In the weeks before we left, I thought we had our shit together. Despite it being an extremely busy time, we were still able to see most of our friends and visit family for proper goodbyes. I spent time looking at blogs about moving from Canada to the U.S. noting tips on preparation and found out everything we’d need to cross the border. The original plan was simple: pack the truck on Thursday, sleep on our mattress in our empty apartment that night, grab the cats in the morning and head out! Even with all that prep, packing day was an absolute mess. We cried a lot, we learned a lot.
When my best friend showed up on Thursday afternoon, the first thing that came out of her mouth was, ‘wow you two have done so much since the other day.’ This felt good. We felt accomplished. Unfortunately, the first impression of our preparedness was deceiving.
There were a bunch of things that foiled our plan of success. First, I didn’t know that the apex of the worst ice storm of the winter was on it’s way. We were worrying about so many things that snow wasn’t on our radar at all. In the first hour of packing the truck, the ramp froze to a solid sheet of ice and no amount of salt would thaw it while the freezing rain kept pounding down. Furniture and heavy boxes had to be lifted up and into the back of the truck, our trusty dollies were basically useless, and it was taking forever.When you’re moving with all of your stuff to the U.S., you’re required to bring a typed inventory of the contents of your vehicle. Every last box needs to be tagged with a list of what’s inside so if you’re asked where a particular item is in your truck, you should know where it is. I chose to write a number on every side of the box that coincided with the printed list, mostly because I’m paranoid and was picturing moving truck pirates breaking in, seeing a box labelled ‘treasured possessions’ and that’s that. This fool-proof plan would surely slow them down. It slowed me down! Organizing the list properly while packing simultaneously took ages and I definitely should have given myself more time to do it.
In the end we weren’t asked for the inventory but I’m glad that we were prepared anyway. I had three copies printed, one for us, one for the guard, and an extra in case a different person was assigned to go through the contents of the truck.
Finally my biggest mistake, I had refused offers of moving help from friends and family because I know that moving is the worst, Ron and I would be having emotional breakdowns about leaving Toronto, and most embarrassingly because I can be a control freak who likes to do important stuff myself. In our hour of need, when everything was taking so much longer than we thought and I found myself crying in our elevator because we weren’t going to get everything done in time, my phone rang and it was my mom. She had driven in the storm to the city with her partner Bruce and they were pulling into our parking lot to help us with all the last minute crap. We couldn’t have finished without them.At The Border
It was exciting to pull up to the Peace Bridge and find no lines at all. I had earlier scoffed at the border wait times site that correctly informed me of a 3 minute wait, which seemed comical on a long weekend. We were instructed to pull our truck over to a small lot and enter Door #2. Sure enough, a quick look around revealed a plain door with a simple sign above that read, you guessed it, Door #2. We didn’t have to wait too long and there were a couple complications that were sorted out with a bit of time but all in all it was a straightforward process and we were out of there in a few hours and back on the road with our shiny new American visas!
*Useful tip: If you’re planning on heading into the States and getting your visa approved at the border, do it during regular business hours. We thought that we could go at any time (we passed through on Good Friday) and it is possible, but it’s a lot easier for everyone if you show up during the work week.On The Road
Full of good vibes, we let our moms know that we were on our way and headed for Cincinnati, Ohio. We had booked a room at one of the Hampton Inns there, one of the few reasonably priced, cat friendly hotels that we tracked down in the area. Google Maps told us that it was going to be about an 8 hour drive to get there, but with our big truck packed to the gills it didn’t take us long to realize that if we pushed through we’d be checking in at dawn. I quickly phoned around and scored the last room available at a Hampton Inn in Columbus, although I’m still not sure if that particular location was pet-friendly or not. Erring on the side of caution, we took the cats in their carriers up the back stairwell and crashed for 90 minutes before grabbing some continental breakfast and getting back on the road.
We started day two of the road trip nearly two hours behind our tight schedule, tired, and stressed out. I wish we could have been more upbeat about things and had the time to stop and check out all the cool stuff we were driving by but we had to make it to our new apartment by 5pm to pick up our keys or we’d be homeless until after Easter weekend.Ron worked his driving magic and aside from a quick stop in Louisville, Kentucky to grab gas and lunch and we rolled into our new place a only a few minutes after the office closed. We knocked loudly on the door and a second later we were greeted with the smiling face of one of the leasing agents who knew we were coming and had stuck around to make sure we got in okay. I don’t know what she thought of the two greasy and exhausted humans standing in front of her but we were so elated that it was smiles and high fives all around. WE DID IT.
- Even when you’ve been boasting about minimizing your possessions, you still have double the crap that you think you have.
- Packing your shit in Ikea bags seems like a genius revelation: easier than carrying boxes! an excuse to go to Ikea! the folks at the lcbo are sick of seeing your box-needing faces! you can reuse them for laundry! Until you arrive at your destination and everything has spilled out and the stuff that remains inside is covered in gross truck dust.
- Do not turn down offers of help from friends and family because pride/moving sucks/feeling sad. My fam showed up anyway and we could not have packed our truck without their help.
- Moving during the worst ice storm of the year is not recommended. And yes, enough freezing rain will fall from the sky to completely envelop your 15 ft truck, the ground, and your previously convenient loading ramp in a centimeter of ice.
- When factoring crossing the border into your tight moving schedule, consider an amount of time that seems like too much and double it. Also you can’t bring your pets into the office with you, so make sure they’re warm/cool enough and comfy.
- Google Maps is magical human innovation up to the point when you’re in a race against time and the directions tell you to get off the highway, drive in a complete square and get back on that same highway.
- Renting a hotel room so you can sleep in a bed for two hours seems like a great idea until the cats you snuck in start screaming because they’ve been cooped up in a truck all day and now they want you to pay attention to them.
- Trader Joe’s salads and wraps are life savers when you can’t stomach the idea of eating fast food on the road. Bonus, the general good vibes that everyone gives off in there is a refreshing change from the sheer gamut of emotions that are happening inside your moving truck.
- The abundance of roadkill on American interstate highways is shocking. We cannot unsee the things we saw.
- If you’ve got a long move, grab a little cooler bag and some ice packs (we got ours for $3 at Dollarama) and take lots of water and healthy snacks with you. There wasn’t a lot of room in the U-Haul cab once the cats were in with us and we weren’t going to leave them unattended in the car to eat at a restaurant. This cooler of joy was everything at 4am when we were zooming through Ohio and even the truck stop McDonald’s were closed.
- You can hire movers that will show up (you provide dollies, etc) and load or unload your truck for you, same day, with only a couple of hours lead time. It was through the site emove.com, it cost about $150 for two hours with two movers and it was an absolute game changer for us.
- We had a two day drive but I packed us a bag of clothes and stuff we’d need for four days and I’m so glad we did. Once we arrived, all we could do was drag our mattress inside and sleep. When we got up on our first morning to get some basic groceries, we were grateful to grab what we needed and go without rifling through a bunch of bags.
- Pack a small box of stuff you’ll need to unpack and leave it right at the door of the truck to save digging around. Our box included paper towels, a small tool kit with allen keys/screwdriver set/hammer, scissors, a box cutter, hand soap, toilet paper, big garbage bags, and cat food/litter.
In our next post, we’re going to be talking about energy conservation and how we are transitioning from living in an all-inclusive apartment to paying for electricity, gas, and water.