Sunday, July 10, 2005

East Coast Vacation - Days 9 and 10

Saint John, NS to Windsor, ON

Big push home. Two very long days of driving - about 800 to 900 km each day. Driving through the US with a stop in Albany, NY.

Day 9 - Saturday - consisted of driving through Nova Scotia, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York to eventually arrive at the Holiday Inn Express in East Greenbush (Albany), NY. The forecast called for rain. We left Saint John around 9:00 am and arrived in St. Stephen, NB about an hour later. We stopped by the Ganong chocolate
store and bought some more goodies. US Customs was next.

As mentioned previously, both Canada and US Customs are located at either end of the bridge that connects the communities of Calais (pronounced Kaliss), ME and St. Stephen, NB. In fact, the booths on the Canadian side are located on the deck of bridge. Talk about a space crunch. Trucks entering the US have to make a sharp 90 degree turn to the right to get to their booths. I have read that sometimes, trucks are asked to pull straight ahead and the inspection takes places on the main road. Crazy. After the usual questions, we were permitted to enter the USA. Loaded up on some cheaper US gas (about 25 cents per litre cheaper) and continued on our long journey home.

It started to rain in Maine, which seemed to take forever to drive through. In New Hampshire, where it stopped raining, we came across the biggest scam in the US: the Blue Star Turnpike. I don't have a problem with toll roads per se, but the toll road (I-95) in New Hampshire is about 15 miles long, has three exits and costs a $1.00 (both ways if you are doing a round trip).

They
have signs 3 miles ahead of the toll plaza warning you about the toll plaza - this is where the wait begins to pay the toll. It took about 30 minutes to get to the toll booth (there must have 10 or so toll booths in each direction). There are no rest areas on the turnpike, but if you have a need for some booze, there are state-operated liquor stores. The only reason this toll exists is to exact a tax from Bostonians and New Yorkers (and other travellers) who are heading up to Maine and the East Coast of Canada for some fresh air and clean water.

As a comparison, we paid $1.50 to drive 89 miles of the Massachusetts Turnpike aka Mass Pike (and they have real rest stops on the Mass Pike). I can imagine the backup during holiday weekends. We took I-495 to I-290 to I-90 (Mass Pike). This took us through Worcester, MA. Traffic was moving well. Around 6:30 pm we arrived at the Holiday Inn Express East
Greenbush (Albany-Skyline). After driving for 10 hours and almost 900 km, Adam was tired.


Day 10 - Sunday aka the Last Day of Vacation - started out well. It was sunny and warm - no drizzle to worry about. The Express Start Breakfast Bar was the best on this trip. Besides the warm cinnamon buns, bagels, toast, juices, coffee, boiled eggs, they also had real bacon and scrambled eggs. A very good breakfast. We managed to get out of the hotel around 9 am (since Adam is a Priority Club member, no checkout is required - just leave the keys in the room or counter and off you go). We stopped by a nearby Wal-Mart so Tina could buy a book to read on the long trip home.

It was an uneventful four hour drive to Buffalo, NY and the Peace Bridge (which needs a major upgrade) into Canada. Canadian Customs was packed but moving at a good clip - about 10 minutes in total. Another 5 minutes to pay the bridge toll and away we went on the QEW.

Typical Sunday and summer traffic on the QEW, 403 and 401. Stopped at the Woodstock rest area to fuel up (only 88 cents a litre) and let Tina drive us home - Adam was burnt out from driving some 1500 km in two days. It was a usual drive down the 401 to Windsor.

The flat land after London seemed all that much flatter after driving through the Appalachian mountains and various valleys, coves and bays. We arrived in Windsor around 6:00 pm, to the same weather that we left 10 days ago - hot and humid. The weather seemed unbearable - we got used to the moderate climate out east. Unpacked the van. Vacation over.

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