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The trip north 13 May 2001
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I've made it as far as North America. Since I wrote the last article it's been busy. Very busy. How busy? Imagine me not cycling. Imagine me not going to movies (OK, I did go to one movie, Memento). Imagine me not saying good bye to a friend before I left.

I had three weeks to pack everything up, empty the house, and move. That sounds like a long time. I thought it would be plenty of time. It was. But I still didn't finish emptying the house until about 8:30 on the night before I flew out. It was a rush. And I had help. But it was still rushed.


I was very good at packing. I started early. I was getting prepared. I was on top of things. As often occurs in such times of high confidence, it was merely a misunderstanding of the situation. I had more stuff to pack than I realised. First, I emptied out the my bedroom closet. That was easy. Then I dealt to the garage. Still easy. What I failed to realised was that my office and my living room held more collected items individually than both of the other two places combined. I wasn't ready for a garage sale the first weekend, so I planned one for the weekend of May 5, 2001.

The Garage Sale

I had so much stuff, I figured I should sell the stuff I didn't want to take with me and that I didn't want to store. The easiest way to do this is a garage sale. I dutifully placed my ad and waited. I don't know about your city, but in Wellington, there are garage sale hounds. Some of them are second hand dealers who turn up early for the bargains. I was warned by friends not to include my street number or my phone number in the ad or I'd have people knocking on my door or rining my phone at 5am.

The other thing I did was prepare early. On the Friday before the garage sale, I enlisted the help of Jonathon and Bronwyn to move things from the house down 20 or so steps to the garage. Items were, more or less, sorted according to functionality. All the electronic goods were in one corner, the kitchen items in another. Most items had price tags. I can't stress enough the importance of having items in place before the sale and the items in place before the day. The sale will be busy enough without people constantly asking you the price and bugging you while you are trying to set up. Hint: get everything into place the day BEFORE the sale.

From what I could tell, and this was confirmed later by neighbours, the street was crawling with bargain hunters from about 7am (the garage sale started at 8am). People were driving up and down the street looking for the sale. Unfortunate innocent parties were accosted and asked for the secret locations. It's a sign of a good neighbourhood that nobody revealed anything before the appointed time. They all knew where and when because I had distributed fliers about the street a few days before, inviting them to the sale.

By the time I walked down my steps at about 7:55 AM, there were literally 10 people within my sight walking up and down the street looking for my place. By the time I had the garage door up, people were lined two deep across the width of the door to get in. It was a feeding frenzy. Children and small animals ran for cover. This frenzy continue for three hours unabated. I was glad to have Simon (Jonathon's brother) there as my helper. Without him, it would have been unmanageble. For the first 20 minutes or so, I put the money into my wallet. This soon grew impossible. There was no room. Always wear cargo pants if you are running a sale. You'll need the space. By the time things slowed down about noon, my pockets were bulging with about NZ$2300 in cash (hmmm, about US$1250). But still, some things hadn't sold, like the stereo, which the following Wednesday.

Hints for a sucessful garage sale:

  • Don't tell anyone the address. I lived on a short street, which they could walk the length of in 5 minutes, so this was not a problem
  • Make sure you put a price tag on everything. Keep a list of the more expensive items and their prices.
  • Give the punters only one way into and one way out of the garage.
  • Set up the night before. Otherwise you'll be pestered during your set up phase.
  • If you like being woken at 5 AM, include your phone number in the ad.
  • Have lots of people to help. Some will just watch the punters, and act like security staff.
The cats

During the packing phase, the cats (Bast and Gus) knew something was up. Gus was noticably different. Bast found all the boxes and paper very amusing. She was in and out of things constantly. Gus preferred to be away from it all. In fact, he wasn't seen at all during the garage sale.

I placed a notice in the nz.wanted newsgroup and quickly had two offers for new parents for the cats. One couple had no cats, another already had several. I choose the one without cats mainly because of their location, they knew people I knew, and they had no cats but had had cats. Their location was on a quiet one way street with a large bush section behind their property. I knew the cats would like it there. I phoned them on Saturday after the garage sale and had a short chat. Then I drove over to their place, had a meet and a look and then invited them to come visit the cats. When I arrived, I called Bast and she came running out of the bushes behind the house. We couldn't find Gus. I looked under the house and behind the beds, and he wasn't found. We decided to wait a bit and see if he returned. After an hour or so, as the new parents were about to leave, we found Gus sitting on the footpath outside the front door. He was very tired. The propospective parents like the cats, and the cats liked them. Everyone agreed to proceed.

I was glad the cats would go together. I had been worried that I wouldn't be able to find a home for Gus as he was getting old (perhaps 15) and was having trouble getting outside to the toilet. Given that older cats are usually more expensive and that they generally don't have a long livespan, people are often hesitant to take them. But this couple were. That was a load off my mind.

I didn't see Gus on Sunday. I didn't see him on Monday. By this time, he hadn't eaten anything in three days and couldn't be found. I looked under the house again. I could see him but he wasn't moving. I called his name and he lifted his head, saw me, and tried to get up. He couldn't. I crawled under the house and put him into a cat box. He looked terrible. His face was shrunken. He wasn't warm to the touch. And he couldn't move. He just slumped in the box. I took him to the after hours vet clinic at about 11pm. A quick test confirmed massive kidney failure. The best option was to put him down. At about 11:20 on 7 May 2001, Gus was injected with a fatal mixture. The vet couldn't find a vein in his leg. So the injection was directly into his kidneys. It was quite quick. I thought I could see Gus realise that something was happening as I stroked his head as the toxic mixture took hold. He quickly stopped breathing and shortly thereafter his heart stopped. I remember thinking that he was still very much aware of his surroundings but just couldn't move. His eyes remained open. I tried to close them but they wouldn't shut all the way. The vet and his assistant left me with him for a while. Then we put him into a cardboard box for the drive back to my place. I cried all the way home.

Back home, I left the box on the front steps on top of the cage I'd used to transport Gus to the vet. Bast was sniffing around the box so I opened it to let her have a look. Satisfied, she kept sniffing about, but I closed the box and went to bed. The next morning, I dug a hole in front of a rose bush outside my bedroom window, next to the sunny concrete path which Gus used to sleep on. As I lay Gus in the hole, Bast came up and sat in the box which Gus had lain in all night. She had a short look at Gus and just sat there. I covered Gus up and went back to packing. The burial wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.

Bast went to her new home the next day (May 9). The folks in question also took the cat tree, my filing cabinet, my desk, my couch, the two-seater, and the one-seater. Bast had plenty of things to suggest that all her stuff had gone with her and just the food providers had changed. I'll be checking in with the new family from time to time and will let you know how things are going.


I'm not one to wear jewelry. I wear a watch. That's it. My friend Bronwyn has been an apprentice jeweler for a few years. In her first competition, up against professional and much more experienced jewellers, she won first prize. Very impressive. I'd always had this dream of getting her to make me a bracelet from two silver chains given to me by my parents but which I never wore. We came up with the theme of New Zealand mountains and visited the library. The result is a piece of silver which at a distance looks like a zig-zag pattern. But if you look closely, you'll see six mountains. Those familar with New Zealand geography will recognize scale images of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, Taranaki, Cook, Aspiring, and Mitre. Bronwyn did a very good job of this. I'm very impressed. And I'm very happy I had it done before I left for for Ottawa.

Getting things from here to there

On the Thursday before I left, I was busy packing things up. Actually it was more like deciding what to do with things. It was either pack, discard, or store. Most things were discarded. Some things, like books and photos were shipped. Others were stored either in the garage or at a friend's house. It wasn't until about 4pm that I loaded up the station wagon with two bikes, two computers, and five other boxes to take them to the Danzas air freight. Altogether, I had 127kg, or when volume was taken into consideration, 158kg. That was going to cost about USD$435 to ship via air from Wellington to Ottawa. That's fairly cheap I though. Perhaps I should reserve judgement until they arrive.

I guess I should also mention that my checked baggage weighed approximately 67kg. That doesn't include the carry-on brief case which contained several hard drives and miscellaneous breakables.

Last minute things

In the taxi to the airport, I arranged for the telephone to not be disconnected so that the security alarm could continue to be monitored. It's kind of hard for the monitoring company to monitor once the phone has been disconnected. I also arranged for my insurance to be modified to reflect that most of my possessions were now in another country. I ordered flowers for my next door neighbour, Michelle, who had a very bad day. The security alarm went off because I gave her the wrong code. Combined with two sick children under 3, it wasn't a very nice thing.

Bob (aka Carol) and her new baby met me at Auckland airport and we wondered into Epsom for some lunch. I also bought a box to ship my cellphone back to the Kennett Brothers. They'll take over the 14 months left on my Vodaphone contract.

Upgrade to business class

I was fortunate enough to fly business class from Auckland to Los Angeles. If I had not been able to, I would have screamed, yelled, and jumped up and down. I sweated blood to get that upgrade and nobody, short of a tall athletic intelligent red-head with freckles offering to be my sex-slave would console me if I didn't get it.

With my ADSL connection, I acccumulated many Telecom Talking Points. This loyalty based reward scheme allows you to redeem the points for many various products. The only product which appealed to me was the flying points. So I went off on 19 April to Air New Zealand to get my Air Points card. Then I transferred my points to my air travel card. A few days later I recieved an email confirming my transfer, that I had 44,000 air points, and that these would be available for use within 10 days. Off to Canada I went to find out about the Ponte job. Upon my return and on about 1 May, I called Air New Zealand to apply for an upgrade to business class. But I had no points. Call Telecom. Sorry, but you need a Global Plus card. Well, another credit card isn't what I want right now, especially as I'm about to move offshore. So I asked Telecom if there was another way to transfer the points to my Air Points. Here's the condensed version which actually occured over several days:

  • Get a Fly Buys card and transfer the points there, then to your Air Points.
  • I got my Fly Buys card.
  • Transfer my Telecom Talking points to my Fly Buys card. I now have 1749 Fly Buys points.
  • Ask Fly Buys to transfer my points to my Air Points card.
  • Sorry, you need a Global Plus card
  • Telecom confirm they were wrong about the Fly Buys card
  • I apply for one of my existing BNZ credit cards to be converted to a GlobalPlus card. I get a new card number within an hour.
  • I ask Fly Buys to transfer my points to Air Points.
  • Fly Buys say yes, you'll get 21,000 air points.
  • Ummm, but I was going to get 44,000 air points, where's my other 23,000 points?
  • Well, different plans have different conversion factors
  • OK. Forget this. Please transfer my points back to Telecom.
  • We can't transfer points back
  • I start writing letters to everyone concerned
  • I talk to Fly Buys to get dates/details etc and I'm told that my points have been transferred back.
  • In case it's a mistake, I call Telcom to confirm. Yes, the points are there. Please apply them to my Air Points card please.
  • The next day, Fly Buys call me to ask if I'd obtained a GlobalPlus number (not the card number, but a different number). I say no. He says, OK, given that you don't have this number, I'll just transfer your points back to Telecom. [WOO HOO! I think this was the "out" which the Fly Buys guy was using in order to bend the rules.]
  • Five minutes later, Amber from Telecom Talking points calls to say all the points have been applied to my Air Points and they're sitting there waiting for me. Thank you.

While I was waiting at Auckland Air Port for Carol to pick me up, I arranged for flowers to be sent to Amber. She had helped me through most of the above process and had been my main Talking Points contact.

So I think you can see why after all that work, frustration, and effort I was quite determined to get my business class upgrade even if it meant taking contracts out on other passengers to free up space.

I've also decided that the Air New Zealand points scheme is better than the Air Canada points plan. Why? Because on the Air New Zealand scheme I can:

  • Get one-way tickets with points.
  • Use points to upgrade to business class.

Needless to say, I'll be booking all my future flights via Air New Zealand. And not Air Canada. I only wish I found out before this trip.

San Francisco

I'm in San Francisco tonight. Actually, I'm in Concord, but that's close enough. I'm staying with Len and Kelleye. Len used to work at Walnut Creek CD ROM and Kelleye still does. She's that blonde with the convertible in which I was driven down to BSDCon 2000....

Last night we went to get some Mexican food, then came back and had a hot tub. They headed off to bed early-ish and I stayed up to watch satellite TV and have some Cookies and Cream ice cream. There is a BBQ here this afternoon from 3 and then tonight I fly from Oakland to LAX, then catch a late night flight to Toronto and then an early flight to Ottawa. Hopefully, all my air freight stuff will turn up that same or the next day. I should also ring my Mum.... Don't you know? It's Mother's Day.

More, later.

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