Snowy Montana Ranch
With the temperature at -23C (-10F) the power went off just as I finished cooking dinner. Having checked the out buildings and the distribution boards I phoned the power company. They confirmed there was a power failure in my areas and an engineer was on his way. With no alternative heating I wondered how good the cabin insulation was and how long it would take to freeze to death. The car I have the use of and my motorbike won’t start unless it is warmer than around -10C (15F) so if I wanted to leave I would have to walk. The power company had said the neighbouring properties were affected and as the nearest neighbour is 2.5 miles it would be a long cold walk in the dark before finding somewhere with power. The best thing to do was go to bed and conserve what heat there was for as long as possible. I had an unromantic candlelit dinner in bed knowing that if the power wasn’t back on by the morning I would, assuming I was still alive have to drain all the pipes before they froze. Fortunately the power returned at 1:45am. The cabin was still warmish and after checking that electric appliances were off I was able to settle down and contemplate my brush with a frozen death.
Cabins In Snow
The daytime temperature rose to around 5C (41F) for a couple of weeks which saw most of the snow in the valley bottom melt although there was plenty higher up and the pond still has a thick covering of ice. It was nice to go for walks without putting all the additional layers of clothing on. There was more snow and temperatures dropped below freezing again in the last week of January.
Martin Luther King Jr. day was on the 18th. It is a public holiday and the TV reported a number of rallies in different cities celebrating his life.
Deer Tracks In The Snow
There was a herd of pronghorn 'antelope' on the dirt road near the ranch one afternoon as I returned from town. They are a regular sight but this time they took off running up the road ahead of me. They are the second fastest animal in the world (after the cheater), capable of bursts of 60mph and a sustained 50mph although they were only doing 25mph running ahead of me.
I saw a bobcat on the ranch and even managed to get a photograph. I spotted it as it ran to hide in a ditch close to the drive as I was returning to the cabin. I stopped the car and set my camera (mobile phone) before getting out. As I walked towards where it had entered the ditch it ran off towards the creek and I managed to get a single photograph. I saw it again in the distance walking up the frozen creek as I continued driving towards the cabins. I stopped ahead of it and walked down the creek hoping to get more photographs but didn't see it again.
Bobcat On The Ranch
Deer sightings have dwindled away. There were some that used to come and feed on the lawn next to the cabin but I haven’t seen them for a while. The three wild turkeys that also feed on the lawn have been reduced to two. I was told that the most likely explanation is that they have been taken by mountain lion. Having been brought up to associate deer as cute, loveable Walt Disney Bambi characters it is hard to have to think of them as lion food! It wouldn’t be so bad if I actually got to see a mountain lion but sightings are rare. They usually see us and hide long before we see them.
Cabin In Snow
It is now a year ago since I took the bike to the shipper in the UK to have it transported to Miami. The SORN declaration was due to be renewed with the DVLA. If a British registered vehicle is not going to be used on UK roads the SORN declaration has to be made with the vehicle licensing authority (DVLA). It took two minutes to complete on the DVLA website.
I have been in North America since March 2009 but intend to make a concerted effort to leave and get a bit further round the world before the end of 2010. Progress could be hastened by a letter I received this morning from the US Department Of Homeland Security. I applied for a visa extension in November to stay in Montana until it was warm enough to travel by motorcycle then tour round the north west of the USA until it was warm enough to head up to Alaska. I then intended to travel south again down the west coast to Mexico leaving the United States in the autumn. The application was turned down because my travel plans weren’t detailed enough and copies of my bank statements weren’t sufficient evidence that I had the funds to support myself. I had thought the visa extension application which cost $300 would be a formality. They returned the visa I sent with my application which expired at the end of December with a covering letter saying that if my visa has expired I should leave immediately and that if I have overstayed future visits to the USA might be jeopardised. I have been here illegally for five weeks without knowing it! This trip is literally a ‘trip of a lifetime’, It's unlikely that I will be able to afford to come this way again. I was looking forward to travelling to Alaska but now there is a chance I wouldn’t be allowed in once I got there and may not be allowed back into the ’lower 48’ from Canada to ride to Mexico. I haven't decided what action to take yet. It's still too cold for me to enjoy riding the bike far.
Early February saw me researching my options following the rejection of my USA visa extension application. Without knowing it I had already been an illegal alien for five weeks before receiving the rejection letter (See Montana Ranch January 2010 blog entry). I couldn’t find a number to speak to anyone at the USA Dept. of Homeland Security, the Dept. that had turned down my visa extension application. I could however book an appointment at their local office in Helena, Montana on the internet. Booking the earliest appointment I could get it occurred to me that I would be walking into their office already an illegal alien. In theory they could clap me in handcuffs and deport me back to England.
Historic Gold Mining Area Near Helena, Montana
My main concern was that I may not be allowed back into the USA as I had unwittingly overstayed in the country while waiting to hear about the visa extension. My visa had expired in this time despite having applied for the extension within the recommended time frame. At the Dept. Of Homeland Security I was received sympathetically and advised that I could lodge a notice against the decision. This is a legal procedure arguing that the Dept Of Homeland Security hadn’t applied their own criteria in rejecting my application. If I chose this option it would require hiring an immigration lawyer and costs $585 to lodge the notice. The alternative was to leave the USA “in a timely manner”. If I left as early as possible I would not have a black mark on my record and should be allowed back in. Feeling somewhat reassured I returned to the ranch and set about searching for a flight out of the country.
Helena Dept. Of Homeland Security
I narrowed the choice down to Vancouver or Costa Rica. Vancouver was closer with reasonable flights but I was told that it rains a lot at this time of year and as the Winter Olympics were being held there accommodation could be hard to find. Costa Rica would be warm, cost about the same as Vancouver but the flight involved a twelve hour transit in Denver followed by an overnight flight to San Jose. I opted for the sun and Costa Rica. I will be leaving the motorbike at the ranch and hopefully I will be given a six month visa when I return from Costa Rica in March.
Montana Ranch Cabin
If I had been informed that I already had a visas overstay record jeopardising future trips to the USA I would have had to cancel my plans to go to Alaska in case I ended up ‘stuck’ in Canada. I would have headed straight for the Mexican border. Unless a warm spell came along this would have involved hiring a van for the motorbike until I got to Southern California. I assumed I would be able to exit the USA at the border without difficulty but read a letter in the UK Magazine, Motorcycle Sport about someone who had overstayed in the USA by six weeks and had his bike crushed by US customs! He had ridden into Canada presumably in the hope of getting a new visa on re-entering the USA. Instead they confiscated his bike and crushed it.
In an attempt to look a bit more respectable for US Immigration I got my hair cut before flying to Costa Rica.
Its been nearly a year since my last haircut
Would You Allow This Man Back Into The United States?
I’m trying not to think about my re-entry into the USA. I satisfy all the criteria of a bona fide tourist and have the funds to finance my trip so in theory I shouldn’t have any problems getting another B2 six month stay. However I was turned down for a visa extension with the same travel plans as I will be offering up to US immigration when I return.
View Down The Ranch Valley With Cloud Creeping Closer
Aeroplanes are one of the better 20th century inventions. There I was on a snow covered cattle ranch in Montana miles from anywhere. Twenty-four hours later, admittedly twenty-four very long tedious hours later I’m having breakfast in a courtyard shaded by palm trees in San Jose, Costa Rica. It’s early, 72F and getting warmer. At the rate I travel by motorbike it would take months to ride here.
Tired But In A Tropical Paradise
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