My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond #307: Border Song

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Blog entry by Sheila Landry (scrollgirl) posted 04-12-2011 03:00 PM 4780 reads 0 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 306: Homeward Bound Part 307 of My Journey As A Creative Designer - Woodworking and Beyond series Part 308: Still Recovering »

I am trying to think of an easy and organized way to tell you all about everything on the trip. With the time changes and busy schedule that I was on – especially at the end of the trip – I would have needed to be superwoman to be able to keep up with you all and post daily.

The classes at the Center all ended in the evening, either at 6pm or 9pm and after that and the ride back to the hotel I was simply too tired to write. After being away from teaching for so long, it was truly something that gave a workout to another part of my brain that has perhaps been coasting for quite a while. I quickly remembered why I loved teaching so much though as I answered questions and felt as if I was actually contributing to my student’s lives.

Many artisans and designers leave a legacy of artifacts that others can experience and enjoy long after their time here on Earth has ended. Teachers, however, by the simple nature of teaching leave something that reaches much further – knowledge. I find we are all teachers here on Lumberjocks. Each and every time we answer a question or blog a process in which we created a jig or a beautiful piece of work we are sharing our knowledge with others and helping perpetuate our craft. Whether we are teaching our children or grand children in our own basement workshops or writing a blog to assist another woodworker half way around the world, sharing our knowledge and experiences is truly important.

We drove for over 20 hours on Sunday. We left Saratoga Springs at approximately 5:30 Eastern time and didn’t arrive at our own door until about 1:30 am on Monday morning. We could have stopped in St. John, New Brunswick overnight and waited to take the ferry home at 9am Monday morning, cutting eight hours off of our trip, but we were in St. John at approximately 4pm and we knew that neither of us would be able to sleep and would be too antsy to wait until the following morning to continue home.

Besides, we had both had enough of road food and public washrooms and being crammed in that car. Although I must say that I give that little mustang an “A+” rating for comfort. The seats do have a lumbar support for your back that is fully adjustable in addition to many other adjustments that you can make so we weren’t stuck in the same position for hours on end. It did fine on mileage too. Of course it wasn’t going to be as good as a smaller hybrid, but for what it was, I was quite satisfied.

We figured out that even with the prices of gas being almost $4 per gallon in the United States. it was still cheaper than what we pay here in Canada at approximately $1.35 per liter. The exchange has the Canadian dollar ahead of the US dollar right now (it was .93 yesterday) and that also makes the US gas a better value. I am not even going to start to attempt to figure out the exact numbers, as it would not only be nearly impossible, but I find it also doesn’t really matter anyway. I don’t want to get caught up in numbers like that.

Getting across the border was shall we say – eventful. Although we attempted to list everything we were bringing back, the saw certainly was a red flag for the border petrol. Apparently there is a clear separation between “business” and “personal” use as far as customs is concerned. With a sole proprietorship such as I have, it is somewhat of a gray area.

As usual, depending on which border guard you encounter, you need to follow one set of rules or another. When passing through, we answered the usual questions as honestly as we can. We declared the saw in our items, but when the guard asked if it was going to be used for business or personal use, that changed things very quickly. Actually, we said “both” and he immediately filled out a form and sent us to report to two young officers, a man and a woman, who proceeded to ask us to get out of the car while they began unpacking and going through everything with a fine tooth comb.

Now I had told you all that I had planned to rent a trailer if we decided to bring some larger tools back, but as events had it, we didn’t see it necessary. Any tool we would be acquiring we decided we would be able to get here in Canada, even with the extra fees and charges. The cost of renting a trailer one way would far exceed any savings we would incur by purchasing tools in the States. That with the additional taxes and charges we would have had to pay to bring the items into the country in the first place weighed heavily on our decision not to buy any big tools. That was a smart decision.

We had fit what we decided to bring back in the car like the proverbial can of sardines. We were able to fit the saw into the trunk, but only because we removed the steel table from it and set it on the bottom. The tilting head also helped things along, as when the head was at the normal 90 degree angle, it would have been too tall to close the trunk. Here is a picture of the saw in the trunk:

We then proceeded to pack all the loose things around it that we could, both to pad it and to make room in the back of the car for the other things. By the time we were done fitting everything in, you could barely fit a sheet of notebook paper in the trunk.

We sat by and watched helplessly as they unpacked and questioned just about every item as they removed it onto a large cart. There were two boxes which contained bits in them – one a set of router bits and one a set of forstner bits that I had purchased about 8 years ago at a wood show in Chicago and finally was able to bring back. The agent questioned that they were ‘used’ because I keep my stuff in good shape, even though you could see the small wood dust in the box and on a couple of the bits. Many of the router bits still had the wax coating on them, as they were more suitable for cabinet making than what I would have used them for. So I suppose he suspected that I was trying to pull something over on him.

The male officer had sent the female officer into the building with my folder of receipts and she emerged approximately 15 minutes later. Apparently she had separated the food and hotel receipts from the ones where we actually bought items. She reappeared with the receipts for items purchased neatly stapled together and came to me to go over each of them. After seeing that we listed everything that she questioned, I believe she began to soften and could see that we were honest and had tried to follow procedure correctly.

Even the male officer began to soften his military-like attitude. After opening a box of candy that my daughter had given me to inspect it and make sure that we weren’t trying to smuggle drugs, he went into the lecture mode as to what procedure we should have followed. However when I produced the paperwork from when we had left Canada with the stamp on it from the US Customs agent, he also saw that we were trying to do the right thing. The lecture consisted of how we should have went to their “simple and comprehensive” website for procedure rules and I found myself trying not to smile when he said that. Anyone who has visited that site knows that I am not kidding when I say it is neither “simple” or “comprehensive” and is probably the furthest thing from any descriptive of that kind.

I found that when dealing with authority figures such as this agent, it was best to shut up and be respectful and listen to them and look upon them as if their word was gospel. Even though I had paperwork saying that the saw was a “loan” (as it remains to be seen as to how much I will actually pay for it) I offered to pay the taxes on the full price. At this point, I am thinking that he felt he had tormented us enough because he said that it wouldn’t be necessary and we should just keep all the things he told us in mind for the “next time” we come over to do this. I did my best to muster up my “grateful face” as he told us that “since you know how you had everything packed in the car, I’ll let you repack it. But if you need help, let me know.” as he walked away.

Needless to say we didn’t take him up on it. We wanted to get the he** out of there as fast as we could.

In the end, here is how the trunk looked repacked:

Holy Moses! “Welcome to Canada, Eh?” I am surprised we didn’t leave skid marks . . .

But all is well and life can now continue. I still have lots of stories to tell of our travels, but as you can see, each one will be a small novelette. I have decided to share things one at a time and they will simply have to be out of order. But I do feel there are many things worth sharing with you.

One thing I found out is that there is no such thing as “over preparation” for something like this. Even with the best of plans, there is always room for something to go awry. But because of the months of planning and preparing for this trip and all of its adventures, those little bumps didn’t derail me.

It will take me several days to get things back to normal again. But that is expected. The car is unpacked and we have already scheduled it to get an oil change and new brakes – another story for another day. I have lots of emails to catch up on and orders to get out and then I can begin on the new ideas that I have been inspired with. But for now, I am safe and sound here at home and after the initial stand-offish-ness from Richard, I have received his forgiveness and he once again adores me, as does Coco and Pancakes. Although Lee did a wonderful job taking care of them for me (he came three times a day to play with them!) there is nothing like “mommy/grammy” to make them happy.

All is good!

Have a wonderful Tuesday! :D

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

10 comments so far

View patron's profile


13609 posts in 3370 days

#1 posted 04-12-2011 03:27 PM

glad you made it home

is that keith packed in the trunk
from the border re-packing
and why does he have three legs

good to read your dailies again
i am up to my eyeballs with kadafi on yahoo news
in the middle of the night
and all the ridiculous comments there
(and i thought LJ’s had some strange ones)

let us know how you like the ‘excalibur’
i had the old model 30” for a while
but the new one looks even better

welcome home
it’s good to have you back

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View BertFlores58's profile


1698 posts in 2951 days

#2 posted 04-12-2011 03:35 PM

Welcome back home. Home sweet home. With such an episode in your life, no words can describe what you feel … the portion of being a teacher again… the time together with your children… the thrills and joyful ride miles and miles away… and a lot more. Take rest for a while and recharge for there are more to come especially now that you have gained more friends and business as well. Thank God for the blessings during your journey and hope He will always be there in you.

-- Bert

View BritBoxmaker's profile


4611 posts in 3065 days

#3 posted 04-12-2011 03:59 PM

Sheila, customs are the same in the UK, especially if you are a UK citizen, but try gas (petrol) at $2.23 a litre (thats what we’re paying right now). Glad to see you’re finally home safe and sound and with Excalibur firmly plucked from the stone hands of the Canadian customs. Cats looking happy too.

-- Martyn -- Boxologist, Pattern Juggler and Candyman of the visually challenging.

View Bob Kollman's profile

Bob Kollman

1798 posts in 3220 days

#4 posted 04-12-2011 04:36 PM

Oh Lord, why would anyone want to go over a border for anything????

Your story seals it in concrete the fact I’ll never see Canada in this life time.

It is nice that you had some warm fuzzy friends to come home too, but

watch out for payback, the critters maybe lulling you into a false sense of


-- Bob Kenosha Wi.

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3144 days

#5 posted 04-12-2011 04:45 PM

goood one David but I think íts two who try to get an Excalibor cheap
and thought this was the easyest way to do it …...LOL

welcome home Sheila :-) you are lucky the cat´s didn´t turned you down for the next two weeks :-)

looking forward to hear about the other adventures instead of the bordercrossings
nomatter how much we can laugh about them when they are nearly forgotten they are just
so …... to get thrugh when its the paragraph regime thats on duty on the day we cross them
usely its the young ones but the worst I have crossed was 55-60 years tired of the job and everything
disapointed of how the life has turned out ..... it did take me a little over 37 hours to cross that border :-(

I shuold say hello from my daughter Silke too :-)

now relax for a few days and get your mind in the right slower gear again that fits the neighbourhood

take care

View grizzman's profile


7836 posts in 3332 days

#6 posted 04-12-2011 05:03 PM

so glad your home and safe and sound, you survived customs and made it home to your kitties and they have welcomed you home and forgiven you for your long absence…and of coarse we will be happy to have our blogs from you back …and were excited to hear of all of your adventures…so rest up and get settled back into life and again were glad your home…grizz…....:)

-- GRIZZMAN ...[''''']

View Bearpie's profile


2601 posts in 3047 days

#7 posted 04-13-2011 12:29 AM

Well I have had 2 good news today, you arriving home safely and my daughter and family also arrived safely back to their home in West Virginia. Usually you are at the mercy of customs inspectors and your treatment could very well hinge on what kind of day or night the inspectors had and if they are frustrated they could very well work their frustrations out on you! I know it is not supposed to happen but it does. This is now a memory to laugh or cry about in the future and to remember what to do “next time”. Glad you are home safe!

Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

-- Erwin, Jacksonville, FL

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18293 posts in 3705 days

#8 posted 04-13-2011 08:54 AM

Glad to hear you had a successful trip and safe trip home.

Glad to hear they went easy on you a the border. :-)) Since 9-11 and catching the car load of bombs stuff headed to New Year’s Eve at Seattle Center, things are a lot different that they were in the last century. If Canada and the US had enforced immigration laws in the last century, the innocent would not be suffering these adventures! ;-((

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)'s profile

Sheila Landry (scrollgirl)

9231 posts in 2949 days

#9 posted 04-13-2011 01:37 PM

I do realize that the border guards were only doing their jobs. It really didn’t upset me as much as it would have a while back. I knew I had all my paperwork and I also knew that we were doing nothing wrong and I do understand that the rules are there for a reason. I only wish that there were clearer guidelines as to what the rules are and also that everyone followed them. As I said above, it seems that each agent you speak with has a different policy that you need to follow.

I actually was quite calm and not at all upset while they were tearing through things. I suppose it was because I knew that they wouldn’t find anything wrong. I think Keith was much more upset about it than I was. After seven years of crossing the border and coming across so many different types of agents I guess I am kind of used to it. This was the first crossing I had since I received my permanent resident status and having that card in my purse gave me a sense of security. The funny thing was that through all of this they didn’t even check our passports. They were still sitting on the driver’s seat of the car when we returned to it, as was my permanent resident card. I don’t even think they ran the numbers on them.

-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs ( Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"

View huntter2022's profile


275 posts in 2645 days

#10 posted 04-13-2011 07:11 PM

Good to hear you made it safely. I went to go over the border with a couple friends from work before the passport deal. We were going fishing and they ran are lic; then told us to pull over they check the whole truck out unloading the back of it then said we could not cross because one of my friends had a drug charge like 15 years ago on his lic , They could of just told that to begin with and we turn around. long story short we brought him home and headed out and had no problems crossing 4hours delay .

-- David ; "BE SAFE BE HAPPY" Brockport , NY

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