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Takin’ the Guide

April 8, 2011
WA 539/Guide Meridian Rd

The Guide is a straight shot to Canada (Orin O'Neill photos)

Most people going to Canada from western Washington just get on I-5 and go north. There are other ways. Guide Meridian Road is one of them.

In Bellingham, people call it “the Guide.” The road is as straight as anything you’d find in Kansas; the name suggests it follows an actual line of longitude, though I don’t know that for sure.

Within Bellingham’s city limits it’s called Meridian Street, beginning at Broadway.

Fountain Veterinary Hospital

There’s a small business district immediately north of Broadway, in what I believe is called the Fountain neighborhood (My conclusion is based on businesses called “Fountain” this and “Fountain” that; I didn’t notice an actual fountain…).

Houses on Meridian

The businesses give way to residences as you get closer to the I-5 underpass. Once you go under the freeway, a transformation occurs.

Traffic on Meridian

Where did all this traffic come from, you might ask. British Columbia is the source of a good chunk of it, as a quick look at license plates on surrounding vehicles will often show. This is where Bellis Fair Mall and the other big-box stores are located.

Shell station on Meridian

You’ll notice the Shell station scrupulously follows the 10-Cent Increment Rule. Most gas stations in Bellingham are selling regular for $3.999/gallon, so this one is a bit on the high side. But the aforementioned residents of B.C. are probably thrilled—regular gas is over $5/gallon there.

All You Can Eat!

I haven’t tried this place, so I can’t vouch for the wonderfulness of the food. I certainly hope the Health Dept. concurs.

McMansion in the sticks

As you travel north the strip malls and used car lots give way to fallow fields and scrub brush. And the occasional McMansion. The “‘For Sale” sign is for a different patch of scrub brush than the one the McMansion was built on.

It's the end of the world as we know it.

You’ve been warned. The neighbors on the other side of the road have a similar sign, but the trailer it’s attached to isn’t as nice as this one. It would hold a couple of scooters, at least. Maybe the owner of the trailer will sell it cheap, if the world hasn’t ended.

Mount Baker, in the distance

In the distance, you can see Mount Baker, the northernmost of the Cascade volcanic peaks. It was the one everyone thought was about to erupt, until Mount Saint Helens beat it to the punch in 1980.

An old barn

There’s actual agriculture taking place out here. This is the time of year you’ll smell manure, which smells nothing like raw sewage; it has a kind of sweet aroma, actually.

Canadian peaks

The mountains above are visible from Ellis Street in downtown Bellingham. They’re in British Columbia, not too far from Vancouver, actually. I’m afraid I don’t know their names. If you do, feel free to chime in.

Canada is mere yards away

Canada is mere yards (or if you prefer, metres) from where the picture was taken. Yes, that’s a duty-free store on the right. Not visible is Boundary Road, which runs along the border, a few yards/metres south of the actual 49th parallel. On the B.C. side there’s a road called Zero Avenue, which is a few metres/yards north. You can wave at someone on Zero Avenue from Boundary Road, but if you try to walk across, approximately a million surveillance cameras will record your action. Just sayin’.

Welcome to Washington

If you’re heading south from Canada, you will be greeted by this sign. After being greeted by a Customs & Border Protection officer, of course. Favicon

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5 Comments
  1. mark morris permalink
    April 8, 2011 9:27 pm

    Looking at Google maps shows no town there by the border. Are those buildings the border related facilities and businesses?

    Looks like a pleasant ride.

  2. April 8, 2011 10:21 pm

    mark, Lynden is the closest post office, so everything on Guide Meridian between the map point and the border has a Lynden address. The Canadian border station is in the middle of the picture (look VERY closely); the U.S. border station is on the other side of a grove of trees. The duty-free store is a privately-owned building…

  3. Jack Riepe permalink
    April 9, 2011 5:46 am

    Dear Orin:

    You have some very interesting pictures in this batch. I love the vet’s office, with the curved glass brick. I also love the shots of the snow-covered mountains of British Columbia rising up from the verdant plains.

    When I lived in upstate New York, in a previous life, I used to be able to take wives #1 and #2 to dinner in Montreal, which was about 90 minutes away. While Lake Placid, New York had a number of world-class restaurants, Montreal had about 350 of them. My wives loved being able to buy the latest fashions without having to run down to Manhattan, which was about an 8-hour ride. Getting through Customs then took about 90-seconds. Thanks to folks who brought us 9/11, you now have to leave your fingerprints and a sperm sample at the border (which actually requires a passport or an equally distasteful RFID travel document). How I miss the simpler days when half the world wasn’t commanded by God to kill all of us.

    I am riding for the first time this season today. The outcome is not quite a guarantee.

  4. Bill Severson permalink
    April 9, 2011 8:47 am

    The fourth entry point into Canada west of the Cascades is at Sumas, just 25 miles from the Sunset exit off I-5 in Bellingham. The routes to the east avoid the congestion of the Guide. And then Harrison Hot Springs is another 44 miles and one hour from there along scenic byway Highway 7. I didn’t stop to soak in the spring water yesterday, but just the ride was refreshing.

  5. April 9, 2011 11:58 am

    Good point, Bill. However, if your destination is Vancouver, any time you might save crossing at Sumas/Abbotsford is negated by the traffic heading west. The picture at Lynden/Aldergrove was taken in the early afternoon on a Friday. Most of the time, you can get across in five minutes, in either direction.

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