top of page

Road trip to deliver my POD and pick up the new POD-S!

What an exciting road trip to deliver my POD and pick up the new POD-S!


With my dad and wife’s help, earlier in the previous week, we disassembled and loaded my SkyShed POD XL5 (5 bay heavy duty POD) on a 19 foot flatbed trailer. We kept the dome top completely intact so we wouldn’t break the Lexel seam. We kept two sets of the bays intact (one with the door) but separated two separate bays for the trip. I scraped and cleaned the old Lexel off.



My dad and I left Monday morning (President’s Day - US holiday), at 4:30 AM for the POD factory in Shallow Lake, Ontario. We started out going through untouched lake effect snow covered roadways. Some spots had 6 inches of snow on the road. I kept it in four wheel drive until the roads became clear. The salt, snow and slush really dirtied up the POD on the trailer. But it will just hose right off. The snow cleared up around Watertown, New York. Along the way, I took a southern route through Western New York to a new friend, Eric’s (https://astropotamus.com) house, out by Rochester, New York, to deliver the POD. We arrived at approximately 11:15 AM and unloaded the POD. He had a nice level area shoveled out, so we set the POD up for him. It only took an hour to assemble. I think Wayne was shocked we set it up for him! It was great to see Eric so excited for the POD. I’m sad to see it gone, as it was very reliable and it protected my scopes 24/7 for the last several years outside. My wife even asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this because she knew how much I loved my POD. Eric’s wife baked a delicious batch of chocolate chip cookies and gave us some local bottled milk for the trip!



At approximately 1:00 PM, we departed Eric’s house for Canada. While enroute, Shawn Nielsen (VisibleDark.ca) hit me up and wanted to meet up at Ron Brecher’s (AstroDoc.ca) house in Ontario.


I entered Canada through the Lewiston-Queenston Port of Entry. It was pretty busy as many Canadians were headed back to Canada from their Family Day holiday trips. The US has President’s Day and Canada has Family Day. I was greeted by a very friendly Canada Customs Officer, who only requested to see my and my father’s Enhanced Driver’s Licenses. I was prepared with my SkyShed bill of sale and hotel reservation, but it wasn’t requested. I told him I was headed up to Shallow Lake, Ontario, to pick up a telescope dome. The officer told me he loved astronomy and after a short conversation about astro imaging and my website, he allowed us to pass. I’m sure he would have kept me longer to chat, but the lines were really long and they had 8 lanes open at the port of entry. The entry into Canada could not have gone any smoother. I was pretty nervous since I had my 19 foot trailer and wasn’t sure what to expect. The last time I went to Canada was pre 9/11 in early 2001, when I went up to get my LASIK eye surgery in Montreal.


After getting through customs, we proceeded to Ron’s house in Guelph, where we hung out and talked for a bit. Ron showed me his awesome roll off observatory with a Celestron 14 EdgeHD mounted. Shawn talked about AstroFest and we caught up with the world of astro imaging. We headed out so Ron and his family could eat dinner and we could get up to Owen Sound to check in at the hotel.


It was roughly a 2 hour drive to the hotel. Along the way it was long country roads. Gas was much more expensive than what we pay in the US and most of the gas stations weren’t set up to accommodate my 19 foot trailer. Instead of the pumps being oriented parallel to the roadway, many were perpendicular and very tight. As we got further north, the gas stations were very sparse, so if you’re planning a trip up, be sure to plan your trip out and be aware of the gas stations. My truck and trailer got approximately 12 miles per gallon. I used the satellite view on my map to check out the gas stations ahead of time. I recommend the Shell stations over the Esso stations as they were more roomy.


We arrived at the Quality Inn in Owen Sound at approximately 8:00 PM. This hotel had four parking areas and three of the areas could accommodate my trailer. I picked this hotel out by looking at the satellite map too. Although the weather had shown fair weather, the Owen Sound and Shallow Lake area received a good amount of snow (8 inches) prior to my arrival. The hotel had several snowmobiles parked in the parking lot staying the night too. We went to bed but I didn’t get much sleep. I was very excited to go up to the factory.


I woke up about 5:00 AM, got ready, ate breakfast, checked the trailer over, and met Wayne at the factory. We met at the factory for 8:30 AM.


The factory was still buried under snow and they had workers out moving the snow. Wayne gave me a tour of the factory and introduced me to the employees. Once the snow was clear and I could get my truck and trailer in the back lot, the factory employees dropped what they were doing, came outside and started loading the POD-S on my trailer. I got the POD-S with tall walls and 4 bays. I would have got the 5 bays, but for my pier to be centered, one of the wall pieces had to be a standard wall instead of a bay. I previously had my pier offset in my POD so I could image zenith. It could accommodate 5 bays if the pier was offset, but I don’t want it offset with the POD-S.  I want it perfectly centered. Another thing I compared were the tall walls versus the old wall height. The tall walls are great. I am 5’8” and while in the POD-S and with the tall walls, there is no ducking down near the edge. The height is perfect for me. My POD-S will be mounted on a wood deck that steps up. When I open the door, there is no bending down to enter. I will step up and in the dome. If anyone is questioning tall walls versus standard walls, I recommend the tall walls. Even though I am planning on being fully automated, the taller walls will give me more room and clearance. However, with the standard POD, I would recommend the short walls unless you have a step stool handy to open and close the POD.


Here is a picture showing the difference in height between the short wall and the tall walls.


Again, I have to reiterate it was first class service at the factory. Everyone I met was extremely friendly, helpful, and very courteous. I could have got away with not helping to load the trailer, but I wanted to be in on the action so I jumped right in. We had everything loaded up quickly and I strapped everything down really well. I put the hardware kit, tracks, and pier extension block in the bed of the truck. Everything else went in the trailer.


Some things I recommend bringing that I used was a lock for the receiver pin and the trailer ball hitch lever. Even though it felt safe, I was nervous at the hotel of my empty trailer getting stolen. I brought 8 tie down straps and used every one of them. I brought rope for extra tie downs. I brought cardboard which I used between the bays and the wood walls on my trailer to prevent rubbing.



I brought towels and shipping blankets which I used to wrap the tracks and the metal runners which the wheels would roll on. I also bought a spare trailer tire at Tractor Supply for the trip. As I mentioned, I used a 19’ trailer and it is about 7' wide. This is the perfect size trailer for pickup. There was plenty of room for my POD-S with 4 bays, a wall section, the door, the dome top and the slot cover. We measured the used area and I could have got away with a 16’ trailer, but I would prefer to have extra room so the 19’ trailer was perfect. The 5 bay POD-S would also fit on the 19 foot trailer.


From my time of arrival to departure, it was only 2 hours.


We were back on the road at 10:30 AM. We departed and the quickest way back home was down to Toronto and east on Route 401. We hit a lot of traffic in Toronto but it cleared up as we got out of the city.


I topped off my gas tank after leaving the factory in Shallow Lake, just before Toronto, and then there were several service stations along route 401 (Onroute service station), which had plenty of room, restaurants and bathrooms.


Once we got to Cornwall, we dropped down to go back to the US. We entered through the Cornwall Port of Entry. There was a nice bridge, but the bridge toll was cash in Canadian or US currency only. After crossing the bridge, we were in the US and we were met by US Customs. The officer that greeted me was much more serious than the Canada Customs Officer. I gave him my and my father’s Enhanced Driver’s licenses. He grilled me with questions about where I was coming from, how long I was in Canada, where I lived, why I went to Canada, then he asked about the POD-S. He wanted to know how much it was worth (if over $10,000 there is a form to fill out), where it was manufactured, and then he wanted to review the paperwork for it. I gave him my bill of sale, wire transfer, and bill of laden I got from the factory on pickup. He flipped through the documents and said I was all set and to enjoy the telescope dome.


We proceeded home and got to my house at approximately 8:30 PM. Upon arrival at my house, I unhitched the trailer, took off the tie downs, and put the truck in the garage with all the brackets and tracks. I went right to bed and got the best sleep ever. Now that I am home, caught up on my sleep, went back to work, washed the salt off the trailer and my truck, it was a great trip. I would do it again in a heart beat. It was a positive experience, everyone was friendly and I had excellent customer service at the Factory and from Wayne every step of the way. I am so glad I went with the POD-S and the next step will be setting it up and figuring out what I will do for flooring. One thing I do know is that I won't use so much Lexel this time. I overkilled my old POD with it, but I didn't have any leaks at all.



361 views5 comments

Recent Posts

See All

5 Comments


Great blog Tim!! Glad you had a safe trip. With gas prices up north, I'm surprised you drove all the way to Cornwall in Canada. I've made the trip between Ottawa and Oakville. I didn't enjoy it. Toronto with all the crazy lane changes drove me nuts. Especially during peak drive times. Sounds like coming back into the States was a little difficult. So no duty or import fees then? Looking forward to your assembly blog. Mine should be ready the middle to the end of next month. I'm very excited!! Congrats!!

Like

Excellent adventure! This is the first POD-S in the lower 48, right?

Like
Replying to

Yes, first POD-S to cross the border into the US. There are three right now. Wayne has one, Bill has the second one up in Canada and this is the third. Very exciting!

Like

Enjoy your POD, Great story.

Like
Replying to

Thanks!! It’s exciting!!

Like
bottom of page