Justin and I aren’t sure if our debacle of the day was attributed to us getting older and less aware, being preoccupied with farm things prior to the trip or just carelessness. I think all these things combined with a bit of bad luck and foolish systems were to blame. Let me begin to explain…
We prepared for our entrance into Canada by making sure all our family passports were up to date, changing our phone plans to include roaming and calling our banks so they wouldn’t shut off our credit cards; that is all. What we didn’t do that we should have done was to check Canada’s border crossing guidelines to see what all they require and expect of us.
It was already going to be a bit of a long travel day going from Bonners Ferry Fairgrounds to Kootenay National Park in Canada, but we set out at a decent time and were ready for it. We memorized all the questions we might be asked at the border, which people know but get flustered when the very serious border crossing official interrogates you, such as “how long will you be in the country?” and “where will you be staying?” Easy questions that are easily fumbled.
What we didn’t realize we had to do was to enter all our vaccine records into their database. Oops! “No problem” said the Canadian border crossing official. “Just loop back around to the US side, download the app, enter in your information and come back around to the Canadian side.” Easy peasy! “You can use the wifi over on the US side.”
Okay, so we looped around to the US side and asked the officer where we can use the wifi and park. He informed us that there was no wifi or parking but the town 40 minutes from where we had just come from had cell signal. What?! We were NOT going to add an hour and 20 minutes to our already long driving day if we could help it. Justin found a place to pull over next to a tractor trailer and could get a weak signal by using our cell phone booster he had installed in a previous year for our long 6 month trips. Thank goodness for that thing otherwise we would have had no other choice but to drive back! At a snail’s pace, Justin entered in all our vaccine records and passport information.
Finally, 40 minutes later we got to the Canadian side of the border check again. Our electronic info went through without a hitch! And, I was randomly selected to do a COVID test. Well, if we thought the electronic entering of our information was time consuming, we had know idea what was in store for us!
The border officer gave me a box telling me that everything I needed to know about completing the test would be in the box. I would schedule a time to complete it with someone via phone and would simply drop it off at the visitor center in a national park. Oh, how wrong we was. What a run around!
We barely had any cell phone service where we were and our Verizon cell plan had limited data available while roaming in Canada. I attempted many times to create an account, which is required to make an appointment, with the designated online clinic with continued failed attempts. It was a combination of crummy cell service and the Canadian online clinic system not accepting our US address. We ended up calling the helpline and the woman on the phone scheduled me for a virtual visit for the next afternoon. The woman on the phone said I would be getting a call at 1:55pm from a representative to walk me through taking my test. This of course meant that we had to be sure we were back at the van with the test kit and somewhere within cell range. Tricky to plan out when we were only going to be in Canada for a handful of days anyway.
The next day when it was 2pm and nobody had called me yet we got suspicious. I checked the confirmation email they sent me and we realized the woman had set us up for a video call rather than a phone call as we had requested. Not only does video calling require a better internet connection but it also uses more data. Justin was scrambling on foot to find wi-fi from local businesses or the visitor center so he could download the video chat app that was required for the silly appointment. I wasn’t thrilled with any of this craziness in the first place but this had pushed me over the edge! This was so ridiculous planning our short Canada stay around this silly test rather than exploring the national parks which we had traveled there to do.
Justin finally was able to find wi-fi and get the app downloaded but by that time the appointment slot had closed. I would love loved to have tossed that silly test into the trash at that moment. Turns out it is a $5,000 fine if you do not complete it though. I’m all for them making sure their country is safe but for heavens sakes, do the silly test AT THE BORDER instead of all this silly runaround. If a person tested positive with the current way of dong things they would have potentially infected dozens of people in the country by the time they took the test anyways. Whereas if the border police tested people on the spot, they could just send them right back to the US side!
Dear me! So, I ended up calling the clinic on the phone and telling them what happened. They had me rebook the appointment for later that day. That time it worked. The guy from the clinic video called me and did his best to walk me through the test through choppy service and dropped calls. We then had to keep the test in a refrigerator and find a designated drop off box to be post marked by the same day; yet another run around. In all, that test sucked up about 3 1/2 hours of our time and absolute alteration of plans for 2 days. If we were in Canada to stay a month it wouldn’t have been as big of a deal but, man!
Who would have ever guessed crossing into Canada would be so challenging?!