CN Train at Sarnia Tunnel

A busy and stressful day, as Rosemarie finishes off her application to immigrate to Canada, and we prepare for a trip back to Des Moines. The latter has not gone off as well as we’re hoping, though it’s coming off better than it might have. More on that later, not to mention a few choice words about Amtrak’s customer service.

Part of the stress was the result of an Act of God — or rather, an Act of Steve Jobs. Yeah, an Act of Gates sounds better, but this was a complete crash of the battery power on Erin’s G4 iBook, which lost her about five days of work, including a letter to immigration that has to be rewritten (augh!). Or, more accurately, an Act of an Off-Price power cord, but if Jobs hadn’t charged $100 for a replacement Apple power cord, we wouldn’t have been in this pickle.

The crash reset the clock, that’s how serious it was. Fortunately, it wasn’t a complete hard drive failure, as most of our documents remain. A small consolation, considering that although we backed up our files, we last backed up a couple of days ago, and the file we wanted was written yesterday.

(In answer to Matt’s question, yes, the G4 iBook has a hard drive (40 Gb), but as Andrew notes, the crash wiped the PRAM, which killed any file that we had open and unsaved. Now, it’s a bit of a mystery how we managed to lose so much, since Erin feels she is a compulsive saver, but we still managed to lose a couple of days of work on Plain Kate and her letter to immigration, which was the last thing we need. Fortunately, with most of the work done and us now firmly esconsced in our travel, the stress is letting up.)

So, it’s a little stressful here. And we’re about to embark on a journey to Port Huron in a cramped car with two kids under the age of three. Should be interesting times. But at least there’s the train trip to look forward to tomorrow. Vivian is particularly eager.

Anyway, expect sporadic posting over the next couple of days. This post will cover more of today’s travel, once I get a spare moment. Wish us luck. It should be fun, but we might still need a little luck.


(Update: 10:42 p.m.): We made it to Port Huron and checked into a decent Comfort Inn not far from its downtown.

We had an excellent drive. Vivian and Nora were happy through most of it. Nora entranced us all by reaching out and grabbing an assortment of baubles that we’d dangled from the top of her carseat to entertain her. Vivian watched DVDs on my laptop. We crossed the Bluewater bridge against a glorious sunset, with a purple sky and clouds in the background and the bridge girders in silhouette. Lake Huron shone back up at us. I wish I had a camera ready, but Erin took some shots and we might upload them.

Now we have to get up around 4 a.m. to catch the train into Chicago. Why are we doing this, especially given that Vivian has made the drive to Des Moines before? Well, now there’s Nora, in her carseat, needing to be fed every two hours in the daytime. At this age, she’s a lot more portable on an airplane than in a car, but Vivian is just old enough to be charged for her own seat on the plane, so that’s not an option.

And sitting between them, in the back seat of our Hyundai Elantra, is my mother-in-law. It was just bearable — enjoyable, even — in our four hours of driving (including a one hour stop at a McDonald’s in London), but imagine doing that for sixteen driving hours.

So we’re taking the train.

Rosemarie found us a good deal from Port Huron to Ocseola, IA for the five of us, at around $600, inclusive. Between hotel costs and gas, we’re probably not that bad off, and it would be impossible to get the five of us to fly for that amount. Unfortunately this fell through and we’ve had to pay more to change our itinerary, but more on that later.

I’m mourning the loss of the International Limited, which used to travel from Toronto to Chicago via Kitchener and would have been ideal for this, but the train died out after the September 11 terrorist attacks when an extra cheap bureaucrat at Homeland Security decided that it would be more effective to stop the train in Sarnia, have the passengers get off, board a bus to get across the border, clear them through customs there, and then take them back to the train on the Port Huron side. This and a desire to allow Michigan passengers a chance to transfer to a Midwest-bound train from Chicago on the same day (the Port Huron-Chicago remnant of the International, now the Bluewater, departs Port Huron at 5:15) probably would have had the train leaving Toronto at around 2 a.m. So, we’re driving to the train.

I don’t know how I’ll feel tomorrow at this time, but we’re still looking forward to the trip.

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