I woke up in a tent on a grassy edge of a parking lot behind the town hall. The construction workers that are repairing the street in town have already went to work (I know this because of all the beeping of the machinery driving in reverse). As I’m sort of short with water I have to give up on my morning coffee with my breakfast. But it does not matter since I will surely find a café where I will be able to spend the last of Canadian dollars. Today it will be decided if I will be allowed into the US or not. This question has been bothering me since my arrival at the Boston airport where the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officer has frightened me saying that it is possible that since I’m unemployed and living off my savings, these savings might not be sufficient to let me into the US for a longer period of time.
So I have packed up my camp, ate my breakfast and loaded up Lou. As I was just about to finish, it started to rain. Wonderful, just what I needed as a morale booster. But the weather is something that we cannot control. So I set off in search of my morning coffee. A café that I have somehow missed yesterday evening is actually just 50m away.
I enter, take a seat and a man brings me a menu for breakfast. “I’ll have just some coffee!” I say and I get it. We start a conversation about who I am, where I come from and what am I doing here. Answering these question, the man says “Wait, I’ll bring you something for the trip!” About 10 minutes later a he comes back with a full plate of food. A breakfast, typical North American with eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast. Pleasantly surprised a dig in even if I’m not that hungry. But you never know on a bicycle what’s in store for you and besides I burn so many calories. Since it continues to rain outside I stay at the café for about 3 hours and when it looks like there might be a break between downpours I start to set off. Just before I leave the owner and the cook additionally boost my morale by saying that the border check might be stricter than usual since a few days ago two convicts have escaped from a prison about 50km from the borer and they are still looking for them. Well isn’t that just great.
So I set off in a drizzle and head for another encounter with American border officials. The border is only about 5 km away and I have no idea when they passed by. Canadian side is only a ramp that gets lifted as I approach but then a sign “All vehicles must stop in 200 feet!” Definitely approaching the American side. I stop at the stop sign and wait for green light. This stop I use to remove all the unnecessary equipment on me (helmet, cycling gloves) and wipe off my glasses. From the border post a woman in uniform comes out and kindly asks “Have you been waiting long?” “No, not at all!” I reply and cycle towards here. Fairly quickly we realize I’m a bit of a special case so she tells me to park my bicycle and step inside. There are more CBP officers there. Another woman takes over my case and the interrogation begins and a more official and intimidating way. Where are you from, what’s your name, how old are you, where are you going, how much money you have, do I know anyone in US,… This goes on for a while before she starts to check my data in the computer. At that moment another officer starts a conversation in a more friendly tone. But I do notice that he is actually indirectly asking me the same things as the woman before him did. So they are checking if my answers were something I have learned by heart or are they really the facts since I can repeat them through a conversation. Fine by me.
The woman turn back towards me and say that everything is OK and that I will be allowed to enter. But I should pay attention not to overstay my visa. “But how long can I stay?” “6 months from the day you have entered the country in Boston.” “How come? The officer in Boston said he gives me 3 days. In addition to that he also writes it down in my passport next to the stamp.” “Well it has been entered into the system that you have 6 months and I cannot change this.” There is nothing left for me but to agree with here and happily go out to take my bicycle. Immediately I notice that they have checked my bags as well since not all is the way I have left it. But that fine. I firmly attached what needs to be reattached and with a Smile on my face I cycle on. Apparently all the worries and insecurities of the past month were completely unnecessary.
About 3 km (OK, I’m in US now, so 2 miles) further down the road the sun emerges from behind the clouds. And it follows me until the evening which I send with my couchsurfing host John and his lovely family.
Welcome to the US!