Monday, July 4, 2011

Monday Mystery Tour, July 4, 2011

Some mornings, I sit at the computer and write. Others, I browse the web. It was on one of these browse periods I found the GOES website. GOES stands for Global Online Enrollment System. It is a place where one can apply, online obviously, for the Trusted Traveler Program. In my case, I applied for a Nexus card. Nexus is a collaboration between Canada and the USA and holders of this card have the ability to expeditiously cross the border into Canada or the United States.
I think I want one of these cards.
That is NOT me in this stock photo for the Nexus card
The enrollment consisted of an online form sent to the government of the country of which you are a citizen, in my case, the USA, and be approved. If all the items are approved, you move on to a personal face-to-face interview at a Nexus location. The closest Nexus card processing office for me was Fort Frances, Ontario Canada.

So, having a new motorcycle to ride and weather fit for such a trip, I packed up the Scrambler and headed North this past week. I had made an appointment, on line, to be interviewed for my Nexus card.
My trip took me about 350 miles, (about 575 Kilometers), from home. I stayed in the border town of International Falls, Minnesota, just across the Rainy River from Fort Frances. I left in the morning, but not the crack of dawn. Plenty of daylight hours as the sun doesn’t set in the Northland until after 9:00 PM this time of year.
The weather was great for riding. Sunny, around 80 degrees Fahrenheit, ( 27 C). I took secondary roads, mostly paved, and meandered North through beautiful country lanes amongst the forests and lakes of Wisconsin and Minnesota.
I had been in this area before in the past, but it has been a while. I noticed how some things have changed, and others have stayed the same. In the 1980’s, I drove truck and delivered anhydrous ammonia, used in water treatment at the paper mills. These border towns have Boise Cascade along both sides of the Rainy River. I delivered on both sides of the border.
One of my first stops on this trip was for gas in Cloquet, MN. I knew this particular gas station was there, but wasn’t sure of its operation because of the uniqueness. 
Frank Lloyd Wright design gas station
This petrol stop was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous world renown architect from Wisconsin. There was this guy in Cloquet that had Wright design a home and went on to hire him to design a gas station too. The main attraction is the shaded area where the gas pumps are located and the high canopy that seems to be suspended with no visible means of support. Yes, that is my motorcycle parked at the pumps.
Full view, including the rocket shaped tower

From Cloquet, I continued North and found County and Township roads on my Minnesota Gazetteer. The motorcycle I’m riding now has the capability to get off the hard top and play in the dirt and gravel, so I did just that. I looked for small grey lines, as opposed to the bold blue and red on the map, and found some fantastic overland routes to get me to my destination.

I arrived at International Falls, MN by 4:00 PM. I unpacked, had a cup of coffee and sat around until dinnertime. I found the Border Bar and enjoyed a California burger basket. Here in Minnesota, a California burger is a mainstay. It is a regular hamburger with the addition of lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise. The basket designation just means it comes with french fries or potato chips and maybe a side of cole slaw. Oh, and a dill pickle.
After dinner, I sat on a lawn chair provided by the Voyageur Motel where I stayed, and smoked a cigar. The fresh air and sunshine tired me out and I slept long and hard. I woke up fresh and alert and with great anticipation of my trip across the border into Canada.
Years ago, I lived near the border, one mile away actually, and crossing was just like going anywhere else. Usually waved through or asked a simple question like, “Where are you going in Canada today, eh?”
Things are different now. I didn’t know how different as I have not crossed the border since the 2001 September 11th fiasco. I do have a valid passport already, but my mission was to go to the customs office and be interviewed for the aforementioned Nexus card.
At the border, I was asked to produce my passport and asked where I was going in Canada. My answer was simple. 
“I’m going to the Nexus office for an interview this morning.” I said.
I was then asked how long I planned on being in Canada. “Not long”, was my reply. I was waved through and since I had looked up the address of the office and where I had to be, I drove right to it. It was housed in the upper floor of the Post Office building in downtown Fort Frances.
Customs and Post Office all in one building

I was early because I didn’t know how long the border crossing would take. I didn’t see a coffee shop in close proximity, so I just parked the bike and wandered the area. I believe the Canadian Postal workers are on strike or some such thing. There was no movement of anyone in the Post Office, but the building was unlocked for access to the upstairs offices.

The center of Fort Frances, Scott Street, was closed to traffic getting ready for ‘Mall Day’, a three block long celebration with street vendors, sidewalk sales and outdoor dining. Probably in conjunction with the then upcoming Canada Day on July 1st.


I took some photos of things that were unique to me. The golden yellow OPP sign, for Ontario Provincial Police is akin to our Wisconsin State Patrol. And the Royal Canadian Legion is a Veterans organization a lot like the American Legion Posts here in the states, complete with operating bar.
Ontario Provincial Police, Canadian

Wisconsin State Police, American

The interview was not exactly what I expected. In a small office, there was a desk. Behind the desk were two women officers, one had a laptop computer sitting in front of them, the other with a stack of papers, pamphlets, a camera and fingerprint recording apparatus.
They both wore the very dark blue uniform worn by the personnel at the border, but one had United States and the other Canadian patches on their respective sleeves. The Canadian women was tall and slender with blonde hair. She had strong Scandinavian features. The American was older and thicker with grey hair, she was an older more mature woman. Neither was wearing a side arm that I noticed.
The interview went smoothly after the computer got online, but during the wait to enter information into the system, the talk was general and casual. I was asked about how often I would be coming back and forth into and out of Canada. Besides a couple of trips I am hoping to accomplish later this year, I didn’t know for sure at this time, but I did entertain the idea that I would try to get to Winnipeg to see the newest National Hockey League Franchise Winnipeg Jets, due to start play in the next season.
I got a big smile and a complete change in demeanor from the Canadian. Gone was the professional attitude and a real human being surfaced as the conversation centered around the love of hockey in Canada.
The process only takes about ten minutes. There is a short three minute film. You watch it, sign a paper saying you saw it and understand the contents. Then, the interview where all the personal information you put down on the online application is seen and verified. Things like my passport, birth certificate, automobile registration and drivers license.
I was photographed and fingerprinted using modern 21st Century equipment. Away with the days of the ink pad and someone manipulating your hands and fingers onto blotter paper for a print. (Ask me how I know how this is done). Actually, I have never been arrested. If I had been arrested and convicted, there is no way I could get a Nexus Card. I was fingerprinted once by law enforcement during a demonstration to see how it is done as I used to work in juvenile corrections years ago.
They told me I’d get the card in a few weeks and how important of a deal it was that I was going to be a trusted traveler. They also mentioned that even trusted travelers have to go through routine baggage search and inspection from time to time as they will just be doing their respective jobs on each side of the border.
I left after completing all the required steps and went back to the border to head for home. I was going to ride through Canada to Thunder Bay but the threat of rain and thunderstorms helped me decide to take a more expeditious route.
At the border back into the United States, the guard asked for my passport. He asked me where I went in Canada. I told him that I was just at the nearby Nexus office for an interview. He asked me, “How did that go?” I answered that it had gone fine. 
Then he handed me my passport and a pen and said, “Here, you need to sign this for it to be valid.”
I laughed inside as all this seriousness about the border crossing, and the newest safeguards to make sure terrorists are identified, and these dimwits never noticed my passport wasn’t even signed. I find it hard to believe that if circumstances were different, maybe the color of my skin a little dark or an accent to my language, other than French for example, and the whole process might have been different.

I signed my passport, handed back his pen and headed South to Sandy’s cafe for some breakfast before getting on the road towards home. I like Sandy’s. I’ve been here before, in Winter. It’s cold in International Falls in Winter. Nicknamed Frostbite Falls on Jay Ward’s Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Rocky is a flying squirrel, Bullwinkle his, (or her), sidekick, is a moose. I had the pork cutlets with eggs special. It would be the only thing I ate until much later in the day.
My breakfast at Sandy's, International Falls, MN
Along the way, I found some good stretches of gravel roads and put the Triumph Scrambler through its paces. 

The Scrambler, ready to attack the road less traveled
I did stop and take some photos. At one place, the wild flowers were bright and colorful. They were everywhere! Here are some samples. I don’t know any of the names. Help me with identification if you can.
My thanks to Molokai Girl for turning me on to the site that helped me create this collage, Picnic
These waterfalls are along the Pike River flowage at Lake Vermillion. The wildflowers are from that same general area. I cut across the countryside using these gravel roads and saw not a soul. There is nothing like it for me. The riding was as spirited as it was in the Toiyabe National Forest in Nevada that I wrote about just one year ago. That trip with yet another motorcycle capable of off-road maneuvers. 
Pike River Flowage into Lakle Vermillion

I also saw this huge nest atop a utility pole. This was smack dab right alongside a large railroad yard. A lot of taconite mining going on in this region of Minnesota. 

Rail cars full of Taconite

I thought at first it was an eagles nest, but it turned out to be another bird of prey. I believe this to be a falcon. My shutter captured the wings adjusting. This bird was building a nest or repairing one as I saw it fly out of the nest and return in a brief moment with a twig in its beak.

I believe this to be a falcon. Please correct me if I've made an error in identification

It was hot and sticky with humidity. The wind rushing by while on the motorcycle is a savior when the weather gets like this. About ten miles North of Duluth, MN on County Hwy 4 near Rice Lake, the coolness appeared. From the big lake, Superior, the temperature dropped and I found myself donning a hooded sweatshirt and buckling the neck strap on my leather jacket.
Sorry, no Great Lake Superior photos this time, the lake was socked in by fog and I couldn't see the water, even from the Skyline Parkway.

I was ten miles South of Superior, WI on Wisconsin Hwy 35 when I hit the wall of heat and humidity, held at bay by the Great Lake. I stripped down to the barest of necessities and needed a dinner break in an air conditioned place to stay sane from the heat.
I had dinner at the Pour House in Siren, WI, the scene of a 2001 devastating tornado, and was home a little less than two hours after that. The bike ran well, I enjoyed every minute of riding and have plans on another trip in less than two weeks, South this time, into Iowa for the annual Moto Guzzi Motorcycle Rally at Elkader. Even though I ride a Triumph, all riders are welcome. Besides, I have friends I ride with that have Guzzis.
Thanks for tagging along. I’ll get the video camera mount on the bike and have some movies next time. This weekend will be slow moving with maybe a local ride day trip Saturday and/or Sunday. As they say, “Keep the rubber side down!”


Jeannie said...

Great post! I always wondered what the Nexus card was all about - thought it was for people who had to cross continually for business. Never dreamt ordinary joes could get one.

And we don't all love hockey. But we do love Bullwinkle! - Nothin up my sleeve!

Unknown said...

Fantastic journey! You must feel so free when you travel light on a motorbike like that!

I love the FLW gas station, of course! And the breakfast; eggs over easy are my fave.

Happy, safe trails to you, my friend!
Oh, and I've posted just a few minutes ago some R.Crumb, whom I recall you are a fan of! Come on over and enjoy!


Sara Chapman in Seattle, USA said...

Quite an interesting read. Loved the part about the unsigned passport! The Nexus card info was great and new to me.

Spadoman said...

Jeannie... Thanks for your comment and thanks for stopping by. I thinbk the card is mostly for those that cross the border frequently, but anyone can apply. Glad you like Bullwinkle. I don't mind you not liking hockey, but if you didn't like Bullwinkle, there would be problems!
Peace my friend

Gina... It is a very free feeling while traveling on the bike. Asmall amount of gear and yourself. Makes me wonder why I would ever have need for a house full of stuff.
Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the R. Crumb tip, I'll be there.
Peace all around

Sara... Wonderful surprise to see you. I appreciate your visit and comment. Being in Seattle, you must see a lot of people that cross often. That is a busy port by ferry, automobile and rail.Glad you found it interesting.
Peace to you

Mel said...

Rocky and Bullwinkle forever!!! Oh my gosh!!!! And I thought I was the only one. *laughing*

Awesome photos, sir. (yes, loving the falcon and the trains...and the collage of flowers is cool, too.)
Mostly, I'm loving that the adventure went so well and that we got to be a piece of it, so thank you for that.

Not signed, huh? *laughing* Boy they're sharp, huh?! *laughing*

I'm sooooo glad that the station is still standing. Ya gotta admit, that's one cool station. How did he do that?! :-/

Elkader will be a good time, no doubt. I'll have to go click and investigate--I'll hope the weather stays good for the adventure. We're warming up for the county fair that explodes the whole town for huge crowds and cowboy hats galore! Love it!
Love that it's once a year...LOL

Spadoman said...

Mel... Sure hope you're feeling better. Thanks for stopping by. Yes, I love Rocket J. Squirrel and his moose buddy, Bullwinkle. Doesn't everyone???
Glad you like the pics. I actually got off the motorcycle and did all that stuff i gotta do to take pictures, how about that?
Another friend suggested that was an Osprey and might not be a Falcon.I don't know, but the real questio is, no matter what kind of bird it is, how did the orange road construction marker cone get in the nest?

mig said...

what a fabulous post! And photos! thank you'Man for sharing a great journey. Hope you get your card soon : )
Your story about the unsigned passport reminded me of a time I went to Greece and the passport checker laughed and said you're not really 4 foot 3 inches are you? The height on my passport was still the same as when I was about 10 years old! These days I don't think I'd get a laugh!

The flowers might be named differently over there but I saw Marigold, Lupin, Marguerite, and Celandine (or Kingcup maybe). Lovely.

CanadianGardenJoy said...

It took me this long to get over here and read your "Canadian experience EH!" .. the Nexus card won't stop a determined terrorist though .. we all know they have the capability to do what they have the backing to do .. but the whole program is supposed to make the masses feel safe and it is .. what it is .. right ? I am a bit of a cynic I guess .. I worry that if people think they have impenetrable systems, they become lax .. but that is just me .. probably ? ;-)
I had to laugh about your impression about how our Canadian officer relaxed once you spoke of hockey .. even after that embarrassment of Vancouver behaving so badly, the majority of us never mind being identified with our national sport : )
BTW .. nice pictures .. great descriptive commentary .. and too funny about the unsigned passport issue .. and you are most probably right with your assumptions. Sad .. but true ...
I enjoyed this very much : )

Anonymous said...

Joey, this is just wonderful. I enjoyed reading this a lot and especially liked the orange cone in the nest! Don't yu love it. So how does an Australian get in and out of Canada more easily as a trusted traveller? That would be the Kangar-exus card? Have a grand week and thanks for writing - your bud Pamela