Crossing the CA/US border was… well… an unexpected experience. We’d done the due diligence and researched busy entry times, Nexus line openings, and overall important need to know details on the USCBP website. The day we wanted to cross the border was rated red, meaning we were crossing on an extremely busy day/time.

We left the house early to be at the border when the Nexus line opened. I figured it would be like boarding the ferries in B.C. with hours long line-ups and packed lanes with people who arrive 4-hours early to ensure a spot on the boat.

As an added level of complexity, the Nexus lane opens at 6:30am and only remains open for two hours. If you miss this window of opportunity, you have wait patiently in line behind all the cars, pick-ups, moving vans, slow moving cross-border shoppers, band busses, and transport vehicles who don’t have the proper paperwork.

And, anyone who knows me knows that I am not a very patient person… because life is too precious and too short to be wasted by bureaucracy. Come on people! We have things to do and see!

We arrived at the border just after 6:30am and found… empty silence. The Nexus line was closed… and no other vehicles were anywhere to be seen. I thought that at the very least that there would be a line up of trucks waiting to be inspected. But, in lieu of trucks there was… well… nothing!

It took us less than a minute to cross in the regular lane… and most of that time was spent asking why the Nexus line was closed. On the other side we sat for a few confused moments and in that time no other vehicles appeared. What is going on?

St. Albans

We moved along very quickly… to the first town: St. Albans, which is a quick 20-minute drive south of the Highgate border crossing. It was the middle of rush hour and we hit one of the only open cafes in the small city: Catalyst Coffee Bar.

For 30-minutes we watched locals come in and out for their morning coffee; and, while there enjoyed a hot chocolate served spicy (think Mexican chilli peppers) and a latte sweetened with maple syrup.

Historically, St. Albans is famous for being the location of the northernmost battle of the American Civil War (October 19, 1864).

Burlington

The second stop on our journey was Burlington, a town 45-minutes south of the Highgate border crossing. It’s a small, bohemian, artistic, cobblestoned city. This was La Niña‘s favourite place on the trip because it reminded her of the type of place where people can be comfortable with who they are.

We had breakfast in a little cafe called the Monarch and the Milkweed. Their deep fried block of hashbrowns sounded rather suspicious and looked rather unappealing, but in reality were the right combination of crunchy and soft.

Burlington is also home to Bernie Sanders, who we happened to stumble upon during our wandering. Before I snapped the photo below he’d just called out “how are you doing son” to a homeless man that he passed.

Ironically, I had also just told La Niña the story of how Bernie printed out Donald Trump’s tweets on massive placards for a Senate session.

After seeing him enter a building La Niña said, “Humph. I didn’t realize that Bernie Saunders worked at the Gap.” (His office is above the Gap store in Burlington.)