We did it again - we crossed the 49th.This time we went with the whole Peanut tribe: 5 little, 2 parents, 1 Tante and 1 Oma. Finding our way through the chaotic mass of vehicles inching their way toward the U.S., we chose a lane and stuck to it. So of course, it turned out to be the lane which had a man and woman who seemed to be rather new to the country, perhaps from India. Their car was examined closely, they were questioned thoroughly, and eventually they were led away while uniformed and official-looking individuals drove the car away. It was very exciting, but it did delay things somewhat.
BoB (our Beast of Burden - the van) arouses a great deal of interest with the border guard, as does any vehicle with children, I'm sure. The kids are questioned as to whether they are in the car willingly, and are they in the company of their parents, or random strangers who force them to work in the salt mines. I wondered if Two would take this chance at a break for freedom, and tell the burly man in uniform with a gun on his hip that actually, these were not his parents, and could he please live on his own? However, Oma and I behind them in our own car, saw BoB eventually waved through and then it was our turn to face the inquisitor.
What country are you from, he asked. How long will you be gone? Where are you going? To which we answered: Canada, until tonight, we don't know, we're following them (pointing to the van disappearing around the corner) He seemed baffled that we didn't know our destination, but truly, we only knew we wanted to find some hills and a lake. A lake? he asked, somewhat disbelieving. The Great Lakes surround us on two sides, but we're sitting at a border crossing and will drive for hours to look at another one? Yop, we're like that. He was also surprised we didn't have any food with us: not even a snack? he asked. Nope. we said. We're like that. Oma worried later, when she learned that I'd packed some scones and apples that we should have told him. We joked that perhaps he was hinting he was hungry and would be willing to accept a token of international goodwill in the form of some food.
We drove through some very depressed neighbourhoods. It was very clear that the economic downturn has really hit parts of the U.S. very hard. Being a rather industrialized part of the country, it wasn't terribly pretty, either, but we gradually found ourselves in hill country, not far from Pennsylvania. Our destination was Chautauqua Lake, which was just lovely. We'd like to go back again soon, but head further in this time.
Here are some of the interesting things we saw along the way:
- drive through pharmacies. I wonder, will they show you a selection of shampoos to choose from, or must you know ahead of time what you want?
- farm fresh fruits and vegetables. Where else do they come from, really?
- beef and ice cream parlour. Good thing about the ice cream. Can't imagine a beef parlour would draw a crowd.
- retirement homes and rehabilitation centres that advertised "skilled nursing". Good to know they don't hire the incompetent nurses. "All our nurses know what they're doing!". Well, phew!
- Coca~cola has gone metric in the States. I saw ads featuring the "new 2L size bottles!"
- must warn you about some of that upstate wine: it tastes like Welsh's but with a kick. Danger!
Where were all you Americans last Saturday? We drove around upstate for hours... through several towns, even, and saw hardly anyone. Are you all that into golf you were all inside watching whatever tournament was causing a stir?
At one point, J (my sister) and I laughed while the two smallest Peanuts were playing on the slide at a park we stopped at: it's so like us to drive three hours in one direction, into a foreign country, for the kids to play at a park. All kidding aside, it was a lovely day, and a beautiful drive, with hopefully many more ahead of us, down that way. But for now, it's very good to be home again.