Friday, 17 June 2011

1000 miles

From Niagara Falls to our next destination of Warren on the northern outskirts of Detroit was originally planned as following a cycle route along the southern shore of Lake Erie and through Cleveland. However, we changed plans and in essence took a short cut across Ontario.

Our stay in Lewiston on the outskirts of Niagara Falls was all too short. Kris and her daughters were great fun and we met two of her friends Dan and Ellen, sharing drinks, barbeque food and stories. We had only just met but after two days they felt like old friends.

We enjoyed great coffee at the Orange Cat with Ellen on our way to the Canadian border. The Canadian side of the Falls, though giving a front-on view of both, is far more commercialised and I found myself preferring the American side. Just 30 miles south from the Falls, down the Niagara River shore line in Ontario, we dropped our bikes off at Steve’s Bike Shop for overnight repairs. I decided after all my problems with the bike to replace both hubs with new, sealed, high quality ones, good for the remaining 3,000 miles.

The roads across Ontario are in good shape though one could call them boring as they go on for 20 miles at times in a single straight line, but they were easy cycling being predominantly flat. So you’d think clocking up more miles per day would be on the agenda, and indeed we had it in mind to achieve upwards of 60 miles per day. However, a clue to the obstacle in our way was on the horizon. Vast numbers of enormous wind turbines, all orientated in the direction we were going. Virtually every day of the week in Ontario was met with a strong headwind, and added to the inconsiderate drivers who rarely pulled out to make room for us, leaving us feeling overall that Canada was not bike friendly, made our cycling days a real challenge.

The campsites varied enormously, from pokey, grassless and dank spots, to sunny and breezy little grassy knolls. One thing they all had in common however was the price. Almost double that of the USA. Groceries were also expensive and added to the money we had to pay out for our bike repairs was making this short section an expensive one.

We followed the northern shore of Lake Erie just beyond half way to a small town called Port Glasgow. Scottish place names kept popping up with great regularity and we would see signs for Selkirk, Iona, Elgin and the likes, every day.

On the day we were pedalling from Port Stanley to Port Glasgow we passed our 1,000 mile marker and had a moment of reflection, which was quickly broken by the fact we still had more than 3,000 to go! Our last night on the shores of Lake Erie was admiring a full moon in a star-speckled sky, it’s reflection shimmering across the vast lake, followed the next morning by a glorious sunrise.

From Port Glasgow we turned north. The headwind had become a tail wind and so we set our sights on the border. We had struggled all the way in Ontario to get internet access and find grocery stores, until we pulled into Newbury and Monte at McNaughton’s DIY store. He visited Dumfries every year and welcomed us in with open arms and gave us the use of his computer and guided us to a grocery store. It renewed my faith in the Canadian people. By early afternoon we were on a small car ferry making the 10-minute crossing at Sombra to Marine City and our first stop on American soil was Gars Bar for thee largest and most delicious burger I’ve ever had. I could feel my arteries narrowing with every mouthful.

After a nights stay in a nearby campground, fantastically cheap compared to Canada, we set off to face what we knew in advance would become a nightmare on a bicycle: the car-congested streets of Detroit. Thankfully we were not going all the way in as not only would it be even less bike friendly but the crime levels would have seen us lucky to leave with our wheels still attached. Despite only being on the outskirts it was still crazy and many drivers shouted abuse at us as they passed. My stress levels were increasing rapidly and when one passenger decided to spit at me I snapped. I pulled over, furious, shouting and cursing. I grabbed the cell phone and was about to dial 911 when the Sheriff pulled over. We discussed with him our problems and he was embarrassed that as visitors we were being treated so badly and admitted it is a problem.

We pushed on to a Specialized store for my third visit to a bike repair mechanic and left the bikes overnight. They then very kindly took us and all our luggage to our final destination of Pauline’s uncle David in Warren. Ahhh, all-American friendliness at it’s best.

So now we are camped with Scots ex-pat David in his home for 3 nights in a real bed and fluffy real towels. All too soon we will be back on the saddle and heading northwest to Luddington to meet up with the SS Badger steam ship that will take across Lake Michigan

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