Sunday, February 27, 2022

US-Canadian Borders: My Connection

This morning paper surprised me as I was familiar with all the names and locations in the article. It read as follows:

It was about the Canadian borders with the U.S (truckers freedom convoy) in Canada.

The three border crossings are:

  1. Coutts, Alberta, to Sweet Grass, Montana
  2. Emerson, Manitoba, to Pembina, North Dakota
  3. The Ambassador Bridge at Detroit and Windsor, Ontario

First, about the Coutts border. In August 2008, my son-in-law Raymond Warner III (the 3rd) and I attended the Calgary Toastmasters International Convention. On the way to Calgary, I was scheduled to do a presentation at the Japanese Canadian Museum in Burnaby, neighboring Vancouver City, British Columbia, about my Japanese translation of Joanne Oppenheim’s “Dear Miss Breed”. In fact, I was to deliver a dozen translated books to the museum signed by me for the readers gathering there. I thought I had enough time to travel in a rented car, from Vancouver Airport to Burnaby, but an unusual delay at the Canadian customs clearance made my arrival at the museum half an hour late.

I apologized to my audience of 30 people waiting for my arrival. Thankfully, the event went off well.

Raymond and I then drove to Banff (probably my 3rd visit) to the Calgary Toastmasters Convention where TM Kiminari Azuma was representing Japan as a D76 speaker and I wanted to cheer him on.

Raymond's Google direction in 2008 read as follows:

From Calgary, drive down 180 miles south, about 3 miles, take Blackfoot & Deerfoot Trails SE, take Crowsnest Hwy E, Hwy-2 S, Hwy-3E/Red Coat Trail E toward Lethbridge, Card-stone/Fort Macleod, turn right at Hwy 2, now entering US-89.

Coutts is 60 miles southwest of Lethbridge. I was close to Coutts but Raymond and I didn't go through I-15. Raymond wanted to take me on a tour of Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Teton-Mormon Row, Jackson, Idaho Falls, Craters of the Moon, (almost all are National Parks) before returning the rental car in Boise, Idaho.

I read that Coutts was a town of 250 mostly senior citizens, expanded further at Milk River, previously the site of an RCMP checkpoint. Now Coutts is the busiest port of entry for Alberta and Montana, seeing 800-1200 trucks pass through daily, and is critical to Alberta’s beef and meatpacking industry. The 'truckers freedom convoy' otherwise known as the anti-vaccine mandate protest has prevented hundreds of truckers from transporting their cargo across the Canadian-US border.

Next, about Emerson, Alberta. I visited my Toastmaster friend Rob Duncan in Winnipeg, Manitoba after attending the Toastmaster Chicago Convention in 2000. Rob was stationed in Iizuka City hospital, Fukuoka for a few years (near Kitakyushu). While in Iizuka, he installed Iizuka Toastmasters ahead of Kitakyushu. I wanted to listen to his motivation as well as background.

While in Winnipeg, I extended my trip to Regina to visit Verna Mitura, a Canadian friend I met at the Hino English Club. She represented the Canadian Government in agriculture, a career woman. First, I drove from Winnipeg to Regina straight and just saw nothing but wheat fields. So, when returning to Winnipeg, I took the border routes. I recognized Emerson on my return route. There was a huge International Peace Garden, located on the Canadian/American border near Boissevain, Manitoba/Dunseith, N, Dakota, where I spent a lovely afternoon. I traced border routes through Turtle Mountain, etc. and at Emerson/Pembina, drove straight up north back to Winnipeg.

Lastly, about the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit. I didn't see the Ambassador Bridge, but the name sounded familiar. It was Spring 1957. I was a lucky greenhorn fresh from college to accompany two 'big bosses' as their interpreter traveling almost all major US cities. Detroit then was a must-visit city for businessmen and that's where my Fulbright Professor McCormick taught - Wayne U! The doctor marked my English essay 99! When I telephoned, he was so glad to hear from me and invited me to his home for dinner. He told me that Detroit is the only city south of Canada at that crossing.

The article brought forth fond memories of my travels in the US and Canada and the border crossings, particularly with Raymond in particular. I kept Montana travel routings and diaries printed and bound in a booklet formatted by Raymond in my bookshelf.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

A Gift to Wife - A Trip to El Morro, Puerto Rico

“Imagine the refreshment of finding water after days of dusty travel. A reliable waterhole hidden at the base of a sandstone bluff made El Morro (the headland) a popular campsite for hundreds of years. Here, Ancestral Puebloans, Spanish and American travelers carved over 2,000 signatures, dates, messages, and petroglyphs. Make El Morro National Monument a stopping point on your travels.“

This is the 'catchphrase' of the National Monument of Pueblo, New Mexico. Beside El Morro I introduced in my post on the Pacific Coast, there are quite a few El Morro sites in the US. The one I know well is in the Caribbean, formally called Castillo San Felipe del Morro - the fortification on the corner of the islet of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, which is celebrating the 500th anniversary of the city's founding as the oldest city in the United States.

Spain ruled the island for about 500 years. England and the Netherlands were two countries to first challenge Spain. England tried three times (1595, 1598, 1797), all in vain, the Netherlands once in 1625. Then the US challenged in 1898 in the Spanish-American War and won.

I was sent to New York City by my employer in March 1963, when my daughter Yukina was only a few weeks old. My family joined me in June of that year.

I worked at 40 Worth Street, downtown, near West Broadway, renting two desks inside a medium-sized (70 employees) trading company dealing primarily in iron and steel chains. Two desks were for me and my partner - Guy Karaki, younger and a dynamic character, an excellent electrical engineer who graduated from Tokyo Denki University in Kanda, Tokyo. Both of us had to walk to the nearby deserted Hudson River warehouse to ship measuring instruments after the “Ima-Ima” (now-now) calibration to fulfill the occasional customer orders. We already knew that Americans use the so-called “all-in-one” multi-purpose testers, disregarding standalone ammeters, voltmeters, wattmeters, or ohm-meters. So, Karaki and I had tactics to sell, with some success, more sophisticated hysteresis tracers (priced at $5,000) to some higher-level institutions.

As the year-end approached, I mentioned to Karaki that we owe everything to our wives who took care of our children in an unfamiliar environment. Can we offer them a trip during the New Year? First, he looked puzzled, but consented. I finally suggested a weeklong trip to San Juan, PR.

I cautioned him the deal was between us. Do not tell anybody about our plans, not even our employers in Tokyo.

We purchased the tickets and provided detailed instructions on where to visit. Off they went. The El Morro in Old San Juan was included in the plan. We babysat the kids. We thanked them in an unorthodox way then and we loved listening to them talk about their trip.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Karaki passed away after returning to Japan and Karaki himself passed away about 10 years ago. RIP to both. Amen.