Photo credit: Cirqua 1983
Despite the Meltdown, I had to get back to Montreal.
I’d waited 8 years for this passport, I wasn’t going to let it slip between my fingers.
So I drove like mad, and made it from flagstaff to the border in 2 days. A long two days since I’d decided to keep south as much as possible to avoid potential snow storms.
I don’t even remember where I stopped if I did at all, I was lost in the drive, and it did me good. Cleared my head. Now heading back to Montreal, against my will, felt like going in reverse. I knew I didn’t want to be there, and having to go back proved it to me. I knew that I was on the right track, even if I had no idea where that track led, it was in the right direction. I pulled myself back together, I had learned and seen so much in the last month. Yeah, it’s true, I’d done it completely alone, but how else are you supposed to face the skeletons in your closet? And who’s going to want to be your friend, let alone your lover, if you’re carrying around a bunch of toxic and useless baggage.
No, that was for sure, I was doing the right thing. Moving felt good, and everything would fall into place. I was convinced. Everything happens for a reason, and it would all reveal itself to me soon.
It was 6 o’clock in the morning when I pulled up to the border, dressed in PJ’s, empty rent-a-wreck, smile on my face as I rolled down the window.
I was FINALLY going to have a Canadian passport!
The border guard looked especially grumpy, and as I rolled down the window I quickly understood at least one of his reasons. It was absolutely freezing, and the sun hadn’t had time to warm anything up at all yet. The fresh coffee in his hand told me he was most likely just starting his shift too, grumpy reason number two. Uh-oh Jade, proceed with caution.
I handed him my passport and topped it with a “good morning” which in retrospect didn’t help me much.
He shrugged it off.
“Where you headed?”
“Where do you live?”
“Where you coming from?”
“You drove from Vegas today?”
“No, took me a couple of days. I was on a road trip, I’m coming back to get sworn in as a Canadian!”
I thought that last bit would negate the whole complicated story. I got nothing, not even a congratulations. “Wow, he’s in a really shitty mood!!”
“Where have you been?”
“Well I started in New York, went through Chicago, then Winnepeg, through Yellowstone, over to the canyon lands, Vegas, and now I’m back!”
He eyes me up and down…
“Why are you wearing PJ’s?”
“They’re comfortable to drive in. I’ve been driving for a long time. You want to be comfortable you know”
He gave me a crooked look.
“This your car?”
“No sir, a rental, here are the papers”
“Says here you got it in Jersey”
“Yes sir I did”
“You can’t come in with this car ma’am”
“We don’t let in rentals that have to be returned in the states”
“But I just crossed the border into Winnepeg a two weeks ago”
“We can’t control what they do at every border crossing ma’am, but you can’t come in in this car.”
“Well, so what do I do, I need to be in Montreal tomorrow morning?”
“You can drive to Albany, leave it at the bus station and take a bus up, or you can drive back half a mile and leave it at the truck stop, walk back and wait over in that building over there for the bus.”
Are you friggin’ kidding me?!? It’s negative mother f-in’ lord knows how many degrees out there this guy wants me to walk half a mile in this?!? I don’t even have a JACKET!
“Excuse me sir, are you sure there’s no other way? See I’m not dressed for this weather, this was an impromptu change of plans, I’m really excited to become Canadian, you know, is there nothing we can do here? I’m obviously not trying to traffic this shitty car over the border, we can call the guys that rented it to me for approval, they told me I’d be fine to drive it into Canada”
“No ma’am, those are your options.”
Wow this guy’s a D***. Easy for you to say with your government issued Canada Goose you P****!
I’m still trying hard to keep a smile on my face, but through gritted teeth I’m thinking “It’s ‘cause of the PJs isn’t it? You’re just jealous ‘cause you wish you were still in your PJs.”
Alas, no amount of mental cursing was going to get me out of this.
It was Albany or the truck stop, and I wasn’t backtracking all the way to Albany.
“Thank you sir, before I get on my way, could you just direct me to the proper route to turn around, and have yourself a fantastic day!”
I make a U-turn and have to stop at the US side of the border again, where they tell me it’s routine to search all cars that are declined entry into Canada, but at least they’re nice about it. I go inside, and while I’m waiting make small talk with one of the higher standing officers who thinks I’m just the strangest thing he’s ever seen.
“You’re traveling alone?” Here we go again, how many times have I had to explain this now?
“Yessir, I asked my boyfriend to come with me, but he declined, so I’m doing it by myself”
The usual questions follow, and I’m answering like a broken record, but then something unexpected happens.
“Is that all you’re wearing?’
“Yessir. This was sort of impromptu, I wasn’t supposed to come back this far north”
“Hold on, lemme see if I still got that extra pair of gloves back there”
Are you serious?!?! I take back everything I’ve ever said about American Border Guards! I LOVE this guy!
I get down to the truck stop and they take my 3 day’s storage fee, I take everything out of my car and stuff it in my backpack, and I get an extra large coffee to warm myself up on the walk. It doesn’t help much, and I’m grateful for the gloves, but it’s still really ridiculously cold, and the bag is stupid heavy.
20 minutes later I’m back to return the gloves, which he insists I keep, and chaperones me to the Canadian side of the border, all the while repeating that I must be out of my mind, and to remember to be careful out there. Srsly, I LOOVE THIS GUY!
And then I wait 3 hours in a freezing cold room for the bus to arrive.
Oh yeah, This is SUCH an awesome day!
And then there’s the 3 days I have to spend in Montreal. Let me tell you something: When you make a big deal out of leaving, when you have yourself a giant going away party and everyone you know shows up and you get smashed and don’t remember half the night, when you say to everyone HASTA LA VISTA, BABY! and then you have to come back just a few weeks later, take my word for it, lay low.
Cause if you do what I did, and you go hang out one night at that bar you worked at for seven years, and even though a lifetime’s passed for you, it’s just another weekend for them, in fact, they’re not even sure how many weekends have passed since you left!
What you get is that awkward: “wait… aren’t you supposed to be…… “
“Yeah, actually, I’ve been gone almost a month, I came close to dying a few times, I had some of the most amazing things happen, and some of the shittiest too, I’m just here to pick up my passport and then I’m gone! No for real this time, Yeah, RTW! wooooo!”
Ugh, no one gives a….
I did get my passport though, and as I walked out, Montreal got its first snow storm of the year.
I’d seen New York’s first snow, Chicago’s first sleet, Winnepeg’s first snow, Yellowstone’s first snow, and now, Montreal was gracing me with it’s first snow too.
I wasn’t sad about it though, I saw it as a good omen. As I walked out, passport in hand, giant flakes falling form the sky, I felt like I’d gone full circle, I felt like I’d gone through everything I needed, and was now completely equipped to move freely, anywhere I pleased. I enjoyed that snow like it was the last time I was going to see it for a loooooong time.
And it was, now just over 2 years later, I still haven’t seen snow.
I got back down to the border, and walked that half mile again like it was nothing, got in my car and returned it in Jersey 5 hours early.
I spent my last night in New York with wonderful gentleman I’d met previously, and we talked about changing the world. The next morning we got on the subway. He was headed to work, I was headed to the airport, the the DR where I’d meet my parents for Christmas.
His stop was before mine, as he got off, he turned around and said to me, “you should try surfing while you’re down there. It’d be good for you” and the doors slid shut.
Little did he know those closing words would change my life.
These our our Closing tales from the road and concludes our US Road Trip Series.