Leaving NYC and Denied Entry to Canada

The subway raced me underneath New York and to Grand Central, from there I walked quickly towards the east side where my ride awaited. I'd been in the city for the better part of the past month, accomplishing my goal of recording my friends' music, now I was heading west again, Michigan the first thing on my mind.

I met up with Jerry, I'd connected with him online earlier in the week about catching a ride with him as far as Rochester on his way to Canada. It was a good ride, I was happy to see the road and the new scenery flying by. Jerry told me about his work with the UN and things he'd seen in Haiti after the earthquake. We drove by a car completely engulfed in flames along the drive on the opposite side of the freeway. We also made a wrong turn in Syracuse, it didn't make much of a difference as far as time, but it had us pass by Doc's Little Gem Diner, this brought back memories of my hitch down towards New Orleans.

Soon I was dropped off in Rochester, goodbye to Jerry and a hello to Sadie, the girl I was staying with in town. She was in the middle of packing when I came in, getting ready to move to the Jersey Shore with her brand new husband. She gave me a bike and pointed me towards the water, I cruised the trails and soaked in the beautiful day. I treaded my feet through Lake Ontario and sat by the grass and on the beach for a while.

I eventually returned to Sadie's place, helping her chop tomatoes and sipping a beer as she told me about her Europe trip and I told her some hitchhiking stories. We sat out back in her garden talking while the chicken cooked, feasting on that and sharing more stories. We moved inside and talked music and more until sleep became the thing to do.

Sadie made us coffee and blueberry pancakes in the morning, then gave me a ride to the road to begin my hitchhiking towards Michigan. I got a ride from a guy who took me just a couple exits, "you have balls", he told me, in regards to my hitching around.

The spot he dropped me at had some sort of police checkpoint far down the ramp, I seemed to be just barely out of their direct line of sight, so I stood still and thumbed the oncoming cars, but after a while one of them came walking up to tell me they'd gotten some complaints about me being there and I'd have to move along.

I walked a little ways to the next on ramp, and then to the one after that. A big guy picked me up and took me a little ways where he dropped me off along the side of the freeway. Less than a half hour later he was back, now with his wife, offering to get me all the way down to the main freeway, interstate 90. His wife handed me some snacks and water, they seemed happy to be helping me out and hear about my background.

They dropped me off in front of a toll booth an U-Turned back around. I walked past the toll booth and down the split to 90-West. I was happy to have walked past without any trouble, but in half an hour or so I was approached by a state trooper. He told me I couldn't be there and he'd have to give me a ride off the interstate. He also asked if I'd smoked any pot or had any, saying I smelled like it. I had in fact smoked with Sadie much earlier in the day, he had a good nose. I of course denied it, he asked to search my bag, I let him, he only lazily looked through one pocket filled with underwear and socks before giving up and giving me a ride.

He dropped me off in the reverse direction by a couple exits, I waited there for my next ride. It came from a 76 year old going to watch his friends in a marching band competition in Buffalo. He looked much younger than 76. He told me how he used to compete in these competitions as well when he was younger.

He was approaching the fork in the road where I'd have to make a decision: continue on with him the extra few miles and take the long way around the lakes (through Cleveland and Toledo), or split off and shoot towards Niagara Falls and go through Canada to Michigan. I decided the latter, hopping out and walking a bit to the next on ramp.

A guy picked me up there just before the rain picked up again, it was on and off all day. After some talking, he gave his wife a call, we headed to their house. He'd decided that they could give me a ride up to the bridge where I could walk across to Canada. His wife was friendly, they were both backpackers and very happy to help me out.

They let me out right by the pedestrian walkway across the Rainbow Bridge. I walked across, there was an incredible view of the falls from the bridge, probably the best you can get without riding right up to them in a boat. Once at the booth on the Canadian side there was a small line of two or three people who looked like tourists heading over for a few minutes.

I stuck out, I was the only one with a giant backpack. He asked for my passport, wondered where I was going and had a few other questions. He disappeared for a minute and reappeared with another guy who was asking me to come with him.

"Let's walk and talk, this way", he told me as he pointed me towards the main building. He asked me questions as to what I'm doing, whenever I paused briefly to look at him and answer he quickly snapped, "keep walking".

We got to the other side, more questions and soon I was in a back room where they were emptying out my backpack and searching through everything. He even turned my laptop on and browsed around a bit. After going through everything, they made me pack it all up and go and wait until another lady was ready to talk to me.

The lady at the counter asked me everything again, and then proceeded to tell me why they wouldn't be letting me into Canada. "You say you're from New York, but you have a Connecticut license. You have no record of having a job, other than this 'house sitting' job you say you have in California, which you also have no proof of. You're planning on hitchhiking, which is illegal in Canada, and you don't have enough money for a bus ticket or hotel rooms if you need them."

Even though she later admitted that hitchhiking was only illegal on some roads and only in certain circumstances, it wasn't enough to let me through. She gave me a list of the things I needed and escorted me back to the pedestrian bridge to walk back to America. I thought heading to an internet cafe and whipping up the documents they wanted, I could have conjured it all up in under an hour. I decided not to risk this or walk the same walk again, I'd just have to hitchhike around the lakes through Cleveland.

I saw a big casino as I kept on walking, I thought about this too, but kept my stride as I passed by. I walked several blocks until I came to an entrance to one freeway or another and stuck my thumb out, eventually leaving this spot and taking a long walk down an industrial road in search of a better spot.

I came upon the next on ramp, adjacent to a bus station and a gas station. I stopped in the gas station to look at a map to determine where I was and where I should go, the man inside got upset that I wasn't paying for the map and told me to close it. I went to the onramp and decided that was the place to be and started hitching from there.

I watched as cars passed and the bus came and passed me too, by now it was dark and I was standing in the street light. After some time I decided to walk down to the bus stop figuring it couldn't be more than a buck or two and would at least get me over the bridge and perhaps to a better spot. I waited there for a good while and thought it had stopped running, so headed back to the streetlight spot to keep thumbing.

I watched the bus roll by me, it came after all, too late for me though. This wouldn't matter in a minute, in fact it was probably for the best that I missed the bus. A girl with a car full of laundry pulled over and picked me up, she was coming from her mom's where she'd gone to clean her clothes and have some dinner. She said she'd passed me, then turned around with the thought that no one else would pick me up, she lived in Buffalo.

We talked a bit and she offered to let me stay at her place for the night. We got to her apartment where I munched on some leftovers and sipped on a can of beer she handed me. Her boyfriend came over and the three of us talked a bit, then they went out for a cigarette. When they came back they offered to get me a bus ticket towards Michigan, I couldn't refuse, we hopped in the car.

They got me a ticket to Detroit leaving around 6am and took off, leaving me at the bus station with a free ride heading in the right direction. I'd wait up in the bus station through the night, happy to know I was on my way after the delay and turnaround at the border, one step closer to the Upper Peninsula.

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