Erik's Move to Vancouver

Note: The following story is a collaborative writing by Joe and Erik; it may help to remember this as you read, as our voices are intermixed in the telling.


In March 2004 Erik decided to move from Columbus, Ohio to Vancouver, British Columbia.  He quickly learned that you can't move to Canada without a work visa, and you can't get a work visa without a job offer.  In late October, frustrated by the lack of response from prospective employers due to living 2500 miles away, Erik decided to move to Bellingham, Washington to focus on the job search.  Bellingham is 20 miles south of the border and an hour away from Vancouver.

Erik's good friend Joe lives in Denver, Colorado.  He grew up near Akron, Ohio, and had some things up there that he wanted to bring to Denver.  He saw Erik's move as his big chance to get this stuff.  The plan was to pack all of Erik's crap in the truck, drive up to Akron, pack all Joe's crap in, drive to Denver, unload Joe's crap, then continue up to Bellingham.  Since Joe was doing Erik a (huge) favor after Denver, Erik would fly Joe back home from Seattle.

It turned out that the smallest cost-effective truck that we were certain would fit all our stuff was also the largest truck available, a 26-footer.  We considered putting Erik's VW Golf in the truck, but quickly dismissed the idea and got a tow dolly instead (which was wise, as we later learned that putting the Golf inside the truck would have been illegal).

Shortly after the truck had been reserved and the trip planned, Erik got a job offer from Oracle Canada.  Everything had been verbal however, and they were working on getting him the official job offer before he left Columbus so that he could move straight to Vancouver, thus VASTLY reducing the complexity of the move, as it would remove the need to temporarily move to Bellingham before moving permanently to Vancouver.  As the departure date drew near, however, the offer kept getting delayed.  This situation was going to make for a very interesting trip out west.


Joe had flown into Akron to spend Christmas with his family; his flight in was, as usual, a story in itself.  Erik picked up Joe in Mansfield (Joe's parents were kind enough to meet him halfway).


Joe and Erik got in the Golf to go to work, and the gear shift wouldn't budge.  Talk about the absolute worst week for the car to break down -- it was between Christmas and New Year's so no one could get the car in to work on it, and we were leaving in three days!  Scott Colosky, a mutual friend, came to the rescue -- big time.  He offered to work on the car in his garage.  The day was largely spent buying parts for the car (clutch assembly and flywheel).  Todd Anello was good enough to take Joe and Erik to work (and to the parts store).

Erik's going-away party was scheduled for that night, so of course Erik was in no condition be near a car by 10pm.  We didn't get home until 11 or 12 anyway (good ol' Scott drove us home in his Yugo).  Erik had AAA tow the Golf to Scott's house so that it would be ready for surgery the next day.


Scott and Joe worked diligently for ten hours on the Golf; Erik tried to help, and Scott and Joe tried not to laugh.  At 2am the Golf was as good as new.  Erik groveled endlessly at the feet of Scott and Joe; they shrugged it off like they'd bought him dinner or something.  And it was Joe's birthday no less.


We acquired the truck and began packing.  Probably got all of 12 boxes in.


We finished packing around 9:30pm thanks to Erik's harem (Katie and Kelly).  We had our final meal at Longhorn and left Columbus for Akron at about 11pm.  New Year's was celebrated in the truck.  The Champagne really took the edge off the drive.  We got into Akron at about 1am and spent the night at Joe's parents' house.

It should be mentioned that at this point, Erik has left Columbus for good, with all of his worldly possessions in the back of the truck -- and we didn't know where we were going.  The written job offer had not yet been received, nor was there any word on whether or not it would be waiting for us in Vancouver when we got there.  This means that, at this point, we didn't really know where we were moving to.  I don't mean we didn't know which apartment complex we were moving to.  I mean, we didn't know what city we were moving to.  Actually, we didn't even know what COUNTRY we were moving to.  For some reason, we weren't really worried about this fact.


We got up and packed Joe's stuff.  We had breakfast at Cracker Barrel with Joe's parents, then drove to Alliance, Ohio to get the rest of Joe's stuff from his Uncle Steve, who desperately needed the space Joe's stuff was occupying.  Oddly, ladybugs were falling off of everything that we were hauling out of Uncle Steve's garage, but it's not like they were Africanized bees, so we pushed on.  After digging ruts in his lawn with the truck and giving everybody involved hernias with the 'Feats of Strength', we were off.

Back up.  Here we should mention that Joe is pretty tight with money.  Joe is also pretty creative.  This combination can lead to some interesting results.  Shortly before we left, Joe mentioned that we should just sleep in the back of the truck instead of wasting money on hotels.  Erik was unsure of the idea, but decided to give it a shot.  We decided not to mention this little detail to certain people (read 'our parents') because we knew they'd worry sick about us.  Back to our story...

Down the road from Uncle Steve's, we rearranged the stuff in the truck so that the couch (Joe's bed) was clear and the mattress (Erik's bed) was laying flat.  We then left Alliance to head back to I-70 at about 2:30pm.  Naturally, this involved the most efficient route: going back to Columbus.  We took 224 to I-71 South.  This afforded the opportunity for "Joe Wise, this is your life!" as most of his life revolved around 224 and, as an added bonus, we also got to see the blimp hangar in Akron.  We made it to Columbia, Missouri at about 1:30-ish am.  We managed to get the truck stuck in the La Brea Tar Pits of parking lots and had to dissassemble the entire convoy in order to get the truck back out.  After getting out and re-assembling the convoy, we found a hotel that had no problem with us parking in their lot.  We snuggled in for our first night sleeping in the back of the truck.  It only got down to about 45 degrees that night.  Didn't seem like such a bad idea after all.


We awoke and extracted ourselves from the back of the truck.  There weren't a lot of people around in the parking lot at the time, but those present didn't seem to notice two guys getting out of bed from the back of a truck.  We lit out for Denver.  Our initial glance at the map showed that we'd made it halfway through Missouri the night before.  Amongst high fives, we said things like, "Man, we're making great time, we really just have Kansas to get through" and, "We'll make Denver easy tonight," as well as, "Yeah, we should make it by late afternoon or early evening."  After the first four hours of that flat, desolate state, our tone was changed and other things were said, like: "Fuck Kansas, man.  Fuck Kansas."  After a bout with some serious fog, we finally rolled into Denver at about 11:30pm.  We enjoyed some showers and real beds and slept like lumber in Joe's house.


We unloaded Joe's stuff and ran miscellaneous errands.  We had dinner with friends and left Denver at about 9pm.  We made it to Rifle, Colorado at 2-ish am.  More importantly we made it under the weather that was collecting over the mountains.  We pulled into a Wal-Mart and settled in for a nice night in the truck.  Didn't have a thermometer, nor did we see one, but we're pretty sure it got below freezing.  The merit of this idea came into question that night.


It wasn't easy getting up, because it was pretty darn cold.  We were assisted by our distended bladders, though.  We awoke the next morning with commerce in full swing at Wal-Mart.  This time the parking lot was full, yet not a single glance was thrown, nor a word spoken regarding two guys clearly getting out of bed from the back of a moving truck.  We set out for SLC at about 11am and made it through the rest of Colorado, Utah and into Idaho.  This was hands down the most breathtaking part of the trip; mountains, canyons, and snow (off the road) abounded.  We stopped at a Flying J for our first shower on the road.  Admittedly, we weren't really looking forward to this experience.  We'd envisioned a sort of high school locker room shower -- a big tiled room with a bunch of shower heads.  Instead, we were pleasantly surprised with a full private bathroom with towels and everything.  We both agreed that it was the best $6.50 we'd ever spent.  We made it to Boise and made camp in the parking lot of a supermarket at about 2am.  Banks were calling it 24 degrees on their signs when we drove into Boise, and it felt every bit of 24.  At this point, we used every blanket we could find and were wearing our toques ("hats" to non-hosers) to bed.  We were so wrapped up that we half expected to wake up as butterflies.  So maybe sleeping in the back of the truck wasn't the best idea in the world, but we showed commitment, and in the end, it did work out.


Once again, nobody thought it odd that we were getting out of bed from the back of a truck.  By now, we had a system down.  Climb out of bed and go to the bathroom in the establishment in which we'd parked.  Brush our teeth with our bottled water, and then get in the truck and drive.  We hit the road for the "Great White North" at about 11am.  Once again, we stopped at a truck stop and indulged ourselves with showers.  Oregon and Washington gave Utah a pretty decent run for its money as scenery goes, but Idaho secured itself as Kansas Jr.  We made Bellingham at about 1am and parked in a Costco parking lot to make camp.  In keeping with tradition, it was really freaking cold, but we'd pretty much acclimated by now and learned how to deal.


We learned the hard way that Costco was a bad choice.  You see, when you sleep in extreme cold, you wake up with only one thing on your mind: urination.  Unfortunately you can't use the bathrooms in Costco unless you're a member.  So that morning was a lot of fun, as we ran from retail store to retail store, trying to find a bathroom before our kidneys exploded.  After securing dumping stations, we made out for the border at around 11am.  We parked the truck at a Duty Free shop, undocked the escape pod (the Golf), and attempted to cross the border.  We were met by the two meanest Canadian border guards ever.  Our mistake was honesty.  We told them we'd dropped a truck at the border and were trying to move to Canada.  But first Erik had to get his offer from his Vancouver mailbox, and subsequently, his work visa.  The border guard actually started arguing with Erik regarding his motives for wanting to move to Canada.  I mean a real live argument, as if she sincerely believed that she'd be able to convince him to turn the truck around and drive back to Ohio.  And all the while she kept mentioning that she wasn't going to let Joe through because he didn't have his passport.  Despite the fact that we were making extra effort to be very nice and passive, she ended the exchange with, "Well, you'd better tread lightly.  I think you're really getting ahead of yourself."  Whatever.  I guess she got her power trip and we had material for our entertainment for the rest of the day.  If only she knew what we said of her for hours to come.  Nonetheless, we made it across and into Vancouver.  We checked Erik's mailbox and he hadn't received his job offer yet, so we spent the day finding an apartment.  Luckily there were a lot of vancancies so we didn't even need to look in the paper -- we just walked around.  We found a place with a fantastic view and it was available immediately.  Perfect.  We drove back to the border, docked the escape pod, and drove back to Bellingham.  Now, if you ever question our geekiness, remember this part of the story.  We decided to get a hotel room that night.  Not because we wanted real beds.  And not because we were tired of sleeping in the cold.  And not because we wanted a bathroom with a shower.  We got a hotel room because we wanted an Internet connection.


At 7:30am, Erik got a call from Oracle HR.  It seemed that the person responsible for sending out his job offer didn't realize the urgency, so the offer wasn't going to arrive until Monday.  Which was going to suck immeasurably, because both Joe and the truck had to go back on Sunday.  HR got the lady on the phone and got her to overnight the offer so it would arrive on Saturday.  A palpable tension began to mount.

Second verse, same as the first.  We undocked the escape pod and drove back to Vancouver.  This time the border crossing was much easier.  This border guard was actually helpful, and didn't seem to resent a Yankee wanting to move into her country.  Erik signed some paperwork and got the keys for the apartment.  We had dinner with some of Erik's friends and drove back to Bellingham to spend yet another night with an Internet connection.


We awoke to that most displeasurable thought: this will be a day of immense stress and hotel soap.  If the offer didn't show up today, we would have to find a public storage facility to unload the truck into, and Erik would have to figure out how to get his stuff up to Vancouver without the truck and, worse yet, without Joe.  Half of the stress was relieved when Erik called the place housing his mailbox, and heard the good news that the offer had arrived.  Flippin' SWEET!

We checked out of the hotel at about noon, and drove the truck and escape pod to the border.  We were a bit worried about leaving the truck at the Duty Free shop again, so we instead left it at an abandoned gas station in Blaine, which is right at the border.  We drove up to get Erik's job offer, then drove straight back to the border to get the work visa.  Erik lost a couple pounds in sweat as he stood in Immigration with his job offer.  It turned out Oracle hadn't done their homework regarding Canadian job offers for US citizens.  It was so close that the Immigration agent actually started his "I'm just doing my job...I'd advise you to call your boss and come back on Monday..." speech, but a few sentences into it, he stopped and asked a coworker what to do who told him to give Erik his visa.  Breathing resumed.  Although this was the moment of truth, we had a feeling we shouldn't breathe too easily until we had the truck across.  We crossed the border again to the US side, redocked the escape pod and took the truck across the border to the Canadian side.  Erik had to fill out several forms, including an itemized list of what was in the truck, but all in all it wasn't bad, thanks to more nice border guards.  We drove back up to Vancouver (at this point border guards actually started recognizing us, and we even got a glimmer of sympathy from one of them), undocked the escape pod and unpacked the truck, which took all evening (we finished around 1am).  Joe managed to clap mirrors with a city bus in Vancouver on the way to the apartment.  3000 miles without incident, and we manage to break the truck within five miles of our destination.  Luckily the bus driver was more concerned with staying on time than anything else, and was gone in no time.

There was a little concern about parking the truck in the driveway of the apartment building.  Everyone has assigned spots, and the truck was taking two visitor spots and hogging half the driveway.  But we had nowhere else to put it.  Erik called the manager on duty, who was a German guy (I think) named Fritz.  Our conversation was as follows:

Fritz: "Dat's a big truck.  You got nowhere elss to put it?"
Erik: "If you can tell me a place, I'll move it.  Otherwise no."
Fritz: "I don't care if you leave it here tonight, but de towing company might ticket it.  Dere sure as hell not gonna tow it!  Where iz de truck from?  What's on de license plate?"
Erik: "Indiana."
Fritz: "Awwww, FUCK DEM!  Dey have no jurisdiction in de States!  FUCK DEM!  If dey ticket you, just trow it away!"

And away he went.  We were glad to have official management approval for the truck.  We actually slept in the apartment that night, along with 200 ladybugs that we'd transported from Uncle Steve's garage in Ohio.  Apparently, not all of them had fallen off during the loading process.


We got up at 9:30am (Joe's flight out of Seattle was at 4:40pm), cleaned the truck, got breakfast, did a quick souvenir run, redocked the escape pod and headed back south.  We crossed the border and returned the truck in Burlington, Washington.  Apparently, we were really falling apart at the end of the run, because Erik managed to hit another parked truck (hard) while returning ours.  No damage, though, so it was the perfect crime.  We undocked the escape pod for the last time and drove to Sea-Tac.  We managed to get to the airport at 4:30pm; quite normal for Joe, but far too late to make the flight this time.  We're still not sure how we managed to burn all that time.  And there were no more flights that day.  Joe called Erik and he drove back so we could have dinner and catch a couple movies in Seattle.  Erik dropped Joe back off at the airport at about 1:15am and he got on the 6am flight.  Perfect ending to a perfect trip.


It should be noted that leaving Denver the night of the 3rd probably saved us (it was awfully tempting to stay one more night in Joe's warm house).  The next morning there was snow in Denver, and we had the eerie feeling after Denver that we were narrowly escaping bad weather constantly.  This suspicion was confirmed when everything between Seattle and Vancouver got snow just a few hours after we arrived in Bellingham.

As of this writing (1/21/05), Erik is still finding ladybugs in his apartment every day.  He's hoping he can kill them faster than they can procreate, and that he doesn't get in trouble with Canadian customs, as he didn't declare them when he entered the country.

Moral of the Story

The moral of the story is best illustrated by an actual quote from the trip:

Joe: "I love it when a plan comes together."
Erik: "Or rather, the lack of one."

The End.