Back in Canada

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(>Pictures at the bottom!)

….and return to the USA
Coming from the USA, entering the great northern country was a piece of cake. The customs officer did ask a few critical questions, but in the end we had a nice chat about our previous journey. With a few tips about Canada, he soon wished us a safe and eventful journey. We probably look really trustworthy! πŸ™‚

It was like a “home game” for us, as we had already travelled several times on this peninsula, wedged between Lake Huron, Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie, where almost everything revolves around agriculture. For the time being, we followed Lake Erie, where we thought there would be better overnight accommodation and possibly fewer mosquitoes due to the wind. Yes, the mosquitoes, or black flies (…even worse according to Chantal!!) were already our faithful companions and, depending on the season, these pests sucked hard on our blood. Evening mosquito repellent was already a daily routine and even the shortest breaks were no longer possible without it.

We left Lake Erie at the former railway junction of St. Thomas in south-western Ontario and headed north-east through vast agricultural areas. We would have taken the route to Chapeau (QC)/Pembroke (ON) to visit my relatives (Tom), but there were still many options to choose from. In the end, we chose the furthest route north around Algonquin State Park, briefly following the Ontario River before heading east along dusty tracks in the vast forests of the Laurentians. There were actually a lot of great spots in these vast wooded areas and by the lakes, but stopping was almost forbidden; you were immediately attacked by thousands of mosquitoes. πŸ™

My aunt in Pembroke/Ontario was unclear for a long time where we could stay and her offer was a bit confusing for us. So, without further ado, we decided to stay with our cousin in Chapeau/Quebec on the farm for the short term. Despite this “back and forth”, the welcome was – how could it be otherwise – very warm and the time we spent together flew by far too quickly for me (Tom). Although I couldn’t really get stuck in due to an accident, it was an entertaining time. My uncle invited us to Pembroke for the last evening and I (Tom) was immediately demoted to barbecue master before we had to say goodbye again the next day and see you next time.

In two days we travelled back and forth from Ontario to Quebec and back again, to the northern bank of the St. Lawrence River, before we reached my second cousin’s farm (Tom) at the far end of Ontario. Although the warmth at the reunion was not the same as up in Chapeau/Pembroke, the news we had learnt kept me – no, us – busy; sometimes life can be really complicated! A dream turned into frustration and disappointment.

For the onward journey to Halifax (Nova Scotia), we had long toyed with the idea of crossing the border into the USA again and continuing through the north-eastern states, as we had already explored the narrow and drivable landscapes along the St Lawrence River a few years ago. So, off we went to the land of opportunity.

We headed for the US border post with somewhat uneasy feelings. We weren’t quite sure how our Jeep had been registered when we entered the country early last summer and whether our stay in Mexico had changed our entire stay in North America or whether the short time in Canada was enough. Our papers and passport were OK for the customs officer, but he searched in vain for any data on the car in his computer and for a possible customs registration when crossing the border. Thank goodness he found nothing and so our Jeep was registered as a new arrival in the USA. Hooray, we were back “inside” (USA).

Once “inside”, we followed the US-Canadian border in an easterly direction. The vast forests of the north-eastern states beckoned us, where the northern foothills of the Appalachian Mountains lie on the US side. However, we didn’t have enough time for any big adventures, as we had other plans in Canada and the date for the return shipment to Europe had already been booked.

New York – not to be confused with the big city much further south, where the day never ends – is heavily characterised by agriculture and forestry in the north. Vast, almost untouched landscapes accompanied us towards Plattsburgh, where we almost caused the administration at a state park to crash their computers. Whether it was due to our name, the European place of residence or the slightly overlong telephone number from Switzerland; we don’t know! It wasn’t until the following day that a computer specialist was able to solve the problem and register us neatly in the New York State database. After this procedure, we were finally allowed to leave the campsite and take the ferry across Lake Champlain to Vermont, the next state over.

We fell in love with Vermont straight away; the landscape here would also invite you to stay a little longer and you could experience many outdoor activities yourself or have them organised by the many small companies, as the ubiquitous roadside advertising promised. Despite the great activities, time was pressing and we simply enjoyed the lovely area through the windscreen. And, a booking for any endeavour would probably have led to another total computer failure, as they are not designed for ultra-long phone numbers πŸ˜‰ So we hopped over the border to New Hampshire on the same day and moved into our overnight accommodation at a private campsite.

But even at this campsite – in the middle of the forest – we had to register via an online platform and pay by credit card, which finally worked on the second attempt. Just a few years ago, you could write your name and licence plate number on an envelope, put the amount of money in the envelope and drop it in a container. Today, however, everything is more modern and, if things go well, you spend many minutes typing on your mobile phone and end up in a queue. And as a reward, you also have to pay a steep processing fee for the online booking. Long live the modern age! Instead of concentrating on the scenery, you soon spend more time using your mobile phone to log in or register somewhere and how.

We were glad when we spotted the “Maine” sign on a lonely forest path and looked forward to the next challenges, whether it was choosing a route or using our mobile phones. But things turned out differently in Maine and the good old days were still alive here; envelopes were available for payment, or a nice pensioner took over the corresponding task. But in the vast forest areas, we didn’t often need to drive to an appropriate infrastructure; we almost always found wonderful and cosy spots for an overnight stay straight away, with or without mosquitoes.

The very large and northern forest areas are owned by some large corporation, but may be used privately and are a kind of commercial utilisation and protection at the same time. We travelled around Baxter State Park to the far west on this route and were surprised to see that there are also wonderful landscapes to be experienced outside of protected areas. But not everything is protected here; when the hunting season opens, it probably gets a bit uncomfortable for normal tourists like us in these vast forests. In addition to bears, moose (mosses in North America) are also hunted and are at the top of the hunters’ wish list. We also spotted these animals several times and each time there was a cry of joy. Unfortunately, there was never enough time for a photo; these guys simply disappeared too quickly into the forest for us. πŸ™

At Saint Francis and Fort Kent we reached the almost northernmost point of Maine. Another surprise for us; in addition to the omnipresent US flags, there were also Quebec flags everywhere. The place names also reminded us more of Quebec than of an American country. A nice gentleman later explained to us that this had to do with the history of the area and that many families are still bilingual today. Even the young people today are proud to be able to speak the language of their ancestors.

However, the further south we travelled along US Highway 1, the more American it became again and in this rural area the advertising drums for the upcoming presidential elections were already being beaten on every corner. It was also noticeable that the poorer the dwellings, the larger the advertising messages of their dream president, who stands up for a great America. Presumably these people dream of a better America and forget that they will probably get the least.

We soon reached Calais/Maine, which could almost shake hands with its French namesake. Many run-down factories and houses lined the road from far outside the centre. But crossing back into Canada was easy and after a short drive over the bridge we were already there, where the red maple leaf on the flag fluttered in the wind.
The customs officer asked us a few questions – how could it have been otherwise – and we were welcomed back to Canada. πŸ™‚

Chantal and Tom/June 2024

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