The web site said the border crossing closed at 1900hr. I turned onto Montana highway 24 out of Glasgow at 1701. A hundred meters later there was a sign: Opheim border crossing 9 am – 6 pm, 59 miles. 59 miles, 59 minutes. The speed limit: 70. I can do that.
At 5:57 I passed a sign that said, “Leaving Montana.” In the last daylight a woman in a border patrol uniform (in the failing light I couldn’t see if it was Canadian or US border patrol) waved me through as she stood holding one end of the gate she was about to swing closed and lock for the night. I pulled through to Canadian custom’s Stop/Arrêt sign. I shut off the engine, 5:58. I waited.
A few minutes later a man waved me forward. I pulled up, putting down my window simultaneously. “There’s no way we’re going to process a camper tonight,” I heard another customs agent say from the side of the road.
Standard border crossing questions: where do you live? Where are you going? What do you have with you other than clothing and personal belongings? Where are you going to stay? When was the last time you entered Canada? What do you do? Do you have any weapons?
Why are you crossing at this point? I’ve never crossed here before, I tell him. A look of consternation, perhaps, crossed his face. And then again, “when was the last time you entered Canada?” It was my turn to look perplexed. I answered again and he said, “Oh, right. I asked that already.”
“Yes,” I said. “Is this a trick question?” Another perplexed look.
They took my passport and the license plate number and went away. He came back two, three times to read the license plate. My speeding ticket rap sheet has neither preceded nor followed me.
“Do you know what time the border closes?”
I tell him the web site said 1900hr but the sign in Glasgow said 6 pm. I thought I had plenty of time. The gates close 10 minutes before 7 he informs me.
Saskatchewan, as it turns out, is in the Central Time Zone and does not change its clocks with daylight savings time. I did not expect to drive north into the Central Time Zone. We discuss Manitoba and Alberta time zones and the dilemma of me coming through the gate so late when, apparently, the American side locks the gate.
If they scan my passport and find red flags, they have me on the wrong side of their border with no way to get me out of the country. Then they have to call the American side to unlock the gate and take me away. I point to the camper and say, “Or, I could just plug in right here and you can deal with me in the morning when you get back.” Another look.
They let me through. The catnip stash left unfound, unquestioned.