Marilyn Adventure Begins In Maine With Canadian Border Denial

Marilyn and I hopped off the bus in Portland, Maine to mark the true beginning of our summer adventure. We'd spent the last week together in New York, Connecticut and Boston, but that was all about catching up with family for the most part. Now we were off and into it, hopping off the only bus we'd take all summer, we'd be relying on our thumbs and smiles to gain transportation from this point on.

We also had no current notion as to where we were spending the night, this night or the next handful. Our only guidelines were simple: we had to make California in about a month for my brother's wedding, we wanted to head up to Nova Scotia and the Prince Edward Islands in Canada for starters, and in between it was fairly wide open with only scattered ideas of "if we're close to this place we should see this person or thing", otherwise it was up to the road.

We pointed ourselves towards Gritty McDuff's, a brew pub I'd enjoyed before and knew would be a good place for us to sip a beer before making any other moves. As we got further from the bus and closer to the heart of the city we noticed a fair amount of activity, people on the streets and sounds of music from all over.

We later learned we stumbled into town at the tail end of their Old Port Festival, their biggest event of the year. This was probably the reason we hadn't gotten any positive replies to our last minute attempts to find a host on the couchsurfing website.

We happily found a couple stools at the bar at Gritty's, I already knew I wanted the Black Fly Stout. We ordered a couple beers, but as the bartender was pouring them a happily buzzing woman stuck her head in between us getting the bartenders attention, "This round's on me!", she shouted, her Gritty's member mug in hand.

She told us she'd seen us come in with our big backpacks and had to properly welcome us to her town she was so proud of. We were thrilled, the tone was set for our adventure. She chatted us up for a while and practically offered us a place to stay. Her husband was friendly, but perhaps not as open and trusting as she was, shyer anyway. They basically offered us a ride to a trail head, but it seemed a bit out of the way, either way it was nice to see the generosity off the bat.

After some beer we headed out, Marilyn was in the mood for sushi and I wasn't one to turn it down. We found a good spot a little ways away and had ourselves a fine meal. By the time we'd finished the daylight outside was all but over. It didn't seem like there'd be anywhere for us to camp in the city, it seemed our best option was to head to the road and try to hitch a ride to somewhere we could.

Hitchhiking in the dark is not exactly ideal. It's more difficult to be seen well, if at all, and it adds an extra layer of heebie jeebies to those who are prone to them. On top of that we weren't at exactly the busiest entrance to the freeway, but this would have to be Marilyn's first experience hitchhiking.

We waited for a good while until it all became worth it. Dave picked us up, a writer who lived a ways down the road in an off-the-grid cabin who offered us up a place to stay nearly immediately upon assessing our situation. He'd done a great deal of traveling and hitchhiking himself, on top of that he'd properly hosted people via couchsurfing.org. I couldn't think of a better way to break Marilyn in then to have an older man we'd never met scoop us off the freeway in his pickup truck and take us into the middle of the woods in Maine to a cabin with no power or cell service.

It was perfect, we smoked and chatted by candle light for a good while until into the night. In the morning he took us out for a drive to show off the neighborhoods within the wooded area, ending by a beach where we all ate a diner looking out on the water.

He dropped us off back at the main road so we could continue heading north through Maine. We quickly got our next ride from another generous soul, a caterer who took us back to his house and loaded us up with a slew of extra food. We walked around the town a little afterwards, then continued to the road where we got a couple more rides easily, paused for a beer at a picnic table outside a general store, then got another couple rides just as easy.

Acadia is where we were looking to be by night and that's where the next woman to pick us up was heading to. She lived there and picked us up saying we looked cute, I think she secretly had hoped we were traveling from Switzerland or had origins a bit more foreign than Connecticut and Alabama.

Off the main road she drove us down a side road towards a campsite Marilyn had looked up, she dropped us off at the entry office. We soon found out that campsites were fairly expensive, given the mass out wilderness we opted to walk back towards the road and just dip into the trees after a ways and camp more freely.

We didn't get very far before thumbing a ride from a Midwest couple coming from the campsite on their way to have dinner and a walk around town. Within just a minute or two we'd explained what we were up to and they offered to let us camp at their campsite, not just that, but they were happy to turn back and let us setup our tent before heading back to town with them to check it out ourselves.

We did just that, chatting with them and then exchanging numbers once in town so we could each do our own thing and meet up in several hours. It was a nice little town, also littered with typical tourist trinket shops and so on, but we found a couple places to grab a beer and ran into a train hopper who worked at an outdoors shop.

In the morning we woke up in the tent, we took a walk down to the water splashing on the rocks, then back to the campsite where the couple was ready to give us a ride to town so we could continue moving up towards Canada. We may have stayed to enjoy the area longer, but the rainy day that seemed to promise additional days of such loomed over us.

An inspiring woman who'd spent some of her days traveling and living on a boat got us out of the rain for a bit when she gave us a ride up the road. After another spell standing in the rain we got another ride from a different woman on up to the more prominent main road.

We paused in the gas station for a coffee and a snack thinking perhaps the rain would die down, but it didn't matter all that much, really, we were both prepared for rainfall and had expected we'd encounter it at some point.

We got our next ride from a guy who trapped raccoon, then a ride from an eighteen wheeler that was heading for the border. He wasn't going to be able to take us over the border in his truck, but dropped us off just a short walk to it.

As we walked up to it we were quickly greeted by border patrol coming out to see what we were up to, it wasn't a pedestrian friendly border. He took us inside to begin the typical border questions and taking a look at our passports.

While Marilyn had gone to take a seat he told me that my misdemeanor had come up on the computer. He said either way we couldn't cross the border since we were on foot, that we'd have to walk across town to the other point of entry where pedestrians were allowed, but he warned me that they likely wouldn't let me cross in particular.

I had always heard that Canada wouldn't allow people with felony records or DUI related offences cross, but I had heard nothing about misdemeanors. We began walking the several miles across town, thinking over whether this was going to work or not.

After the long walk we finally made it, going into the office to start the process. Sure enough the misdemeanor came up on their computer as well, the border patrol guy took me aside to a side office to question me more and explain the situation. He said I wouldn't be allowed entry now and would only be allowed into the country in the future if I went through one of a couple different legal processes.

I'd been caught off guard. The misdemeanor was from an incident in California dealing with a misunderstanding when driving some one's car and being accused of stealing it. It's something that could have been cleared up, but it would have cost money, time and cutting through more confusion. I'd instead plead guilty to a misdemeanor since there was no sentence or penalty, no community service, it would just be done. For whatever reason I'd even specifically asked at the time if doing so would have any bearing on entering Canada, I was told it wouldn't, I was told wrong.

The border patrol guy was both strict and polite, particularly mindful of Marilyn, asking me permission several times before bringing her in so I could explain to her what happened, if I was comfortable doing so. Of course she knew about California and all of it, I wasn't concerned with that, she came in and I told her that I wasn't going to be able to enter the country.

She was disappointed, we both wanted to explore Prince Edward Islands, Novia Scotia and the rest of it, but we both understood that we now just had to choose another path.

We walked away from the border, stopping in the first little restaurant kinda bar we came to so we could sit down and think up our next move. The only place we'd decided we had to be was California by the fourth of July for my brother's wedding which was just a few weeks away. Had we gone up into Canada we'd guessed we'd eventually pop out in Michigan and head west from there.

Now, with Canada out of the question, we could still head to Michigan, we'd just have to cut through New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and so on. I could think of far worse things, in fact we both easily switched gears and began getting excited for our new unexpected path westbound. Plenty of beauty awaited, our adventure had begun.

June 9, 2013 to January 11, 2013

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