Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The calm before the storm

So, going back to December... when the storm was clearly approaching, and the storm was going to be centered on the mini, which was making its way slowly (as it turned out, very slowly) across the Pacific to Vancouver. Once the naval journey finished, I was going to have to go and pick it up and deliver her to Seattle and this would involve a) getting the car through Canadian customs, b) getting it through American customs and officially importing into the US, c) driving the final 150 miles from Vancouver to Seattle. That was clearly going to be the storm, and I was rather dreading the upcoming experience, but in the mean time, I had made it back to the US for the first time in over 6 months and was busy catching up on my rest and relaxation:

Starting with two weeks in San Diego - Torrey Pines reserve on the Pacific shore pictured here

I thought it was kinda cold in California, especially at night, but still a pleasant change from Japan... so, I could have done something sensible like head straight South to a warm place such as Costa Rica, but instead, I went North to Seattle to welcome in the New Year:

Fireworks at the Space Needle, while at a party at the Pan Pacific hotel. Lott's already covered a lot of this here...

And to go snowboarding for the first time in 10 months - Brodie cutting through the snow seen here. Snowboarding was OK (just bitterly cold that day), playing hockey for the first time in ten months was a bigger challenge as it turned out...

Also in Seattle, friends:

Iris and I went up to Queen Anne, where there's apparently a great overlook point for the entire downtown

Also... a bunch of you guys here in Seattle have had kids while I've been gone. Sam and Erin (and Jade), Brodie and Heather (and Quinn) here. Cat and I obviously didn't get that memo...

Ok, so Quinn's not really in that picture, so there he is now!

Jason and Myriah with baby Flynn... the kids don't seem to be getting simple names like Alex and Dave anymore, so I sure hope I'm spelling all these names correctly...

Even people who had moved away from Seattle (but were back to visit), namely Sara and Goose, were getting on the kids bandwagon! Talya hanging out with Theo here - he'd used french fries to get in her good graces the day before

So, in the end, I ended up spending about a week in Seattle dashing madly back and forth trying to see people here and trying (mostly in vain) to figure out just when the car was going to arrive in Vancouver and how long it would be after that before I could pick it up. On the 1st of January, Lott took off for Costa Rica, and the rest of us were excessively jealous, because a couple days later, Seattle got hit with snow... again:

Theo examines the state of things outside his house

And on Monday, the 5th, I finally got on an Amtrak bus and headed up to Vancouver to get the car... toolkit in hand, since it is, after all, the mini and expecting it to make the drive from Vancouver to Seattle without any breakdowns would clearly be foolish!

Four hours and one confused Canadian customs agent (apparently "I'm going to Vancouver to pick up my 27 year old car" isn't a common reason for visiting Canada) later, I was in Vancouver, which greeted our bus with plenty more snow, sleet and cold. I really, really wish I had thought to grab my camera when we passed a pair of absolutely massive snowmen on the way in - I'm guessing each had to be at least eight feet tall, or the biggest I'd ever seen. Alas, no such luck, so here's a picture of Vancouver's Granville island, thoroughly covered in snow instead:

At this point, I was starting to seriously wonder how well the mini handles in the snow... and whether or not that is a question that a single other Mongol Rally team has ever had to ponder...

Tuesday morning, I met Juan, the customs broker who was helping get the car into the country and we headed off to the downtown customs office to figure out the fate of the mini. By now, I'd been to customs offices in welcoming places like Russia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Kosovo, Mongolia, and Japan (among others), so I figured I'd been through quite a bit with this car, but this was the first customs stop in North America, a place where most people don't just drive from London, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect. What did I get? A bunch more pictures... so it'll go in a separate post, coming soon... so stay tuned!

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