Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Onward to the U.S -part1

We were so excited that our Christmas vacation had finally started! Being so busy the past few months, we felt like we really needed the break.

Our plan: Dec 23rd, drive from Toronto to Ohio, where we would spend Christmas with a friend. Then on Dec 27th, drive to Nashville, Tennessee where we would spend the New Year with my Sister-in-law. Jan 3rd, drive back to Toronto.

Preperation for trip:


When you are driving across a border it is easy to forget that you need passports and visas. Don't forget...on your return back to Canada, you have to show them your PR Card. Once you have these, then you:>

Check car, check tires, fill tank, get antifreeze for the wipers (a liquid added to the water in a cooling system to lower its freezing point or to the water for wiper blades), load the car with water, food, coke (I have two kids you know!), charge both cell phones, charge cameras, take extra warm clothes in case of emergency and we have to leave the car, take down phone numbers, addresses, plug in the GPS, lower the heating in the house (to save on power), check all outlets, check the stove and make sure everything is off, take out all garbage,tell the neighbor you're leaving, lock the front door, close the garage, re-check the front door....and leave!

Finally after all of the above we headed towards the U.S border via Michigan. The Ambassador Bridge was where we would be crossing the border and go through customs and immigration.

First we checked the weather report...clear until the afternoon and then some light snow. Sounded we left around ten thirty in the morning, after some last minute phone calls and kids finding their ipods and video game cartridges for the long car ride.

The 'light snow', soon turned into a snow storm that we drove straight into after about three hours on the road. Too late to turn around and too early to stop anywhere. The roads soon became slippery and it looked like someone had whitened out our windshield. We drove at the speed of 20 miles per hour for about three hours and ended up taking a detour which added another two hours to our already delayed drive.

We reached the U.S border, after a lunch halt at Tim Hortons...their chili is just awesome!

At the border, we didn't have something called the I-94 form. So they asked us to get down from the vehicle and go into the Customs office and get the form signed and stamped. This was the interesting something out of the movies....four or five big hulky men, with black uniforms (border cops) asked us to turn the cars engine off and except for our purses and documents, to leave everything else in the car and get out leaving the car unlocked. We had to leave our cell phones in the car too. They stare you down while you do this and totally intimidate you into feeling guilty. You have no clue what for............

Then we got out of the car, the border patrol (more like the men in black) making sure we didn't take anything out....and then as we made our way to the customs office, we noticed that they quickly searched our luggage and the insides of our car. The only thing missing here was Bruce Willis.

Once in the customs office, th y intimidate you even more. I guess they just want to make sure you are a legitimate tourist and not a terrorist! After asking us questions like, how were my husband and I related, if the kids were ours etc, they cleared us and told us to have a nice day, and Merry Christmas! They collected six dollars for each of us and then we were on our way.

From KM in Canada, everything becomes MILES in the U.S. So if and when you drive across the border, remember that the speed limit of 60 now means miles and not km.
1 miles = 1.609344 kilometers
1 kilometer = 0.621371192 miles

We had our handy GPS with us, so knowing which direction to take was not a problem. We knew exactly how many miles, what time we would reach our destination and if there were any road blocks on the way.

We stopped for some much needed coffee at at Wendys, while the kids had some milk shakes. Then, that is when the weather really turned bad! It started to pour, and it was already dark (about 7pm). We were supposed to reach Ohio by this time by our initial calculations..but because of the earlier snow storm and detour...we were not anywhere near Ohio!

Here we were, driving on the highway, pouring rain, dark roads, almost zero visibility..and suddenly we see bright blinking red lights. Drastically slowing down, my husband who was driving...says, 'Oh oh, the car is not stopping!'. Luckily, we had a huge gap from the car in front, and we managed to slow down in time. Then we noticed total chaos. There were at least twelve cars off of the road, all of them had slid off the sidesw and were now in ditches and some had slid all the way to on coming traffic on the other lane! It was again...a sight straight out of the movies.

Novices that we were..we had no clue what was happening. Then we realized...we were all sliding on black ice! This is when the roads get coated with ice, you can't see it because it is the same color as the road.............and when you step on your brakes...the car just slides. It does not stop! This is something we don't experience in India..and when you see it here it is just unbelievable. Cars literally slipping and sliding all over the place, not able to steer or stop with any control.

What do you do in this situation? Turn on your hazard lights and drive at the speed of ten miles per hour.....or slower! As we drove, we saw more and more cars that had gone off the highway and were now stuck in the ditches and grass. Police cars, fire engines and ambulances were all over the place with their sirens and lights, rescueing stuck drivers. If you start to slide, start pumping your brakes and blow your horn. If you hit something, or go off of the road, call 911 and the rescue team will be there before you know it to help.

About two hours of this...and the car in front of us suddenly spun around ( I don't know what he was trying to do) and went into a big ditch on the right side of the road. My husband immediately told me to call 911 and report the incident. So I picked up our cellphone and dialled 911. A lady operator said, 'This is 911, please state your emergency.' I told her what happened, and gave her the nearest exit number to where the car had slid off. She asked if anyone was hurt..and I told her that I didn't know. Then she put me on hold while she spoke to the highway patrol...I could hear the guy in the background saying that all his cars were already out and he would contact the next county to see if they had patrols available. So, our first and hopefully last 911 call!

The rain finally stopped and by the time we drove through Michigan, through Ohio and reached our friend who lives in was past midnight! It was such a relief to reach her house, and her kids were still up so we spent another hour chatting and eating a light bit before going to bed for a much needed rest before the next day.

The price of gas really varied betweent the countries and it was much cheaper in the U.S. You have to keep converting gallons to litres, so don't get confused!

One liter is equal to 0.2641721 gallons
One gallon is equal to 3.785412 liters

Will write about Christmas in my next post and some of the fun things we tried for the first time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hi nalini

just wanted to know when and how did ull get ur usa visa?

please let us know.