Thursday, 30 July 2015

The Border at Last!

Thursday June 4th   A long day tiring across a flat agricultural plain, occasionally threatened by thunderstorms..
I decided to push on to Sarnia, and we eventually arrived, hot and weary after over forty kilometres on the road, at the Yellow Rose boarding stables of Pat and Marlene Haslam. 
Lady was shown into a spacious loose box, and I was given use of a luxurious goose neck trailer with double bed and shower. Marlene whisked me inside for supper and wine.  She is of Welsh descent, her grandparents speaking Welsh and originating from Aberfan, which has dubious fame as the site of the tragic 1966 disaster when a coal tip collapsed and buried the primary school, killing 144 people including 116 children.

 I was to stay here for the next few days and it was just as well I had pushed on, as most of Friday June 5th was taken up with sorting out the border crossing.  Pat proved to be an invaluable support, chauffering me around and going out of his way to help me, and there is no way I could have done it without him. Not only did he drive to the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) to deliver the veterinary paperwork for Lady (which Diane had brought down with my baggage), but he contacted the US border vet office to make an appointment, as we had to present ourselves there immediately after crossing.  She stressed that if I was late for the appointment Lady could be refused entry, and advised that we visit the USA border office to make sure there were no delays with my visa application which could make me late.  So we set off across the Bluewater bridge to USA customs. On the other side we encountered what must surely be the rudest customs official I have ever met in my life, and I have met a few. She had a problem with everything Pat said.  What was the point of coming over, it would not ensure I would be allowed entry to the US, it wasn't the border vet's place to tell us what to do.  When Pat tried to explain he got  "Are you telling me to do my job?" (Pat wasn't) "Don't interrupt me" (he wasn't). Eventually we managed to see an official who was aggressive but in fact after grilling me sorted out my visa, and it certainly was worth the visit as the whole process took over two hours.
There was then a lot of toing and froing from the CFIA with extra forms which the US vet suddenly seemed to require and which we could not find on the internet - unsurprisingly as she had given us the wrong link.  But the helpful Canadian border vet Meidrym Hebda supplied one and eventually all the paperwork was sorted and signed and we were ready to attempt the border crossing on Monday.  Meidrym Hebda actually looked into the possibility of my riding across the Bluewater bridge but we both realised it would be out of the question.  Although a few years back it would have been possible and I understand someone did, since 9/11 not even pedestrians are allowed on the bridge, which is horrendously busy with heavy traffic these days.
 My next job was to try and start planning my new route in the US from Port Huron on the other side of the border south to pick up the route from Detroit I has planned at home.  But amazingly it was impossible to buy good maps of Michigan in Sarnia, so I was limited to researching on Google Earth.
Sunday May 7th The last job to be done was to actually ride down to the Bluewater bridge on the Sarnia side of the river Detroit which forms the border between Canada and the US.  So here I am by the bridge on Sunday morning.
The End of the Canada leg of my journey
A journalist from the local Observia newspaper also came down to record the event and here is a link to the resultant article..

Pat off to a sorting competition with his quarter horse...
Cutting, sorting, reining and penning competitions are all popular in North America and have developed from work with cattle.  In sorting competitions teams of three attempt to separate three specific head of cattle from a small herd against the clock. The cattle are numbered and the relevant numbers are announced just before the run. The cattle must be cut out in the specified order and the fastest time wins.  Pat often competes with Tara Foy, the vet who introduced us, though in many competitions the team members are mixed and changed with every run.  Riders are also graded according to ability, and teams may have to include a range of grades.
Marlene was the perfect hostess, looking after my every need and organising a couple of  jolly 'meet and greet' sessions with the boarders.  We also went out for a meal at a lovely restaurant overlooking Lake Huron, and thanks to Marlene I watched Egyptian Pharoah's historic win of the Triple Crown!

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