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Jan. 23, 2022 | Sunday
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U.S. couple glad to be back at summer home in NOTL
Dave and Laura Glasz at their Chautauqua landmark cottage with a tree growing through the balcony. Dave says the tree was there when his parents bought the property in the 1960s. (Richard Harley)

At midnight on Aug. 9, Americans Dave and Laura Glasz were waiting in line at the Canadian border, anxious to return to their summer home they hadn’t seen in almost two years.

The couple, who live in Georgia and normally spend every summer in Niagara-on-the-Lake, weren’t able to visit last year because of border closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Laura said she’d been checking news updates about the border reopening “about five times a day,” and when the chance arrived, they immediately booked their trip.

They crossed the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge into Canada at about 2:30 a.m.

It was a sense of “absolute relief,” Dave said.

“We wanted to get some wine somewhere, but it was three o'clock in the morning.”

Laura said getting here quickly while things are open was a priority, with the threat of the Delta variant growing.

"We were dying to come, and I was so afraid that (Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau would change his mind — once we got here, or a couple of weeks after they opened it up, that he'd say, 'No, Delta's too bad' and shut it back down again."

“I wanted to get here as soon as possible to avoid any of that problem,” she said.

Getting here was a bit nerve wracking, they said. They had to have negative COVID tests within the previous 72 hours, needed to show a vaccine status card and needed to check in via the ArriveCan app, which required them to have a quarantine plan in case they were selected for a random secondary COVID test and tested positive.

With both of them having two doses of the vaccine since March, it was mostly smooth sailing at the border — aside from a long two-and-a-half hour wait, as they weren’t the only Americans eager to get into Canada.

Dave said people in about a third of the vehicles were there being interviewed for 10 to 15 minutes. And many of them were being pulled over, though he’s not sure what for.

They had wanted to travel in 2020, but it wasn't possible, Laura said.

Skipping the border wasn’t an option, Laura and Dave both joke, noting the family of a friend actually did try it.

The couple, also from the United States, own a house on Lake Erie and decided to cross on their boat to check on their cottage.

“And they got caught,” Dave said.

“The boat was confiscated, each of them got fined $40,000, and they have a lifetime ban from coming into Canada.”

The couple said they also generally feel safer in Canada when it comes to COVID-19.

“It’s not going in the right direction in the States,” Dave said, adding Georgia is “not one of the leaders.”

“Well, (there's) a lot of unvaccinated people and people believing, or being misinformed about the vaccine, and being afraid it's gonna cause infertility or change your DNA or, I mean, all ridiculous information,” Laura said.

“Unfortunately there's a lot of people who just believe the hype and 'My immune system works great, now I don't have to worry' and 'Jesus is going to take care of me' — hmm, no.”

They both got their vaccines as soon as they could.

“I was in the medical field and everything I read showed the safety far outweighs the risk. And I saw what was happening to people who were getting COVID and it just was — as soon as we could get the vaccine, we signed up, we got it,” Laura said.

The two own a cottage that’s quite literally grown a reputation as being the house with a tree growing through the patio.

Dave’s father purchased the property in the 1960s, and he eventually took it over.

Being in the family for so long and spending his childhood summers there, the house has a sentimental value for the couple.

“Dave’s been coming here for 62 years,” Laura said.

“My dad, we came over here, we opened it up. He paid all of $5,000 for it at the time,” Dave said, noting now two of his sons have expressed interest in keeping the house in the family.

He said he felt mostly "frustration, anger" about not being able to visit their own house.

“Because we knew we could follow all the rules and we were following all the rules down in Georgia — grocery pickup, not going anywhere, not doing anything. We could have followed it here,” Laura said.

It was also frustrating to pay taxes and utility bills on a home they couldn’t visit, she added.

But after a long wait and a tense trip, they’re happy to be back and have spent the past week getting the place in order, clearing out cupboards and spots where mice got in.

They also had an addition done last year, which they weren’t able to see until now.

Laura said she literally had tears when she talked to her neighbour Diane.

"I started crying because it was just, finally, I'm talking with friends and being with friends,” she said.

The two plan to stay a little later this year.

“We missed it so much. We just want to be here longer.”