If You Keep Reading I Promise I’ll Get to Canada

Billy and I have had quite the adventure these last few weeks.

We moved out of our apartment for good on May 30th. We left our crummy roommate behind, I quit my job, Billy finished up his first year at Juilliard, and we moved all our belongings to the basement of Robert and Camilla’s house. We were so excited to be done with the city for a while! I couldn’t believe how happy both of us were.

We stayed with Robert and Camilla for a week. While we were there Billy had his 26th birthday. We had celebrated a few days earlier by throwing him a Super Smash Bros party. We invited all our friends to come play melee and eat nachos and brownies. It was a lot of fun. Later I got him a Hydroflask, a Wii U, and a speedy Rubik’s cube (which I now know how to solve!). Camilla took us out to a yummy Mexican restaurant and for dessert we got fried ice cream. The server poured rum all around and lit it on fire. The cinnamon he sprinkled on the flames sparked like fireworks.

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Also on his birthday we went to Muscoot farm and saw all the cutest animals.

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After the farm we drove to a beautiful nature trail that took us over a bridge.

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And we also stopped at a local place that everyone loved called King Kone. The best burger, chicken fingers, French fries, AND soft serve. Highly recommend.

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Best birthday ever!

Both of us had a lot of fun at their house over the week. We went on beautiful runs around their neighborhood and mainly sat on their porch with them, eating way too much good food and ice cream.

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It was a grand time, but I was ready to leave by the end of it. They were very kind to let us stay, and their house is so much fun, but I find it a little hard to stay at other’s houses. I always reach a point where I feel like a nuisance.

So we rented a car for a day. We knew our end goal – Billy had been invited as a Fellow to the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Brunswick, Maine. He is the only French horn player, so we were very excited when they sent the invitation email! We had to arrive to sign up in the afternoon of Saturday, June 24th.

On Wednesday, June 7th, we left Robert and Camilla’s and made the eleven hour drive to Emily and David’s house. They live in Greenville, North Carolina. We were so happy to park in their front yard! The drive would’ve been much quicker had we not had terrible traffic a lot of the way. (go east coast)

They are the funnest people to stay with. They have four amazing kids to play with all day long, and then when they’re tucked into bed me, Billy, David, and Emily would play games, watch shows, eat forbidden treats, and, of course, talk about all the great things in life.

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Also, Emily taught me some much needed new hairdos. And made me want to buy makeup! She is a miracle worker.

We were also mainly happy to be able to veg out some more. Both of us were coming off a very hectic and crazy year in New York. Neither of us wanted anything too big (joke’s on us later, though). So we really loved hanging out with close family in a home.

Some of the adventures we had:

One Saturday we went to Yoder’s Dutch Pantry and the beach. Yoder’s is a Mennonite restaurant that sells the most delicious home-style cooking for the cheapest price. (I went there last year when I came alone to visit them all in North Carolina when Billy was doing his music festival in Texas.)

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After our yummy breakfast we drove to the beach and had the funnest day. Billy lost his glasses in the ocean, we dug a giant sand hole and built a giant sand/shell castle, we got beaten by the waves breaking over the sandbar close to the coast, we were waved around in the deeper bits.

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After a full morning along the coast, we ate a yummy picnic and then made a quick drive to Fort Macon. We lucked out and got a tour of the fort by the cutest old man. He sure knew his stuff. He told us a lot of cool facts that I don’t remember. I do know that it was originally built to fight and defend against pirates. Then it was used (not very successfully) in the Civil War. It was again used in World War II.

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After the fort we headed to Harker’s Island. We didn’t find much to do there except a little beach area, but I loved the little island! It had a lot of hermit crabs that we all liked playing with.

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Eventually we all packed into the car and started making our way home.

All in all it was a perfect day!

Another day, Billy and I went to Starlight Inn for yummy Carolina barbecue. Holy dang was it good (although Texas barbecue has my heart). And so cheap!

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After we stuffed ourselves with meat and cornbread, we headed over to Simply Natural Creamery where we saw lots of cows and ate pretty good ice cream (I still think Blue Bell is better).

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I really wanted to stay there forever, but the next part of our trip needed to happen.

So we rented a car for a week (which is cheaper than only getting it for two days). We could have made it easy and driven to Robert and Camilla’s in one day, and then another five hour drive and we could’ve made it to the festival. But we’re crazy. So instead we decided to do a giant loop through Canada around to Maine.

We left on Tuesday, June 20th, and made the eleven hour drive to Robert and Camilla’s with a fun stop at Gettysburg.

It was totally unplanned. We’d kind of been thinking about stopping at DC, but then we figured it would be more fun coming to DC and Philly with friends, so we nixed that idea for now. But when we saw signs for Gettysburg we figured we should go for it.

It was so much fun! The park is seen by an auto route, and you make stops and hop out and see different historical places where battles were fought. My favorite place was the cemetery (back then: battlefield) where Abraham Lincoln gave the Emancipation Proclamation.

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When we arrived at Robert and Camilla’s, we were so happy to see Camilla on the front porch! While we were gone, she underwent a crazy back surgery, and we were both so glad to see her doing well. She informed us that she was still in a lot of pain, but we’re still hopeful that her surgery will really help her to start feeling better.

We all caught up and had pizza and ice cream. The next morning we drove off for a full day of fun.  We decided to avoid toll roads, which took us through the upstate New York country side.

Our first stop was Palmyra, New York. This is where Joseph Smith had the First Vision, where he was led to the gold plates, and where our church first started. There was so much to see and do! We started at the Hill Cumorah, where the plates were hidden.

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And then we drove to his family’s farm and walked around there with a wonderful tour.

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After the tour ended we were invited to go into the Sacred Grove where Joseph had the First Vision.

I loved being able to walk around and feel such a different presence. I won’t go into any details, but being there reaffirmed that I’d definitely married the best man in the world, and also I was excited to realize again that we always have another chance to change for the better.

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When we left there we headed right to the Chill and Grill. We’d asked an awesome sister missionary where the best place to eat was, and this was her answer.

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It didn’t disappoint. While we were eating our delicious food under the patio, we had a lovely conversation with a grandma who was alone, AND we got to watch the town cat catch a mouse! It was pretty exciting stuff.

Our next stop was the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.

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It’s so funny when you’re about to enter another country. The reaction we always have nearing the border is screaming happy excitement. The reaction we always have after crossing the border is screaming questions of disbelief. What were we doing here? We knew nothing about Canada. We’ll be caught and thrown in jail for sure. We will definitely unknowingly break every unknown rule ever. Lucky for us, Canada is pretty well-known for being safe and friendly.

Which makes it even funnier that we were terrified of the guard that we handed our passports to. He asked us simple questions, and both of us felt like we were fugitives being interrogated. I think I was sweating. Billy stumbled over every answer. I would have thought we were pretty suspicious.

When we passed the test we followed the signs to the falls. We got over there thinking we would find a free place to park and sleep in our car. We didn’t find any free parking, but we did find underground parking for $5 at a giant casino. Which is awesome. After parking the car we ran to Niagara Falls in time to see the firework show.

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Then we headed to the casino to see what it was like. They questioned my age! But my passport proved them wrong.

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It was weird. I don’t get the appeal. (And Billy didn’t actually play the slot machine.)

That night we reclined our front seats as far back as they could go and – whamo! We got a sleeping place for five whole dollars. Granted, neither of us slept well. It was much too bright and a touch too warm. Plus we were a little concerned the whole night that a guard would come up and tell us we were breaking some rules I’m sure existed somewhere.

The next morning we woke early and groggy and cursing off anymore bad sleep, so we went to the falls again and walked a long length of it. It was pretty perfect. When we got there no one else was around. The sun was still rising so it was absolutely stunning.

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We met some lovely people along the way towards the end. The weather felt marvelous.

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Eventually we were ready to move on, so we headed out. Originally we were planning on stopping in Toronto, but we both decided that this morning wasn’t enough time. So instead we drove through it with a promise of return.

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We made it to Montreal before the sun set.

Here’s a pro-tip for everyone. If you’re planning on visiting a major city, have some sort of plan in mind. If you don’t do some screen-time and plan your trip beforehand, you’ll be spending a lot of time on your trip doing screen-time to frantically plan in-the-moment. (I’m pretty sure that we’re the only two stupid enough to not know this by now.)

We got to Montreal and realized that there is no free parking anywhere. I texted my good friend Julie since she had served a mission here asking if she knew anything about parking. Her response: “Good luck.”

Both of us came to the conclusion that we should stay in a nice hotel that offered free parking. We deserved it after sleeping in the car the night before!

But we couldn’t find a single hotel that had free parking. Everywhere added an additional twenty (+) bucks to your already expensive stay.

In case you hadn’t noticed, both of us were really being pretty stupid about parking. We drove around for at least a couple of hours (which is a decent way to see a lot of a city) trying to figure out the best place to stay. We kept flip-flopping between staying in a hotel and sleeping in our car, but what if we get caught, but I don’t want to spend that much, but there’s nowhere we can park anyway, well let’s just park somewhere and be done with it!

Before we knew it we had driven to the top of a big hill with a pretty park on the top. A lot of people were there, so we got out and spent a couple dollars on parking (cringe).

Here’s my quick rant before I get back on topic: I feel like I hate paying for parking so bad because it seems like it should be a basic human right to be able to park your car somewhere. I hate that I felt absolutely trapped inside the car. And I can’t believe the people that live there have to pay to go anywhere. It reminded me of when I first encountered mandatory toll-roads. Coming from the south and the west where there aren’t really any toll-roads, suddenly when I arrived in the east and had to hand out fists full of cash over and over just to drive on a road it seemed a bit outrageous.

Back to our journey: We walked along the path for a bit and then we stumbled upon this view of the city.

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We stayed up there as long as we could until we were driven away by awkward mosquitoes and bloodthirsty preteens.

When we got back to our car we tried to figure out (again) where to sleep for the night. The hotel idea was totally out the window. We were a little confused about the signage (oh did I mention that EVERYTHING in Montreal is in French) (and neither of us speak a lick of French) and we couldn’t tell if we didn’t have to pay past midnight to 6am or if we weren’t allowed to park from midnight to 6am.

With that question mark hanging heavily above us we promptly drove to the quieter lot of the park and bedded down for the night.

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I was out within minutes. I woke up once to a solid rain storm, feeling a little bit chilly. Billy unwrapped our sleeping bag and we both snuggled up in that and fell back asleep.

We woke at seven feeling much better rested than our sleep the night before. In fact, both of us slept pretty darn well.

In our research we’d read about parking in a library parking lot, so we made our way there. We got a pretty good deal for 24 hour parking; it felt so good to leave the car behind.

We had quite the day tromping around Montreal. It kept raining off and on. But we had the most delicious food all day. In fact, that was our whole plan for the entire day. We walked to one food recommendation to another to another. It just so happened that everything we wanted to see had something yummy in it.

First we went to La Banquise where we had delicious poutine.

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Poutine = French fries + Cheese curds + Gravy + Whatever else you desire upon them

Then we walked to the most delicious ice cream place that dipped our fresh ice cream into hot salted caramel.

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Then we went to Chinatown and had Chinese donuts.

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Then we meandered through Old Town.

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We also went to Saint Joseph’s Oratory. It’s a giant church on top of a giant hill.

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Then we had some shawarma. Not gonna lie, I kinda like New York’s better. (Sorry Julie).

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The shawarma was the last food item on our list. We had every intention of going back for more of that ice cream, but I was so full and couldn’t take much more sugar at this point, so we said our farewells and headed back to our car. I never thought I’d be happy to see it again, but after all the walking we’d done I was happy to sit anywhere.

Here are some fun pictures we took as we rambled through the city.

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Billy said Montreal is like a mix between Budapest and parts of NYC and in French. We really loved it there!

It was only a few hours drive till we started seeing signs for the USA. We were so excited! I told Billy at one point that it’s only when you leave a place that you really start appreciating it. I didn’t think Texas was the best until I left it. I refused to like Utah while I lived there, but the moment I left I grew a very deep appreciation for it (although that also might’ve come a lot from our Southern Utah trip). And it wasn’t until I saw those signs for the US that I appreciated America for just how amazing a country it is. I’m so glad I was born there!

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We had to talk to another security guard before we could enter our country. It was pretty funny how long it took him to get our story straight. Billy has a Utah license. Mine is from Texas. We both are kind of currently living in New York City, but we’re actually homeless. Our rental car was from Georgia. He asked all the places we’d been on this trip, so I started explaining that we began in North Carolina, drove to New York, then Niagara Falls, through Toronto to Montreal, with an end goal of Brunswick, Maine for a music festival. Finally he let us go on with a “drive safe and watch out for moose.”

And just like that we were in Maine! Moments into our drive and we were both astounded at how beautiful it was.

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Billy had found a great (free) spot to camp for the night not too far from the Canadian border.

Unfortunately it was much too rainy and mosquito-infested for it to be a smart idea to pull out our tent we’d been carrying around this whole time.

So for a final time we slept in the car.

It wasn’t comfortable, but it wasn’t uncomfortable either. I would also like to note that this was day four of no showering, so when I say I was excited to get to the festival you can really understand.

We woke early the next morning and made the few hour drive to the festival. It wasn’t until we got there that I started to get pretty anxious. I didn’t know if I had a place to stay, I didn’t know what I would be doing these next six weeks, I started thinking that I might’ve just made a horrible mistake (but what else could I possibly do?).

And this is where I’ll leave this post. Sorry it was so long! But you’re amazing for having read this far.

Till next time!

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