There is nothing like a road trip to open your eyes to the world.
After an excessive amount of driving (16 hours each way between Marietta, Ga., and Toronto, Canada), I made it back to the Atlanta area at the beginning of the week.
Why did I chose to drive up to Canada? Well, I did it to prove it was cheaper, and to be able to say I have driven across the boarder. Coming out of that trip, however, there are four things I won't soon forget.
Canadian boarder security is tougher than U.S. boarder security.
It took me an hour to get through the U.S./Canadian border checkpoint at Detroit, Mich./Windsor, Ontario. Why did it take so long? Because, there were five Canadian immigration officials going through every inch of my car as I came into their country. They found one bottle of medication I have for a sinus infection, and they assumed I was a drug trafficker.
I had to actually go into a room to be interviewed by an immigration official. The only way I was able to convince them that I was really a journalist was by (no lie here) reciting the background details of a recent story I had written about a Clayton County woman's legal troubles being resolved.
Coming back into the U.S., at Niagara Falls, the U.S. Customs official handling me asked me why I was in Canada, where I went, and whether I was bringing any alcohol or food back into the country. Then, I was allowed to re-enter this country. It took all of maybe one minute. He didn't even look in my car.
I know I'm a U.S. citizen, and all, but why was it harder to get into Canada, a country that no one hates, than to get into the U.S., which has enemies? We live in a post-9/11 world, and that did not inspire a great deal of confidence from me about U.S. border security.
There are long stretches of nothingness in Canada.
Essentially, from Windsor, to Toronto, there was nothing to see, except vast amounts of wheat fields, and tall, white windmills. Might I add, it takes four hours to drive from Windsor, to Toronto. The highlight on that stretch was when I came up to an area that had several restaurants (mostly American fast food franchises -- go figure?) and a Walmart. It was mostly the only major sign of life I saw.
Between Toronto and Montreal, it is mainly just a bunch of open plains. It takes five and a half hours to drive from Toronto, to Montreal. Your highlights are the service areas (a one-stop shop with a gas station, and a fast food court) on the side of the King's Highway (yes, that IS what the major roads are called in Canada).
What am I saying? I am saying there is a lot of mind-numbing driving to be done in Canada. It takes away the notion that "getting there is half the fun."
Petrol is not cheap in Canada.
Remember when gasoline here was more than $4 a gallon, and everyone was grumbling about it? Well, that's how much petrol (gasoline) costs in Canada. What might seem like a welcome site on the sign of petrol stations ($1.09) is misleading. That is how much it costs for a liter of petrol. It takes 3.79 liters to make up a gallon. I did the math, and it comes out to roughly $4.10 per gallon.
I was throwing down at least $40 every time I had to stop and get gas in Canada.
Driving to Canada is still cheaper than flying there.
I did my homework in advance. I looked up the cost to fly to Canada before I went there, just to make sure driving was the right idea. I took the gamble that it would be cheaper to drive up there, than it would be to fly.
And, I was right.
It would have cost more than $500 to fly to Toronto, and that was before taxes are thrown in. Afterwards, it likely would have cost more than $600. When you add up the costs of driving to, and from, Canada, hotel stays in Ohio, and meals during the journey up there and back (not including meals I ate while staying in Toronto, Montreal, and Niagara Falls), and I spent just over $400.
So, all in all, I would chalk this up to being a very successful, and educational trip for me.
Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.