Maynard once lived in New Hampshire when he was very very young. His Mum and Dad would take the family on long road trips to the White Mountains in New Hampshire, USA so he really wanted me to see them as well. The best touristy way to see them was by going to Sherbrooke in Quebec, then cross back into the US at Canaan, Vermont. When we last spoke to CBP (Customs and Border Protection) in Portland, Maine weeks ago, we were told that in order to renew our B1/B2 visas, we needed to have a 'meaningful departure' to Canada before returning to the US. But for how long? No one would tell us. We were at the mercy of the Officer on duty on the day. Meanwhile, we spent a couple of days in lovely Sherbrooke exploring the lakes, the country roads and restaurants in the area. Interestingly, we passed road signs to towns called Asbestos and Thetford Mines, an area which became the hub of the largest asbestos deposits in the world.
Yesterday, through broken English in a nearby café called Le Houte, the waitress told us to make sure we visited the Parc de la Gorge de Coaticook so first we headed down to the town of Magog for lunch. We sat in the Guacamole Y Tequila restaurant overlooking the Magog River sipping a margarita on yet another very hot day enjoying the best Mexican food we'd had in a long time. We saw a number of covered bridges during the day, the first I'd ever seen. We arrived at the Coaticook Gorge which was well worth the visit except for the fact my vertigo was yet again challenged by having to walk across the longest walking suspension bridge in the world, a distance of 554 ft. The drop to the bottom of the gorge was over 164 feet. I'm really not getting used to these heights at all. At night, the gorge and forest are lit up during the summer months and magical lit forest figures appear from behind trees to the delight (?) of visitors in what's called Lumina Foresta.
Well today was the day we drove to the USA/Canada border. Nine cars were in front of us and all were sent on their way. The officer saw our B1/B2 visas, asked us how long we'd been in Canada and asked us to pull over and come into the office. No surprises so far. We explained we were on holiday and had gone to Canada and wanted to come back so that we could take our yacht back to Georgia and return home to Australia. He seemed to be quite bothered that we'd already been in the US for 6 months, had gone to Canada for 10 days and wanted to return again. To him, it looked as though we wanted to live in the USA which is not the case. He actually told us very politely that we were gaming the system. We didn't even know what the system was and certainly weren't trying to game anything. We spent well over an hour with him answering his questions while he filled out an onscreen form. He finally said he could not let us back in. "I cannot give you the visa." Oh no. What now? Our minds were racing with ideas on who could take Vanish back south for us and the logistics of it all. When we didn't burst into tears or complain he said he would call his supervisor on the phone.
He told his supervisor that he had people in the office who 'claim' they have a boat in Belfast, Maine and want to come back into the US to take it back to Georgia but then he started talking softly and we couldn't hear the rest. We sat still and quiet. We'd answered all questions calmly and honestly but knew our lives were in his hands. He finally got off the phone and said his supervisor said, "We can give you three months, that's it." Alright, well that's not great due to the hurricane season limitations on getting back to Georgia, but maybe we can make it work. I decided to go to the bathroom and while there, he asked Maynard more questions. When Maynard also went to the bathroom, he started chit chatting to me asking me to write down the address of the shipyard which was easy as it was in my head. I also mentioned we'd been married 33 years and we also chatted about various islands we'd visited in Maine, all of which were familiar to him. Time was ticking on and on. His demeanor seemed a lot more relaxed. We don't know what questions satisfied him, but he spun the date on his stamp, stamped our passports and handed them back to us saying, "You have a free pass." WHAT? We looked at the passports and he'd given us six months. Oh wow. The Officer was actually a really nice guy who treated us very well. It would not be an easy job to assess people all day long and he was fair with us. We now had time to deal with Vanish in the boatyard and wait for the right weather to get her safely back to Georgia and go home. We got back in the car and crossed the border to Vermont, USA feeling extremely relieved and looking forward to the next chapter on Vanish.