Blown up over the US border

Trip Start Apr 25, 2006
Trip End Apr 25, 2007

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Flag of United States  , Washington
Sunday, August 13, 2006

Setting off a little later than planned, I strapped myself into the car with Trev at the helm and Rebecca kicking around on the cramped back seat. Destination: The U.S.

I hadn´t really contemplated a dash over the border, but when offered a day trip to Bellingham for some reason I jumped at it. Possibly it was my lack of planning for Vancouver. Maybe I really did want to see The States. Whatever it was, we were soon belting our way towards the land of capitalism and paranoia - towards Seattle - with little regard for what could lay ahead at the border and beyond.

It wasn´t long before we pulled up to the massive queue of cars out of Canada. After about 2 minutes of crawling along at snail´s pace Trevor noticed the oil light was flashing. Hmmm, not a good omen when we are at the back of an hour-long queue and with no servo in sight. A few minutes later smoke started bellowing out of the 1970 VW Beetle´s rear-mounted engine. Not to worry. By some fluke we were on the crest of a long sweeping slope, so the engine was turned off and we were in ¨coasting mode¨ until further notice. The queue wasn´t moving any faster, so I took the opportunity to get out and walk across the border while admiring the cheesy slogans and flags adorning every inch of no man´s land. Besides, it was bloody hot in the Beetle, and a distinct lack of aircon or any way to wind down the window meant it was sweet relief to stretch the old legs.

I mounted up as the Beetle precariously neared the U.S. side, and the engine was called upon one more time to get us across. Unfortunately for us, we were smuggling a foreigner (namely me) across the border so we had to park the car and report inside some building there. Apparently even Canadians have to take their passport to get across now... Trevor was reminiscing about the days when they would ask him ¨Are you Canadian?¨ and a simple ¨I am, eh¨ was sufficient to get him through. The immigration official was thorough if anything, asking me where I´d been, how many minutes I´d be on U.S. soil, what I had learned during the course of my travels, what was my favourite food etc... as well as the standard photo and fingerprinting. For this service I paid US$6.

Finally in the U.S. we had immediate things to worry about, like finding some oil for the car before anything bad happened. We weren´t so lucky I´m afraid, because roughly 5km over the border the poor mistreated Beetle went ¨click, click, bang!¨ and that was that. We coasted in deathly silence to the side of the road, allowed a moment of contemplation, then all got out after Trevor tried to turn her over and got absolutely no reaction. Seized engine, says we.

We didn´t really have many options at this stage, so Rebecca was nominated ¨hitch hiker most likely to actually get someone to stop¨ and took up the familiar pose by the side of the road, all the time risking arrest as apparently hitching on a motorway is illegal in bloody America. While almost certain it would be a Canadian that came to our aide, Rebecca was disgusted to find that a yank was first to offer a hand - and told them so! They still agreed to take her to the nearest servo to buy some oil, and ended up being remarkably kind as they also drove her back to us! Good old country boy.

The oil didn´t help. It was really more of a long shot anyway, but we still had to go to Plan B. The closest servo was not far down the I-5 motorway (nearly in sight) so we started to push the o-so-light VW. Other motorists were nice enough to honk and wave at us as we went, and I was only too happy to wave back as long as they didn´t clip us on the narrow road shoulder. A little over a mile later, sun beating down, the Beetle was parked at Shell and we regrouped at the attached Subway for lunch. A few phone calls later a fat tow truck driver was on his way, and not long after that we were squeezed into his cabin and on the way to the border - 5km for a measly US$82. Next step was to arrange another tow truck for the Canadian leg of the tow, which was looking to be around $250 excluding a border fee of around $30. We waited an hour or so for ¨The Biggest tow truck Driver in the World¨ to arrive, then reluctantly squeezed in without Rebecca due to weighbridge restrictions on seatbelts. Naturally we pulled to the side of the road just after the weighbridge, and waited for Rebecca to catch up. A very cosy ride back to Vancouver, a very expensive day (for some), and a very relieved bunch just to be back home.
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