Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Aiden. Aiden Wonders, “Why do school buses come early?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Aiden!
How do you get to school in the morning? Do you live close enough to walk? Perhaps an adult drives you to school. If you're like the vast majority of kids, however, you probably ride to school on a big yellow school bus.
Kids in one particular town, though, have an especially unique experience. They catch the bus as early as 6:25am (before sunrise most days), because they have to cross two international borders on the way to and from school, a trip that takes a minimum of 40 minutes on a good day.
Welcome to life in Point Roberts, Washington. It's a tiny town at the southern end of the Tsawwassen Peninsula that happens to be an exclave, which means it's a part of the United States geographically separated from the mainland because it's surrounded by Canada.
How did this happen? The residents of Point Roberts can thank the Convention of 1818 between the U.S. and Great Britain following the War of 1812. The Convention had to decide how to determine the border between the U.S. and Canada.
To make things as easy as possible, they decided that the boundary from the middle of Minnesota westward would follow the 49th parallel (a line of constant latitude 49 degrees north of the equator). This solution worked pretty well until you get to the Tsawwassen Peninsula and realize the 49th parallel cuts through it, giving the small town of Point Roberts at the southern end to the U.S.
By the time people realized what had happened, no one seemed to care enough to fix it. Located about 110 miles north of Seattle, Point Roberts is a geographic anomaly: five square miles of territory surrounded by Canada that's home to about 1,200 U.S. citizens.
It's not alone, though. There are a few other areas along the border like it, including Alburgh and Province Point in Vermont, Elm Point and the Northwest Angle in Minnesota, and an unnamed point in North Dakota.
The border plays a large role in making life in Point Roberts unique. School children must cross the Canadian border to travel to White Rock, Canada, where they cross the U.S. border to reach their school in Blaine, Washington. Each school day requires four border crossings and a long commute.
Locals claim there are as many as 50 people living in Point Roberts who are part of the federal government's witness protection program. Tight border security helps to keep people safe from criminals who may be pursuing them.
The border also creates a lot of daily traffic as a result of international economics. Each day, thousands of Canadians cross the border to get gas and shop for groceries in Point Roberts, where these and other goods and services can be 30% cheaper. Many Canadians also use shipping and receiving companies to do business with online retailers who don't ship to Canada.
If Point Roberts sounds like an interesting place to live, just be warned that it can take some time to get even the simplest things done. Governed by Whatcom County, residents report that the county is often slow to respond to its infrastructure needs. For example, they point to the fact that it took them two years to install a single streetlight!