Another ramble

I love coffee. I hate most coffee from restaurants and coffee shops.

What I want is a reliable single-serve coffee-maker I can use on the road so that I can continue to enjoy the benefits of making my own coffee to my own taste. I took a while to research readily available units (as I failed to do when I bought my Keurig) and settled on a Bunn MyCafe as the van coffee-maker. The keurig was the only real competition, but unless the mini-Keurig was heavily discounted it was too expensive for a unit which was restricted to K-cups, while the Bunn, for just a little more, could handle K-cups, pods, and ground coffee (although I may pack a little pre-ground, I won’t be taking my coffee mill with me). So I wandered down to Cultured Coffee Bean, my local supplier of choice, to pick up more coffee and see what deal I could make for a Bunn MyCafe with four drawers (you swap out drawers to make particular types of coffee, and even plain hot water needs a drawer).

The answer was no deal at all, because Bunn in Canada doesn’t offer a bundle with all four drawers and charges an arm and a leg for the individual drawers. I could get a Bunn in the US for less than Cultured Coffee Bean’s dealer cost. Bunn Canada is not doing the Bunn line any favours – I suppose they are more interested in corporate sales than in individual consumers (Bunn should find a new Canadian distributor, or just ship from the US).

In the meantime, I still need a 12V fridge, and the best one appears to be a tiny unit made by Engel. That turned out not to be locally available in Canada, but might be available in New York State. I wanted to do another test run on the van, so I loaded up and set out across the border.

I left late, and didn’t reach the border until sunset. In the growing darkness I drove to Amherst, a few miles from Niagara Falls, and into the parking lot at Lowe’s, where I bought the Bunn at, according to the shelf label, $20 below MSRP. I also picked up a box of Green Mountain Breakfast Blend K-cups in order to try out the new machine.

But I had to sleep, and while I had intended to park at a nearby Wal-Mart (which as a matter of corporate policy allows overnight parking for RVs unless there’s a local ordnance or some other reason preventing it), I couldn’t face the prospect of going back on the road right away. I asked the checkout operator if it would be ok to park overnight. “I’ll have to ask my manager.” Fair enough, and she called the manager over quickly, and we repeated the question. “Hm. I’ll have to check with the store manager.” The assistant manager duly came by, and his response was “I don’t think there’s any problem, but … ” he had to check with his manager. Finally I got permission, and I’d like to express my thanks to all four individuals for their consideration. It would have been very easy for any one of them to have said no, but they took the time to consider it and pass it up the chain of command. I just wish Lowe’s would follow Wal-Mart’s lead and make it a policy to allow it where possible – I think they do a lot of business with RVers, as do other large stores such as Home Depot.

The following day I checked with West Marine, the store which might have carried the Engels unit I was interested in. Unfortunately, while they had Engels coolers in stock, they didn’t have Engels upright fridges (it’s a different mechanism, and a different orientation) and would have to order it, so I left disappointed, and figure on ordering the fridge while I’m in California – I can survive for a while without it. After a brief rummage through the nearby Harbour Freight store (always fun), a large lunch at Chipotle’s, and a couple of cups of coffee (heh!), I headed home.

I hit the border with almost no cash left, only to find that every border crossing back into Canada required a toll (very strange – enter the US for free, but pay to get out). Luckily I had enough for a non-commercial vehicle, so up to the booth I went, cash in hand — but the collector wanted more: “You’re a bus.” I explained that I was a non-commercial vehicle, an RV. “You’re a 10-passenger bus.” No, I said, I’m a 2-passenger RV. “How many seats you got?” Two, I said. “How many seats can you have?” I told him my insurance only allowed five. “Hmph.” He took my cash and let me drive across the bridge.

On the other side were customs booths, and a sign pointing off to the side marked ‘Buses & RVs’ so I headed in the indicated direction. Buses and RVs stood idling in front of me, so I took my place in line. Eventually an officer came over. “Why are you here?” I said there was a sign telling me to head in this direction. “You’re not a bus.” No, I said, I’m an RV. “No, you’re a passenger vehicle.” Apparently they were only interested in me as an RV if I was carrying people they had to check, and since I had my passport and wasn’t carrying paying passengers, I was neither a bus nor an RV for their purposes. The officer took my passport, asked a few questions, and after checking my passport inside the building, gave it back and sent me on my way. From now on, I expect the van to be either beast or fowl depending on how the other guy feels.

Oh, the coffee maker? Does a great job, but pulls so much power from the battery pack that the 3000W inverter complains about low voltage, sounding an annoying alarm. As soon as the coffee is made, the alarm shuts off, and everything – including the battery voltage – goes back to normal. The coffee’s good, takes a minute or two to make, and all is well on that front. I think I want a workspace to make food on, but that’s a topic for another day.