Guest Blogger TomV
Friends who know me best, know that my love for riding can take me to extremes. For example, this past summer vacation on Lake Winnipesaukee, NH, I decided that my search for a new lunch spot could not be restricted by international boundaries. Canada for lunch, eh? Why the hell not? I took French in high school (thinking France would someday invade the US proving to be better choice than Spanish). I did bring my passport as this was actually something I thought I might do while on my summer holiday, and honestly, you never know when you might need to flee the country in a hurry, so it comes with me.
Risking delays crossing the border (not to mention a full body cavity search), I ventured out to the “Great White North” for a little lunch and perhaps an international incident.
My ride took me due north into the White Mountains, past North Conway and through Pinkham Notch which is a mountain pass between Mt Washington and Wildcat Mountain. The ride was breathtaking but very cold, even in late July. The early morning air, driving through elevations over 2000 ft above sea level, was so cold, my nipples could've cut a diamond in half.
An hour or so later, I passed through Dixville Notch, NH. This small village of 75 residents is famous for being the first place in the nation where ballots are counted for Presidential Elections. Since 1960, all eligible voters gather at midnight in the Grand Ballroom of the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel to cast their votes. It was a spectacular sight riding through the notch and then coming down the hill where you get this view of the Balsams Resort.
Next stop….the border crossing at East Hereford, Quebec and Beecher Falls VT.
I was feeling a little nervous approaching the guard shack but really expected that getting into Canada would be the easy part, and that getting back in to the states would be the more difficult crossing. WRONG! First of all, I was the only vehicle in sight and I think they were a little bored. Then Frenchy starts asking me questions like (insert French accent here) “what is you purpose for veesiting ?“ and “how long will you be staying, eh”? Apparently he found my answer a bit suspicious “just here for lunch and a few brewskys”. Was this a first for him? I must've really ruffled his Canadians Jersey when I then asked for a recommendation for a good place to grab a bite. Without responding, he grabbed my passport, pointed to a parking area and grunted, “go wait there”. Was it something I said??
After 20 minutes of nothing, I became very nervous and wondered, “What the hell was I thinking?” Eventually, the guard comes out and asks me if I have ever been before a judge and asks for my driver’s license, claiming that “zee computer ees going un leettle slow”. 'Ummmm, hmmmmm...no?', I answer. He indicated he would be just a few more minutes. Pretty sure they were just messing with me...zee Ugly American...and at one point, I swear I heard the unmistakable “SNAP” of a rubber glove. Being well into my forties, I know that sound all too well and my sphincter immediately clinched tighter than a Bull Frog’s ass.
FINALLY, 30 minutes later, he not only let me go but he pointed me towards the town of Coaticook, where, he said, I would be able to obtain what I had gone to such great lengths to find. The Holy Grail (a/k/a a Bud Light) was suddenly within reach.
Freed from the border, the landscape instantly changed...the signs were different, the terrain was new and dairy farms littered the country side. I rode for about an hour and when I got into town, it did not take long to find my lunch spot, Ailluers Resto-Bar.
The bartender was very friendly and we were somehow able to communicate between her broken English, my high school French and even a little Pantomime. I had Pizza and hot wings since I could not read the menu and as my friends also know, when it comes to food, I don’t experiment. No snails for this cowpoke. Although the food was pretty good, I really did not have a lot of time to enjoy my lunch as I was suddenly thinking how hard it could be to get back to my beloved States.
So I started my venture back but took a different route. I used route 147 and crossed the border between Stanhope, Quebec and Norton, VT. Unlike my first crossing, this check point had several cars and trucks ahead of me so I prepared for a long wait. As I was getting closer to first in line, I noticed a Mini Van that was being ransacked by an inspections officer. Now I am really thinking that I have made a mistake as it was apparent that whoever owned that car wasn’t going anywhere soon. Oh boy, I’m next, what in the world should I say to make sure that I don’t have to stand there for hours watching my bike get what appears to be the equivalent of a full blown, gynecological exam (scooch on down please). “OK act normal, your next” (this is the little voice inside my head speaking).
Well of course he has the typical border questions; “How long have you been in Canada”? “What is the reason for traveling into Canada”? “Are you bringing any fruits or vegetables to Mars?” (ok he did not ask that, it’s from Total Recall). So I told him that I rode my bike from Mirror Lake, NH into Canada for some lunch and a little adventure and I was heading back to the cottage for cocktail hour and to catch the sunset with the Misses. He was silent for a minute and then asked, “Let me get this right, you rode to Canada for lunch?” …. “Well that’s really cool!” He checked my Passport in the computer (which apparently only takes 30 seconds despite what the Canadian guard told me earlier that day) and he took a quick peek in my Sac (easy perverts) and then did something unexpected, he spent 5 minutes charting the best route for me to take home. “Don’t just jump on route 93, what you want to do is take 114 south down to route 5 and take that all the way until you get to St Johnsbury. It’s a beautiful ride, smooth winding roads and you won’t see any cops or even another vehicle the whole way.”
Well I not only thanked him but I followed his suggested route to a tee and he was right. It was a great ride and I was able to cruise at about 60 mph without fear, it was as though I owned the road. Not only did I have a great ride home, I did make it in time to see the sun drop and keep the old lady happy.
This trip was all about the ride. It was a total of 310 amazing miles, two border crossings and some of the best scenery that Northern New England has to offer. That said, if you ever decide to ride into Canada for lunch, try Ailluers Resto-Bar in Coaticook. I honestly don’t remember the food but the bartender was cute and the beer was cold so who cares what the frickin food tastes like?
MORAL OF THE STORY? With Canada's thriving economy and free health care, expect a harder time crossing the border. US could learn a thing or two...