Friday, August 01, 2014

Blame Canada!

It's the first day of the big trip!  We spent the morning packing and preparing, left Newton Avenue before noon, stopped briefly at the lake and turned West with high hearts ready for adventure.  Gorgeous hot summer day, perfect for  a road trip.  We saw drumlins and a fawn and possibly a bald eagle in the Montezuma Refuge, and the sky got bigger and higher and wider the way it does as you drive west across New York.  The route plan was to head for Niagara Falls, cut across Ontario to Port Huron, Michigan, and then turn north up the Mitten and then west again across the Upper Peninsula between Lakes Michigan and Superior toward Minnesota, North Dakota and Montana. Good plan, huh?  Except we forgot to bargain for the 21st century headache of crossing the border between the US and Canada.

It dawned on us when we got near Buffalo around 3:30 and started seeing signs with startling crossing wait times that the border might be a problem.  Of the several crossings (Peace Bridge, Rainbow Bridge, and the one in Lewiston at I190)  Rainbow Bridge -- the one right by the falls -- looked best.  So, we drove blithely over Grand Island and into Niagara Falls -- and, on Niagara Avenue, hit traffic.  Serious traffic.  Sit still and don't move for minutes at a time, and then move forward three feet and stop and sit still for some more minutes again traffic.  Worse yet, while you're sitting still, watch people at an intersection ahead of you pulling in front of you from another street, car after car after car after car, taking up all the spaces so that even when the light changes you still. can't. move.  We had no idea.  We shoulda gone to Toledo and turned North there.  Too late now!

I did not take that picture; I stole it from the results of a Google search for "Niagara Falls traffic congestion."  However, that's pretty much how it looked, except you have to imagine the RV pulling a "toad" -- a small car on a trailer -- in the lane on our right, that couldn't wait for a space in the traffic and pulled out so that it entirely blocked an intersection, cutting off a line of cars trying to get through the line of cars trying to get into Canada (never move to Niagara Falls) until a city bus showed up and nosed its way belligerently right up to the toad, couldn't cross, and WAITED, emanating diesel bus threat vibes.  Oddly, not many people honked.  Gridlock!

Two hours and fifteen minutes of stop-and-start, mostly stop driving later, we reached a nice bored Canadian man in a booth who took less than a minute and a half to glance at our passports, ask a couple of questions and wave us through.  We did get glimpses of the American and Canadian falls and the gorge from the bridge, at least.

But mostly, it looked like this:

Well.  After that it was smooth sailing.  We took the Queen Elizabeth Way through St. Catherine's to Hamilton.   There's a whole lot of healthy-looking new industry and retail in Ontario, and also plenty of new housing construction.  Things are buzzing.  Clean, busy, growing ,thriving.   Except, they don't mow the grass along the highway, which makes it look as if the apocalypse just happened and everyone's escaping.  

Eventually we reached London, where we are now holed up in a Howard Johnson's.  (First we had trouble paying for gas with our U.S. credit card, then we drove around sleepily hunting without success for a motel, then we found the Casa Blanca, where the nice guy who ran the place didn't have the room we needed but picked up the phone and called up his son at the Howard Johnson's up the road and fixed us up.  People in Canada are notably nice.)  In the morning, we'll brave the crossing back into the US at Sarnia.  Wait times there were 80 minutes earlier this evening, according to my phone, but we're hoping mornings might be better.  After that -- Michigan!  

Update:  Dad says Canada is like a foreign country.


Caleb said...

I look forward to your next post, The Chronicles of Sarnia.

Laura said...

For border crossings, you need to be there by 8 AM. That's what our trucks do. Otherwise you wait.

Also how did you get from Niagara Falls to London so fast?! I didn't know you could drive there.

Dad said...

Well, you can, but eventually you end up in Snarnia.

Claire Newbold said...

Good stuff Cassie. Very entertaining. Tough start though but it will get better.