Thursday, June 26, 2008

our amazing trip: day 6

We spent the night last night in Joliet, Illinois.

We made the executive decision to stop at 10:00 PM, even though the children were all asleep and we were feeling good and could have driven for another two hours (we're still on Pacific Standard Time), because when we called the Marriott Hotel customer service line and asked if there were any hotels in the Kalamazoo area ... we were told that there were no Marriott hotels for at least 50 miles around St. Joseph, Michigan. The closest hotel, according to the folks on the "help" line were at least four hours north.

After having stayed in Marriott hotels almost the whole way cross-country, we are now partial to the chain. Not just because we get Marriott Reward Points, but because we find the accomodations a lot more pleasing than any of the other chains. Specifically, after Charlie thought he smelled vomit in the sink at a Holiday Inn Express in Green River, Utah and told me about the vision he had of some drunken wanderer barfing in the very sink where our children were now brushing their tiny little teeth. At that moment, my husband decided he didn't want to stay in any other hotels the rest of the trip.

Because surely no drunken wanderer has ever barfed in a Marriott sink.

Besides, the Marriott facilities have really nice pools and when Tina at The Cornhusker Marriot in downtown Lincoln kept the pool opened for 30 minutes after closing time on Tuesday night, just so our kids could go swimming, I swore them my loyalty forever.

We turned around ... headed back the way we had just come on I-80 for 20 miles, north on I-55 for another five miles, and settled in to our hotel. Only to find out today, when we were driving on I-80 through Gary, Indiana that "OH! There's a Marriott Hotel ... actually three of them ... a Courtyard, a Residence Inn and a Faifield." And then when we drove to Kalamazoo we saw more. We counted at least five of them in a span of two hours. So, not only did we lose almost two hours from backtracking and catching up to where we were last night, we could have driven at least another two hours ahead.
That was a little frustrating and will warrant a letter from me to them regarding their quality of "help" offered via their customer service line.

Today, five of six are sick with a cold and I'm fighting it tooth and nail. I've been doing my Sinus Rinse religiously twice a day, and have gone through an entire container of Zicam. Carolyn is complaining that her ears hurt. Two of the kids are on a poop strike and I think that I am going to DIE before I see the end of diapers with the triplets.

Tomorrow, we'll be looking for a pediatrician. And some Miralax.
The good news is we saw more beautiful scenery (and corn) today as we drove through Illinois...

Indiana ...

And Michigan.

The even better news is we crossed in to Canada - where there is even MORE corn.

I don't know what it is about border crossings that make me so anxious (maybe my husband who is a nervous Nellie and convinced we'll get stuck indefinitely or thrown in jail) but as we were preparing to drive up to the Canadian Border, we remembered that we had fruit in the car. From our experience in California, you are not allowed to drive in to the state with fresh fruit.

So, we quickly ate all the fruit that I had just bought at a truck stop outside of Detroit, because it seemed like days since we'd had anything fresh. We were telling the kids "Quick, here, eat this banana!! Eat this apple!! Eat this orange!!"

As we approached the Border Agent, Charlie - from the passenger seat - is whispering "Be calm. Just be calm. If you make any fast moves, they are going to suspect something." I roll down my window and answer all the questions asked as simply as possible. "We are from California. There are six of us. We are visiting family in London. We will be in town for three days."

When the Border Agent asked if we had any weapons, I responded no. But when she queried "Guns? Mace? Pepper Spray?" I hedged.

I cannot tell a lie to a Border Agent. Sure, I could, but I wouldn't want to. What if we got caught? All of my husband's fears about being thrown in to a foreign jail might come to fruition. So, I told her "Actually, I do have pepper spray."

She winced and said "Pepper spray is a weapon and it is illegal in Canada." She then asked why I had it with me, and I told her it was because we were ambushed by pit bulls a few months ago, and I carry it for self defense.

From the passenger seat I heard Charlie give a deep sigh.

Charlie and I had briefly discussed taking the pepper spray with us as we were pulling out of our driveway on this trip and both decided that it would be a good idea because we were driving ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE COUNTY and it seemed like if we ever got stranded somewhere, it might be useful to have, just in case. You never know. There might be vandals. Or highway bandits.
Turns out, pepper spray is illegal in Canada.

But fresh fruit isn't.

What we should have done is discharged our canister of pepper spray and not worried about scarfing down five bananas, two apples and an orange in less than five minutes.

We had to turn around, drive back to the United States ... talk to a U.S. Border Agent that clearly THRIVES on making people as nervous as possible ... find a spot far away from the border to dispose of the pepper spray, and then turn around and drive back across.

All the while Charlie was telling me that I shouldn't have said anything. Which I find hard to believe that he wouldn't have done the exact same, considering he has such a clean conscience he tried to pay a cashier for lemonade that we had accidentally discharged from a soda machine earlier in the day, that we had not purchased.

He would worry about lemonade - but not the repurcussions associated for himself and his family for trying to smuggle a weapon across an International border?

Yeah. I don't think so.

Almost two hours later, during our second attempt at crossing, when the Canadian Border Agent sent us in to Customs because Charlie didn't have his passport (which he couldn't find at home) or any type of documentation showing that he was a U.S. citizen (other than his driver's license), I thought for sure we were doomed.

I'm glad they didn't ask where Charlie was born, because if he had told them Canada, he might have been stuck at the border - and I'd feel bad leaving my husband behind to continue on this magnificent adventure without him.

Not only would the children miss their father, I'm not very good with the metric system.


  1. Yeah! You made it! I can't believe you told them about the pepper spray. You are hilarious. When we traveled in our RV that year, Greg had both his Glocks with him the whole time. Although we did leave the RV at a friends when we ventured into Canada, so I guess even WE didn't try to enter Canada with a concealed weapon. Too funny. Greg just stayed at the Marriot in Kalamazoo on his 10 day vacation last month. I could have helped you more than the customer service line there! :)

  2. Glad you got through! I admire you for your honesty, it is rare. I wish I could have seen Charlie try to pay for the lemonade. It shocks people when they see honesty like that!!!

  3. Jen,
    Did you need the kid's birth certificates to cross the border? We'll probably go into Vancouver while we're in Washington.

  4. Heidi, you will need to get them a passport. But as an expat American, it is so handy to have as an extra form of identification for the children:

    We've had our children's passports done since they were both 3 mths old.

  5. Oh darn, you were in Michigan and I didn't watch for you going by. I'll bet they looked for just actual Marriott hotels, not the entire brand, oy! Sorry you had to backtrack.

  6. Welcome to Canada! Hope the weather sticks for you as it's promising to rain for the next few days in the London/Toronto area.

    I'm surprised they let Charlie across the border as now you are, by law, required to have a passport, but I'm glad they didn't.

    Hope you enjoy your time here.

  7. welcome to canada!!

    and i've lived here for 10 yrs now..and i still suck at the metric system

  8. I am really enjoying your trip via the blog:) Glad you made it to MI, and laughed about your trip over to Canada. They are pretty tough:)

    I have not been across the bridge since 9/11, I know a lot has changed.

    Karen in metro Detroit.

  9. Guys -

    I've reading religiously every day. I almost feel like this is MY summer vacation - my vicarious summer vacation. Thanks for all the updates. Enjoy your family in Canada.


  10. ...pepper spray, eh, hoser... hehehe....

  11. Oh yeah, one more thing... this might come in handy (maybe for another border crossing):

    Official Lyrics of O Canada!

    O Canada!
    Our home and native land!
    True patriot love in all thy sons command.

    With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
    The True North strong and free!

    From far and wide,
    O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

    God keep our land glorious and free!
    O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

    O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

  12. Yeah! You are there! I was at the London Costco yesterday, and thought it would have been funny if you were there with the family--I think I would have recognized you.

    Have fun!

  13. Too bad about the Marriott-inspired delay! I travel a lot (and I like to stay at Holiday Inn Express - never found vomit in the sink!), so I asked for one of their books. Now I have a nifty book in the car with every hotel in the Holiday Inn chain, so I can check to see what hotels are coming down the road. I like to call and make reservations before I get there (and it is usually a little cheaper than when I just show up - which seems odd to me, but I'll take it!).

    You might check to see if Marriott has a similar book; I just toss mine in the trunk when I'm not traveling, next to the atlas, so I'm ready to go when the next trip comes up!

    Glad you are having such a good trip!

  14. Joliet, Illinois? Not to far from my house, relatively speaking since you've aleady traveled a million miles.
    As we were driving home from Iowa yesterday on I-80 my husband said "I bet that blogger you read was right on this road, maybe we passed them," We were in Amana. We weren't traveling with four small children but we had my mother with us, which my husband might say is much worse....

  15. I live so close to Joliet...I would have been so surprised if I had been driving next to you on I55 or I80...I hope you enjoyed your short stay in the area and at least got to drive through downtown Chicago to see the city! I love following your impromtu journey. Be safe...have fun! Erica in Bolingbrook

  16. Can I just tell you that I've THOROUGHLY enjoyed my vicarious trip cross country with you guys? When I was in 5th grade, we moved from CA to CT. My parents decided that the best way to pass the time while the moving van took all our worldly possessions to our new home, was to drive from CA to FL then up to CT. You're bringing back memories...

  17. Okay, I have to say that I've been reading for the last few days and thinking... wow, if they can make that kind of trip we can surely go visit the in-laws again. We packed up the car and made a 6.5 hour road trip with one 3 year old and 3 almost 2 year olds... even with the dual DVD players I don't think we'd ever survive thousands of miles!! You guys rock... now our little family just has to figure out a way to teleport ourselves back home in a few days without having to endure another 6.5 hour road trip?!?

  18. Hey, I used to live right beside one or another of those hotels in Kalamazoo. Can't remember which, but it was near my grad school home. Like you could probably see my old home close.

    It was a neat place to live because everyone went past. Once George W drove right past home. It was a special day....

  19. You are a true traveler! we just traveled a little over a thousand miles from Indiana to Texas-maybe we crossed paths in Indiana? We were the ones with the very stuffed white rental van....

    Have a great vacation!