At 33 333 miles

July 26, 2011

Access denied.

I headed out of Ottawa about 3 hours later than I had intended. The plan was to go to Rochester NY and see Linda and Jim, then continue on to Nashville to finish the album. Out of Ottawa. Out of Canada.

Half way down the 416 South rain started to pour. I pulled over, slipped on the rain gear : pants, shell, overboots, gore-tex gloves and off I went again.

I’m heading for the border crossing.

The rain turns into a wall, I’m following a semi in order to be in it’s cleared track, cleared of rain water so that my tires are on solid ground. It rains and rains. I think of the first times I rode in the rain… the sheer terror… Now it’s all in a day’s ride. The Gore-Tex rocks in those monsoon conditions. I’m super dry, warm and it’s just a matter of watching for drivers who think they are on the racetrack.

I make it to the border crossing the time is 11:11. I sit there as the rain falls still. I slowly inch forward. I must have sat there for 40 minutes or so. I wonder what is going to happen. I silently call the Gods; I ask them to guide me, show me the way.

My turn.

I take my helmet off, ear plugs, hand my passport… She looks like she is on a mission. At this point I already know it’s not going to work. I already know I will turn back towards Ottawa. So the rest is a sort of strange formality; they hand me my little yellow paper, I am escorted by two officers towards the parking spot for the bike, then inside the building. You’d think I am a wanted criminal, but I’m not stressed.

There are 5 or 6 rows of metal chairs bunched together. It’s a small office in a U shape around the rows of seats. It could be oppressive but I sit there feeling strangely peaceful. My only misgivings is that I really have to use the washroom and they won’t let me. So I make an effort to calm my mind, relax, ignore the body.

A couple comes in, they sit in front of me. They are French. They do not understand what the agents are saying :

“Did they say next?”

“I don’t know what they said!”

“When do we know it’s our turn?”

I watch for a little while then interject :

“They will call your name”

“Oh! Thank you!”

We start chatting. He looks at my riding gear.

“Do you ride the BMW? The K 100?”

“Yes, it’s the K 75”

“ We are “motards” too! We have BMW’s in France!”
(motard is the french name for bikers)

They tell me I should come and ride in France as the roads are super twisty not straight like here in Canada. It sounds good.

Their names are called. I sit there for about an hour until they call me.

I meet officer Sanchez. She is black, beautiful and very business like. She asks me all the questions and I’m not giving her the right answers I need to give her. I’ve been traveling for a year so no, I have no home, no job, no lease.

Where is your stuff? She asks.

“I sold everything I own”.

“Who does that?” she asks. Well, that would take too long to explain. How do you expound on all this? How do you tell a customs agent that you are on a quest and the Gods are guiding your every steps and the universe takes care of you and that all is well whichever way things go because after all, this is an illusion and love is what matters most? Futile.

After a good 40 minutes of questioning she announces that she won’t let me in the country. I got another yellow piece of paper, I am sent back to my bike, an agent tells me how to get out.

“turn left and take the first immediate left after that.” I get on the bike. Turn left. And well, the first immediate left is the lanes of southbound cars… I’m northbound… then there is a cordoned off lane… I go there… it is a dead end. Turn around…. turn into the “first immediate left…” an agent comes from the side, puffing and yelling at me, very rudely. Wrah, wrah, wrah…. well you did say the “first immediate left”… and when one tries really hard to not fuck up they do…

“I’m sorry” I said about 3 times as he kept ranting at me…. “I made a mistake, I’m sorry” I sped away in the correct lane finally to meet up with agent Sanchez who has my passport and a paper to give to Canadian customs.

I can’t even get mad. Somehow, all is well. All is good. I feel relief. Calm. I stop about 500 ft past the border. Gotta make some calls to say “I’m not going to be there” and calls to say “I’m coming back” I look at the odometer : 33 333…. 3 has always been my lucky number. Hmmmm. Interesting. The clock says 13:13 .

It’s all good. One more time, fate has decided for me. This is what is going on. I’m totally at peace. I’m OK with it. I smile. New chapter. I’m on.

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6 Responses to “At 33 333 miles”

  1. bobskoot Says:

    Danielle:

    I feel so sorry for you, I feel so helpless that I can’t help, you are so far away. Now this information is going to be in the Customs computer. Hope everything works out . . .

    bob
    Riding the Wet Coast

  2. David Walker Says:

    Dear Danielle,

    Don’t know what to say. I know they do not easily change their data. Maybe you will have to fly next time. I am wondering if things have not changed in terms of access both ways. A number of performers for the Folk Festival were prohibited from entering Canada two weekends ago. Bad things are happening down there. As the witches said “From the burning of my thumb, something wicked this way comes!” I am not sure it was burning or hurting or some discomfort.
    love,
    david

  3. Erika Says:

    Hi Danielle,

    What a crazy thing that you cannot get back in.

    What else is needed I wonder? Time will tell, and then all will be well.

    I leave late August 1st to travel to Newfoundland returning to Van on August 16th with 3 boys.

    Hope to catch up by email sometime soon, take care of yourself in amidst the uncertainty and trust in your dream and the ‘Invisible’

    e

  4. mq01 Says:

    3 is good for me as well… times will improve, im sure of it!

  5. John Doheny Says:

    Well, the gods may very well take care of you, but even they don’t have any pull with the US Customs service. To tell you the truth I’m surprised you haven’t had more serious trouble earlier. They could have confiscated your bike and sold it at auction, they have the power to do that and there would be nothing you could do about it.

    I thought the album was finished. What’s left to do? Can you have the masters sent up and finish in Ottawa?

    I’m very sorry this happened to you, and I really wish you’d consulted with me or with someone else who has experience in dealing with this sort of stuff in advance, because the chances are pretty good that you could have avoided this with a little advance planning. There are numerous avenues for artists to obtain resident status in the US; temporary visas, P2 Work Visas (these are handled through the Musicians Union and take time and several hundred dollars to process, but they’re pretty much guaranteed to go through if you’re patient) or the O-visa, AKA the”Alien of Extraordinary Ability” visa. The guy who repairs my horns here in New Orleans is a German who obtained permanent residency that way. And of course there’s the coveted Green Card (resident alien status) but that’s a long and expensive process. It took me two years and about about $8000 in lawyers and filing fees for me to get one for Darlene.

    You’ve said nothing of the ultimate consequences of this last rebuff, but I know that it’s common for US Customs to flag the computer file of people in your circumstance with a denial-of-entry notice for the next five years. I strongly urge you not to try to “sneak” back in at any time while you’re flagged as an undesirable. The person urging you to fly next time is giving you bad advice; this is the computer age and the minute you give them your name and ID all this comes up on the computer and you’re headed right back to Canada or worse, detention, trial, and formal deportation. If you try it driving there is a real possibility you’ll lose the bike, as I said they have the power to do this. The minute you approach ANY international border you lose all the “rights” you think you have; these people have truly draconian powers.

    I’m sorry if this seems like lecturing, but I assure you it’s meant in the best possible spirit. I want you to have the things you want, and I’m advising you as a fellow warrior to protect yourself. Wandering as a free spirit and trusting your fate to the winds is all well and good until you start crossing borders, but once you do you make yourself vulnerable to a system that does not recognize your goals and aspirations. Failing to take steps to protect yourself is tantamount to jumping into a shark tank holding five pounds of raw meat and trusting “the gods” to protect you.


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