Our morning ablutions completed...luggage repacked...vehicle repacked..we checked out of the hotel! Our plan is to drive to Buffalo and visit the Duty Free Store there. After that we plan to drive to Plattsburgh and take a ferry across Lake Champlain to Burlington, VT, where we plan to spend the night. That was the plan!
We ate breakfast at the local Denny's restaurant. After breakfast we took a couple of photographs of the Motel 6 for SWMBO. Buffalo here we come! The Duty Free Store is near Exit 6, off I-190 at Peach Tree Plaza, a ten minute drive or so. It seemed simple enough to find. W R O N G ! ! !
We explored downtown Buffalo. Some of the architecture is quite intriguing. We also explored other urban areas and ended up along the Lake Erie waterfront...no Peach Tree Plaza! Our "Tom-Tom" navigational aid led us on a wild goose chase. Ironically, there was a gaggle of Canadian Geese grazing along the waterfront. We did not plan to explore the city of Buffalo, but we did.
SWMBO was becoming more agitated as I determined to maintain my manhood by finding our destination without resorting to the indignity of... "asking for directions." These three little words cause men everywhere to shudder. I can't explain why...they just do!
So I pull up to a road construction crew and asked for directions. It turns out that we were less than three blocks away from our destination. The store is located on the American side of the "Friendship Bridge." Once the pain of my indignity began to subside, we drive into the parking lot of the Duty Free Store. We planned to shop, purchase some chocolate items and continue on our journey to Lake Champlain. A simple enough plan, right? W R O N G ! ! !
Apparently, you cannot drive away from the Duty Free Store without driving across the "Friendship Bridge" between Buffalo and Canada, into Canada. Purchases at the Duty Free Store are for export only...Who knew? I cannot believe that we are the first people on the planet to make this mistake. So, Canada here we come! However, there is a number of "little" problems with our driving into Canada: (1) We do NOT have passports; (2) We do not have our birth certificates proving our citizenship; (3) I am carrying a concealed, loaded firearm.
We drive across the bridge and pull up to the Canadian Border Agent's booth. He asked a number of questions that were not a problem...Q - "Do you have a Passport? A- "No, all we have is a driver's license." Q - "Where are you going?" A - "We are trying to get back to the American side of the bridge. We came into Canada by mistake." We hand the Border Agent our licenses. We explained what happened. The Agent types on a keyboard, presumably checking to see if we were terrorists or drug smugglers or something like that.
The Border Agent then turns to us and asks THE problematic question Q - "Are you carrying any firearms." A - "Yes, I am. I am carrying a loaded five-shot .38 caliber revolver." The Border Agent stared at me, processing what I just told him. He nervously asked "Do you have it on you, now?" I told him "Yes, I have it in my right front pants pocket." I added that I also have five spare rounds in a cartridge pouch. He instructed me not to move unless he instructed me to. I acknowledged my understanding and placed both hands on the steering wheel with my fingers spread. He told me to S L O W L Y hand him the firearm. I meticulously followed his instructions and removed my revolver, holster and all, from my pocket and slowly handed it to him. He hands it to another Border Agent who takes it, unloads it, and then huddles with a few more Border Agents showing them my revolver like it was some kind of trophy.
The Border Agents confer with each other for several minutes. The decision is made to return my revolver to me and deport us immediately. Parenthetically, I asked myself..."How much of a jerk do you have to be, that even Canada won't let you in?" So, the Border Agent hands me back my unloaded revolver, holster and five rounds of ammunition. He then directs me back across the Friendship Bridge to America, Home of the Brave, Land of the Free...or at least so I thought.
We drive across the bridge to the American side and pull up to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E) Agent's booth. I was thinking that we would identify ourselves, show him our licenses, explain why we went to Canada and then we would soon be merrily on our way. A simple procedure, Right? W R O N G?
The I.C.E. Agent asked the same innocuous questions "Where are you going? Where are you coming from? Anything to declare? May I see your passports?" I handed the Agent our licenses and explained how we inadvertently ended up in Canada. I further explained that we were sent back across the bridge by the Canadian border officials. To save time and conversation I also told the Agent that I was carrying a firearm.
"Why are you carrying a firearm?" Several answers came to mind: (1) Because I'm a police officer and I usually bring a firearm with me when I travel with my family, for protection; (2) The bad guys carry firearms, so I figured that I would too...to make it fair; (3) The 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution; (4) Better to be judged by twelve than to be carried by six; (5) Because I couldn't fit the bazooka in my pants! (6) To protect the drugs and explosives that are in the trunk; I opted to go with answer #1! I figured that it would cause the least anxiety for all concerned.
The I.C.E. Agents huddle continued for a few minutes. An Agent, who I took to be a supervisor, leaves the huddle, comes up to my window, and asks if I have my police credentials with me. I show him my badge and my department identification card. He also asked me why I am carrying a firearm. I quickly review the aforementioned six answers in my mind. I stay with answer #1. After several more minutes we are directed to the interstate and are allowed to proceed on our merry way.
We were delayed several hours being lost in Buffalo. Were delayed another 30 minutes at the Canadian border. We were delayed at the American border another 30 minutes. The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray! Don't they ever!
To be continued....