Abbie's side

of the story

Back to part II...

Day 19: Wednesday June 24

Today's ferry had a diner

Estcourt Station, Maine — northernmost point in New England

Estcourt Station is little more than five-and-a-half houses (and a gas station) in the Quebec town of Pohénégamook, built on the wrong side of the border before it was properly surveyed. The houses get all their services from Quebec, and there is no road connection here to the rest of Maine (except via a hundred miles of private logging roads).

It is a somewhat sensitive area, site of the Michel Jalbert incident, in which a Pohénégamookian was arrested and held in jail for 35 days for using the gas station and not reporting to customs. So it seemed prudent to check in with US customs first just to avoid any troubles. Bad idea.

They were extremely suspicious of us random kids who wanted to "walk around the border area", "visit the northernmost point", and "take some pictures". One of them was even incredulous that the northernmost point in Maine was in fact just down the road, and the other said this was a "very remote" border station that would rarely be visited by people like us. I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, as we had not yet actually been to the northernmost point, and did not know if it was often visited or even marked. US customs itself was located quite far removed from the rest of the action, at the entrance to the logging roads, and the bulk of its work is processing logging trucks.

Long story short, they held us for about 45 minutes while they did a full search of my car — a car I had intentionally left in Canada and had no plans to drive into the US — and looked us up in presumably every database they had access to. One guy's chorus was "I'm not saying that you're unusual, just that this... is unusual...", which he said about six times. (I'm pretty sure I was within my rights to leave the car in Canada and not have it searched, but I'm also pretty sure that would have only served to lengthen, not shorten, the ordeal). They were highly disturbed by the sheer number of stamps in both our passports, particularly from shady places like Tanzania, Budapest, and Germany; "unusual" guy was steadfastly convinced that Abbie's passport was fake.

—Car searches on the US/Canada border and a passport that appears fake seem to be my lot in life. My brother tells me I should consider applying for a passport through the US instead of supporting the little guys and buying them off the illegals down the block.

Eventually they ran out of reasons to keep holding us, and seemed to have convinced themselves that we weren't international criminals on the lam. They said we could go and after all that I figured I may as well get a passport stamp, so I asked them. "Uhhhh, we don't usually do that here." They looked for a stamp for five minutes, and in the end the best they could do was a generic 'USCBP' stamp under which he hand-wrote 'Estcourt, ME' and the date.

—Thus filling up all of the original boxes in my passport... joyous Abbie.

Safely back in Canada, and not wishing to anger any more border officials, we stopped at Canadian customs as well (there is only one road and all traffic funnels by it), dreading going through the whole thing again. Before we could even get our passports out of the car, he [the Canadian customs official] ran outside and excitedly said "You are going to the highest [northernmost] point, yes? Drive to the end of the road and touch the pole!", and that was that.

Once we actually reach the northernmost point, what do we find, but a well-manicured park, interpretive displays, and a freaking international friendship bridge! All of which these US border officials had no idea existed. I'm guessing it is not the best and brightest who are sent to Estcourt Station, Maine.

We eventually worked our way down to Canadian customs again. There were bathrooms outside but they were locked. Again, before we could even move, he came running outside, smiling, with the key. He told us a lot about the area, in particular that all the residents on the American side are Francophone Canadians, with the exception of one house owned by a couple from Kentucky, and that they only come up a few times a year. When I told him of our recent ordeal with US customs, he remarked "ah yes, they have a... different frame of mind."


Parc de la Frontière. Border comes in from the left, runs perpendicularly through the bench, to the northernmost point in the middle of the brook, then runs down the center of the brook off to the right. The foreground bridge is the railroad mainline between Montreal and Halifax; it stays firmly in Canada, and probably sees Maine as quite the obstruction.

The aforementioned pole (which is not actually the northernmost point). Note strategic turnoff (partially obscured by sign) to avoid driving car into the US. Nothing gives you that warm fuzzy feeling like 'REPORT FOR INSPECTION'.

And given the border guards' complete bewilderment at us, I'm guessing the number of people who do actually report for inspection is approximately zero.

Something tells me this guy did not report to the customs station...

Abbie standing on the US/Canada border at the northernmost point of dry land in the state of Maine and all of New England (absolute northernmost point in the middle of the brook)

This house is in two countries. To the left of the border monument, USA; to the right, Canada. Photo taken standing on the border.

So is this one

Purely American house, about 25 feet from the border (photo taken from Canada). Note US Postal Service mailbox. I have no idea how or how often mail gets delivered here.

And at last, the gas station. Save 10 cents a liter, but is it worth it? (we forgot to inquire whether they accept payment in US dollars)

Don't say we didn't warn you...

Onward to Quebec City. Apparently yesterday was 'Quebec day', and the city was full of 300,000 drunken Quebecois reveling in the streets until dawn. Had we shown up to that we probably would have had nervous breakdowns.

But we had our own bit of fortuity, in that a two-month festival of public Cirque du Soleil started tonight.

Unfortunately the bulk of my Cirque experience was spent jumping up and down or watching the show on Drew's camera as he held it above the crowd... and contemplating ways to steal a pair of stilts from one of the performers.

Please hold while I scrub out my brain

Not the Mexican restaurant we were expecting...

Day 20: Thursday June 25

Around Quebec City


Abbie's first introduction to cheese curds. Though I skipped the gravy.

The random thumb was contributed by our hostel-mate Andrew (Mark?), the Nebraskan who took us on an intense walking tour of the city in the evening, culmulating with a run through the rain to what can only be described as the perfect bar. Wood carvings, a garden, and pitchers of non-american beer.

Day 21: Friday June 26

View from Île d'Orléans, just outside of Quebec City

Holy shit only one picture

Day 22: Saturday June 27

Must... keep... roadtripping...

Atop Mont-Royal, Montreal

Day 23: Sunday June 28

And thus we come full-circle

That's a wrap, folks!


Average Speed: 9.7 mph

What's next?

[Door #1]    [Door #2]    [Door #3]    [Door #4]