Passing from Maine to Canada

I still have a few adventures with moose to tell, but I want to follow up on my previous post about the dreaded Canadian border crossing. A fear I developed of Customs was erased by a perfectly easy time when returning to the US from a trip to Norway. I figured what had happened to me when crossing from Quebec into Maine was a fluke.

So, in 1997, I took a driving trip through the Canadian Maritimes. My itinerary started with me driving up to Portland, Maine, spending the afternoon there, and then catching a ferry to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, later than evening. I’ll note quickly that I had driven through Portland a few times, but this was my first time wandering the downtown area. Like other smaller cities along the coast, I found Portland thoroughly likable. Anyway, after a nice afternoon I drove to the docks to catch the late night ferry.

Among the first to arrive in the boarding area, my car was at the front of one of several long rows of cars. In front of the cars was the waiting area for motorcycles. Not long before boarding time, Customs Agents made their way in front of us and went through the bags of all the motorcyclists. This caught the attention of a number of us, including a couple behind me who I got to regale with my story of how I went through the rather unceremonious ordeal myself several years earlier.

Then, as my luck would have it, once again my car was among the few selected for searching. As this was my second misadventure with Customs at the Canadian border, I kind of knew what to expect, but I recall being less nervous and even less patient with them. I had four bags in the trunk, and they said they were going to look through two of them, and asked if I had a preference for which two.

Naturally, I had nothing to hide and told them that they were welcome to go through any of them. What annoyed me, though, was when they showed no regard for my camera equipment when going through my camera bag, basically dumping it into the trunk. I explained that the equipment was expensive and asked if they would mind not letting it bounce around. They apologized and told me I could pack it up, and asked again if I minded their going through any of the other bags. As I was stuffing the camera equipment away, I said I didn’t and they could throw my clothes and camping equipment around as much as they liked. They started to unzip a bag, and then seemingly realized that they had been too careless with my camera equipment. Deciding to move on at that point, their flashlights were aimed at other cars, looking for others to inspect.

Once on board the ferry, the couple that was behind me came over to talk, after a laugh over what had happened. A number of others came over too and asked what I had in my trunk—some were being funny, others seemed genuinely curious.

Again, I swore off Canada. That lasted, though, only a couple of years, until an opportunity to ski at Whistler presented itself…


  1. I was watching Strange Brew while I read this, which made it four times more awesome. Take off!


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