me: "No sir"
USCI: (US Customs & Immigration Officer) "How much money do you have on you?"
me: "about $44.00 sir"
USCI: "Well is it $44.00 or not?"
me: "It's $44.00 sir"
USCI: "Let me see it"
me: (dragging out $48.00 from my pocket)
USCI: "I thought you said you had $44.00 but you really have $48.00 . Don't you know how much money you are carrying?"
me: "sorry sir"
It was a warm summer day around 27 years ago when my friend and myself decided to ride our bikes into the United States of America at the Peach Arch Border Crossing. I was riding my brand new 1981 Suzuki GS1100, the fastest production bike of that year. (TSCC, oil cooler, throttle lock, case covers and GPI) It was a fast bike, too fast for me but I have always been a cautious rider within the confines of the posted speed. Of course back then I never thought of myself as being an international rider (thanks Jack), and crossing the border during those innocent times (pre 9/11) was just a routine occurance. The function of the "customs" agents were just there to collect taxes and duty. I don't think anyone was on the lookout for drugs and terrorists during that era. We were on our way to Birch Bay, WA for a short day ride. Often during those times we would take our car down to Bellingham and while crossing the border, the 'guards' would ask simple questions such as:
USCI: "Where are you going ?"
USCI: "What is the purpose of your trip ?"
me: "just going for a ride"
USCI: "go ahead"
Now you have to carry picture ID, supplemented by your Passport or Driver's license. No ID was required back then. You just had to verbally answer the USCI officer's questions and he would make a 'spot' decision to either let you cross, or not. Soon the border will be closed to those who do not have a valid passport, or an enhanced driver's licence. A few years ago both governments (Canada & USA) entered into a joint test program called PACE. (PACE = Peach Arch Crossing Experiment) Applicants were "pre-screened", decals were issued for your car, and letters of authority were issued to individual applicants. You could only use your "registered" car, and all persons in that car had to have a letter of authority issued in their name. If you fulfilled all these conditions you were allowed to "BYPASS" the regular lines and used the EXPRESS (Pace) Lanes. Eventually Pace was expanded to include additional border crossings.
After 9/11 the US Government suspended the PACE program and moved over to the more stringent NEXUS program which was already in operation on the borders of Ontario and Quebec. And Nexus air was implemented at various Canadian Airports. NEXUS is also a joint government project (between both Canada & USofA). Luckily we are NEXUS registered so are able to bypass the regular border line-ups. Vancouver, being a "border" town (as the border is only 40 mins away) many radio stations report border line-ups as part of our traffic reports. A 2 hour reported border line up is a mere 5 or 10 minutes via the NEXUS (express) lanes. There is no problem paying duty and taxes for items purchased as you are issued special declaration forms, hand them in while crossing, and they will charge your pre-registered credit card later - which makes for a smoother border crossing. I cross the border frequently and head down to Bellingham to meet other bikers/scooterists for rides and other social events. so using Jack's words I suppose that I am a frequent International Rider .
Last month a long border line up as they had closed half of the "lanes" due to border expansion:
The regular lanes (on the Left) are about an hour long at this point. The Nexus lane (on the right) is blocked due to construction traffic. A minute or so after this short wait, we were allowed to continue on our way
We were allowed to merge left to go around the "roller" then merge back into the express line
Smooth sailing now, only 3 or so cars ahead
(Welcome to the United States of America sign on right)
I don't have to tell you that NEXUS is the way to go. Over 1 hour in the regular lanes, or 5 minutes in the express lane.
One more car and we become an International Rider again.