We came down to Vermont on Friday for a few days with my in-laws, leaving home at noon in an effort to beat the labour day weekend border rush. It didn't help.
We left at noon, stopping at Bayview Junction for half an hour to see the work there, and then headed off to the border. On the QEW, a sign said "Fort Erie, no delay for cars. Queenston, slightly delay." Queenston, being the more direct crossing for our route was still our choice.
We got on the 405 figuring a slight delay wouldn't be a big problem, and headed for the border. We started seeing traffic warning signs almost immediately. Heavy traffic 4 km... Heavy traffic 3 km... soon, we came around a corner and saw a police car parked on the side of the road with its lights flashing, intended to get drivers' attention.
Right beyond the police car was stopped traffic.
The signs had said "slight delay" so I didn't think too much of this. 15 minutes I figured, we would be through it. Pretty soon I realised we were pretty far from the border and as we moved around one car length every thirty seconds to a minute I revised my estimate to an hour.
On the right, trucks kept passing at the start of the truck-only lane. At one point, someone commented on the CB that the people in the cars finally had to experience what truckers go through all the time. Another commented that it looked like a 2 and a half hour delay to them.
I wasn't exactly encouraged by this thought, but we kept heading toward the border, one car length at a time. Beside us, people were getting out of their cars and walking along side, mostly to smoke cigarettes. Some people were going car to car to meet their traffic neighbours. Every once in a while a car passed in the adjacent truck lane.
On the CB radio we heard that a truck had broken down and lost its air on the bridge at the border, further complicating the traffic situation as it could not be easily moved with the air brake system locked in its emergency state.
As we approached the bridge, all the cars we had seen run in the truck lane earlier were trying to negotiate their way out of the truck lane backward, heading back for the start of the traffic jam, with their gamble having failed miserably.
By the time we got to the bridge, the truck was gone but a minivan was blocking the centre lane, broken down. We proceeded slowly, being assigned a lane by a man in a safety vest for a customs gate. Two and a half hours after arriving at the start of the traffic, we pulled up to an impatient customs officer who asked us a few standard questions and waved us on in around 30 seconds. We proceeded the remaining 7 or so hours to our destination without incident.
In Canadian border lingo, a "slight delay" is two and a half hours. You have been warned.
Posted at 17:47 on September 05, 2006
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