We are finally on the way back to the USA. After 3+ months of steady activity both our bodies and bank account needed some R&R. How do full time RVers take a vacation? After all our life is one big vacation. They stay put for a week or two or even a few months and “stay home”. We opted to take a longer way so we could drive along the St. Lawrence River on the New York side. One more border crossing (or so we thought) then on to Wellesley Island State Park in New York.
As we approached the border we had our passports and Opal’s rabies certificate ready. In all of our other crossings trucks, RVs and cars all went through the same lines. Now we saw a “no trucks” sign going straight ahead and trucks being directed to the right. Where should we go? Do you think there is a height restriction? I don’t know. I can’t see a height posted. We decided to go right and got in line with the trucks. We just crept forward for 30 minutes. When we got to the gate the Border Patrol officer was in a tower positioned to talk to drivers in truck cabs. He looked down at us and said “What the hell are you doing here?” We know our Border Patrol has a difficult job and don’t mean to poke fun but they aren’t known for their sense of humor. Steve had to roll down the window and stand on the door sill to get up high enough to talk to him. I explained we were confused by the signage. “You’ll have to go turn around.” Where is there room?. “Well, then you’ll have to go through x-Ray with the trucks. Then he paused, called and talked to someone else. Shortly a car marked Field Officer appeared. “Follow that car and he’ll lead you out.” So off we went following the car with lights flashing around the barricades and at last back on the road. Welcome Home! Moral of the story: You are not a truck. Stay with the cars. Just before we pulled out to follow the Field Officer I’d looked back and had seen 2 vans and a passenger car in line. I hope they hadn’t just followed us. For their sake, I hope they get into a different line.
Wellesley Island State Park is located on one of the larger islands of the Thousand Islands area in the St. Lawrence River. We had to cross over via the I-81 bridge. Since it must allow ocean going freighters to pass the bridge rises steeply. We had no difficulty though and easily found our full service site in the Fox loop. A lovely, spacious and open site. The loop would hold about 40 RVs but outside of Columbus Day weekend there were no more than 10 rigs there. We had both satellite television and our own internet for the first time since July! Ah, life is good.
The first night we met a couple from Ontario and joined them at a campfire. We enjoyed their company, exchanged contact information and hopefully will see them in the south this winter. One of the pleasures of this lifestyle is meeting new friends and getting to see old friends too. We drove to Syracuse to see a friend of Chari’s from her Air Force days. It had been over 25 years since they’d seen each other. As with most good friendships conversation picked up quickly as if someone had just hit the pause button. They took us out to dinner at Dinosaur BBQ. It turns out this was also on the Diners, Drive-ins and Dives app. So you know we loved it.
We didn’t plan a great deal of activity worthy of blogging but we didn’t become couch potatoes either. The park is a great place to ride bikes during the slower season. Nearby is the town of Thousand Island Park with beautiful Victorian/early 1900s homes. Much of our time was spent culling over photos to be considered for the 2014 calendar. Once was the time we had to search for 12 calendar worthy photos. With better equipment and more training the task has flipped to one of being very critical about our selections. After we’ve given our holiday gifts we’ll let you know which pictures made the cut. We also spent time creating our Christmas card and adding new friends to our list.
One beautiful day we rented a small boat from the park and toured some of the islands. We took Opal along. She’d done well on the pontoon boat last year. This time had mixed results. Getting into the boat she didn’t like sliding down the metal sides or the metal bottom. Putting the lifejacket pillows on floor helped. She wanted to see over the edge but couldn’t stand for long. “Just what part of speeding along when you can’t see where your going and being thrown off balance do they think is fun?” She settled down. After a lunch break on one of the islands making up the Thousand Islands (Canadian) National Park (formerly called St. Lawrence River NP) we had to lift her to get her back in the boat. She isn’t a small boat dog. The island provided a much needed break. This island and several others allow primitive camping. I returned to the boat with a park brochure in hand. Steve just shook his head. Only my wife could find a brochure on an uninhabited island in the middle of a river! We motored through the islands, most of which are privately owned and have cabins or homes on them. We went through an area called the Canadian Rift where the US and Canada are less than 100 feet apart. Good thing we’re friendly neighbors. We went passed Boldt Castle but didn’t land and do the tour since dogs are not allowed. We planned to return on a commercial tour but weather and other errands prevented this. Guess here’s where we say “When we come back…” Boldt Castle was built by George C. Boldt, proprietor of the Waldorf Astoria and creator of Thousand Island Dressing, for his wife, Louise, whom he adored. Heart themes are everywhere on the property including statues of European deer on the roof peak known as Hart deer. She died before the castle was finished and work ceased. It’s hard to imagine this 120 room building was just a “cottage” with it’s boathouse that would accommodate a boat with a 60′ mast and separate castle style playhouse for the children. Also in the area is the Singer Castle, built by founder of Singer Sewing Machines and another museum showcasing the art and sculpture of Frederick Remington.
One of the things that occupied a lot of our time was trying to resolve a problem with a Best Buy gift card. We’d paid for work to be done on Steve’s computer at the Dartmouth, Nova Scotia store. When it wasn’t ready as promised we were given a gift card in lieu of a refund. We were told it was useable in the USA. We didn’t look at the reverse side or we would have seen it said “for use only in Canada or online at BestBuy.ca. So if you are traveling be aware that Best Buy in the US and Best Buy Canada, although under the same parent corporation, operate completely independently. It is as if you bought something at Walmart and asked Target to honor it. After hours on the phone to corporate numbers and two frustrating trips to the Watertown, NY store we were no closer to getting our $247 back. We didn’t really need to buy anything but figured maybe a purchase through the Canadian site would be our best option. We went to finalize the purchase and … guess what? They don’t ship to the US!! So once again we had to cross into Canada, drive to the Kingston, Ontario store and make one last attempt at a refund. We want to give credit where it’s due. The store manager in Kingston, Derrick and all of his staff, were wonderful. Even though none of this problem had been from his store he spent time and effort to resolve the problem. We got our refund credit. We don’t know if there are other corporations that operate this way but we’ll never take a gift card in lieu of a refund again when outside the USA.
There are numerous New York State Parks along the St. Lawrence and the two Great Lakes, Ontario and Erie. We plan to return to the area for a longer stay so we checked out several campgrounds and kayak put-ins. We also drove along the Canadian side of the river on the Thousand Island Parkway. We stopped to pick up a hat pin for Ontario and found a map for an area to the north called the Fontenac Arch. This area is covered with lakes and trails. Oh, the list just keeps getting longer!
Now this really is the last border crossing for a while as we came back from Ontario. The Border Patrol Officer seemed curious about where we lived. Were they wondering why we’d crossed the border so many times? I told them we were full-time travelers and hadn’t been back to North Carolina since March. That satisfied them. Then they asked if we had any lamb or goat products. That was a new one. We’d just stocked up on dog food and yes, we’d bought some canned lamb. He looked in the back of the truck but allowed the cans to go through. You just never know what they’ll ask or inspect.
Relaxed and refreshed we moved on to western New York and the Finger Lakes area.