During May and June of 2014, I was employed as a tree planter in the southern interior of British Columbia. I quickly learned that while the occupation was not for me, the lifestyle wasn’t too bad the rest of the time, with ceaseless eating and substance (ab)use around the campfire being a rather pleasant way to spend one’s free time. We all tried many different varieties of beer, whisky, cigarettes etc. in a communal consumption designed to forget the pains of our labour. Every two weeks we would get two days off instead of one, always falling on a weekend, and during one of these longer breaks I decided to take a little trip down the Okanagan Valley into the Okanogan Valley, Washington State.
My plans for the trip were exceedingly vague, and as I was about to find out, that was not as liberating a prospect as I had hoped. Taking off at dusk after a full meal on Friday night, I headed for the border crossing at Osoyoos in a rainstorm. Arriving at 10pm, I promptly misread the traffic signs and ended up waiting in a line that wasn’t open at night. Feeling a bit helpless, I listened to the Eagles Stuck “On The Border” before realizing that if I switched lanes I would be able to cross without a problem, or so I thought. The female border guard who checked my passport and asked me questions was a little suspicious of me, saying, “so let me get this straight, you’ve just been living out in the forest in a tent, and now you want to spend your days off camping in America?” I affirmed that while I hoped to camp somewhere for the weekend, I otherwise had no solid plans and would perhaps just relax by myself, or go and visit some friends. Big mistake; the honesty at my lack of planning led her to say, “pull over and come inside for further questioning.”
Inside I was questioned by a clever man who quickly jumped upon all my supposed contradictions, such as my desire to spend a weekend alone from my tree planting friends, yet possibly with my American friends. When I told him that I might spend the night in a motel, he quickly told me that I had already said I would be camping. “Yes, but the longer you question me, the less likely I am to find a campsite at night, and now it has begun to rain again!” Believing that I was transporting something, or planning to pick up something or someone, he searched my car, only to find nothing except camping gear and smelly tree planting clothes. Eventually after nearly an hour of questioning and waiting, I was allowed to enter the USA, with firm advice that next time I ought to present myself better. I couldn’t agree more; next time I don’t have any firm plans, I’ll just make up a story and stick to it.
Back in my car, I was once again at the mercy of my vague plans. I ended up driving around numerous side roads for over an hour trying to find a campsite, all in vain since it was midnight (an appropriate time for “Midnight Flyer” by the Eagles) until arriving back on the main route in Tonasket I sought out a motel. The Red Apple Inn fit the bill on such short notice, and to my delight the man in the office greeted me in a thick New York accent; my American experience was well under way!
The next morning at check out it was recommended to me that I investigate the car show in town, so off I went. Now I should mention that I have a rather odd affinity for the Imperial System, or as it is properly known in America, US Customary Units, due to my English Canadian cultural background and my general appreciation of slightly odd historical quirks, so checking out dashboards in MPH on old American classics seemed like a fun thing to me, and that is just what I did! Oh I’d love me a ’57 Bel Air someday… In fact, for my entire trip I was always in some sort of combined Imperial System, hunger, and/or alcohol daze. I would obsessively drive at 60MPH instead of 100KMH, revel in every digital Fahrenheit sign, stare at cans labelled in ounces, all the while forgetting to eat often enough.
After the car show I decided to head down to Wenatchee, since the border guard’s attempt to draw a plan out of me had led me to falsely claim to have already contacted my friends in Wenatchee, and this in turn made me decide that I probably should go and visit them. I arrived in the afternoon with just enough time to find a bar in which to watch England’s first World Cup match against Italy. To my pleasant surprise most of the Americans seemed to be engrossed in the tournament, and I had no trouble in making conversation during the match. I even made a bet with an Italian American over who would be in the lead at halftime. We bet a beer, and when the score ended up 1-1, we decided to buy each other a beer, which worked out nicely in my case since he was drinking Coors Light and I was drinking the significantly pricier Blue Moon Witbier. Alas England did not fare so well in the second half, but no second bet had been made.
That evening I found a campsite near the river, and after setting up, I went back into town for supplies. I was hoping to try something new, and having heard good things about the Alaska Brewing Company, I hoped that I could maybe find an Alaskan Blonde. They only had an Amber, but I also picked up a 28oz can of Miller High Life which would totally hit the spot given the circumstances!
Back at the campsite I was looking forward to a relaxing evening, but that all changed when my neighbour stopped by on his way to collect firewood and invited me over for a visit. Not one to pass up an invite, I wandered over to their fire a while later, and that is where my weekend in America really took off!
Stay tuned for “My Weekend In America Part Two.”