A few years ago, I undertook an epic 36 hour roadtrip through 68 counties, 3 states, 2 provinces and 2 countries
As part of the trip, I crossed the US-Canada border 4 times (twice into Canada, and twice back into the United States). I thought I’d give a report on each of the border crossing stations, and then I want to hear from you about some of your craziest border crossing stories
Pembina border crossing (North Dakota / Manitoba)
After heading northwest out of Minneapolis, we eventually used the Pembina border crossing on I-29 in the northeast corner of North Dakota. This one was by far our busiest of the 4.
I’d say that we waited around 15 minutes before first being inspected by a US Customs agent – he passed us along with no more than some cursory questions about what we had in our car.
Then we got to the Canadian border patrol officer. We tried to explain to him what we were doing, but to most people the concept of driving around for no real reason (other than seeing new places) is not a “normal’ activity. We were there for maybe 5-10 minutes before he waved us along.
When we told him that we were just driving through Manitoba before re-crossing the border, he DID warn us that Manitoba was “not very interesting”. I left my reply unsaid (“Yeah well North Dakota isn’t very interesting EITHER!”)
Warroad border crossing (Minnesota / Manitoba)
After going through the imaginatively named Manitoban counties of “District No. 3”, “District No. 2”, and “District No. 1”, we made our way south to cross back into Minnesota at the Warroad border crossing.
It was definitely harder to get back to the United States, even though we both had US passports and are both US Citizens. The border patrol agent seemed very interested in the fact that we were from 2 different places (Ohio and Oregon), yet crossing the border in a rental car rented in a totally different place. Even Minneapolis is quite a bit far from Canada, and I GUESS I can see why it might appear strange that 2 people from different parts of the country would want to drive randomly around northern Minnesota… 🙂
I thought this wouldn’t have been so bad, since we had definitive plans to stay at the Super 8 in Warroad, just across the border. The agent also asked my friend where and when he was born (I guess that’s a common tactic? Guess it can make for some interesting border crossing stories
(SEE ALSO: A tale of Two Super 8s: True Budget Traveling)
Rainy River border crossing (Minnesota / Ontario)
The next morning, an hour or so east of Warroad, we crossed back into Canada (this time into Ontario) at the Rainy River border crossing.
This was the easiest of the 4 border crossings. We told the Canadian border patrol agent that we were planning to just go into Ontario, take a picture of the sign (you can even see the Ontario sign in the picture above!), and then turn around. She asked a few other brief questions and then waved us on.
Baudette border crossing (Minnesota / Ontario)
5 minutes later, we turned around and made our way back to the United States, at the Baudette border crossing in Baudette, Minnesota. This was our most difficult crossing. It was about 7:30 a.m. and there was no line, so maybe the officers were bored and that’s why they wanted to take more time with us? 😀
They asked the same questions about where we were from, what we do, how we knew each other, who’s car it was, etc. This agent was confused when my friend, who has elite status with National, didn’t really have a rental agreement, just a door hanger
(SEE ALSO: Getting top rental car status (for free!))
We explained what we were doing, and he even took the clipboard that had our route with all our planned counties. They sent us ahead to park in the “detained” section.
It was frustrating because I wanted to yell “WE WERE JUST HERE 5 MINUTES AGO!?!?!?!!?!” 😀
Craziest border crossing stories
I shared this on the Extra Miler Club Facebook group that I belong to, asking about what other county collectors do at border crossings, and how they explain our weird little “hobby”. I did get a few great border crossing stories, one of which I am sharing here (with permission)
My favorite border crossing involved being punched (hard) by my wife in front of a Canadian border crossing agent. I chose to cross at Ft Erie/Peace Bridge (instead of my usual choice at Lewiston/Queenston) and when we got to the Canadian entrance booth both wife & I had our driver’s licenses but discovered we neglected to bring any documentation for the kids.
We were referred to the customs office where a stern female border control agent was less than amused with my cavalier attitude and then took offense at my final comment “look we’re just crossing into Canada for a wedding, it’s nothing major, it’s just another state!” At which point my wife is fed up with me and tries to grab my spine through my stomach, telling me to shut it and she’ll deal with it. Border agent looks at wife with appreciation, smiles, and asks how she can help us on our way.
My second favorite border crossing was getting from ON back into NY on the same trip referenced above. We crossed at I-81 / Thousand Islands Bridge about 13 hours after the Buffalo fiasco (which resulted in our undocumented (but notated in the crossing logs) kids getting into Canada with us) at around 2am. At the US booth the US agent had all kinds of questions after I revealed that the kids had no paperwork (wife and kids are deep asleep at this point) and I could get wife’s license as it was under her legs and she was asleep… the clinching argument, after I recounted the whole Buffalo crossing incident, was “look, this has been a rough day – please just let us back into our country” (or maybe it was that the guy was having too hard a time not laughing his head off and so finally waved us through)
Now it’s your turn! I know a group of travelers like my readers has got to have some great border crossing stories – so let’s hear ’em! I want to hear your best, wildest, most outlandish border crossing stories in the comments!