Tuesday, July 8

Amherstburg, Ontario--July 4th weekend (2008)

(Dear reader, forgive the bad formatting, strange characters (I hope I've removed them all) and poor location of images. By far, this was the worst blogging experience I've had. The switch to Apple has meant the lost of Microsoft's "Live Writer." Getting this--and one other entry posted--was more arduous than giving birth--and I still lost one of the babies).

Finally. I went on a multi-day trip with Jesse Owens. I've been wanting to go to Amherstburg, Ontario for some time after having once visited there about 16 years ago. Back then the
trip was just a brief stop that didn't do this quaint, proud little town any justice. Back then, my family visited The North American Black Historical Museum of Amherstburg to check it out as a stop along the Underground Railroad. Amherstburg is approximately 25 miles south of Windsor, right at the "mouth" of the Detroit River, with Lake

Erie a stone's throw away. Given that all my emails had been returned by the museum and I couldn't get through via phone, I worried that I'd find the place close. It was, at one time, a small operation run primarily by volunteers. Still, I thought the ride would be worth the risk.

I checked out Jesse, loaded him up with the side bags and top case. I struggled with the CorTech tank bag--it's simply too big and blocks an easy reading of the Zumo. So it stayed behind and frankly, I didn't miss it.

I had two choices. I could go the 5 hour, 300 miles route or the 7 hours and 51 minutes, 288 miles route. Instead, I ended up doing neither. It took me 9 hours to reach Amherstburg, Ontario. It seemed to take forever to get out of Chicago. Leaving on the Fourth of July forced me to wait for two parades to do their thing. Even that didn't bother me, however. I traveled via Rt. 41 south. It's a familiar route. One rides along beautiful Lake Shore Drive with its amazing views of Lake Michigan on the right. Rt. 41 snakes its way into Indiana, traveling through the industrial areas of steel and factories and extant smoke stacks. Next comes Gary, Indiana, parts of which are desolate and remind me of rural Mississippi--at least what I've read about rural Mississippi.

The great part of this long way, was riding through the Indiana and Michigan dunes areas. The weather could not have been more perfect. It bordered on being hot but a canopy of trees provide a cooling overhead air conditioner along US Rt. 12 East and it kept me in a cooling breeze and comfortable the whole way. Well, the gas prices didn't keep the dunes visitors
home. They were out in mass, which eventually made traveling along Rt. 12 slow in many spots. It took me 2 hours to travel 70 miles!

If I remained on 12, I would be later than the parades had already made me. If it took me 2 hours to progress 70 miles, the 118 miles I needed to do on Rt. 12 alone, would add considerable time to the journey. Thus, somewhere near Sturgis, I hopped on the interstate and tried to make
up time. Lots of law enforcement on the roads. Still the time was great, easily managing 75-80 (the speed limit is 70mph along long stretches of road). I remained on Interstate 94 until the Detroit area and then tried to follow the signs to the Ambassador Bridge. Locating the exact spot for border crossing was confusing--not at all like other border crossing I've made into Canada. Signs to follow I-75 South led me to several blocked entry points. I motored around Detroit, along some rather bleak streets. I had no fear but I did seem to draw some unwanted attention. Even the GPS led me to a area where someone had erected a barricade. Eventually, I found the way in and after some questioning by the border patrol (is that what they are called) I was given the okay. (As an aside, getting in Canada was easier then getting back into the US! I almost felt a strip search about to happen leaving Canada! What's up with that?!)

It only takes about 10 minutes after leaving Detroit to reach Windsor, Ontario. From there it's another 20 miles or so to Amherstburg. Each time I visit Canada, I literally feel myself relax when I reach Canadian soil. Perhaps it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. A situation doesn't have to be true, it just has to be believed and then it becomes true in reality. Whatever. I love Canada and I've always had a great, relaxing time there. This past weekend was no exception.

Jesse performed flawlessly. I wore bicycle shorts under my protective pants after reading that they can help cushion the ride. I'm not certain if the shorts made a significant difference but I think they were definitely cooler, as in keeping the lower region drier (TMI, I know). For that alone, I'll not hesitate to don them again.

Not only was I planning to visit Amherstburg, this trip would mark another special event for it would be the first time I would met in person someone who has become a dear friend. Together we've talked on the phone, chatted about spouses, written more emails than either of
us can count and shared motorcycle stories, encouraged each other to try new things, challenged each other on many topics. We've been motorcycle ride-buddies without ever riding a single shared mile. My friend knows that I do not fancy riding with others, especially groups. "Solo" is thy middle name. But there are times for exceptions and for being receptive to change. So after long emails, seasons of planning, at least one failed attempt, the schedules finally synched.

My friend, Lucas, is not new to this site. He was a guess blogger a couple of years back. He's added many miles to his riding resume. He and his spouse reside at the opposite end of Amherstburg, near Niagara Falls in a community he swears is like the other bookend to Amherstburg. He detailed the matches: the water, the forts and ports and the visual similarities of the two communities.

After nine hours of riding, I arrived in Amherstburg, tired but feeling fine. Lucas had arrived and was sitting in the lush backyard of the Bondy House. It was like meeting an old friend. We greeted and immediately started chatting about bikes. Lucas has a spanking new, beautiful blue Kawasaki Versys with the neatest, adjustable windscreen I've seen. His Givi sidebags, the same one favored by the BMW F800 crowd, look smart on his bike. On the back of his bags are two wide width reflectors that are highly visible. Before heading home, Lucas installed amber lights inside and adjacent to his headlight unit, which enhanced the entire front face of his bike-
-and increased its visibility. In addition, it just looks cool.

Friday evening was long. Carolyn Davies, the owner of the Bondy House, had lots of stories to share with us about the house, politics, family, the US, and her former motorcycle riding days. I've never stayed at a B&B and this was an excellent home that allayed all my brooding. Carolyn gave me a theme room dedicated to the history of the abolition of slavery. The entire
experience of
staying with Carolyn was magnificent. The breakfast meals were sensational (and I can be a picky e
ater). They were so good I forgot to take any food pictures--I just dived in...Too bad we missed her other half, he must be a hoot!

Saturday, we had a great ride along the southern shores of Lake
Erie. We pushed pass luscious farmland, whipping by old cemeteries, marvelous marinas, and farm stands that made
me want to stop frequently for the strawberries and blueberries they advertised. But riding prevailed. The roads were long and sweeping in spots. Most of the curves were clear and clean but like every ride I've done near a lake, there can have dangerous curves where wind has bl
own sand or the shoulders are sandy by nature. In a couple of spots, small pebbles required careful motoring.

In Leamington, Ontario not only was an art fair and festival occurring, Elvis was "in the house!"
The guy had a rather nice voice but like many of the impersonators I've seen they always look like caricatures mocking Elvis in his last days. This area along Lake Erie
is nicely presented, beautiful walkways, ample bird life and lots of
bench seating to observe ships arriving and departing. The water, a clear beautiful bluish-green, made gentle, quiet waves and I wished I could be there during a sunrise.

Lucas led out to Leamington. I led back. I can see how easily it is to get fixated on the rider ahead of you. My strategy while following was to just ride my own ride. Having never ridden with anyone before for any great distance, it was a bit strange at first. I kept him in my sight, but I deliberately concentrated on what I was doing. I was able to scan the road surfaces, keep the other bike within a comfortable distance, and keep a 360 degree check around me.
For me, the biggest thing required to ride with someone else was a mental adjustment that basically told me you're riding with someone else but for the most part ignore the person. Not in the sense that I disregarded Lucas entirely. I didn't miss any signals he gave and I caught all the sights he pointed out. But when it came to watching his riding at the expense of watching my own, I ignored him and concentrated on my own perfor-
mance, as if I were riding alone. In riding back to Amherstburg, I tried to be careful not to make any sudden turns or signal too late. I think I missed on both accounts a couple of times. Leading does require being more aware of who is behind you as you don't want to surprise the rider. I followed the GPS back, which meant we returned via a different, less scenic route. But less scenic was still picturesque to me and because we went through fewer of the small town centerss, our speed was a bit faster (or was I just riding faster?). It was a spirited ride that was totally fun. I have few pics of spots along the ride route as there were few safe places to pull over for photos.

Amherstburg is a small, friendly village with many excellent dining establishments. Didn't have one bad meal there. If you go there, try Duffy's, and Caldwell's Grant. Evidently, Amherstburg is also a place to go to listen to impersonators. Saturday evening, Carolyn our B&B host, suggested we head down to Uncle Vito's Rhythm Kitchen, a restaurant/tavern/live entertainment hangout. Earlier, I had seen the marquee and knew that Buddy Holly was showing up. Well, a really cool and believable Buddy Holly impersonator did show up and thrilled the crowd. I was so taken that I returned to the house to retrieve my camera. The place was rather dark but wonderfully moody and picture worthy. Carolyn later informed the artist that I'd taken photos of him and he later came to our table to see what I'd captured. I've promised to send the photos to him. He was really really good and looked a lot like Holly. Carolyn, Lucas and I all thought that he needed even bigger glasses. Still, his voice made him convincing and a huge hit with the crowd.

Sunday, departure day. A couple stayed at the B&B Saturday night and we all ate breakfast together. It was too funny trying to convince them that Lucas and I were not a couple, that we were both married, that we didn't come to the
B&B for a rendezvous. They were clearly a rather straight lace, traditional pair who just thought, two motorcycles, two people, they must be "together." By the time they got it straight, we all had a good laugh about it.

Throughout the weekend, Lucas occasionally brought out his really cool traveler guitar. It made me both happy and sad. Happy that he's found the joy in learning to play and he is getting better and better. Sad in that I played classical guitar for many years and always regretted that I quit. But there's a saying, "It's never too late to be what you could have been." It might be one of those things I try to re-discover in due time.
Before leaving, Lucas checked out my bike and gave me great feedback on it. For that I'm grateful. I could have ridden Ocean, Lucas' bike. Only one problem. It's not for the vertically challenged. I used the foot peg to mount it and while I sat comfortably in the saddle, we both cracked up at how much my feet dangled above the ground.
We said our goodbyes but not before agreeing that each year, we'll have an annual meeting spot to ride and celebrate our friendship.

The ride home took nearly nine hours. I thought I'd take the interstate much of the way but construction zones of bumper to bumper traffic created a lot of crazy-making drivers. I hate being bunched up with cars all around me, itching to gain one car length over someone else and overly zealous about protecting their space. I also resented the slow pokes who wanted to ride adjacent to me to look at Jesse. Yeah, it's a beautiful bike, but the slowing down was risky as others tried to jump lanes for tiny lane openings. For many miles, in some spots, it was like watching a game of auto-Pac Man. I persevered until I couldn't take another driver stopping virtually on my tail! Thank goodness for the vario-levers as there was considerable stop and go in first and second gear and my hands didn't cry out in pain as they would have before the change in levers. Ended up that about half of the return trip was interstate and the other half non interstate, which is pretty much how the trip began.

I went to Amherstburg to do more research on the underground railroad, which I accomplished. I departed Amherstburg with a lot more than I expected. I gained new friends, found a great place to stay when I return, saw two dead entertainers brought back to life, and made the long-awaited connection with a kindred spirit.

I will write later about my ongoing research on the underground railroad stations in the US and in Canada. Hopefully by then I will have made the transition from PC to Mac without too much weeping and gnashing...

Until then, ride safe and smart.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sharon:

I poured myself a drink and savored your ride report like a fine cigar. The first sign of a great report is that reader reaches the end and says, "This can't be it. There has to be more."

I regret that you are having Microsoft withdrawal. In the last ten years, I have gone through 4 word processing programs-- each one of which came bundled in the computer's software. I learned to love each and resented having to master another when a program was discontinued. This too will pass. My tech tells me that that Appleworks I now use is also slated to be scrapped. I am less than thrilled. But I have had to work on a PC a couple of times this year and found the experience horrifying.

I can understand your decision to scrap the Cortech bag. I have a custom made Multi-Vario tank bag that I do not use either. I don't like having to stretch to read the instruments. "Fire Balls" uses the standard BMW topcase on the back, which is fine for up to a week on the road. But I would really prefer a Givi bag and will look into this for next year. The Givi rack is better suited to carrying things than the Beemer mount when the bag is off the bike.

I'm not surprised you had a hard time at Customs and Border Protection. (That is what they are actually called.) Did you know that they have the right to inspect the contents of your laptop, and to seize the unit without suspicion or provocation? The Association of Corporate Travel Executives has issued a traveler alert on the subject. They are working to get this law changed.

I was surprised to discover you had a riding partner on this run. Isn't it cool to have a pal you can share a road story, a laugh, or view with. I am fortunate to ride with a group of guys who are all fun and serious about riding. Realistically speaking, there are about 70 of them. Nevertheless, I am thinking I may hit the road for two or three days by myself. It may be time to rediscover a little humility.

Thank you for this great ride report.
Twisted Roads

Sojourner's Moto Tales said...

Jack, I wrote and replenished the post so many times due to strange disappearances that it ended up being something other than what I started with. At some point, I gave in to my aching back and shoulders and just wanted to end it!

Thanks for your kind words, coming from you I really appreciate that as some days I can't help by ask myself why? Why do I persist when the technology demons are obviously out for me. Thanks for helping me put it all in perspective.

Yes, I met my friend in Ontario. We had a blast. I think that was the way to do it. Meetup with someone rather than do that entire ride together. Then again, I didn't expect this to be such fun--I could be wrong about doing a start to finish ride with somone. I think it has a lot to do with "styles." We have similar styles and they clicked on our Saturday ride.

Yes, I knew that the Customs&Border Protection had a lot of power, which is why I answered everything as kindly and clearly as possible. But this guy (when coming "home") wanted to know why I was writing about the UGRR and why do it in Canada, what "books" had I written and where could he find them, why I had a temporary plate, where I bought the bike--and why that bike, etc. He studied my passport like it was the lost scrolls or somethng. And as we were finishing up, almost like an afterthought, he asked for other proof of my citizienship--after giving over my passport and drivers' license (thank goodness I also carry my birth certificate). I've been to Canada many times--I try to go each year and I've never been questioned to that extent. Oh well...

BTW, I remember Appleworks!!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sharon:

Take a look at this. It relates to your ride report.


Sojourner's Moto Tales said...

Jack, I wish I were shocked but I'm not. I'm just outraged seemingly all the time! This is what happens when higher ups capitalize on people fears--stuff like this can slip in with barely a whimper. Big Brother is more than watching, he's in bed with us. I wish there were more I could do besides write a letter of protest. Thanks.

Unknown said...

I have my insurance card for Canada. After your ride report, it's a shame that I haven't ridden there yet.