Thursday 3 September 2009

Friendly USA - Trip to Bellingham on a New Route

I had an amazing ride yesterday.

It wasn't so much the ride itself, it was the slight change of climate in the US when I went across the border.

Don't get me wrong, I find Americans can range from wonderfully angelic to cranky so and sos - much like Canadians - but yesterday was special.

First, though, I had decided to take a different border crossing because I can no longer take the Albion Ferry. The ferry service has ended permanently because the Golden Ears Bridge has opened. I used to take the Aldergrove crossing but now it makes more sense for me to take the Pacific Truck Crossing.

I left at 8 am on a rather grey morning and, after crossing the bridge, headed down 184th all the way down to Zero Avenue. I really like 184th because it is not a busy road and is quite scenic with all of the farms, horses, and generally rural environment.

At Zero Avenue, I turned towards the border, snuck into line and then found myself at the whim of the American border guard.

Things started out as expected - I got grilled a bit about why I was going to Bellingham for lunch (to shop) and who was I meeting there (no one) - but after he found out I was a teacher, he became quite friendly and chatty. He asked me a couple performance questions about my Vespa and was really positive. I took this as a good omen.

I rode into Blaine and then took Peace Portal Way which goes along the coast and then parallels the Interstate highway. It was a great route as there was very little traffic but enough interesting things to keep me going. This is diametrically opposed to the craziness on my last ride from Parksville to Nanaimo.

At one point, near Custer, as I was riding by, an old guy in a baseball hat stood up, grinned, and waved a peace sign at me. This is great, I thought! I then approached Ferndale where I was a bit confused finding the way. A guy in a truck pulled over while I was looking at my map and asked me if I needed help with my scooter. Awesome!

Ferndale was an interesting little town - not terrible scenic but some interesting stores on the Main Street - and then I worked my way to the Pacific Highway.

Unlike its moniker, the Pacific Highway is not a big expressway but simply a two lane road that was mostly empty, paralleled the I-5, and had interesting businesses and other sights as I went along.

A few minutes later and I was at the Bellis Fair Mall. I stopped into Target for some socks and some multi-coloured Goldfish crackers (we can't get them in Canada and my daughters call them Gay Pride Crackers because there is a rainbow of them...) and had a latté. I didn't like the look of the mall food so I decided to see what I could find on the way home.

I saw this top in a store and was struck by the slogan. I'll tell you, nobody in Canada goes around wearing an "I heart Stephen Harper" shirt - no one! Mind you Barack is cool, Harper is soooo not-cool. In fact, Canada probably hasn't had a cool prime minister since Trudeau. I envy you, USA!

Here's an intersting statue by the post office near the mall.

As I drove back on the Pacific Highway, I saw a sign for a casino on the Lummi Indian Reserve. A few minutes later and I was recklessly blowing my treasured US cash on slot machines. I went over my limit and lost $10 and then sheepishly left the building. Surprisingly, the casino allows smoking inside - possibly because it is on reserve land...

I made great time as I headed north and, when I was back on Peace Portal Way, I stopped at yet another mall, the Birch Bay Centre. It's pretty new as there are lots of vacancies. I was looking for a place to eat (Bob's Beer and Burgers?) when I spied a Jack In the Box. Now we don't have Jack In the Box in my part of Canada so I was pretty excited. I had a chicken club on sourdough bread which was quite good (although I must admit I have a weakness for processed cheese slices) and curly fries (which tasted OK but were really greasy).

I upgraded to a medium drink which was the size of a large in most restaurants. No problem, I stuck the drink in my handy dandy drink holder, thinking I could sip away while I waited in the border line up.

A few minutes later I was in the line. Unfortunately, just before it was my turn to go to the booth, my drink holder came unstuck and I had to hold the drink in one hand as I approached the booth. The Canadian guard was a bit cranky, too, which seemed strange but I stuffed my now empty cup in my jacket and headed off back home.

All in all it was a great trip - nice people, good feeling and another great route.