Friday, August 25, 2006

Even worse than the road geekiness...

Mark, you can stop reading here.

My brother-in-law e-mailed to tell me that he, too, has a bit of road geek in him. Obviously, I do too, as you've probably read that entry below.

But for me, there's a passion even greater than road geekiness: border geekiness. I explained this in an e-mail to Mark - my brother-in-law - hence why he can stop reading here.

State borders, international borders, it doesn't matter. I think it's fascinating that one step in just the right place lands in a different country with different laws, different cultural attitudes and different heritages. Unless various governments were willing to allow the cultures and land to blend from one country to another - and no one seemed willing to do that - a hard boundary was needed.

Even U.S. state borders and Canadian provincial borders are interesting, though the political and cultural implications make international borders more fascinating to me.

With that in mind, as I told Mark, there are two places I simply must visit in my lifetime. The first is a town called Baarle-Hertog, technically in Belgium. Baarle-Hertog is a series of exclaves in the Netherlands; in other words, Baarle-Hertog is Belgian territory completely surrounded by the Netherlands. B-H residents cannot reach the rest of Belgium without going through some part of Dutch territory. The town of Baarle-Hertog (and its Dutch counterpart, Baarle-Nassau) is divided by several borders which zig-zag through town. At right, a beer store is half in Belgium (to the right), half in the Netherlands (to the left). Photo is courtesy of borderlandtv.com.

The U.S.-Canadian border is the longest undefended border in the world, and that may seem to make it less exciting. Quite the opposite, at least in one place - the other place I need to visit: Point Roberts, Wash.

For most of the continent, the border with our friends up north extends along the 49th parallel. While mostly over land, the border does reach across some bodies of water, too, including the Strait of Georgia near the Pacific Ocean. Point Roberts is on a small peninsula of Canadian land that extends south past the 49th parallel; in other words, folks in Point Roberts cannot drive to the U.S. mainland without going through Canada. (Boating, clearly, is a different story.) In the photo at left (courtesy of this Geocities site), the camera is looking east towards the Strait of Georgia and the little section near Point Roberts, known as Boundary Bay. The condos are Canadian, the road American. That brown fence is the actual border.

Imagine looking out of your bay window into another country. Fascinating.

Or, better yet, not having that pesky fence in the way. Perhaps that's why I find this photo the coolest of all that I've seen on the net.

This photo (courtesy of this site) shows a guy standing in Quebec, trying to sink the 11 in the corner pocket, which is in New York. According to the caption on the H-I site, this is located in the Dundee Line Hotel in Fort Covington, N.Y. and Dundee, Quebec. Separately, a Google search and a metasearch (via mamma.com) turned up the same four results, none of which determined if the Dundee was still open or if it had any sort of a Web site.

During a trip a few years ago to visit my in-laws, we had to drive from Reno, Nev. to Bend, Ore. - a six-hour drive through a whole lot of nothing. (When you're excited to see references to Susanville, Calif., that's a clear sign of one boring-ass drive.) Before we left - and when we returned - I begged my wife to detour east to visit the Nevada-California-Oregon tri-point. She resisted, citing the amount of time it would add onto the trip.

If the Dundee Line is still open, that's an argument she won't be able to win. Sorry, honey, but that's one we just have to do.

3 comments:

ME said...

I can't believe it took this long for the border fascination to appear!!

I think it's pretty cool too.

Clynnog said...

The Dundee Line Hotel still exists as a building but it is not open as a bar. Apparently, the mayor of Dundee QC lives there. I crossed at that border crossing in May 2004 and the bar was closed. There is border line marking going up the side of the building. Interestingly enough, there are 5-10 houses on the US side of the border between the actual border and the customs building. As well, about 10 km to the west is St Regis, QC which can only be accessed via Hogansburg NY and there is no customs building. It is a community of a few hundred.

mike said...

Hi Brian - I have visited many of these places - including the CH-FR hotel and the Haskell library. I travel Europe studying boundaries, and have visited 24 international tripoints. I am from Alexandria as well, so if you want to get in touch - mikekaufman79@gmail.com. (apologies for posting so publicly, but I could not locate an email address).