Last Friday I left off driving across Indiana, Michigan and my struggles to get into Ontario, Canada. If you haven’t read the first part it’s a great read! This is the second part to the story. I’m going to describe my time in Ontario and the drive back to Chicago. FYI, this story is part of my 51 states challenge.
So after getting accused and mocked for driving across Indiana and Michigan and then into Ontario by the Canadian guards, we finally made it through the Canadian checkpoint. I was a little dumbfounded and was fighting my nerves but after an hour I had calmed down. Couldn’t really understand why the Canadian guards were so direct and so rude. But like I said in the earlier post some people just will not understand my crazy ideas. And that’s okay.
After entering we drove around Sarnia looking for the Starbucks that we saw on Google maps before entering Ontario. Once we entered we couldn’t use our phones so we had to go off of memory. After looking around we decided to try something else out first. We decided to go to Canatara Park in Point Edward, Ontario, the city just north of Sarnia which borders Lake Huron. Surprisingly, after being told there was nothing to do in Sarnia by the Canadian officials, we were surprised to see that Canatara Park was actually nice. We got out of our car and walked around the one trail they had. I took some pictures and enjoyed the landscapes. Also it was really warm actually!
From driving the wrong way prior we also learned that there was a beach in Canatara Park overlooking Lake Huron. We went back in the car and drove towards the beach. We rolled up our pants and walked towards the water front. The water was absolutely freezing but the sand was scorching… a weird sensation.
After we were done with the beach it was time to explore Sarnia more. We drove around and then stumbled upon the lakefront of Sarnia that overlooks Michigan. It was actually a scenic part of the town but there was very little to do there. We took some pictures and hung out. It was time to go inside and chill for a bit. So we headed over to a nearby Starbucks where we had a nice conversation with one of the locals. That’s what is good about travel. You could have a totally crappy experience but usually it just takes some locals to turn your adventures around and make your day positive.
That’s exactly what happened! After our conversation with the girl at Starbucks we realized that the border crossing officials are always a tad rude. They were just doing their job and they were going to investigate anything that looks even the slightest bit out-of-place. We also got a great idea of Sarnia and Ontario. I found the very few people we met to be nice and willing to help us out, even though our adventure seemed ridiculous. It changed the total mood of the trip and I was still glad I drove across Indiana and Michigan to see Ontario.
After we left we had to find some cash to get back into the states. Coming into the US, we were lucky enough not to have to pay any toll as the US guard waived us through since we had no cash on us (I really thought you could pay with credit card). We didn’t want to make the same mistake on the Canadian side so we decided we needed to draw some cash. One of the girls at Starbucks told us that we could go to Wal-Mart. Turns out US debit cards don’t work in Canada therefore we couldn’t get money back! Old Shawn might have panicked but I knew better than freak out. A bank, a gas station, something will work. Heck if nothing works we can just go to the Canadian border and present a credit card. Try to pay that way. We drove around some more and it was getting later in the day. Luckily I stumbled upon a Bank of Montreal that did accept my credit card. I was able to draw some Canadian money which luckily I can use when I travel to Vancouver soon.
Money in hand we drove to the Canadian/US border and this time had an easier time getting through. Still a little nervous from the previous experience I answered the questions but more firm. US border officials let us through without having to stop.
We drove a different route than the route we had come up with. I headed south on I-94 and passed Detroit, only getting a glimpse of the city from the highway. Then it was a straight shot through Michigan, through the same part we crossed in Indiana and finally, Illinois!
As you can tell the trip had it’s ups and downs and definitely was an adventure. This trip was last-minute and it materialized partly because I wanted some more states under my belt and I introduced a challenge to myself. It’s crazy how much drama can happen in just a day! Some important things to note:
1) Rent a car at least a couple of days to a week in advance. Play around with where you drop the car. It may be cheaper to drop the car off at a different location for a way cheaper price (such as it was cheaper to drop the car off at Midway than O’Hare, by $100 dollars).
2) Your dreams are your dreams. It disappointed me that the Canadian Border Guards were so rude and condescending and just couldn’t believe that we wanted to drive through Indiana and Michigan just to step into Ontario for a few hours. They made us feel like we were stupid and idiotic for even thinking the idea. That’s alright. I get that not everybody will think my ideas are great but I also won’t let them decide what is proper and what isn’t proper traveling. I define that for myself. So go out and have a crazy idea. Try not to let anybody bring it down for you.
3) Spontaneity is actually a lot of fun and you will have more drama than you might think. I learned that even a simple day trip across two states into a Canadian province is exciting and I’m glad I did it. It motivates me to travel more and pursue this crazy 51 states quest of mine!
So thank you for reading. In time I will be continuing this 51 states challenge and soon I hope to hit all the states. Subscribe for updates and come back in check my journeys throughout the United States. I hope my story has inspired you to travel more and find your own drama filled journey.
images by: shawn voyage