Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Trip - Canada at Last

Back in August we tried going to Canada. We were nearly as far west as the continental US gets, but the realities of stand-by slapped us upside the head and sent us off to Plan B.

And here we are in Maine, nearly as far east as the continental US gets--about 3,500 miles from our first attempt--and we got into Canada at long last.

We could tell we were near Canada back when we got to Niagara Falls and a look across the river showed us a foreign country. And after we left the Falls, we started seeing food products and signs with their second language in French instead of Spanish. I like seeing French better, because I can understand most of it. At the pizza parlor in Florenceville, New Brunswick, they had a sign with directions for grilling your own bread, and I knew all the French words but one.

In California, the signs don't have Spanish words I know. They have words like, peligroso, which I always have to think about and which I think means, "danger," or something like that, but I'm never sure, because it's usually accompanied by a picture of a man falling down. Or is that piso mojado? I don't know. I understand, "¿Dondé esta el baño?" but they never put that on any signs.

But I'm getting off the subject. Today we left the RV Park in Houlton, Maine, and drove the Toyota (with Scooter and his proof-of-rabies-shot papers) a couple miles to the Canadian border. Some other RVers in other places had warned us that we needed to document that we already owned any expensive items, like cameras, before we went into Canada, so the US Customs people wouldn't assume we bought them over the border and try to charge us duties on them.

We spotted a Customs/Border Patrol office on our way and stopped there. I knocked on the door, which had a numbered keypad so it was obviously not a for-the-public office. A Border Patrol officer came to the door, and I told him I wanted to document my camera, etc. He told me I needed to stop at the US Customs office right before the border. He said, with a smile, that at his office if you mess with them, you go to jail. And I followed his implication that if you mess with Customs, you only have to pay money.

By the border, I parked all alone in an area by the US Customs building that's supposed to be for trucks exporting goods to Canada. It was hard to find the door, but I finally managed. The Customs officer was even more good-natured than the Border Patrol officer. When I told him I wanted to document my camera so I didn't get charged duties on our return, he said, "Oh, we assume you didn't buy it in Canada. They're more expensive there."

I asked him what the restrictions were and the limits before duties were charged. He said it was $400, but if we brought back alcohol, we had to have been in Canada at least 48 hours. Alcohol wasn't an issue for us anyway. But then he said we can't bring back beef, or Canadian citrus. Or uncooked chicken. Those were also not a problem, since we were in the car, not the motorhome, and we didn't have any Canadian money with us. So I went back to the car and we drove to Canada's Port of Entry, just a few hundred yards down the road.

The Canadian officer asked us where each of us lived. "I'm in California, and she's in Texas."

"And what is your purpose in coming to Canada?"

"We came to drive over the world's longest covered bridge in Hartland."

"You drove all the way from Texas just to drive over a bridge?"

"Yes." Pause while he looks stunned. "Well, we're staying at an RV Park in Houlton, and we came here for the day."

"Oh. That makes more sense."

Then he asked if we planned to leave anything in Canada. Pause while I was stunned. I mentally went through the contents of the car, and the only thing I could imagine leaving behind was maybe some brochures that I hadn't cleaned out of the back seat that I could possibly throw away. I finally told him I couldn't think of anything. We'd be taking pictures. Then he welcomed us to Canada.

It wasn't far to Hartland. We turned down a road where the sign with the shape of a covered bridge and an arrow pointed, and when I saw the bridge below us, I parked the car for a photo op. This is the picture I got.

I understood the sign in both languages.

They were in the process of repairing the siding, though nobody was actually working on it when we were there. So I took a bunch of pictures to make our visit worthwhile. I had been misinformed. The bridge was not a mile long. It's 1,282 feet long--still longer than any other covered bridge in the world.

We drove north from Hartland, along the Saint John River, stopping whenever we wanted to for pictures (which we could do in the car--such a pleasure!).

In Florenceville we stopped for pizza, where half a dozen men were having lunch together. I listened for accents, but with one exception they all talked like normal people, eh? Even though Maine was only a few miles away from any of the towns we visited, there was no carry-over of accent across the border. A couple days ago a man at an RV Park office told me he was originally from "Bah Hahbuh," proving that the letter "R" is not allowed in the state of Maine. But in New Brunswick, all the "R's" from Maine must have taken up residence, because they were plentiful there.

So we looked for autumn, found it in many places...

... and then stumbled on a railroad museum in Bristol, though it wasn't open.

Our stop at US Customs in Fort Fairfield was similar to Canada's.

"Did you purchase anything in Canada?"

"Pizza, but we ate it all."

"No souvenirs?"

"No, we took pictures."

"How long were you there?"

"A few hours."

"That's all?"

"Yes, we wanted to drive across the covered bridge in Hartland, but it was closed, so we drove around New Brunswick for a while."

"OK. Welcome back."

And then I took a picture of a US Customs sign, so I'd know which autumn pictures are in the US and which ones are in Canada. It's a little hard to tell just by looking.


Charlie said...

That is one amazing bridge. Thanks for the great photos.

CG said...

Once again, your photos are fabulous!