Saturday, May 23

The Circle Begins--Lake Erie

Friday, May 22, 2009  (very rough draft)

My third Great Lakes trip is underway. HOMES--that's how I learned all the great lakes as a child. HOMES  stands for Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. I always wondered about those lakes. Even Lake Michigan, the one I'm live near. What's on the other side? Who are the people who reside over there? What do their towns look like? I didn't know much about Lake Michigan except that it is vast and beautiful and really looks more like what I imagined an ocean looks like. As an adult, I can now say having completed Michigan and Superior, that while people are just about the same no matter where you go, place and the importance of space is quite different and how people use and treat places and space differ. That the fun part--being about toe see new places with different eyes; of course, via two wheels, which alone, creates a different sensory experience than traveling via car.

So this long Memorial Day weekend seemed like an ideal time to circumnavigate Lake Erie.

So here I am in Amherstburg, Ontario.  It is the sort of place one goes out of their way to reach. I love this small, historic town. From my very first visit decades ago, I knew there was something special about it. Not only was Amherstburg a major stop on the underground railroad for escaping slaves, it is the site of some very important battles on the Canadian side. Here we get the other part of the history of the wars, such as the war of 1812. Amherstburg has continued to have a long and close history with the United states. It is south of Detroit, the only place in North America where you must go south to reach Canada.  

I highly recommend the Bondy House B&B to anyone who visits this area.  The house has a wonderful history and is situated in a peaceful, friendly town that just makes you want to pull up a chair, park your bones and wear out your welcome. I'm here only for one day but as I circle Lake Erie (the Memorial Day trip to myself), I'm planning to meet up again at the Bondy House at the finish. 
Prior to reaching Amherstburg, I made a stop in Monroe, MI to see the River Raisin Battlefield. The Visitor's Center closed before I arrived--even though I called and even though it 4:45 when I arrived--not 5:00 like their signs states for closing time. Oh well...but it's one of those annoying things that makes getting a stamp sometimes out of your control.

I am heading to Point Pelee--for my first Canadian stamp!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Had a wonderful Friday evening with Carolyn and Merv. They fed me like royalty. Merv did something to salmon that could make him rich.  Corn, mushrooms, brown rice and green beans topped off the meal. 

After being fed an excellent breakfast by Carolyn, I got a late start on Saturday--I am unhurried about leaving my friends. But I do. First I head to Fort Malden, aka Fort Amherstburg to get my first Canadian stamp. Fort Malden is a National Canadian site but the young person manning the desk has no idea of what I'm talking about. He looks all of 18. But he helpfully calls around and is eventually told, "We don't participate in that anymore." He takes it harder than I do. 
We decide that his signature, date, and time should be sufficient proof of my visit. The added his phone number in case someone needed to call him. I also bought a cheap memento as proof of my visit and take pictures of the Fort with the bike visible.

My next hope of a Canadian stamp is Point Pelee National Park, which is in Leamington and situated at the banks of lake Erie. I head there on long, isolated backroads that carry me through small towns. I finally remember to set my GPS to kilometers (duh!) so that I can cease with mentally converting kilometers into miles--that little step made travel so much easier. 

Point Pelee National Park is not a simple journey. It's a fun journey but sits way out and the travel through some of the towns is slow. The young man at Fort Malden called ahead so I knew I'd get a stamp there. Well...they still had the stamp, but not one with a date.  Date is important.  The young ranger looked all of 15 (I can't help but accept getting older as the world is beginning to all look really young).  Oh well...Finally, a more mature woman appeared and interjected herself into the conversation. She explained that Canada used to participate in the Passport Parks program but "unfortunately" no longer. She lamented about that lost and said she wished they would reinstitute it because school children loved collecting, as did she when she was a child. So, I get my first stamp without an official date. I buy another souvenir as proof, and I date the book. The mature ranger told me that "If you get the right person at a national site, they'll know where to get the stamp--but some of the newer personnel won't even know what you are talking about." I know that's true!

The ride through small towns like Wheatley, and many port towns like Port Alma and Port Glasgow, is peaceful and scenic--and, at times, a bit too leisurely. It is also cold as one travels along sections of county road 3, it puts the rider right on the edge of Lake Erie and the breeze stemming from the lake was downright cold! Eventually, I pulled over somewhere near Palmyra to put on my heated jacket, which without the heat on kept me comfortable the rest of the way.  Speaking of the weather, it has been gorgeous, clear blue skies, bright warm and sunny and just enough wind to keep things interesting.

After hours on 3, I began to tire and found "The 401," a high speed highway with a maximum speed of 100km, but few followed that command. I love the crown on the highway signs-it seemed so British (interesting the next major place was called "London.").  I took the 401 to a Service Center, (equivalent to Rest Stops) where I tried to call (with a phone card), someplace to make hotel plans. Using a public phone has been humbling to say the least. It was a long and arduous process. I met a high student there who talked more than my friend Jacob from West Branch, IA. This kid was a sport nut and shared good news with me when he learned I was from the Chicago area. THE BLACKHAWKS WON! he told me.  I tried to show interest and great enthusiasm. I learned that his parents ride HD and have traveled on it to the "states." We talked at least 30 minutes--totally unplanned on my part; yet, I think I needed that break as I hadn't taken one the whole day.  It was getting late, near 7 and the backroads will be pitch black within a couple of hours. I decide to stay on the 401 (although the lights seem rather lacking on this too) and find a hotel. Having lost my BlackBerry the day befor I left (which has been found since). Lacking easy phone accesschas made this trip far more challenging than is my desire.

I bought a "pay as you go phone" before I left IL only to learn that it doesn't work in Canada. More on this later--I don't want to start the day on a bad note. But the good news is my BlackBerry will be waiting for me when I return home. Yay!!

I'm heading out now and plan to reach Cleveland or somewhere near before the end of the riding day.  My lovely SV got lots of attention wherever I rode--it's a great looking bike IMHO! But Jesse Owens is a looker. The conversations never stop about the bike, what it is, how it rides, where am I going and why?, etc. At a gas station, I ran into another woman rider on a BMW.  I waved to her. She walked up to me and said, "We're anonmalies, aren't we?" I agreed and we chatted very briefly about riding and our bikes. One meets the most interesting people when traveling on two wheels. When traveling alone in a car I can count on one hand--with multiple fingers left over--the number of people who come up and start a conversation. Two wheels brings out the talk in folks, the vehicle becomes an instrument of and for communication across many lines.

Well, I'm off two-wheeling it.