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User Content => Road Trips => Topic started by: vdeane on December 16, 2019, 09:29:49 PM

Title: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: vdeane on December 16, 2019, 09:29:49 PM
If there's anything this past year has taught me, it's that I can't wait for roadmeets to happen in places I want to travel to, because they might never happen, and even if they do, they might happen in times when attendance is not possible (it doesn't help that the northeast roadgeek contingent seems to have become less active as of late). To that end, I'm planning a "roadmeet replacement" trip to Montréal next spring (more specifically, mid/late April to early/mid May, timed so that I can use any remaining personal leave I have before I lose it later in May rather than vacation time, although I will have to somehow plan around the Utica meet and Easter). I'm thinking of having 3-4 (probably 4) days spent in the area in addition to my days driving to/from the area and my apartment, with the hotel on the east side as it's convenient from a travel perspective and that's where the cheaper lodging in the area is.

For the days in the area, I want at least one to be more of a toursty day (perhaps with one or more as a "hybrid" between tourism and roadgeeking), and I know I definitely want to see the rapids, the Mont Royal overlook, and one of the history museums (either the smaller Centre d'histoire de Montréal or the larger, more touristy Montréal Museum of Archeology and History). Another day would feature a drive out towards Ottawa/Gatineau to day clinch part of ON 417 I've only been on at night, clinch the Queensway, re-clinch A-5 (it wasn't completed when I was last there), and clinch A-50, with a stop at Chutes de Plaisance. Another day would drive up and clinch A-15, head back down QC 117 (possibly with a stop at Chutes Wilson; also possibly including clinches of QC 370 and QC 333, but I'm not sure about those; at least QC 370 has a nice view at the end, though), and possibly loop a clinch of A-19 and back down QC 335 (including planned A-19 up towards A-640 along QC 335). The two clinching-heavy days would likely be on the weekend, to minimize traffic. I'd also like to clinch the western ends of QC 132 and QC 138 at some point, as well as the Rue Notre-Dame/Av Souligny corridor that would have been A-20 had the freeway that became A-720 been completed as planned, A-730, A-930, the western end of A-10, the western end of QC 112, and the QC 116 freeway.

For the drive up I was planning on taking I-87/A-15, clinch QC 134, head over the clinch the southern part of QC 125, clinch A-25, loop down to clinch A-640, circle back to A-13 via QC 148, and then take A-40 out to drive A-30 (with a loop to clinch part of A-530 and QC 201). The drive back would be a loop up to Sorel via A-30 and QC 132, down A-15, and then QC 219/QC 221/QC 202/QC 223 down to get a proper clinch of the northern end of US 11. This would include a stop at the overlook on US 2 to see Fort Blunder (partly because it's interesting, and partly because customs has been known to be difficult at this crossing and I'm hoping this will be a good enough excuse for crossing there if asked).

So, that's what I have planned so far. If anyone has recommendations for other things to see, how to structure some of the roadgeeking, what things to do what day (I'm thinking of a drive up on a Thursday and a drive back on a Tuesday, but that's open to change), etc. let me know. I do have some concerns about the spring flooding that seems to be becoming more common, especially as it looks like we're in for a snowy winter and Lake Ontario is still high.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: froggie on December 17, 2019, 08:28:50 AM
Flooding's not a huge issue.  Your bigger issues will be the unpredictability of spring weather.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: vdeane on December 17, 2019, 12:14:12 PM
Well, the flooding this year was pretty infamous, and there was also significant flooding in 2017, so this may be a new normal (like I said, Lake Ontario is still very high for this time of year, and it's been very snowy too this past month).  I think most areas of roadgeek or tourist significance are on high enough ground, but I don't know the full extent of issues.  Better safe than sorry, in any case.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: hbelkins on December 17, 2019, 03:56:08 PM
Way off topic: What's the difference between personal leave and vacation leave for a NYSDOT employee, and why would you be at risk of losing some form of leave time and not another form?
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: vdeane on December 17, 2019, 08:35:27 PM
Way off topic: What's the difference between personal leave and vacation leave for a NYSDOT employee, and why would you be at risk of losing some form of leave time and not another form?
Vacation is accrued in small amounts (3.75 hours, half a day for me) per pay period and never expires (although any amount over 300 hours (40 days/8 weeks) is forfeited at the end of the state fiscal year).  Personal leave is awarded as a 37.5 hour lump sum (5 days/1 week) when someone starts with the state and then is "topped off" every year thereafter on an employee's anniversary (mine is May 22).  In theory, vacation is for planned days off, and personal leave is for impromptu days off or for occasions you'd like to keep more private.  In practice, how much of a difference there is varies by how formal or relaxed your manager is.  I usually keep a couple days through the winter just in case I want to take a day off due to snow or something else comes up, spending them over Easter and spring roadtrips to zero out my balance and ensure I get the full 37.5 hours on my anniversary.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: vdeane on January 02, 2020, 03:53:37 PM
As mentioned in the Utica meet thread, I've officially booked the trip for Wednesday, April 22 through Monday, April 27.  I ended up picking the Hôtel Brossard right off A-15 at the interchange with A-10 and A-20.  Here's how I currently have everything planned out:

Drive up: I-87/A-15, clinch QC 134 (stop for Krispy Kreme?  I usually do when I pass through their territory, since there haven't been any in upstate NY in a long time), QC 138 to QC 125, QC 125 and A-440 to A-25 (with a couple loops since the interchange is so large that it almost counts as 3-4 interchanges), clinch A-25, loop back to A-640, clinch A-640 (loop the eastern end), QC 148 to A-13, A-13 and A-40 to A-30, clinch A-30 (with a loop to clinch part of A-530 and QC 201 to A-20), QC 104 and A-15 to the hotel

Day 1: A-10 and A-30 to A-930, QC 132 ouest (loop to clinch A-730), QC 138 ouest (turn around when the border station is in sight, probably at one of the houses; this lot (https://www.google.com/maps/@44.9926404,-74.3095208,3a,75y,89.2h,78.89t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sXUQpWnl1MINdoJFSX4WEhg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656) is a bit too close to the station for comfort, especially since I'd be doing this outside my own country), take local roads over the QC 132 near the border station (that works out conveniently), turn right onto QC 132 est, continue and take QC 138 est into Montréal, quick diversion to Rapids Park, continue on QC 138 to QC 335 or QC 134, head back over to Mont Royal, take QC 112 over Pont Victoria back out, loop over QC 116 to clinch the freeway portion, back to the hotel

Day 2: Drive the new Pont Champlain, clinch the end of A-10, visit the Montréal Museum of History and Archaeology (the big, touristy one), walk around old Montréal, possibly visit the Librairie Bertrand bookstore (time permitting, depending on what's available in the museum's gift shop; I wouldn't mind picking up a book or two on Québec and/or Canadian history); not much roadgeeking this day, but not none, either!

Day 3: Take A-15 and A-50 (loop to clinch the end of A-50), then QC 344 towards Ontario, contnue on ON 34 and ON 417 towards Ottawa, loop to clinch the Queensway, head back into Québec, re-clinch A-5, head back down QC 105, take A-50 est, stop at Chutes de Plaisance, take A-50 and A-15 back to the hotel

Day 4: Clinch A-15, take QC 117 sud (loop to make sure everything is clinched around the end of A-15), loop to clinch the spur from A-15, probably stop at Chutes Wilson, continue on QC 117, take A-40, Av Papineau, clinch A-19, continue on QC 335 nord (loop to clinch through A-640 along the possible future A-19 corridor), possibly stop at the old Pont Athanas-David (just est of the QC 335 bridge to Laval), continue down QC 335 sud, drive Boul Notre-Dame and Av Souligny (possible future QC 136?), take QC 138 back to QC 134, QC 134 and A-20 back to the hotel

Return: Take A-20 and QC 123 out to Sorel, clinch A-30, take A-10 est and A-35 sud to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, stop to view a historic lock on the Canal-de-Chambly, QC 223 sud, properly clinch the northern end of US 11 (let's hope CBP doesn't give me too much grief), stop at the overlook for Fort Blunder, I-87 south back home

Hopefully that isn't too much.  A few questions do come to mind:
-For the bridge toll on A-30, has anyone had experience using a US credit card there?  Especially since this could be my first transaction in Canada, I'm wondering if it would be better to use the staffed toll lanes and/or pay with cash rather than the credit card only lanes.
-Speaking of cash, bother covering, how much, etc.?  I've favored paying by credit card in the past, as converting cash is inconvenient and costs even more since there's always some lost with each conversion, but I've never stayed this long or explored to this level of depth on my own either.

Regarding food, I haven't figured anything out yet beyond stopping for lunch of the way up at Jreck Subs in Champlain (another chain I like to stop at when I have the opportunity) and probably just getting the hotel breakfast on Day 2 to make things easier with the museum.  I usually get take-out pizza every Saturday (essentially continuing the tradition my parents have of going out to get pizza every Saturday) and continue the tradition at (usually) local places while traveling (though the day can vary, as most of my overnight trips are roadmeets), though from looking at pictures on Google Maps, what Québec calls "pizza" doesn't quite match up with what would be considered pizza in the US.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: MikeTheActuary on January 02, 2020, 06:24:58 PM
-Speaking of cash, bother covering, how much, etc.?  I've favored paying by credit card in the past, as converting cash is inconvenient and costs even more since there's always some lost with each conversion, but I've never stayed this long or explored to this level of depth on my own either.

I can't speak beyond Montréal proper, but the only reason I get Canadian currency when I go into the MTL office is for tip money (parking valet at my hotel), souvenir gifts (got some youngsters in extended family in the south who think twonies and polymer bills are cool), and for the office cafeteria.   Otherwise, I'd use my credit card (with chip, but I think all American cards have chips by this point).

Note my emphasis on the word credit.  There a few too many places that don't like my debit card.

When I need Canadian cash, I usually seek out either a TD or a Desjardins ATM, since I know they work for me.  The TD ATM I usually use gives you the option of whether TD or your bank handles the conversion/charges the conversion fee.  (It also allows you to pick what combination of which bills you want...useful if you're wanting to get a vertical C$10 bill for your goddaughter...but I don't know if that's semi-unique to the TD machine by my hotel.)

Regarding pizza, this might help: https://www.mtlblog.com/best-of-mtl/best-montreal-pizzerias-2019   

The only place I've had pizza in Montréal is Pizzeria Bros; my team will sometimes grab something from there and sit outside when the weather's nice.  I've enjoyed the pizza I've gotten there, but it's not something I seek out on my own, given the other options available / given that I like what I can get in CT.  It is, needless to say, considerably better than the pizza you can get at big national chains in the US (IMO).
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: vdeane on January 02, 2020, 09:55:19 PM
Re: cash, I actually avoid using my debit card as anything other than an ATM card, so that wouldn't bother me.  If something happens to the credit card, it's no muss, no fuss, but if something happens to your debit card, your entire bank account can be drained and you're stuck with no money until the situation is resolved.  That said, I'm a little wary of using ATMs that aren't Key Bank because I'm staunchly opposed to paying banking fees.

My credit card might even act as chip and PIN in Canada.  Don't know.  First Niagara issued chip and PIN cards (contrary to every other US bank), and Key Bank kept that for converted cards.  That said, they reissued my card earlier this year due to a merchant data breach, and while they still had me set a PIN and implied that it could be asked for, it's no longer the default and I've never been prompted for it (sigh... why did they have to move backwards on this?).  Given this and the fact that I can't read much French (and therefore can't understand what payment system displays are saying), things are going to be interesting to say the least!

Forgot to mention one other question: in the US, I typically travel 5 mph over the speed limit on surface streets, and 7 mph over on freeways, and I find Google Maps drive times are spot on with this.  Given what I've read about speed cameras and how they will flash for even 1 kph over, with tickets being issued for far lower speeds than would be with a cop in person, I'm guessing I should do exactly the speed limit north of the border, to be on the safe side.  Is there a way I can figure out accurate drive times to compensate for the slower speed?  The error may be small for short trips but it adds up fast.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: MikeTheActuary on January 03, 2020, 09:28:46 AM
Forgot to mention one other question: in the US, I typically travel 5 mph over the speed limit on surface streets, and 7 mph over on freeways, and I find Google Maps drive times are spot on with this.  Given what I've read about speed cameras and how they will flash for even 1 kph over, with tickets being issued for far lower speeds than would be with a cop in person, I'm guessing I should do exactly the speed limit north of the border, to be on the safe side.  Is there a way I can figure out accurate drive times to compensate for the slower speed?  The error may be small for short trips but it adds up fast.

I've found that in/around MTL, if traffic isn't congested and I'm driving the speed limit, then I'm in danger of being run over.  While aggressive driving is the exception rather than the rule in the area, the aggressive drivers can be...memorable.  While many drivers slow down to the posted speed limit when entering a speed cam zone, people who maintain speed until they see the camera and then slam on their brakes also seem to be common.

Areas monitored by speed and/or red-light cameras are posted.  Examples of signage and its meanings can be found here: https://www.transports.gouv.qc.ca/fr/securite-signalisation/securite/radars-photo-surveillance-feux-rouges/Pages/Fonctionnement.aspx (expand the third option; it's French, but Google Translate works well on it).

"Normal" cam locations are documented here: https://www.transports.gouv.qc.ca/fr/securite-signalisation/securite/radars-photo-surveillance-feux-rouges/emplacements/Pages/emplacements.aspx and here: https://www.transports.gouv.qc.ca/fr/securite-signalisation/securite/radars-photo-surveillance-feux-rouges/emplacements/Pages/emplacements-par-region.aspx  (first page gives you a general map; second page gives you a text list with detailed documentation on each site).

Construction zones enforced by cams are supposedly listed here: https://www.quebec511.info/fr/Diffusion/EtatReseau/TravauxRadarPhoto.aspx

I haven't found a page that lists school zones enforced by cams.

And if you're looking for alternative estimates of driving time....before we had navigation software, I used to estimate drive times (for planning purposes) by looking at mileage, making an assumption about average driving speed on different segments of the trip, and doing the math.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: vdeane on January 03, 2020, 01:58:37 PM
Found the interactive maps: https://www.transports.gouv.qc.ca/fr/securite-signalisation/securite/radars-photo-surveillance-feux-rouges/emplacements/pages/emplacements.aspx (could have sworn there was another that actually filled in the ranges, but it might not be around any more)

Regarding general speed, I'm the type that likes to keep things consistent (unless inclement weather, speed of traffic, or roadway geometry/conditions require otherwise; I also have exceptions for DC and a couple cities in VA that are known speed traps - also the NJ Turnpike, because that's a road for driving fast and there's no enforcement if one doesn't go beyond 80).  I've noticed that most people aren't quite that way to the same degree - I've noticed it several times driving the Thruway encountering work zones.  Regular speed limit 65, drops to 55 a quarter to half a mile before the work, goes back to 65 a quarter to half a mile after the work.  I'll be going 72, drop to 62 when the speed limit drops, want to maintain 62, and then go back to 72 when the speed limit goes up.  What tends to happen is people behind me get frustrated approaching/leaving the work zone when they want to go a regular speed, and then I'll get frustrated when we get to the location of work and they all want to go 50, even if the geometry of the lane shifts allows faster.

Such would naturally make things like Québec's speed cameras frustrating.  I encountered a speed camera corridor on A-15 coming back from the Québec City meet in 2014 and felt like I was the only person doing the speed limit of 70 (which was not fun; it felt like I was crawling).  Wasn't even sure where the corridor ended; maybe it never even did until I "exited" to stay on A-15 after the Pont Champlain.  The most natural translation of my system to metric would be 7 kph for surface streets and 12 kph for freeways, but that feels like it's too much for Canada.  I could also toy with the idea of speed limit for surface roads and 10 kph for freeways (tapering to 115 in 110 zones and speed limit in 120, similar to how I taper in the US with 75 in 70, 78 in 75, and speed limit in 80 or above) except in speed camera corridors for Canada, though I've read reports of people getting tickets with very low tolerances in some places (*cough* Alberta *cough*) (plus such would produce odd effects for places where freeways feed into surface roads like with QC 132).  Or maybe setting a country-wide standard for Canada just isn't reasonable like it is in the US.

In any case, I'd like a way to "translate" the Google Maps drive times - something like "add X minutes per hour reported by Google".  I think the difference is somewhere around 5-10 minutes per hour based on my experience driving the state fleet vehicles (which have GPS tracking), but I'm not 100% sure.  Heck, I'm even considering whether one day I'll have to amend my US speed policy to be exactly the limit, if speed cameras, self driving cars, or other driver "assist" features (like the speed limiters that Europe is making mandatory) become too prevalent here.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: 1995hoo on January 03, 2020, 08:24:21 PM
One traffic law to note, if you didn’t already know: Turns on red are illegal everywhere on the Island of Montreal, but they are otherwise legal in the province of Quebec.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: MikeTheActuary on January 03, 2020, 10:05:52 PM
In any case, I'd like a way to "translate" the Google Maps drive times - something like "add X minutes per hour reported by Google".  I think the difference is somewhere around 5-10 minutes per hour based on my experience driving the state fleet vehicles (which have GPS tracking), but I'm not 100% sure.  Heck, I'm even considering whether one day I'll have to amend my US speed policy to be exactly the limit, if speed cameras, self driving cars, or other driver "assist" features (like the speed limiters that Europe is making mandatory) become too prevalent here.

With the exception of one trip with my in-laws to Niagara Falls, all my time in Canada so far has been spent in Québec, mostly going to/from Montréal.  (Even before I started commuting across the border, my wife and I usually went up to MTL once or twice a year.  We love the city.)  So, I can't comment on whether a Canada-wide rule-of-thumb would work.

South of the border, when I drive, I have the objective of interacting with the fewest vehicles possible, where "interacting" means either I or they have to react to each other's presence.  In other words, I generally drive at a speed I believe causes me to pass/be passed the least frequently, with a bias towards driving the speed limit in light/uncongested conditions. 

Under such conditions, I find Google's drive times to be a reasonable estimate of "road time"; perhaps I need to add a couple of minutes per hour for highway driving, but Google's estimates for urban/suburban/town surface streets seem overly pessimistic.  Of course, since Google's times don't consider bio-, fuel-, and/or dinner-breaks...manual adjustment based on your preferences/driving range is required.

My driving preferences are similar in Québec, although the bias towards the speed limit is a bit stronger there, since my French is horrible and I don't want to have to interact with an LEO across a language barrier.  I haven't tested the accuracy of Google estimates, since I know that my actual times are too dependent on bridge traffic and traffic in Ville-Marie.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: cu2010 on January 04, 2020, 11:55:40 AM
My American credit card acts in Canada just like it does in the US- insert chip, they take your money, you walk away. Occasionally they will prompt you for a signature, but typically they don't.  I have found that Canadian gas pumps don't like American cards, however... I tried to use it in a pump along the 401 last month and had to go inside the building and hand the card to the cashier.

Also, if you're opposed to paying banking fees for using another bank's ATM, why are you still with KeyBank? I ditched them years ago when they started taking my money for ridiculous things and haven't looked back...

Regarding speed limits, Ontario barely enforces them while Quebec tends to be more strict, so there's a difference of standard. I did 120 km/h on much of the 401 and 407 last month (and 125 on the 110 km/h zone on the 402) and nobody even batted an eye... I still got passed by pretty much everyone but the semi-trucks. Even went past a few OPP officers and they just sat there. Meanwhile I've found that in Quebec, especially around Montreal, people drive considerably slower, usually at or around the speed limit (or in some cases, well below it).
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: vdeane on January 04, 2020, 10:24:37 PM
Incidentally, I looked up the site for Chutes Wilson today, and apparently the park isn't free.  The site says they only take Interac and Visa, and my card is MasterCard (well, I also have Discover, but good luck using that anywhere in Canada), so it look like that's out unless I convert cash.  Chutes de Plaisance is also not free, but their site does not mention what payment methods they take.  Any way to find out?

My American credit card acts in Canada just like it does in the US- insert chip, they take your money, you walk away. Occasionally they will prompt you for a signature, but typically they don't.  I have found that Canadian gas pumps don't like American cards, however... I tried to use it in a pump along the 401 last month and had to go inside the building and hand the card to the cashier.
Yikes.  I would have hoped the chip conversion would have fixed that.  It's unfortunate that there is very little literature online about this - only for Canadians traveling to the US.  I HATE having to pay inside.  In any case, I don't read French, so how would I know if the pump had an issue with my card and I had to go inside?  This is also why I'm wondering about the A-30.  Automated toll booth lanes are known to be a problem in Europe, and I haven't heard anything one way or another regarding Canada.

Taking another look at the paper my current card came with, it's possible the PIN on the card is only for contactless.  I don't remember what the phone prompt said when I set it.  Never used contactless in my life, so no idea.

Quote
Also, if you're opposed to paying banking fees for using another bank's ATM, why are you still with KeyBank? I ditched them years ago when they started taking my money for ridiculous things and haven't looked back...
Simple - I never use non-Key ATMs.  There are actually two ATM fees for using another bank's ATM - those your bank charges, and those the other bank charges.  Fee-free ATM bonuses typically only refer to the former.  This is actually why my parents set up all our bank accounts with HSBC all those years ago - so we could have local ATMs wherever we went.  Unfortunately, HSBC decided to leave upstate NY and the account went to First Niagara, which then merged with Key a few years later.  My accounts actually have fewer fees than would be typical because of that - when they converted everything over, a lot of things stayed on the original First Niagara terms - including the fact that my credit card has no foreign transaction fee.  Good luck finding that anywhere.  Plus there aren't that many banks that have branches in both Albany and Rochester, and I do plan to move back one day - my parents aren't getting any younger and I'm an only child, after all.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: froggie on January 04, 2020, 10:46:11 PM
QC 223 sud, properly clinch the northern end of US 11 (let's hope CBP doesn't give me too much grief),

Just tell them you're heading into Vermont, cross the Rouses Point bridge, and make a quick stop at the Irving station on the Vermont side of the bridge.  If they ask where in Vermont, just make something up like Burlington or whatever.  Doug and I had no problems whatsoever when we used this border crossing 2 summers ago, but then again our actual destination was in Vermont.
 
Quote
-Speaking of cash, bother covering, how much, etc.?  I've favored paying by credit card in the past, as converting cash is inconvenient and costs even more since there's always some lost with each conversion, but I've never stayed this long or explored to this level of depth on my own either.

I've found cash is convenient for small things like Tim Hortons or convenience store stops.  I keep a ready bag of Canadian currency that I bring with me on my trips north of the border.'

I have found that Canadian gas pumps don't like American cards, however...

I have not had this problem in my travels across Ontario and Quebec.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: vdeane on January 04, 2020, 11:36:36 PM
I've found cash is convenient for small things like Tim Hortons or convenience store stops.  I keep a ready bag of Canadian currency that I bring with me on my trips north of the border.
I usually just use my cards for everything in the US, though I do keep some cash around just in case.  What's the best way to convert some over?  I remember one trip in college where we were given some Canadian cash for meal money and when I went to convert the remainder back to USD at the bank (then First Niagara), the exchange rate was very unfavorable.  It would be nice to have some redundancy instead of just relying on MasterCard for everything.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: froggie on January 05, 2020, 08:40:04 AM
The banks are going to get their cut no matter how you do currency conversion, so it's 6 of one and half a dozen of the other whether you go through your bank or use a Canadian ATM.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: 1995hoo on January 05, 2020, 01:22:46 PM
I've found cash is convenient for small things like Tim Hortons or convenience store stops.  I keep a ready bag of Canadian currency that I bring with me on my trips north of the border.
I usually just use my cards for everything in the US, though I do keep some cash around just in case.  What's the best way to convert some over?  I remember one trip in college where we were given some Canadian cash for meal money and when I went to convert the remainder back to USD at the bank (then First Niagara), the exchange rate was very unfavorable.  It would be nice to have some redundancy instead of just relying on MasterCard for everything.

Find out whether your bank has a fee-free arrangement with a Canadian bank for ATM use. If so, go to that bank's ATM to get some cash. For example, Bank of America and Scotiabank have a deal like that. As froggie notes, the exchange rate will be whatever it is, but if you can avoid the ATM fees that’s about as well as you can do because the ATM will give a better exchange rate than the currency exchange places will.

Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: oscar on January 05, 2020, 02:08:46 PM
The banks are going to get their cut no matter how you do currency conversion, so it's 6 of one and half a dozen of the other whether you go through your bank or use a Canadian ATM.

On one trip, I brought a stack of US$20 bills across the border, then went to a Canadian bank well north of the border to change it for Canadian money. That cost me almost exactly as much in bank fees (including the exchange rate) as other transactions where I used a Canadian ATM to withdraw funds from my U.S. bank. Like froggie says, six of one, half a dozen of the other.

One problem with using an ATM is that the out-of-network ATM fee might be a fixed amount, no matter how small the transaction. I try to minimize that by withdrawing as much as the ATM's bank and/or my own will allow per transaction (the limits I've encountered tend to be in the $400-600 range), then saving any leftover Canadian cash for my next trip. If you need a smaller transaction, over-the-counter at a Canadian bank or at a currency exchange might work better.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: Rothman on January 05, 2020, 03:58:35 PM
I was fine with a foreign transaction fee free credit card this past summer on a two-week trip in Canada.  Didn't even use up the $100CAN that I just got at the local airport.

Maybe in even more rural areas I would have had a greater issue (but I was in places like Fortune, NL), but not having cash wasn't a major issue.  Then again, would there even be ATMs in those even more rural areas and would I fret about the ATM fee for a one or two time withdrawal?
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: oscar on January 05, 2020, 04:23:46 PM
Maybe in even more rural areas I would have had a greater issue (but I was in places like Fortune, NL), but not having cash wasn't a major issue.  Then again, would there even be ATMs in those even more rural areas and would I fret about the ATM fee for a one or two time withdrawal?

I tend to travel in more remote areas, where cash is more helpful. Like in the Yukon, where I needed gas, and the only nearby gas pump was a cardlock pump that wouldn't take my credit card. But someone else was there pumping gas for his car,  so I just paid him cash to pump some more gas for my truck.

Or a gas station in rural Quebec where the signs said Visa was the only credit card it accepted, but my only credit cards were Mastercard and Discover (Discover rarely works anywhere in Canada).
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: vdeane on January 05, 2020, 08:54:23 PM
Find out whether your bank has a fee-free arrangement with a Canadian bank for ATM use. If so, go to that bank's ATM to get some cash. For example, Bank of America and Scotiabank have a deal like that. As froggie notes, the exchange rate will be whatever it is, but if you can avoid the ATM fees that’s about as well as you can do because the ATM will give a better exchange rate than the currency exchange places will.
I don't think they do.  Plus, while my credit card has no foreign transaction fee because it was a First Niagara account, I don't think the same is true of the ATM/debit card, which would have a 3% foreign transaction fee.

Right now, the only option for converting cash that I can find that doesn't involve having fees on top of the conversion rate would be AAA - and even then, I'd have to convert $200 US in order to avoid a $10 Wells Fargo fee.  KeyBank will do conversion, but they have a $300 minimum and a $10 fee.  My Discover can can also be used to withdraw cash from an ATM, but cash advances charge interest with no grace period.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: vdeane on February 28, 2020, 10:11:47 PM
So I'm thinking of moving Rapids Park from Day 1 (Thursday) to Day 4 (Sunday), for two reasons.  First, I plotted the routes in Google Maps and found that Day 1 was the second largest day after my drive up, while Day 4 was the shortest, so moving it actually balances the days better (giving days 1, 3, 4, and 5 approximately even six hour drive times).  Second, I found a couple more potential places to stop for Day 1: a small park/overlook right on QC 138 in Huntingdon, and a park near Beauharnois, assuming parking isn't an issue - the only parking I can find around there is on the other side of QC 132 (https://www.google.com/maps/@45.3148223,-73.9023072,3a,75y,85.18h,79.6t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sRxJ7YKCcWZ1TEwDPzjNxNw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656).

The drive to/from the park from A-20 on Day 1 and from A-15 on Day 4 are about the same as well, so it actually isn't any more or less efficient on the basis of individual trips, but significantly more efficient in the aggregate.  According to Google Maps, the park shouldn't be busy if I do it early in the drive.

I'm also wondering if I should swap Days 1 or 2 or not.  I put the museum on a Friday since I figured it would be less congestion coming back over the Champlain Bridge, but it looks like A-30 and A-20 on the east/south short get congested as well, which would affect the end of the Day 1 trip.  I guess it's a "choose your poison" situation.  According to Google Maps, the museum is slightly more busy on Fridays too, but not by too much.

In other news, I think my credit card really does act as chip and PIN if the terminal prefers it - USPS actually asked me for a PIN when I bought stamps at their kiosk, and that transaction processed as another other transaction on that card did.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: vdeane on March 12, 2020, 01:39:50 PM
I have to admit, I'm getting increasingly nervous about how the coronavirus pandemic will affect this trip.  The hot zone keeps getting closer to where I live (and with state agencies, including NYSDOT, being tasked with driving nurses around to visit and test quarantined people in the area, and how even some medical professionals following proper precautions have been exposed to the virus elsewhere, I'm at increased risk of exposure).  If I get sick and have to be quarantined at the wrong time, that would create a messy situation for me.  I still have four personal days that I have to use up by mid-May which I had planned to put towards (mostly; I was going to use one for Easter, but since my parents are in their upper 60s, I'm not sure I should go home for that either) this trip as a way to minimize my vacation usage, but if I have to cancel, how will I use those days productively?  I couldn't even clinch roads since most of the roads I haven't been on in daytrip range are in the hot zone.  It flips my previous paradigm for managing personal leave on its head; previously, I've wanted to hold on to it, in case I had something come up for which vacation and sick didn't quite apply, or to avoid coming in during a snowstorm (I normally don't have quite this many days at this point, but I've been rationing time as of late since I had to unexpectedly burn a week of vacation last year when a major surgery got rescheduled at the last second, and because I want to use a lot of vacation time for a cross country trip next year).

Not to mention how all this will impact other clinching goals I have.  I had wanted to take another trip in the fall to clinch the remaining NY routes in Regions 10 and 11, but that won't be possible if I have to take a "make up" trip then (Montréal has priority as that section of US 11 can only be clinched while I live here, due to the border crossing (it's hard to find an excuse to use it now, and I'd have even less of an excuse to cross there if I lived anywhere else) so I want to get it done in case anything ever happens to cause me to move.  And what about the cross country trip I wanted to take next year, that I've also been looking forward to so much?  That will require a ton of vacation time (it's the reason I'm rationing it now) and is somewhat time-sensitive (I don't do bill by mail, so I have to go before Portland starts tolling all the interstates, though it looks like I might now have through early 2023 on that); plus the large amount of vacation time it would need leaves me skeptical that I'd ever be able to get it done if for some reason I ever left my state job (and with NY already having a six billion dollar deficit even before the current pandemic and with the state as reliant on Wall St for revenue as it is, I worry about whether we might have layoffs next year (heck, someone I know is worried about this year too, but I think we're using too many state resources to respond to the pandemic for that to happen)).

In any case, I've never been good about handling uncertainty.  I'm the type of person who wants to have my days scheduled down to the hour a month or two in advance, and the way things are currently moving so fast and so uncertain has caused my stress levels to go through the roof.  It's making me wonder if it wouldn't be easier if I just canceled, even if things never got to the point where the virus would force me too, since that would at least take a major piece of uncertainty out of the equation that has been causing me way, way too much stress (to the point where it's affecting my ability to concentrate on other things).

It's amazing the bad luck I have around overnight roadtrips not tied to a roadmeet or family gathering.  All the trips I had tied to other things have worked out just fine, but the other planned overnight trip I had (a clinching trip in Sullivan/Orange Counties) ended up being canceled because the weather forecast took a turn for the worst right before the meet (that was the weekend we got three inches of rain in one day).  Now I make another attempt at overnight travel not tied to anything else, and a pandemic hits.  I must have some really bad roadtrip karma.  Maybe I just need to accept that I'll never be able to take a trip that isn't tied to a meet and revise my long-term travel goals accordingly.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: 1995hoo on March 12, 2020, 02:23:54 PM
I don't know what advice to give you, vdeane, but one thought that occurs to me is that the border authorities on both sides of the border have broad authority to detain someone if they think there's a reason for it. If you're at increased risk of exposure, and the border guards see where you're from, you might be at risk of an involuntary quarantine if they deem you to be a public health hazard. I would guess that's probably more likely on your return to the US—the Canadians can simply refuse to admit you and make you turn around, but the US cannot refuse entry to a citizen, so they could send you to quarantine if they thought it necessary. If you're worried about leave time and job security, be sure to consider that risk.

I'm reminded of what I said last June when my wife and I cut short our trip to Toronto when we learned my father was about to die: The roads will still be there in the future, but Dad wouldn't be (he died 13 days later). The roads will be there in the future after the pandemic passes.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: webny99 on March 12, 2020, 03:58:53 PM
I'm not one for giving advice either - I would think we're quite a long ways from the US/Canada border being significantly affected, but I could be wrong. I have two trips to Canada planned in the near future, including one this weekend. We'll see how that goes and maybe post an update here afterwards.

I'm not sure what the situation looks like in your town/the Albany area specifically, but I believe most of New York's 216 cases have been in the immediate NYC area, and especially the New Rochelle outbreak. There was a county-level map of cases at one time, but they're now reporting at the country- and state-levels only due to the influx of new cases.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: vdeane on March 12, 2020, 08:10:40 PM
I'm reminded of what I said last June when my wife and I cut short our trip to Toronto when we learned my father was about to die: The roads will still be there in the future, but Dad wouldn't be (he died 13 days later). The roads will be there in the future after the pandemic passes.
But will I be able to clinch them?  I'm very aware that it's very unlikely that I'll be living in Albany forever.  My excuse for crossing back into the US at US 11 was already flimsy... if I tried it after moving elsewhere, I'd have none at all.  As for the cross country trip, Portland plans to toll I-5 and I-205.  E-ZPass won't be interoperable with whatever tolling scheme they use.  I do not do bill by mail.  Therefore, I-5 and I-205 will become completely impossible for me to clinch at that time (as ON 407 is now, as are a lot of Florida toll roads, as A-25 would be if I hadn't already clinched the bridge in a mini-meet where AsphaltPlanet was driving).  I really, really don't want that to happen, especially as interstates are my first priority clinches.  I'll be further away from Long Island, making clinching Regions 10 and 11 harder.  I'll be further away from New England, making many items on my clinching todo list there harder.  Basically, while Rochester is home and I expect I'll move back someday, I will admit that Albany is much more useful from a roadgeeking perspective.  Not to mention that if anything ever happened to my state job (like the massive layoffs that nearly happened in 2011) and I had to go to private industry, I wouldn't have enough time for such roadtrips.  I already feel like I could use more time off, and private industry had less.  A lot less.  Roadgeeking would basically become impossible for me (especially as my issues with having enough energy to function require me to take an extra day or two and just veg out in my apartment after all trips).

Besides, I'm only getting less and less comfortable with the asterixis on my clinches of US 11's north end and any and all roads I've only been on at night (including a portion of ON 417), to the point where I may have to delete those clinches from Travel Mapping if this goes on too long... which would make my map ugly, and take away my clinch of Region 7, and any possibility of finishing New York.  Not good.

And, of course, no idea what to do with the personal leave.  I'm getting frustrated at the idea that I'm using a ton of time uselessly.  Every day off is far too precious to waste, and now it's looking like I'll be forced into doing just that.

I'm not one for giving advice either - I would think we're quite a long ways from the US/Canada border being significantly affected, but I could be wrong. I have two trips to Canada planned in the near future, including one this weekend. We'll see how that goes and maybe post an update here afterwards.

I'm not sure what the situation looks like in your town/the Albany area specifically, but I believe most of New York's 216 cases have been in the immediate NYC area, and especially the New Rochelle outbreak. There was a county-level map of cases at one time, but they're now reporting at the country- and state-levels only due to the influx of new cases.
Three cases in Saratoga County, two in Albany, not sure if there are any in the other counties.  This includes a student at SUNY Albany (where my co-worker's live-in brother is a student) and a staff member at Union (where another co-worker's husband works).  Cuomo is now saying that the state will become just like Italy.  I had hoped the US wouldn't get that far, and as someone who has a hard time with even small disruptions to my life, this fills me with absolute dread.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: MikeTheActuary on March 12, 2020, 10:42:24 PM
Vdeane --

This is free advice.  It may be worth what you pay for it.  :)

Like you, I hate uncertainty.  I love it when I can get plans nailed down.  Unfortunately, the current mess is not one good for folks who need certainty.

Earlier this thread you mentioned that you were looking at late April / early May for this trip.  That's still some time off, and gives you the opportunity to watch and see how things develop.  Be mindful of when the cancellation deadlines are for various places you might make reservations at, and you'll know when you have to commit one way or the other.   I am on the road about 50% of my time normally; I'm anticipating that when I get home from my current trip, I will be staying home until May.  However, I won't be canceling any travel plans until the last minute.  Things could change.

Yes, it is possible that you could become sick (or be deemed sick) before your trip, and have to burn your leave days for that.  It would suck, but that's life...and not really something I'd worry about until/unless it happens.   I've had enough chaos, enough unplanned crap arise in my life, especially over the past few years, that learning to go with the cards you're being dealt and adapting your game strategy as necessary is a required survival skill.  It sucks for people who desire certainty and like to plan...but unfortunately it's life.

It is also possible that additional controls will go up at the border.   If you're going now, and the risk of that happening is a problem for you...don't go.  But if this is a late April/early May trip... I think the odds are pretty good that any controls that are implemented (at the border, or as local/regional quarantine zones) will have been implemented by then.

If you are going "now", however...it wouldn't be a bad idea to put off the trip and try again later, when circumstances permit.  The virus probably wouldn't affect you much if you were exposed to it, but if you came into contact with your parents while contagious....  I work in risk management in insurance, so I'm a professional worrier/pessimist.  I think it's not unreasonable to avoid unnecessary travel for a couple of weeks and avoid unnecessary risks, until we have better information about what's going on.  Live life, do what you have to...but make sure that what you get out of such actions is worth any additional risk you are exposed to, or that you might be exposing others to.

You also mentioned that you're concerned about losing the opportunity to clinch US 11, given an expectation of moving in the future.  You are concerned that you will run into trouble if you don't have a reasonable explanation for taking that particular route.   I have been slowly, quietly "collecting" border crossings, when I go to/from Montréal.  If the weather's decent and time permits, I follow unorthodox commute paths.  So, with that background, I can say that I don't think you have anything to worry about if you want to clinch US 11 after you've moved away.   I've found "it's a nice day, and I don't want to waste it on the interstate"  or "freeways are boring" are answers that border guards accept, if/when they ask.   Yes, there is an increased risk of having to do a secondary inspection....but allow extra time for that, be honest, and be familiar with what you can/can't take across the border (and abide by those rules), and it's not really a big deal.

I don't know that any of that is useful to you, but I thought I'd share those thoughts on the off chance they help.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: vdeane on March 13, 2020, 01:48:04 PM
My hotel reservation is April 22-27, free cancellation until 4/21 at 6 PM.  I'm thinking that if I plan to convert cash at the duty free at the border instead of AAA, that would mean that I wouldn't have to invest anything more into this trip until the last second.  That might keep my from jinxing myself.  I've been starting to brainstorm ideas for reallocated personal leave if I have to cancel the trip (my four days expire sometime around 5/22), though nothing is quite "equal" in my mind.

Oddly enough, other than potentially affecting travel plans depending on timing, a quarantine wouldn't actually hurt my vacation time much.  We're allowed two weeks leave with pay for a mandatory or preventative quarantine, and I have 5 weeks worth of sick leave built up.

As for US 11, the reason it would be an issue if I ever move is because a move would be, more likely than not, back to Rochester were I grew up, or somewhere in that direction.  I don't want to get much farther away, plus I don't like the congestion of larger cities.  Thus, US 11 wouldn't just be a little bit out of the way (vs. I-87, as it is now), but way out of the way (vs. I-81).  Plus I don't have NEXUS and don't cross as often (haven't been across the border since 2014, actually), so I would probably draw more scrutiny.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: froggie on March 13, 2020, 07:26:50 PM
I'm not one for giving advice either - I would think we're quite a long ways from the US/Canada border being significantly affected, but I could be wrong.

Oh, it's happening.

https://jaypeakresort.com/resort/blog-updates/jay-peak-closing-winter-operations-reopening-summer-may-1st-2020 (references Quebec restrictions)

https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/live-updates-quebec-doctors-want-limits-on-travel-gatherings-to-curtail-covid-19 (Quebec premier recommends closing the US border)
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: AsphaltPlanet on March 13, 2020, 08:36:54 PM
Canada isn't going to close the US border.  We aren't closing the borders to Europe (though we are limiting them somewhat).  The economies of the US and Canada are too closely intertwined for the border to be closed.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: hbelkins on March 14, 2020, 05:09:48 PM
International travel, even to Canada, is an entirely different animal, but I can state without hesitation that if I had the money and the leave time from work, I would not think twice about jumping in the car and going anywhere in the Lower 48. Gas prices are down, and there are probably good hotel/motel rates to be had.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: webny99 on March 16, 2020, 12:25:27 PM
I have two trips to Canada planned in the near future, including one this weekend. We'll see how that goes and maybe post an update here afterwards.

Darn, I jinxed it. No trip to Canada this weekend, and probably not later in the month either.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: vdeane on March 16, 2020, 12:36:43 PM
I have two trips to Canada planned in the near future, including one this weekend. We'll see how that goes and maybe post an update here afterwards.

Darn, I jinxed it. No trip to Canada this weekend, and probably not later in the month either.
I probably jinxed mine when I went ahead and plotted out the routes in Google Maps and saved them to a text file.  I've found that I don't want to keep those around too long, as eventually changes in Google's algorithm will make them inaccurate or break entirely.

In a pinch I can try pushing this trip out three weeks to mid-May, but who knows if the world will have returned to something even remotely resembling normal by then.  I have long had a feeling in my gut that things were on borrowed time and that something big was going to happen, maybe this pandemic is it.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: 1995hoo on March 16, 2020, 02:10:25 PM
Canada is closing the border to most foreigners, though American citizens are an exception for now.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-canada-to-close-borders-to-most-foreign-nationals-except-americans/
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: 1995hoo on March 17, 2020, 10:43:38 PM
CNN reports the US and Canada will suspend "non-essential" travel between the two countries:

https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/17/politics/us-canada-suspend-travel/index.html
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: webny99 on March 18, 2020, 02:20:46 PM
CNN reports the US and Canada will suspend "non-essential" travel between the two countries:
https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/17/politics/us-canada-suspend-travel/index.html

Well, that includes basically all of my travels. At this point, mid-summer seems like a best-case scenario for when it would re-open, but who knows? We really need two straight weeks of people taking tests and getting the results just to know where we're at.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: AsphaltPlanet on March 18, 2020, 11:31:50 PM
Yeah.  This situation sucks.

I never thought they could ever close the border.  Though, I have continually underestimated this situation from the onset.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: 02 Park Ave on May 20, 2020, 06:24:56 PM
It has been announced that the U.S./Canada border will remain closed until 21 June.
Title: Re: Montréal Spring 2020
Post by: vdeane on May 20, 2020, 08:50:09 PM
It has been announced that the U.S./Canada border will remain closed until 21 June.
In any case, I ended up cancelling this trip for this year, and possibly (maybe even probably, depending on how things shake up) next year too.  I'd like to push up something I had planned for next spring into late summer or fall this year, but the way things are going, I'm not going to get my hopes up.