Monday, December 29, 2008

"Have you ever been arrested ?"

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 ?"

me: "Bellingham"

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.


  1. Bobskoot, great post. My firm has a client in North Vancouver, and I have the pleasure of seeing them every once in a while. I have been pretty fortunate in my wait times at the border, but as I can see from your post, NEXUS is the way to go.

    I hope you, your wife and family had a great Christmas and my best wishes for the New Year.

  2. Dear Bobscoot:

    I would direct you to the website of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives ( This group has vigorously fought most of the ill-designed border security proposals created by the DHS.

    These include the laptop seizure procedures at the US border, the next US exit program, Secure Flight, and any nonsense that entails registering your personal information with a government source.

    This is for several reasons. Most security experts regard US government computer security as very weak. Even the Pentagon's e-mail has been hacked. Even the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has been extremely critical of the way the DHS conducts business with regard to computer security.

    One private company responsible for Registered Traveler subscriptions had a computer with more than 20,000 applicants logged on it stolen from an office at an airport.

    The Privacy Act of 1974 forbids the US to maintain a database of personal information on US citizens. The DHS has proposed a number of programs that will do exactly this. Plus the DHS has requested that their programs be exempt from two key provisions of the Privacy Act: the first is a citizen's right to see what's in their file, and the second is the right to correct it if it is wrong.

    These databases will incorporate the "No-Fly" list, a highly erroneous compilation with no real official status. Incorrect information on any of these lists could delay or prevent Americans from traveling by air - indefinitely. Plus this information is available to third parties, both in law enforcement and in private business.

    Three years ago, ACTE fought the RFID passport to a standstill. The group delayed it's implementation for over a year when it was discovered that these enhanced passports could remotely identify Americans to potential terrorists.

    ACTE demanded that the data on the passport chips be encrypted (not in the original government specs), that the cover be armored to resist electronic eavesdropping (not in the original government specs), and that the chip be isolated through Basic Access Control technology (also not in the government specs).

    The big claim for the RFID passport is that it couldn't be counterfeited. They were counterfeited less than a year from introduction. The enhanced passcards and drivers licensed are all non-protected.

    For this same reason,more than half the state governments in the US have rejected enhanced driver's licenses as they present the same risk.

    I would think twice long before I signed away my rights to privacy for a little convenience.

    I recently read a story about a few Canadians who were traveling into the US, and had to be fingerprinted as is now required of all Non-US citizen visitors arriving by plane, and they decided the hell with it. They would just stay home. Well the US government wanted those people fingerprinted anyway. The Canadian government refused.

    But this is what we have come to.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack -- The International Biker

  3. Bob,
    My wife and son have Nexus and it never is a problem with wait times, etc... (It used to be when people were just plain cutting into the Nexus lane to get ahead of the lines in queue and then try to get into the regular lane. This problem, it seems has been solved. The reason for them getting Nexus cards is that Junior plays soccer in the US and has to go to practice and games several times a week...Anyway, more than once a week.
    Also I wanted to thanks you for the advice on the Vitality 2 stroke, which you posted on LANCE's blog for me. I will look at it for sure.
    Have a great weekend

  4. The last time that I crossed the border was in the pre 9/11 days. My friend Charlie and I were doing a road trip to Edmonton. The crossing back then was uneventful.

    I'm planning some road trips to B.C. this summer; it should be interesting to see how things have changed.


  5. Dear BobS:

    I meant to thank you for the mention in your blog. I didn't mean to saddle you with a security diatribe but most people have no idea how their personal information can be used without their knowledge. I'd be happy to pull my previous comment if you like.

    By the way, I tried to reach you by personal e-mail. You won a prize on my blog.

    Fondest regards,
    Twisted Roads

    Fondest regards,

  6. Baron:

    I know that Gary (Rideaway Motors) will treat you right and I'll speak to him so that you can have the Vitality 2T "fully derestricted" . Your jokes are so imaginative that I've got them checking your BLOG, so he will already know you.


    Perhaps our paths will cross when you come to BC. If you require any trip planning info, let me know. One of the best rides is Hwy 6 from Vernon to Nakusp, 31A to Kaslo, 31 to Balfour then ferry over to Crawford Bay down to Creston. There's a HUGH BMW rally in Nakusp (check


    Your comments are always appreciated. You are a wealth of knowledge, humble and elequent. I can't imagine winning anything as I am so unlucky . . . but I can always make room for "Angie" .

    I almost had a heart murmur the other day. I received a registered letter from the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), which is NEXUS. I thought that they 'found' my border pictures on the Blog and was going to be reprimanded. Also, I was very carefully not to post pictures of the sensors and video camera locations, and also not mention anything about the security. Recently while crossing the border from Glacier National Park into Alberta, I stopped to take a picture of the picturesque border crossing which was nestled in the mountains. I was about a kilometer from the actual border and I was interrogated as to why I would be taking a picture of their crossing. The CBSA told me that they could confiscate my camera but instead wanted me to show them that I was deleting the photos from my memory card, and let us proceed, but not without a lot of un-neccessary questions. So naturally when I snapped those photos of the Peach Arch crossing I was being very covert.
    When I opened the envelope there was enclosed a NEWer type Nexus card with matching "metal foil" jacket to slide the card into. I read somewhere that the old cards had already been 'hacked' and the foil is to prevent other unauthorized readers to access the personal information contained therein. Oh, and BTW I have sent you a personal email

  7. Dear Mr. Bobscoot:

    I have been walking around the house today, reading your response to my comment aloud to my hot squeeze. Actually, just the part where you describe me as "humble and elequent."

    She has something to say to you.

    The NEXUS system would be greatly improved without the RFID chip. In fact, it will work perfectly well with a barcode. But no one wants you to know that as it limits access to your personal information.

    Thank you for your kind note.

    Fondest regards,
    Twisted Roads

  8. You have perfectly illustrated why I never, ever, EVER use the Peace Arch crossing. Truck Customs or Aldergrove, in the latter case it's never taken more than five minutes to go into Canada and 10 minutes to return to the U.S. (I guess I look like a terrorist).

    Now that America's flirtation with Fascism has come to an end, and with the Winter Olympics in about a year, there's reason to hope this mess will be resolved...

    Scootin' Old-skool

  9. Fasconating stuff as I have always enjoyed borders- they are such crazy artifical constructs.Everyone involved takes them so seriously as they peruse your documents, yet borders only exist in our minds...and not being allowed to cross the invisible, made up line can have serious consequences.
    And as for not being allowed to photograph the delightfully 1950s that is!