In the late 1990s, when Air Canada initially arrived at RIC, it was a happy day for this Western New Yorker who took plenty of family car trips into Ontario via the Peace Bridge in the 1970s.
It seemed like such a grown-up adventure to drive into a "foreign" country in our black Barracuda, have the bridge agents ask us the city and state of our birth and ask our intended business (usually gawking at the Canadian side of Niagara Falls). No passports, birth certificates or official IDs were needed.
So when the direct flights came available from Richmond to Toronto, I grabbed my pal Susan for a long weekend of cosmopolitan fun. I loved Toronto for its museums, its diversity, and its biking culture, and I wanted to show the city off, as well as drive into Buffalo so my friend could meet my grandmother.
That all almost came to an end when we were going through customs in the Toronto airport and we were asked for our passports.
Thinking of Canada as our friendly next-door neighbor since I was little, the thought of taking my passport had never even crossed my mind.
Luckily, my CPA-minded friend tossed hers in at the last minute, and we were able to enter the country. If I were to get back out, I needed to have my passport in hand upon my departure.
That led to the worst part of this trip, worse than the prospect of being detained in a foreign country: a 10 p.m. phone call to my mother in Richmond since my husband, ironically, was out of the country, too.
My passport was in a box in our jampacked attic. In a box. That's all I could recall. And my mom had to find it for me by the next morning and overnight it.
I heard her climb the steps via her cellphone and shout out something akin to "Holy cow!" when she got to the top of the steps at nearly midnight. I was praying to a trifecta of saints: St. Anthony of lost things and St. Christopher and St. Brigid of travel. I squeaked out that I thought it might be in a box near the pull-down steps, but I really had no clue.
Let's just say I was lucky. My mother hit pay dirt with the very first box, and she was paid for her trouble in Canadian bacon, jewelry from Toronto's incredible Gardiner Museum of Ceramics and promises of driving next time.
Dear readers, do you all know where your passports are?
Hop On, Hop Off
In addition to Toronto, you can also get to the following cities in one straight shot from RVA: Houston, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Cincinnati, and Cleveland, along with the usual hub suspects: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, D.C., New York, Newark and Philly. For three more destinations, see Page 73.