Two weekends ago, Alex and I headed north for the wedding of the best man from our wedding in Michigan. The wedding was in an area known as the ‘Upper Peninsula’, which is the strip of land that is above Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, below Lake Superior, attached to Wisconsin, but considered part of Michigan. Still with me? So, the wedding was in an itty bitty town called Brimley. Brimley is so far north, you can spit and hit Canada. If you don’t believe me – Google it. Anyway, I’ve never been to Canada and I enjoy visiting new places and saying that I’ve been to foreign countries. Since I’ve never had the chance to step into Canada, I decided to bring my passport so I can check that off my traveling to do list.
We arrived in Brimley after a long day of traveling on Friday. The plan was to get up on Saturday and shoot up to Canada, explore a little, snap some pictures, buy some t-shirts, and skip back over to the US. Alex’s passport was expired, and because he didn’t put forth the effort to get it renewed, the plan was for me to hop into Canada by myself. After a much later start to the day than planned (thank you, hangover) and dropping Alex off with some buddies to explore on the US side, I pointed my rental car toward the international bridge.
The ride across to Canada was no problem. I did notice a long line of cars waiting to get back into the US, but I put it in the back of my mind. I had to focus on stepping into Canada for the first time and getting past border patrol. I can’t lie, i was nervous. I rolled up to a friendly looking Canadian lady with a gigantic bullet proof vest on. These Canadians aren’t joking around, eh. It’s border patrol’s job to question why you are coming into the country. Our conversation went a little something like this:
Canadian Border Patrol: Where are you from?
Me: St. Louis, Missouri
Canadian Border Patrol: Who’s car is this?
Me: It’s a rental car.
Canadian Border Patrol: What are you doing in Canada?
Me: We are up here for a wedding in Brimley this afternoon. I’ve never been to Canada before, and because we are so close, I thought I’d come over for a bit to buy some t-shirts.
Canadian Border Patrol: How long are you planning on being in Canada?
Me: Well, probably about an hour.
Canadian Border Patrol: What do you do for a living?
Me: I’m a photographer (I’m using the term loosely)
Canadian Border Patrol: So it’s just you and your fancy camera coming into the country?
Me: Yes, ma’am.
Canadian Border Patrol: What time is the wedding?
Me: it starts at 4pm.
Canadian Border Patrol: Are you in the wedding party?
Me: No, just attending.
Canadian Border Patrol: That’s a good thing, because you are probably going to be late with the line getting back.
Me: Yeah, I might not have planned this too well.
Canadian Border Patrol: Do you have any arrests or felonies on your record?
Me: No, ma’am.
Canadian Border Patrol: Yeah, you didn’t really look like you would.
Me: I know, right?!?
The border patrol agent (read: my new best friend) handed my passport back and I was given the green light to enter.
At this point, I was sweating bullets and freaking out that I was going to make Alex and myself late to the wedding. My visions of exploring, leisurely shopping, and photographing the area were tossed. I was in a race to find the coolest Canadian t-shirts I could as quickly as possible. The bridge shoots you off in an industrial area, and there happened to be a visitor center there. I decided to pop in to potty and ask where the best place to buy shirts was. As luck would have it, the visitor center sold shirts. They also gave me directions to other areas that sold souvenir shirts, but they seemed really far. Over my dead body was I missing this wedding. I opted to buy some of the crappy shirts that they sold and was ready to throw in the towel.
I got back in the car and headed back to the bridge. I eyed a duty free store on the entrance ramp to the bridge. I pulled in to test my luck there. I ended up hitting the t-shirt jackpot – maple leafs all around! On the way to the cash register, I noticed some foreign looking chocolate. It looked delish – I mean, how could you go wrong with authentic Canadian chocolates? So, I grabbed two bars of that as well. I jumped back in the car and hit the bridge back to America. I visited Canada for all of 15 minutes. The line of cars was backed up all the way across the bridge.
I inched my way back toward the good ole US of A. I was feeling good about time, even though it took an hour to get to the US border patrol gates. A cold sweat started. It’s like when you were called to the principal’s office. You know you aren’t in trouble, but you freak out anyway. It was kind of like that.
I had another conversation with a border patrol agent, this time an American man with a giant bullet proof vest.
American Border Patrol: What were you doing in Canada?
Me: Just went over to buy some t-shirts.
American Border Patrol: Really?
Me: Yeah. I’ve never been to Canada before. I’m from Missouri, up here for a wedding. I figured that I was this close, I might as well hop over and back.
American Border Patrol: Have you traveled internationally? There aren’t any stamps in your passport.
Me: I have, but I had to get a new passport after I was married and my name changed. We traveled internationally for our honeymoon.
American Border Patrol: Where did you go on your honeymoon?
Me: St. Lucia
American Border Patrol: Ah, a buddy of mine just went there and loved it. Did you guys like it?
Me: We LOVED it!! Would definitely go back someday. We really enjoyed it. You should go if they ever give you a break from here.
American Border Patrol: Ha! Yeah right. Fingers crossed I can take a vacation at some point.
Me: Border patrol is intense!
American Border Patrol: Did you know that you never signed your passport? You need to do that.
Me: Oh man! I had no idea. I will get right on that!
American Border Patrol (hands me my passport): Welcome home, Mrs. Parsons.
Me: Ah, thank you. It’s been an arduous journey.
I found Alex and the rest of the group at a little restaurant grabbing something to eat. Bringing the chocolate in (I didn’t want it to melt in the car), I made it in just enough time to down a sandwich. Alex wanted to see the chocolate and hear all about my international travels. I proudly showed him what I brought back. He took one look at it and exclaimed, ‘this is Cadbury chocolate!’ I was confused. There was no way it was Cadbury – it looked so international at the duty free store. Turns out I’m blonder than I even realized. You can’t win them all, I guess.
I might have screwed up the chocolate, but I’m now able to say that I’ve been to Canada. Ignore the fact that I spent four times the amount of time sitting in my car waiting to cross each border than I actually spent in Canada. I have been to freaking Canada and no one can take those precious 15 minutes from me. Not even Cadbury.