are moving out of their house in a few weeks so they were clearing out a bunch of junk. We had finished the bulk of our renovations, we were ready to toss out a pile of junk as well. It only took a little bit of time to load up the stuff from R's parents' place. Our place took a long time and filled the back part of the truck right to the ceiling. I had no idea we had so much junk. It was mostly stuff from tearing apart the old kitchenette and some scraps from building the new one. We also cleared all the detritus from the shed.

The dump (aka Spyhill Sanitary Landfill) charges $5 for any load under 250kg, which is a great deal. After that, they charge at the rate of $50 / tonne, which still isn't that bad. We thought that maybe we'd hit the $25 mark. No way. We came in at $48 (960 kg) -- just shy of a tonne. We just needed to find a couple bags of sand or something.

I took a few pictures of the chemical disposal area, but I missed the sign on the road that said "no littering" right near the dumping point. I couldn't tell if they were just trying to be funny.

Here's a gang of cast-off fridges, looking to make trouble.

With the work winding down, we had R's family over for a BBQ dinner. We roasted hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire. It was nice to sit and enjoy the house instead of simply being a slave thereto.

While our little niece climbed up in a tree, her little brother decided to play with the tools. Perhaps he will share his father's knack for renovations, but who knows if he'll be half as agile. You see, my brother-in-law Luke twice climbed into impossible spaces for the sake of successful plumbing. Once, when we'd already framed, drywalled and painted the kitchenette, he climbed through a tiny gap in the wall to get at a pipe that was leaking. He was INSIDE the wall, hugging the pipe, for at least a half hour while he worked. Another time, he was behind the stacking laundry machines when we put them into the new laundry room/ broom closet. It was so confined in there that he had to climb up on top of the machines to wriggle out the gap between the top of the dryer and the door jamb. Anyways, it looks like his kids are ready to climb things and work with tools.

While my other brother-in-law (Mr. M) was working on fixing the cable jack in the basement, Scott decided to help out by softening up this section of cable. After the BBQ, the family stuck around to help with some of the last details around the house. It was wonderful to see the project coming to a conclusion and things getting cleaned up.

Here's a banner to replace the one that's been on there for a month.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Open Wide

Scott likes to suck on things. The more things the better. In fact, When you help him get his soother into his mouth, he will often jam in one (or both) of his hands and start sucking like a maniac.

The boy sure likes to suck.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


The truck is now empty.
The house is now full.

A group of friends and family swooped down and unloaded the truck into our house in less than 40 minutes. It was wonderful. Unfortunately, now we have several rooms full of boxes to sort through before we can make the place livable. I forgot to pull out the camera until most of the crew had already left.

While we were off moving boxes, R's family was watching Scott for us. It's nice to have a few willing babysitters nearby. We've got one in training. Our little niece likes to hold Scott, but she's not quite ready for a babysitting stint longer than about three minutes. She rocks him a little too vigorously, I think.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Born Spectator

I have a fascination with television. If a TV is on and I'm in the room, I cannot keep from watching it -- even if the sound is off. We visited some friends once, and they turned they muted their TV while we sat and chatted. I was nearly useless in the conversation because I was constantly staring at the screen.

It looks like the apple hasn't fallen very far from the tree.

We've noticed lately that Scott has taken an interest in TV. I was watching a show a while ago with him on my lap and he stopped fussing and starting watching along with me. He particularly liked the commercials, where there was a lot more variety. He fussed a bit more when the regular show came back on (I think it was the news).

Yesterday, I propped him up on the couch and he was quite fascinated to watch the TV here at R's parents' place. An earlier show had ended, and a movie had started up. Scott was glued to the first ten minutes of "Anna Karenina" -- an adaptation of the lengthy novel by Lev Tolstoy. I turned it off after a few minutes, so he probably won't find out how it ended until he gets old enough to read.

I think he was shocked that I would interrupt his entertainment.

In the evening, we went to the "Grand Finale" of the International Fireworks Competition here in town, and we wondered how Scott would respond to the show. I figured that he would be interested by all the lights and sounds.

It turns out that I was right.

For the entire 30-minute "pyrotechnical display" his wide eyes were fixed on the sky. I think he might have been frightened by the whole thing, but he certainly wasn't bored. I worry that some of the explosions might have been louder than is really healthy. During the climax of the show, when things were getting pretty furious, he started to grip my fingers a bit. Other than that, he seemed pretty happy with the show, and was probably quite pleased when they announced that the team from Spain had won.

We were given VIP treatment, thanks to R's dad, who is kind of a big deal in these parts. He was able to get passes for us that got us into the "VIP Village", where we enjoyed some light refreshments and a chair to plant on our patch of grass. This is R's brother, who was quite at home in the Village.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Calgary vs. Ottawa

[If you have reached this page because you wanted to know how long it takes to move from Ottawa to Calgary, I can tell you that it is 3500 km (2100 miles) if you drive on the Canadian side the whole time, which is what we did when we moved in August 2008. We documented the trip in a series of posts, which can be found here. Our total travel time was 46 hours, driving in a moving truck at about 100 km/h and stopping regularly to change baby diapers.]

We've been in Calgary for two weeks now, and in that time I've noticed a few major differences between the two cities. Instead of construction updates, we'll start with a city comparison.

1. Driving Speed
Every place I've ever lived, people always claim that the local drivers are the worst ever. This is not the case in Calgary, that's for sure. Here, everybody drives EXACTLY the speed limit. It's quite a change from Ottawa, where everyone drives 20 km/h above the speed limit as a general rule. I think the difference is enforcement. The Ottawa Police hardly spend any time running speed traps, and they don't use photo radar. Photo radar is quite widely used in Calgary, and people have slowed down as a result. With everyone driving the same speed, they end up traveling in tight formations from one traffic light to the next. It's almost eerie.

2. Temperature
It could totally be a fluke, but we've noticed a significant drop in temperature between Ottawa and Calgary. This is a good thing, because the car that we bought here doesn't have a/c.

3. Tim Horton's
In Ottawa (as well as most of Ontario), each street corner is marked clearly with a street sign and a Tim Horton's coffee and donut shop. In Calgary, so far I've only seen one Tim Horton's shop that I can think of.

4. Help Wanted
In Calgary, every place of business has a "Now Hiring" sign out front, as companies struggle through the labour shortage caused by the tremendous economic boom taking place in the province of Alberta. This shortage can also translate into service problems inside the stores. For example, we went to a recently-opened Home Depot near here and there was one guy running about a quarter of the store. We needed help with plumbing and this guy was there. When we needed some wire cut, it was the same guy. Unfortunately, he was so busy in plumbing that he took 15 minutes to come and cut the wire.

Scott is adapting to the changes admirably. His sleep has been thrown off a bit, and we're finding that some nights he wakes up more frequently than before. We've discovered that he giggles the most if you tickle his ribs while his shirt is off for a diaper change. He still chokes on his laughs a bit, but he doesn't slip into hiccups every time like he used to.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I Am So Sick Of Renovations

Twelve hours per day for the last 10 days, excluding Sunday. I'm ready to move onto something else, thank you.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Second Breakfast At Ikea

I managed to capture a few magical moments on film the last two days. For example, I snapped this shot of R and Scott hanging out together on the couch at R's parents' place, where we've been living for the last week or so. They're both cute, cute, cute.

Another magical moment was this morning, when I had the $1 breakfast at the Ikea store in south Calgary. This visit was my third attempt at buying new cabinets for the kitchenette in the basement. It's crazy how long you have to wait to talk to somebody in the custom kitchen section of the store. Once they accept your computerized layout and submit it for processing, you still have to wait for an hour or two while they round up all your stuff in from the warehouse. I didn't have a computerized plan, but I talked the lady into ordering me the stuff I needed. While I waited, I enjoyed the breakfast -- which was actually my second breakfast of the day.

R's parents came over and helped paint the upstairs at the house. It was inspiring to see R's dad tear through the upstairs, painting nearly every wall in one day. The upstairs just needs one more coat of paint and then it will be ready for habitation. This weekend we made a few huge strides forward in the basement. After all of our wiring efforts, my brother-in-law brought his electrician friend over to do the tricky work on the panel so that we didn't kill ourselves. Another few days of this pace and we might just get it all finished.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Totally Wired

There aren't any pictures for today, but there was a lot of wire. We fixed a few wiring issues in the basement (ie: the bathroom plugs not working) and modified it in a few places to better suit our needs. The first parts of the wall went up in the kitchenette and the old subfloor was torn out. With the electrical work out of the way, we should make great progress on the walls in the next few days.

Upstairs, R led a crack team in painting all the trim. We're nearly ready to paint the walls in the bedrooms and then move onto the kitchen. The sooner that's done, the sooner we can move our stuff out of the truck and into the house. The sooner we can empty out the truck, the sooner we can sell it and get it off our driveway.

Scott is as cute as ever. He is cooing less, but laughing more. He seems to love "Patty-Cake", and giggles quite a bit whenever anyone does that one with him. He's also become ticklish, and will giggle if you tickle his ribs. I've been surprised how much he likes to play with people. I'm so used to him being a non-responsive little newborn that I don't really expect him to want to play. It's fun to watch. Perhaps I should spend a little less time playing with wires and a little more time getting him to giggle.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Day of Destruction

Until today, we've only done things to the house that made it look better -- mainly painting. Today we took one big step backward so that we could take several small steps forward. Today we tore apart the "wetbar" in the basement.

At some point in the history of this house, someone decided to put in a small kitchenette in the basement -- likely to complement the games room next to it. There was a spot for a fridge and a microwave, as well as a small, ugly sink. Not only was the sink small, it was mounted in a counter that was very short (think 2 feet of the ground). The ugly sink was surrounded by poorly-laid tile. The oddly-conceived cabinets had no doors, but some sort of blinds instead. It was all very odd.

So we tore it out.

Here's a shot of Mr. S, my brother-in-law and general handyman. Just before this photograph was taken, he had his head all the way into the that gap in the ceiling. He was looking for a wire.

We're going to rebuild the kitchenette in a form very similar to the original, but on a scale fit for full-sized humans. Watch this space for construction updates.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

White Ceilings, White Eyebrows

This is what it looks like if you get enough paint for renovations on a bungalow and put it in the trunk of your car:

Today was the big "spray paint day". It started early (7am) and lasted all day (the rented paint sprayer had to be back to Home Depot by 9pm). The last person to own the house was a smoker, so we're painting EVERYTHING. We used the sprayer today to paint all the ceilings, as well as the doors and kitchen cabinets. I'd never used a sprayer before, but I learned quickly that you end up with a lot of paint in your face when you spray a ceiling. A friend of mine helped with the cabinets, and he said that he has to throw away his contacts every time he sprays a ceiling.

The whole family came out to help -- even Scotty. While we were upstairs working on the cabinets, there were loads of people downstairs working on the basement. One of my brothers-in-law (not the one with the cars or the one with the printer) was painting the trim along with two sisters-in-law and R and her mom. It's crazy how much you can get done when there's so many people to help.

I couldn't find my painting clothes (in the truck, like everything else), so I bought a set of disposable coveralls. I didn't have any decent shoes (truck), so I just wore socks. The socks got covered in paint after a while, so I ended up throwing them away and finishing the day barefoot. Now my feet are kind of sore from running around in the back yard, painting doors and baseboards.

I think I'm going to sleep in tomorrow.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Bureaucracy Of Cars

It is so easy to buy a car. But then what do you do with it?

This is the issue I ran into when we bought the truck. It took me 5 minutes to buy the vehicle, but it took me weeks to get it completely licensed and insured. In fact, I was using temporary permits on the truck all the way until Sault Ste. Marie, where I finally got an emission test done in the hotel parking lot and then went to the MTO office to get my plates. All the tests, inspections and licensing fees came to about $350, if you include the cost of two temporary permits.

Now we are going through a similar process in Alberta. When we rolled into town, we were handed two sets of keys: house keys and car keys. We bought a house without ever seeing it, and we did much the same thing with our car. I gave my brother-in-law a wish list for a car and he had one sitting on the driveway when we arrived. We drove it a few blocks and the deal was done -- another 5 minute transaction.

Unfortunately, the rest of the arrangements are not as easy.

When you move to a different province in Canada, you can't take your insurance policy with you. So, even if we use the same company, we have to start a new profile with them and provide evidence of our clean driving record. I was going to get copies of our driver's abstracts before I left Ontario, but I forgot (we were busy), so I had to order them. Also, to get the best insurance rates, you have to have an Alberta driver's license. We went in to take care of that yesterday, but we forgot to bring proof of residence, so we had to go find the purchase agreement for our house. I knew exactly where it was -- buried somewhere deep in the back of the truck.

Luckily, I had an electronic copy that I could print off the computer. The printer is also buried deep in the truck. We ended up visiting another brother-in-law's office to print it. He works only 2 blocks away.

We changed the licenses, but it cost us $70 each. We had just paid $45 each in July to renew our Ontario licenses, so we're hopeful that Ontario will give us some sort of refund. The lady at the registry office told us that was likely, because that's what they do in Alberta.

Thankfully, the license and insurance issues are the extent of our registration woes, since we are now working under the Alberta guidelines. Had we been in Ontario, we would have had to do a safety inspection, an emissions test and then pay 8 percent sales tax before registering the vehicle.

To conclude, here's a shot of Scott "hitting the sack". My mom gave us this sleeper which is shaped like a sack. It's very cozy for him and convenient for us (diaper changes are a breeze).

Friday, August 10, 2007

Arrival Into Awaiting Arms

Day: 6
Start: Moose Jaw, Sask
Finish: Calgary, Alberta
Time: 8 hours
Distance: 696 km
Remaining: 0 km
Harry Potter Discs: 14-17

The long journey is over. We've arrived in Calgary, and the Harry Potter series is finished. We finished the last CD over 100km from town, so we had another hour of silence to contemplate all that happened to him and to us in the course of this week.

Our day's journey was quite uneventful. We had lunch in Medicine Hat, another place that I'd always heard of growing up, but had never actually visited. As a kid, I had always imagined some sort of top hat, perhaps wrapped in a stethoscope. Instead, we found "The World's Largest Teepee". It was quite large, I'll admit.

A major part of daily travel routine was to feed Scott. With him needing milk every 3 hours, and the truck needing gas every 5 hours, and us needing food every 4 hours, we had to try to minimize the stops. Instead of taking him out of the seat to nurse him (which would legally require us to stop the vehicle), R collected the milk into a bottle to feed him in his seat. We changed his diaper during food and gas stops, which came along every 3 hours or so.

I had to include a picture of a train, even though this one is not that great. Starting in Manitoba, trains were a constant feature of the landscape. I couldn't believe how many trains we saw in Winnipeg, and the trend continued all the way across the prairies.

Little Scotty loves to suck. He's been that way since day one. If he doesn't have a soother (aka binky), he makes do with his bottom lip or his fingers. We've noticed that he likes to suck on his fingers as much or more than his thumb. That's how I was. My brother sucked his thumb, but I sucked my finger.

Even with the thrilling conclusion to the Harry Potter saga, it seemed like a long day of traveling to me. I was ecstatic to finally glimpse downtown on the horizon, and then see it grow larger and larger.

At the end of our journey, we had to pose for a few final photographs with the famous truck that brought us so far. For a while there -- following the towing incident -- I was at odds with the truck, but we reconciled during the trip. I will be sad to see it go when we sell it. It was fun to own something so large and so loud.

Our belongings hardly shifted during the trip. We'll only know once we unload everything whether there was any breakage or water damage. I would just like to point out the mobile closet that I put together, hanging from the ceiling. I couldn't bring myself to fold up all my suits and shirts and ram them in a box.

It was such a wonderful feeling to pull into town, into the awaiting arms of family. What a contrast to our arrival in Ottawa five years ago, when we didn't know a single soul. Everyone was so anxious to hold Scott and to hear about our trip and to show us the house that they'd helped us buy. R's family had already been over to the house to vacuum out all the cat hair (previous owner was a cat lady) and wash the walls (a smoker too) for us. After cleaning up our previous home, we were looking at this new one with a certain amount of dread. Having a few helping hands is such a boon.

I am so glad that we don't have to get up and drive again. I think I'm ready to try something else. Plus, I've run out of Harry Potter discs.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Moose Jaw Time Warp

Day: 5
Start: Winnipeg, Man
Finish: Moose Jaw, Sask
Time: 8 hours
Distance: 647 km
Remaining: 696 km
Harry Potter Discs: 10-13

We're in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and we're lost in time.

The map says that we are still in the Central Time Zone, but the clock in our hotel room appears to be running on Mountain Time. The TV appears to also be on Mountain Time. What is going on? Does Moose Jaw exist in some time warp, slightly out of step with the rest of Saskatchewan?

I'm not complaining about the extra hour of daylight. It makes it that much easier to get a good night's sleep. You would think that Scott would be thrown off the most, but he managed to go to sleep at about 9pm -- his regular bedtime.

So, Saskatchewan has given me an extra hour, but it didn't come cheap. This morning we bought diesel fuel for 83.8 cents per litre in Winnipeg. The next time we filled up was in Moosomin, the first town you encounter along Highway 1 in Saskatchewan after you leave Manitoba. Gas was nearly a dollar per litre. You can't really accuse the Shell station in Moosomin of gouging, though -- Winnipeg had the lowest gas prices I've seen on this whole trip.

You might wonder why we decided to stay in Moose Jaw, instead of the much larger city of Regina. Well, mostly it was to keep the driving distances roughly even for the last two days of travel. I also liked the sound of the name. I've always wondered what a place called "Moose Jaw" would look like. I think I imagined a lot of logs and animal hides. It's actually quite a cool little city, with a neat little historic downtown. They even have a little trolley tour bus that rolls around town. We didn't take the bus, opting to putter around Historic Moose Jaw in our own white bus. We get a lot of looks. I think it might be the Scarborough Address on the door and the baby seat inside.

This is the last night of hotel-hopping. Tomorrow night we'll be in Calgary. I wonder what time it will be then, and if it will still be 2007.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

From Kakabeka To The 'Peg

Day: 4
Start: Thunder Bay, Ont
Finish: Winnipeg, Man
Time: 9 hours
Distance: 710 km
Remaining: 1,341 km
Harry Potter Discs: 6-9

After some Hawaiian pizza and a bit of a movie, I dropped off to sleep without finishing my posting. I blame the time change. It seemed like it was still early, but I felt tired by an extra hour. Anyways, yesterday was a much more relaxing day than the day before.

Despite the air of seediness that surrounded our hotel in Thunder Bay, the view was magnificent -- 5th floor facing out on the harbour. Scott woke us up just in time for a beautiful sunrise.

This is the "Sleeping Giant" -- a rock formation jutting out into Lake Superior that has figured into Native American folklore for centuries. We took in the wonderful view, but we didn't see much else in Thunder Bay because we had to get on the road.

We made one stop just 30 minutes outside Thunder Bay to see Kakabeka Falls, often called "Niagara of the North". From what I've read, some of the falls' glory has been diverted for hydroelectric power generation, but it is still quite a beautiful site -- and it's literally steps from the highway (you can see the highway bridge in the background).

Since we're talking about Native American folklore, there's a famous legend about an Ojibwe girl (named Greenmantle) who was captured by the Sioux tribe and forced to guide them on a surprise attack against her own people. Bringing them down the river in canoes, she led them right over the falls. The Sioux warriors who were not killed by the falls were routed by the waiting Ojibwe.

Now you can safely observe the falls from a wooden catwalk for the low, low price of $3 per car. There are also washrooms and vending machines available.

I tried to get a decent picture of Scott and R in front of the falls, but he was too interested in all the noise and movement to look at the camera. Finally, when we got further away from the actual falls he was willing to look up.

Since this has been his home for the last 4 days, I thought it fitting that we get a shot of Scott and the truck. This is in the Kakabeka Provincial Park Parking Lot -- not far from the washrooms and vending machine.

Driving through Ontario has been an endless scene of rolling hills, dense forest and hidden lakes. Most of the time, we have driven on a simple highway, with one lane in each direction, with the occasional passing lane. It is remarkable what an abrupt change you see when you cross the border into Manitoba. The highway breaks into a double lanes, divided by a median, leading in an impossibly straight line through the quickly fading forest. We looked at each other in surprise when we were suddenly faced with open skies and rolling fields in every direction.

Welcome to Manitoba.