It took 33 minutes and involved pulling over for a car search, but all in all our third attempt to cross the border into Canada on this yearlong perimeter trip was fairly uneventful.
Quite a relief from the disaster that was our first attempt two months ago. (To read about our second attempt, go here.)
It was 1:15 on a Friday afternoon when we pulled up to the border crossing at Eastport, Idaho. There were about a dozen cars in front of us so we got in line, turned off the engine and tried not to get nervous.
We noticed a couple of burley guys with heavy hats and mega-binoculars in a big black Idaho state patrol SUV near the border building. They’d peer through their binoculars, lower them, say something to each other, point, and then raise the binoculars to their eyes again.
Wonder what they’re looking for, we mused.
We tried to mind our Ps and Qs. (Did they watch me get out of the car and unlock the Casita to fetch a couple of bananas for us to snack on while we waited in the vehicle line?)
It took barely 15 minutes for us to reach the front of the line. We handed over our passports and answered the requisite questions regarding the purpose and duration of our visit to the Maple Leaf. We’d already either drank or left with friends most of our alcohol and we had no fireworks, which are illegal in Canada – though we declared our one remaining packet of sparklers, a gift from friends in Florida in April, just to be safe.
And when it came to the weapons question, we disclosed the aforementioned Unfortunate Incident from July 1 in New Brunswick involving a $10 canister of undeclared pepper spray we didn’t know we had, the impoundment of our car, and the subsequent $500 fee for the return of said car.
That was enough for bodybuilder Agent Lefèvre, biceps bulging from his tight shirtsleeves, to ask us to pull over to the left, park and enter the large building with the 13 flags representing Canada’s provinces and territories.
We were the only vehicle amid the dozens crossing the border at this time to be pulled over.
We did as instructed and entered the empty lobby with some trepidation. In front of us were a half dozen men fanned across a very official looking counter, positioned like bank tellers in a savings and loan. One of them, in a voice barely audible in the echo chamber that was the cavernous lobby, asked us to approach and reached for our paperwork.
Why are you here?
When did this occur? This year?
Please take a seat over there.
We sat down on plastic chairs and tried to watch the TV mounted on the wall. It was hard to concentrate. We made nervous small talk to each other about what a warm day it was and how beautiful the scenery is.
A few minutes later, again in a voice we could barely hear, the man at the counter called us back.
We need your keys to search your vehicles. Are there any pets anywhere? Is anything locked inside that requires an additional key? Anything especially sharp?
No, no and no. Here are the keys.
We watched as this agent and another dark-haired man, both in big boots and pressed uniforms, probably in their 30s, walked out the door and around the building to our Nissan Xterra and Casita travel trailer. One on one side, the other on the other side, they donned gloves and then opened the front doors of the car in unison and rummaged inside.
A few minutes later, they opened the back doors, looked inside, paused and then closed the doors and paced their way deliberately back around and into the building.
Uh-oh, I thought. Something’s wrong. They didn’t even open the Casita and already they’re coming back with an issue.
Our agent returned to his spot at the counter and then, in the same barely audible voice, asked us to approach. He handed G the keys, our passports and the July 1 citation.
You’re clear to go.
What, I thought? You’ve got to be kidding. No inspection of the Casita, which we’d so carefully shorn of beer and alcohol?
Thank you very much, we said, hesitatingly at first, hardly believing our good fortune. Then we hustled back out to the car and pulled quickly away before anybody changed his mind.
“Think Metric: 60 is 100” said the first sign upon entering our 33rd state/province six months into our Year on the Edges of America.
Absolutely, I thought.
Canadian Rockies, here we come!