I have been to Seattle a few times, long ago when I was cool and used to do addictions work with rock stars, but I did not have the opportunity to wander and enjoy the city.
Before this tour it had been a solid decade since my previous attempt at crossing the American border.
Last time, I was stopped and interrogated for four hours on the basis that it was suspected that I was going to violate the visitor policy – they thought I wanted to stay. I tried to explain that I had a child at home and a job and a store – but it didn’t matter.
I was too flighty they said, not planned enough – something that surprised me as I had made many, many crossings throughout my life up to that point – all without proper plans. I had already visited at least 40 of the 50/52 States.
But that was no longer the way. Flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants was no longer acceptable in North America. Not after the tragedy of 911, at least.
Honestly, I was traumatized. They treated me like a hardened criminal. I have no criminal record, no previous issues of any sort. There really was no valid reason to be stopped.
Subsequently, I was afraid to go anywhere near the border, afraid to fly to or visit the US, for more than 10 years.
Perhaps the experience was serendipity because it sent me on an entirely new path. I had new locations to tour overseas, and tour I did.
Personally, of all of the places I have visited, I have not found a border more consistently difficult to cross than the Canadian/American border.
So how was it this time? Getting down was no problem at all. The American guard was friendly and polite. I rejoiced as we passed into Sumas – my world had reopened! I could finally let go of my fear, now we could do road trips through America!
The way back was a bit different though. The Canadian guard wanted to know if we had any contact with ‘American marijuana’. I told him we hadn’t. He told us we smelled like ‘dope’ (no, we didn’t!!). He told us to turn off the truck because he was going to search it. I said that was fine.
He came to my side with his angry face, opened my door and put his body inside while making moderately vulgar huffing noises. He was trying to get a good whiff of the pot he thought we were hiding.
Fortunately his bloodhound nose told him he was mistaken and after a moment he let us go.
I don’t know how anyone is brave enough (or stupid enough) to try to carry illegal things across the border. I am far too paranoid to break the law!
Northern Washington state was more economically degraded than I expected it to be. Being so close to us, I was expecting some similarities. Turns out Washington and British Columbia are VERY different.
The architecture even changes as soon as you cross. And we noticed a different accent too.
I was surprised by the poverty, run down homes and abandoned businesses. The towns all looked like they had seen better days a generation or so ago. It reminded me of Northern Ontario, Canada and seemed like it would be a difficult place to call home.
Where do you work when everything is shut down?
The roads were rough – even the main highway needed repairs. There were tiny homes tightly nestled between active highways and train tracks, something I had not seen in real life before.
I guess it was an issue of convenience a hundred years ago, when the road would have been narrower, a bit further away, and likely dirt or gravel.
But now, modern day, it seems an unbearable existence – two feet from the highway and four feet from the train tracks.
It took us about 2 1/2 hours to get to Seattle from our home in Mission, BC. It was storming when we arrived. Windy, pelting, sideways rain.
We did bring umbrellas, but within a minute or so we realized they were entirely useless. The wind wouldn’t let us hold them down.
It wasn’t too long before we were soaked right through our spring coats.
We didn’t care though – you can’t really worry about rain if you are touring the northern west coast (the lower mainland of BC, as well as Washington and Oregon). Of course that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be better prepared than we were!
We didn’t really have a plan other than to see as much as we could (customary for us), and the best way to experience a city is to walk it.
So walk we did – and we were about to have quite the experience..!
Additional photos of northern Washington state in the slideshow.