A Trip to Canada

A Trip to Canada
The Border Crossing at Kingsgate, British Columbia

The first time I traveled out of the U.S. was in 1953. My family drove back to West Virginia to visit my grandma. We didn’t take a direct route though. Instead we drove across southern Ontario, from Sault Ste. Marie to Niagara Falls, passing through Toronto. I can’t say I remember anything about that transit, but I do have a photo Poppa took of Momma and me, in slickers, aboard the Maid of the Mist, the tour boat that takes you up to Niagara Falls. This was my first trip to Canada.

Momma and Me on the Maid of the Mist, Niagara Falls, Ontario--my first trip to Canada
Jumping into the deep end of foreign travel.

Yes, that’s me at three and 3/4s years of age, August 1953 before my fourth birthday in October of that year. Two things I want you to pay close attention to in this photo. First, look at how happy I am to embark on a life of travel abroad. Can’t you just see it in that smiling face? And second, look closely at Momma. Remember, we are taking a cross-country road trip. We have left the U.S. and entered a foreign country. Finally, we are on a tour boat getting wet from Niagara Falls’ spray. So note, please, the fingernails and lipstick. A lady is always prepared, right?

My Second Trip to Canada

In 1972, I learned that a Swiss friend who had lived in the same hotel as me in Paris, was now studying in the Los Angeles area. He had invited me to join him and another Swiss national on a Spring Break trip to Mexico. (That story will come in a future post.) In August, Hans-Peter decided he wanted to drive from Los Angeles to Boston, and wanted me to go along. I gladly said “Yes!”

Hans-Peter met me at our home in the Bay Area, and he and I took off for points north. I won’t go into our U.S. travels in this blog, but after a few days on the road, we crossed into Canada at a secondary border crossing north of Bellingham, Washington. We saw the stop sign, and stopped, but no one came out, so we figured we were supposed to park and go inside. As we drove past the stop sign, a siren went off. Oops. Guess we were supposed to wait for them. Live and learn.

The Trans-Canada Through the Rockies

Once we cleared Customs and Immigration, we found our way to the Trans-Canada Highway. We drove through Kamloops, Sicamous, and Golden, then crossed into Alberta and Banff National Park. What we hadn’t counted on was the number of people who were out enjoying their summer vacations. Eventually we found a campsite, and spent the night in our tent. The next day we drove into Calgary, then south, arriving back at the U.S. border post north of Babb, Montana.

At the border, the U.S. agent did not want to let us in. He didn’t recognize Hans-Peter’s papers, and refused to believe that the 1964 Thunderbird belonged to H-P and not to me. We were just about at our wits’ end when the agent learned from his superiors that H-P had proper papers, but in a form that was new to the agent. We crossed into the U.S. and when we got to my family’s cabin in the Bitterroot Valley, Hans-Peter and I parted company. He continued on, but I stayed at the cabin. So much for my second trip to Canada.

My third trip to Canada

One of the extra-curricular activities I took on while in Grad School was Scottish Country Dancing. In 1975, I left Berkeley, and moved into my family’s cabin in Montana. At that time, the leading Scottish Dance Band in North America was Stan Hamilton’s group out of Toronto. Stan had never played in the western part of North America, so when he announced that he would play for a ball in Vancouver, there was quite a bit of excitement on the West Coast. A group of friends drove up from the Bay Area, and I met them in Seattle.

When we drove north from Seattle, we split the group into two cars, mine and the one driven by my first dance teacher. Ken and his group were right behind us when we left Seattle. Roughly 100 miles separates Seattle from the border crossing north of Blaine. We were driving on Interstate 5. I shouldn’t have lost my teacher.

Crossing the Border

I was driving a 1971 Mercury Cougar, and had hung my kilt in the rear driver’s side window. We got to the border, and the guard asked “What is your purpose in coming to Canada?” “We’re going to a Scottish Ball in Burnaby,” I replied. The guard noted the kilt in plain view and waved us through. In no time at all, we were resting comfortably at our host’s home in suburban Vancouver. Then the wait began. We waited over two hours for Ken and his crew to join us. We were beginning to worry that they would miss the Ball.

When Ken and his car finally appeared, we learned what had happened. When the border guard asked Ken “What is your purpose in coming to Canada,” Ken replied “We’re going to see Stan Hamilton!” “Who’s Stan Hamilton,” the guard asked, and things went downhill from there. The two hours we spent waiting comfortably in Burnaby, Ken and his crew spent at Canadian Immigration. The agents tore Ken’s car apart. Opened all the luggage. Examined everything with that proverbial fine-toothed comb, then finally asked Ken the question they should have asked earlier. “What is your profession?” Ken answered truthfully, “I’m a Travel Agent.” Oh?!? “Enjoy your trip to Canada!” and everything got crammed back into the car.

Border Crossing Woes

I have crossed the U.S./Canada border more times than any other border in the world. For a while, I was making as many as eight trips a year into Canada–all for Scottish Country Dancing. With the number of crossings involved, I suppose it is not surprising that I’ve had more troubles crossing that particular line than any other border I have crossed. And I’ve faced problems with both Canadian and U.S. officials. Of course these days, with the border closed due to the current health situation, I shouldn’t complain about border guards. But the tales I could tell about my trips to Canada.

Classic Car of the Day

Ford of Canada built and sold pickups and other trucks under the Mercury name from 1946 through 1968. For the most part, they were badge-engineered versions of U.S. Ford trucks, but sold through Lincoln-Mercury dealers across Canada. This particular 1950 Mercury pickup was on display at the 2011 Ignite the Nights Car Show in Libby, Montana. Taken August 20th, 2011 in Libby, Lincoln County, Montana.

When Ford introduced the Ranchero in the 1957 model year, Canadian buyers were able to buy a Meteor Ranchero from their Lincoln-Mercury Division.

Flower of the Day

The orange day-lily appeared on my website as of April 3rd, when my theme was cozy, culinary mysteries. I’m repeating it today, because the Canadian Province of Saskatchewan uses the day lily as its floral emblem, even putting it on the provincial flag.

Guest Site of the Day

Hannah lives in Edmonton and blogs under the title honeyandbetts.com. As I look at her blog, she has many interests in common with me. Her blog talks about travel. She shares recipes. In addition, she shares great ideas of how to entertain your small children at home–a topic you won’t otherwise find on my own website/blog. Do check out her site. The lemon poppyseed muffin recipes is by itself worth the price of admission. And her travel tips could come in handy for your next trip to Canada.

Recipe of the Day

The most Canajun dish I can think of off hand–Poutine. I have to admit I have never tried this mixture of french fries, gravy and melted cheese curds, but my Canadian friends insist that I shouldn’t knock it without trying it. Actually, reading the recipe leads me to say it might be ok. I’d be willing to try it. What more can I say? Maybe on my next trip to Canada?

Video of the Day

In late October, 2014, in two separate incidents terrorists attacked and killed Canadian soldiers. On the 20th, a Canadian citizen used his car to run down two soldiers, killing one. On the 22nd, another Canadian took a rifle to Parliament, and shot a soldier at the National War Memorial. In both instances, the perpetrators had converted to Islam and wanted to be seen as Jihadi. Wikipedia covered both incidents in long article titled 2014 shootings at Parliament Hill, Ottawa.

In a show of unity, fans at separate hockey games in Ottawa, Montréal, and Toronto joined in singing the national anthem, O Canada. The video moved me to tears, frankly. Especially when the soldier leading the singing sang the Star-Spangled Banner before O Canada. The lead singer dropped out after the opening of the Canadian anthem, and the crowd sang, some in English, some in French. I don’t expect most of my readers to know the words to O Canada, so here are the lyrics, in English and in French.

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all of us command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
Ô Canada!
Terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux!
Car ton bras sait porter l’épée,
Il sait porter la croix!
Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits.
Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.

And that’s a wrap

Lots more I could say about travels in Canada, and perhaps in the future I will, but the first three trips are enough for now. Tomorrow is Friday, and my editorial calendar says that Friday means reading materials. I had planned on writing about (non-cozy) mysteries, but with the untimely death of John Prine, and the fact that April is poetry month, I may do a tribute to one of my favorite singer/songwriters. Tune in to see.



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