Sunday, August 15, 2010

Divided States of Mind

It's so hard to get going and leave home when there is no plane to catch. So many last minute things to do and so much doubting whether you've forgotten something. I set myself a deadline to leave before noon and it is amazing how fast things get done.

Suddenly the moment I pull out of the driveway is the difference between being home and being away. Almost on cue, the song on the radio as I enter the expressway is "Hard Road" by the Sam Roberts Band. Is someone scripting this?

Motoring past the suburbs, I keep on glancing up the sunroof to make sure the kayak has been secured properly. I opted to mount it upside down for the first time thinking it would be more stable with the flat side against the roof rack. The 45 minute ride to the border seems longer than usual.

This being a Saturday, the line up at the border in Ogdensburg was busy, the busiest I've seen it in a long while. Usually I'm the third or fourth car at the single gate, now I'm about twelfth in line with four gates open. After a good 15 minute wait it is my turn and the border guard fires the same mundane questions, and then asks how long I'm staying in the USA. "Ten days to two weeks," I say. "Two weeks," he regurgitates, while peering into the hatchback window and looks at the folded bike and my meagre yellow bags. "Where's all your stuff, your clothes for all that time?" I replied they were in there and in disbelief he asks me to move the folded hatchback cover as if I had some hidden stash of things in there, then waves me off after seeing nothing.

No matter how close the USA is and how often I come here, there still is a bit of mental adjustment to be made, like making a conscious effort to look at the small set of secondary "mph" numbers in my speedometer instead of the large outer "km/h" figures or scratching my head trying to calculate and compare the price of gasoline from litres to gallons. This region of New York state is a bit of backwater these days, far removed from the big megalopolis it shares its Empire with, and is about as trendy as the area's signature Thousand Island salad dressing. It's a frontier that seems like the edge of the world for some, but the fuzzy shore now on the other side is only the start mine.

I'm hungry for lunch and I make my requisite stop at Philips Diner, a real local hangout I go to when I pick up packages at the UPS Store here. I order the lunch special for $6.95, and a huge portion of spaghetti and meatballs arrives with a salad and pasty white bread. I manage to eat only 3/4 of it.

Belly full of pasta, I make a beeline for the interstate towards Buffalo and the start of my adventure, reminding myself I am now miles, not kilometres from home.

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