We prepared for our trip to Canada by checking the official Canada Border Services Agency website, RV forums, and a couple of other websites such as this one. Also, since we learned that many items are more expensive in Canada, we stocked up on some staples like paper towels, tissues, TP, coffee, detergents, sugar etc.
A few weeks before going to Canada we went shopping at a Trader Joe’s (which we love) and Hector decided to stock up on wine. I had a nagging thought that this would result in some duties, but he thought it wouldn’t much matter (I was right).
With our pantry stocked we started to get ready for our trip the next day and then it happened; our refrigerator broke down and stopped working altogether. And, of course, it was a Sunday and the one RV service shop in Trenton, Maine was closed.
The drive to our first stop in Canada was going to be a longer drive than we normally like to take (six hours) and our original plan was to leave very early, in case there was any delay at the border. We quickly had to develop a Plan B, which was to stop by the local RV service shop first thing in the morning and hope for the best.
One thing I’ve learned in my RV travels is to seek advice and/or help from others, so I went to the campground office and ran our plan by them for feedback. Their advice was to detour slightly to Bangor, a much larger town, where there were several larger RV service providers. By doing so we’d have a better chance of finding someone who would have any parts we might need in stock.
Flexibility is key when traveling in an RV. So we went with Plan C.
We headed out early in the morning for Bangor, and Hector made a couple of calls to the RV shops on the way. Pine Tree RV Parts and Services stood out because of their website and the fact that they were exclusively an RV service provider and not an RV dealer. Turned out they also were the most responsive and confirmed an appointment for 11a.m. because they were handling another emergency prior to ours. Tic-Toc.
So we prepared ourselves for the possibility of spending one or more nights in Bangor. We arrived early for our appointment, which gave us a little time to get some cash at the ATM, fill up the car with gas and get lunch.
Karma was on our side and Dave, the owner, was able to fix our fridge. He had to replace the motherboard, which he actually had in stock! As a bonus, he fixed one of our fluorescent lights, an issue we’d planned to ignore for a little while. So a couple of hours and $400 later we were off to Canada. Way to go Pine Tree RV!
Our GPS now projected our time of arrival as 9:15p.m.. So, prior to reaching the border, we called the campground to let them know that we were going to arrive late. Some campgrounds allow people to arrive after they close the office and some don’t. They agreed to wait until 9:30 for us and I told them I’d check in with them later (it was about five o’clock). At this point, I didn’t ask what would happen if we arrived after 9:30, one thing at a time.
We still had to stop to fill up the tank on the RV, as we definitely wanted to reduce the amount of gas we’d have to buy in Canada. And, of course, the small matter of crossing the border. On Canada Day no less.
We’d originally planned to cross the border in Calais, the easternmost point where you can cross from the U.S. into Canada. Because of our detour, we crossed the border at Houlton, two crossings over from Calais.
We’d heard that these border crossings are generally pretty quiet compared to other more touristy towns. And when we arrived, there were four lanes, two for cars, with relatively short lines, one for RV’s and trucks with no line, and one for trucks with no line. Yay!
“Where were we from?”
“Where were we going?”
“How long did we plan to stay?”
“Where were we staying?”
“Did we have any animal or vegetable products (not allowed) other than Angel, whom he referred to as Cujo?!” – No, ha-ha. By the way, he never asked for proof of her rabies vaccination, which is required (and we had at the ready).
“Were we carrying liquor?” – Yes
“What did we have?” – Open bottles of liquor and unopened bottles of wine
“How many bottles of wine did we have?” – Oh, oh, I thought, here we go. 20 bottles, we were at Trader Joe’s and bought three buck chuck, blah, blah, blah. TMI, I thought, but the guy seemed to take it in stride.
“What was the average value of all the bottles?”
He walked away and returned with a piece of paper that he asked us to take over to a nearby building to pay duties. The good news is, even though the duty was about 80% of the total value of the bottles that were over the limit, it was still pretty cheap, since we had mostly cheap wine.
Okay, we made the border crossing fairly quickly. The GPS now projected our arrival time at 9:45 and we were in a race against time. We were on TransCanadian Highway 2, which, at least in this area, was a wide road with lots of trees on the side of the road and a very wide median, also with trees.
About fifteen minutes after crossing the border we saw a small bear run across the road about 50 yards in front of us and disappear into the median. Very cool! We took this as a sign that our adventure in Canada was going to be interesting and different.
So we continued, with Hector making up time by going a couple of miles above speed limit when he felt it was safe (a definite negative impact on gas mileage though). I called the campground back at 8:30 and let them know we would make 9:30.