Graffiti Grabbers

Executioner

I read about 250 books in the above series over the years. It started with a Special Forces soldier coming home from Viet Nam to avenge his family, murdered by ‘The Mob.’  Seeing the limitations of this story arc, after about 30 books, the hero ‘died’ and was reborn as an independent Government agent, fighting terrorists, although this was back in the ‘80s.  They weren’t called that, then.

In one book, the hero pursued an agent who was bombing American Federal Government buildings and installations, all the way to Detroit. He then crossed the Ambassador Bridge into Canada, just in time to see a bomb blow up a blue, street mailbox.

Mailbox

I’m still not sure what value the author felt blowing up a Canadian mailbox had – a few pizza shop flyers destroyed and somebody’s unemployment cheque (check, for Americans) lost.  What caught my attention was the fact that the (American) author had described the Canadian mailbox as blue.  American mailboxes are blue, Canadian mailboxes have always been British Red.

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Graffiti taggers’ ill manners and lack of respect for the property of others started leaking north across the American border, like the Emerald Ash Borer, and deer ticks with Lyme disease. The more OCD at Canada Post began to be concerned about the look of their mailboxes.

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They began a program of refinishing them with a glass crystal surface like that applied to subway cars in the movie Turk 182. It’s so smooth that, if the paint doesn’t fall off on its own, it can be wiped off with a dry cloth.  The only problem is, taggers just hate an empty surface, and will keep tagging, no matter how many times it’s cleaned.

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Canada Post solved that problem by adding random, jumbled Postal Codes, so that the boxes look like they’ve already been pre-graffitied – so neat – so clean – so much better. Right….

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Apparently they were not eagerly accepted, so Canada Post has come up with something a little more artistic.

I recently pulled into the subdivision, and there was a van parked, and a man in a work uniform in front of the neighborhood cable TV junction box. I thought someone might be upgrading to the new fiber-optic service.  As I drove past, I saw that the worker had a small paint tray and roller.  The name on the van was ‘Graffiti Grabbers.’  He was painting over the taggers’ marks.

When I got home, a quick research revealed that graffiti ‘artists’ created enough vandalism to keep the above, and two more cover-up companies busy. I guess we can’t all be bloggers and only sully each others’ cell phones, tablets, and computer screens.

The Fellowship Of The Blog – Episode Nine

 

  Day 5 – Home Again, Home Again, Jiggedy-Jig

After meeting with, not one, but two fellow bloggers, blowing the exhaust system off the car, getting seriously GPS lost –twice – and attending a disappointing knife show, it might seem that the adventure was pretty much over.  We just intended to head for Detroit, and do a bit of shopping before slipping back over the line, to quiet Canuckville.

Prison

 

 

 

Fortunately for my publishing stats, fate still had a couple of (hopefully) interesting things in the wings. As we motored north on I-77, we suddenly passed a State Prison.  We came up over a rise, and there it was, right beside the road on our left.  I assume that the place with the concrete buildings, double twelve-foot high chain-link fences with razor wire on top and a ten-foot kill zone between them, was a prison, not a chicken hatchery.

We drove near one years ago, near Lapeer, MI.  For miles there were signs beside the highway, warning, “Caution Prison!  Do not pick up hitchhikers!”  This place – not so much.  While not near any urban area, I was surprised that it was so near a major highway.  Don’t they put prisons in places like Alcatraz, miles from anywhere?  I guess guards don’t like living in the middle of nowhere, delivery trucks don’t like driving there, and prisoners have the right to quick medical transportation.

As we came north, we reached a secondary road branching off the Interstate, which would angle northwest to Toledo, saving us several miles of driving, and a couple of dollars of road toll.  Northwest Ohio should be flatter and straighter than the Southeast corner, but my ass was still sore from being bitten by ‘Ohio 23’, so we drove on up north, to the Lake Erie shore, passing close to Kent State University, where CSNY sang of Four Dead In Ohio.

Cleveland Rocks!  Cleveland Rocks!  Even if we didn’t see Drew Carey, or the Rock and Roll Museum.  We did see the section of Ohio that Chrissie Hynde lamented had been paved over, by a government that had no pride – from Seneca to Cuyahoga Falls.

After rolling through the concrete jungle of Cuyahoga Falls, and Cleveland, we climbed on I-80, the Ohio Turnpike.  We grabbed a ticket, and headed for the toll booths at Toledo.  For the entire length that we drove, the east- and west-bound traffic were separated by concrete, K-rail, Jersey Barriers.  Not all of Ontario’s high-speed highways are completely supplied, to prevent crossover accidents.  Our local ring-road bypass, The Conestoga Expressway, still has open areas, despite 6 deaths in the last five years.

Every mile, the ends of two K-rails were offset, to allow police and emergency vehicles to U-turn, and for cops to hide, while watching for speeders. The right lane was crowded with trucks, including a number of triple-trailer transport-trains.  I was keeping up with traffic at the legal 65 MPH limit, in the middle lane.  A half-mile ahead, I saw the nose of a cruiser sticking out from one of the gaps.  In my mirror, I also saw a couple of bumble-bee cars, zipping in and out of the left lane, and rapidly overtaking me.

Just like the old cliché, they passed me like I was standing still.  Then, the guy in the lead spotted the cop, and piled on the binders.  The guy racing him didn’t see anything, and almost piled into the back of him.  Suddenly driving very slowly, they cut in front of me, and all the way over to the right lane, ending up ahead of, and behind, an overloaded half-ton, but I saw the cop pull out.

Cop Car

 

 

I told the wife that he was chasing the speeders.  “Who?  Where?”  “Those guys.” – pointing.  “But he’s waving at you??”  “Me?  What did I do?”  I looked out my window, and sure enough, he indicated for me to fall back.  He could hit the lights and siren, and force his way in, but it might set off a dangerous chase, and one or both could get away.  I eased back.  He eased in, right beside them, and turned on the lights.  They both looked chagrined and resigned as they pulled over.

I had hoped to gas up once we reached Detroit, but pulled off I-75 at Gibraltar, 25 miles short.  Just as I reached the bottom of the ramp, a dash chime sounded, and the ‘Fill Me’ light came on.  Already overfed, and eating less because of old age, we skipped the steak and baked potato at The Outback, and supper was a ‘Blooming Onion’ and a small loaf of pumpernickel bread from their takeout, taken back to the motel.

The next morning, we purchased another 25 pounds of Michigan beet sugar, the wife could not find any suitable tops which fit her, we topped up the gas tank again at the Meijer’s store, and had brunch once again at a Denny’s, before heading for the Ambassador Bridge.

Ambassador Bridge 2

 

 

 

 

Ambassador Bridge

 

 

 

Construction on the second bridge has not yet begun, and won’t be complete before we hope to travel here again, but is sorely needed.  Two-lane, bumper-to-bumper backup from the Customs booths started at the middle of the bridge.  When I finally reached the bottom, I was facing South, (check your maps) into the bright sunshine.

I thought, “When I get to pull into the shadow at the booth, I need to remember to take off my sunglasses.” – and then that thought flew south with the Canada geese.  I handed out our Passports, and the female officer, who was wearing purple rubber gloves, imperiously reminded me.

The new Windsor bypass is almost complete, and quickly whisked us five miles out, to the end of Highway 401….where we encountered a roundabout??!  Way to go, Ontario!  Tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of vehicles a day, at least half of them trucks, headed for the US, across the most heavily-traveled US/Canada border crossing….  and it all comes down to a roundabout??

I need to rest my brain.  We’ll be home soon.  😀

 

Little Snowflake

About 25 years ago, the wife and I went to our first knife show.  It was in Detroit.  I had found out about it from a knifemakers’ magazine I had subscribed to.  Raising the kids, we had not been on many trips, for many years.  We had driven seven hours to vacation at a lake where the brother-in-law liked to fish.  We took a one-year-old and a four-year-old to Niagara Falls, as my parents had taken my brother and me, and we drove a hundred miles each way, every month to visit my parents.

We had not been away by ourselves, and had not been out of the country for over twenty years.  I reminded MasterCard of that fact, the month we got a charge for a J.C.Penny store in Buffalo.  We could afford a weekend away, and needed it.

There might have been online map sites, but back that far, we hadn’t even bought a dial-up connection.  High-speed internet was still only a gleam in my computer’s eye.  I relied on tour-books and maps from CAA.  That’s AAA, with a Maple Leaf on it.  I found a cheap motel a quarter-mile from the expensive hotel where the knife show was being held, right across I-94 from the airport.  While I assured the wife that there were 5 or 6 hotels/motels within a stone’s throw, she insisted that I phone in a reservation.  I told the clerk we’d arrive around 8 or 9 PM.

The show back then was held near the end of February.  I got off work Friday at 3 PM, loaded the wife and luggage into the car and headed for the bank, to get American cash.  We exited the bank on a clear, and still sunny day.  Just as I got into the car, one little snowflake hit my nose.

Soon we were zipping along Highway 401, Ontario’s answer to Interstates.  It started to cloud over and a bit more snow fell.  Thirty miles along there was a clot of cars by the center median.  I buzzed past at 110 Km/h (70 MPH) and realized there were two stuck in the snow, one of them upside-down.  Perhaps I should slow down a bit, first to 100, then to 90, as the snow got more serious.

We were listening to local radio stations for weather reports as we moved.  I had just passed London, ON when the radio report said that the Ontario Provincial Police had closed the 401 “at London.”  90 Km/h became 80, and then 70!  The snow thickened, and the traffic thinned out.  Soon I could see no other vehicles in either direction, speed down to 60, then 50.  See other vehicles?  I could barely see the edge of the road.

As we crept along, debating what to do, finally I saw a big-rig slowly overtaking me.  He’s got more lights and a better angle on the road, so I slowed down and let him pass me.  It was a Verspeeten Transport truck, from back where the car was upside-down.  With his headlights, and him breaking trail for me, we’re back to moving at 65/70.  I followed him for miles and miles.  We’ve had a soft spot for Verspeeten ever since, and always look for them.

Near an overpass, a car was way down in a deep ditch.  We both stopped and checked it out, but the driver must have climbed the hill to the crossroad.  The trucker told me he had to turn off at Chatham, and I would be on my own, but time and distance had broken the storm.  The snow was abating.

When he finally pulled off, I continued.  Just as we passed the Chatham interchange, the new radio station announced that the O.P.P. had closed the highway, “at Chatham.”  Dead-of-night dark, no other traffic and over a foot of snow on the road, we ventured onward.  More than another hour of driving till we reached the outskirts of Windsor, at the border.

Just as we pulled off the highway, onto city streets, the radio told us that the plows were going out to clear the road, and the highway had been closed at Windsor, till they were finished.  It was the fastest we ever crossed the border.  Two drivers from Windsor and I wanted to cross the Ambassador Bridge, and the border guards were happy for the business.

When we got to the Detroit side, the snow had stopped, and the Americans had cleared most of it away – except on the traffic signs.  This had been a wet, clingy snow, and every sign was coated.  I managed to get onto I-94, and headed towards the airport.  My little CAA map gave me no idea of scale.

I had no idea how big metro-Detroit was.  I drove and drove and had no idea where I was.  I finally pulled off I-94 on an exit that seemed to go only into a Ford plant.  I booted a street-sign to knock the snow off it, and checked my map.  I was still only ¾ of the way to the motel.  Back on the road, I soon found where I was supposed to be.

The huge snowstorm had closed the airport.  There were hundreds of stranded passengers.  I pulled into the motel, and went in to register.  I wound up at the end of a row of 9 or 10 people.  Each one in turn would approach the counter and ask if they could get a room for the night.  The clerk would tell each one in turn that they were full up, and there were no rooms available.  And yet the next in line would step up, and ask the same dumb question, and get the same resigned answer.

Finally, it was my turn.  I stepped forward and noted the look on the clerk’s face.  Oh no, not another one!  I pulled a piece of paper from my pocket and placed it in front of her.  “My name is “John Smith”.  I have a reservation.  This is my confirmation number.”  And the face lit up, finally someone she could help, who wouldn’t bitch.  The wife couldn’t resist an, “I told you so.” about phoning in the reservation.

I checked the registration form later.  I officially checked in at 12:07 AM.  The estimated 8 or 9 PM arrival time was considerably delayed.  Our hoped-for 3 to 4 hour drive had taken over eight hours.  One little snowflake on my nose before we started was fun.  It was when he brought a couple of trillion of his friends, and ganged up on me that things got a little hairy.

Orange Blossom Special

Before a motorcycle accident and a plant closing imposed a higher level of poverty, I was fortunate enough to accompany my brother three successive years, on nine-day trips to Florida.  With little over a week available, we made the first road-trips down and back in 24-hour marathon runs.  The second year he wanted to go, I was on a day-shift, done work at 3 P.M.  He talked his employer into letting him off on a Friday afternoon at the same time.

He gassed his van up and drove south two hours to pick me up.  I was packed and ready and standing at the curb at 5 P.M.  I don’t think the vehicle even came to a complete stop.  I waved goodbye, tossed my suitcase in, and did a running, Pony Express mount.

Less than four hours later, we were ready to cross the Ambassador Bridge to Detroit.  At that time of night, customs wasn’t busy, and we were soon on I-75, heading for Toledo.  We drove through Ohio, crossing the river at Cincinnati, and on into Kentucky.  I don’t know why he wanted to leave Friday night.  We’d both been up for 18 hours, and had at least another 18 hours of travel ahead of us.  Sleepy drivers fall off roads.  I told him that I would pay for a motel room as soon as he could find one.  Before long, a Motel 8 hove into view out of the dark.

By now, it was well past midnight.  We registered and went to our room.  I pulled the drapes tightly shut.  We were on the west side of the building, and I didn’t think we’d be there long enough for a rising sun to be a problem.  We both threw ourselves into bed.  I turned out the lights, and I think I was asleep before the room got dark.

As usual, my bladder set a four-hour alarm.  I came awake and looked at the clock.  Sure enough, it read 4:59.  Now, the brother is an early riser, often out of bed by this time, or even earlier, but yesterday was a big day.  If I don’t wake him, I might get at least another hour or two of sleep.  I carefully pulled back the covers and quietly slid out of bed.

Apparently the walls of the motel were made of inferior grade cardboard.  We were half a mile above the highway, but I could hear the big-rigs going past.  I slowly pussy-footed toward the washroom in the dark.  When the wife and I travel, we take along a little night-light.  With the drapes drawn, in the immortal words of my old shop teacher, it was darker than the inside of a pig’s ass.

I silently reached the bathroom, closed the door, and turned on the light so that the maid didn’t have to mop up my miscalculation.  I ain’t sittin’ down; I don’t care what you say!  I turned the light back off and waited a few seconds for my vision to adjust.  Fat lot of good that did.  I’ve been down in a cave that was barely darker than this room.

With my left hand on the bathroom wall, I edged my way back towards my bed.  Suddenly, I found that the maid had left the garbage pail just a little farther out from under the desk than I remembered.  My right foot came forward and, like trying for a football field-goal, I hoofed it a good one.  I thought I broke a couple of toes.  The pail left the floor, clanged off the wall, ricocheted off the end of the dresser, and clattered to the floor.  Damn!  That worked out so well.

Instantly, the brother was awake!  What time is it??  Five o’clock!  Hell, might as well be on the road as here.  We tossed back on, what few clothes we’d taken off, and I went to the office and checked us out.  I guess motel clerks get to see it all.  The same young guy who checked us in barely raised an eyebrow, five hours later, when we left.

Not exactly the Ritz-Carleton, the place cost me $60 for four hours rack-time.  Fifteen bucks an hour, a resident hooker should have been involved.  The brother brought the van around and we headed a little further up the side road to a 24-hour gas station.  Refueled, and just a little fuzzy around the edges, by six A.M. we were already a lot closer to Atlanta than we had been.

We reached the brother’s place in Florida in time for a late supper, rather than an early breakfast.  We stopped at a nearby Subway outlet. I perused the menu board, trying to decide how hungry I was.  They offered six-inch subs, and twelve-inch subs, so I decided on a twelve-inch, tuna sandwich.  In a full Southern drawl, the young female clerk asked, “Is that like a foot-long?”   What are they teaching Southern belles these days?  “Yes, Scarlett!  That’s like a foot-long.”

We got a full night’s sleep, instead of losing most of Sunday catching up.  Anything that doesn’t kill you….can be put into a blog post, and laughed about later.  Next trip, we bring along the brother’s friend Norm.  You’ll like Norm.  He can outwit scrambled eggs.

Triviana

Damn!  I appear to have invented a neologism, a new word.  Ana is a collection of miscellaneous facts and information about any given subject.  To add it as a suffix to a proper noun identifies what the information is about, like Americana.  Look out folks!  Triviana simply means another serving of Seinfeld, a blog about a bunch of things in general, and nothing in particular.

During the recent American election, I saw several ads on my Detroit-based American TV channels, decrying the intention to build a second bridge to link Canada and the USA there.  The ads said that traffic is down, and so is the economy!  But the economy should rebound, and the time to build a bridge is before you need it, not after it’s too late.

After the elections, it was revealed that the Arab-American who owns the Ambassador Bridge had spent $300 million, to produce and air ads to convince Michigan voters that they couldn’t afford another bridge.  Saner heads prevailed, and they voted to go ahead anyway.  If he could afford to spend $300 million to try to keep a monopoly, imagine how much he must rake in, just from that bridge.

The son now works in the same building that I did, forty years ago.  The company I worked for is long gone, and his company now occupies it.  I had to pick him up after work one Saturday morning, and he convinced the plant manager to give me a short tour.  It’s the same….only different.

The plastics-parts company he works for provides bits and pieces to a company 15 miles away, which produces 4-, 6-, 8-wheeled and tracked, amphibious ATV type vehicles.  They have a contract with the American government to design and build a Lunar Rover, for an upcoming mission.  None of the parts the son produces go toward that vehicle.  Those are one-of-a-kind, specialty parts.  Still, it’s impressive to look up and think, I have a tenuous connection to that thing.

The bitchers try their best to make it simple and straightforward, and it’s never their fault.  Almost inevitably, there is layer after layer of complexity, and usually there’s guilt and responsibility in every direction other than the one the accusing finger points in.

A Toronto couple had their 25-year-old son move back in with them.  They took him to the hospital, and he came out dead.  They want to sue the emergency ward doctor who didn’t get him to ICU quickly enough.  They want to sue the ICU physician who didn’t administer enough of the correct medicine soon enough.  They want to sue the administrator who placed him in the regular ICU, rather than the Cardiac unit.  They say that they want to know why their son died.

Maybe it’s because he was a drug addict.  Maybe it’s because this was the third time this year that he’d been trucked to a hospital with an overdose.  Maybe it’s because his internal organs were so damaged that they were shutting down.  Maybe it’s because they didn’t put him in rehab.  Maybe it’s because they didn’t check on him in time.  Nah!  It must be somebody else’s fault!  Lawyers ho!

The case of the young man who fatally stabbed a gun-toting Negro in the park has finally ground to a halt, and gone away.  It would have been nice if the authorities had declared him innocent, or stated that his self-defence was justified.  Instead, the Crown Attorney’s office released a statement that, “The Crown does not feel, at this time, that they can proceed with a case, with any assurance of a conviction.”  So, it’s not about any real-world justice, it’s all about lawyers’ Win/Loss Ratio.  Thanks for thinking of us.

They let Justin Bieber perform at the half-time show at the Grey Cup football game.  That’s the end of Canadian football for this year.  Even with domed stadiums, we can’t keep playing as long as the American league.  Bieber got thoroughly booed.  To be fair, the booing was more about the choice of entertainment.

They may have been trying to attract a wider viewership, but the mostly over-thirty male audience was not impressed.  Poor Justin.  He was so upset that he had to accept some meansnothing award from the Prime Minister, half-wearing a pair of denim overalls.  You can’t take the yahoo out of the boy, but you can take the yahoo boy and get the Americans to pay him to live there.

Two local families, each with a twelve-year-old female Bieber-maniac, went on-line and spent $450 to get them tickets to a Justin Beiber concert.  They carefully checked everything, and downloaded and printed the bar-code confirmations.  It wasn’t until the two were giddily racing around one’s house, spelling out their hero’s name in song, B I E B E R, that the parents realized they’d been scammed.  The companies each father worked for donated money to get them valid tickets.  Damn!  I’m disappointed that they’re not.

Just when you think that political correctness has reached its peak, or nadir, someone takes it to a new ridiculous level.  A local mother, whose son has a nut allergy, is petitioning the city to cut down the oak trees in front of, and near, her son’s school – with no proof that acorns affect him.  To remove these trees would cost tens of thousands of dollars, and would set a precedent which could force the city to remove all oaks at all city schools and parks, at a cost of millions.  Can you beat the stupid and entitlement off someone??  Where’s that shitty diaper and my ski-mask?

Motor City Madness – Part 4

Coming Home

Thank you to those who have had the patience to virtually accompany me on my Detroit trip.  I have a few, hopefully interesting information nuggets to distribute before we load up and head happily, but resignedly home.

In the display of one of the vendors at the knife show, I saw a four-foot *yardstick*.  I have a three-footer at home which is forty years old, from a long extinct local lumber yard.  This one must have been far older than that.  It had an inscription on it that read, “Four feet are better than three” because it was from a small company in Holland, Michigan, which made wooden shoes.  I find no modern reference to the shoe company, although the small city still has a Wooden Shoe Restaurant, a Wooden Shoe Mall, and a Wooden Shoe Greenhouse.  It’s known, of course, as the Tulip City.

It was incorporated in 1867 by a group of Calvinist Dutch, fleeing religious persecution.  What!  Again?!  Do these loving Christians never give it a rest?  This bunch was like our local Mennonites.  These Luddites wanted to keep “The Good Old Days”, and resisted things like vaccinations and fertiliser.  Also known as The Town of Churches, these highly religious folks have 170 of them for a population of 33,500.  Only The Church City, of Charleston, SC has more churches per capita.

As I returned to our room Sunday morning, after checking out, I walked past a cleaner’s cart with a Tim Horton’s cup on it.  Such a common sight in Canada, I almost missed the significance.  I went back to speak to the cleaner, but she was taking a smoke break.  The ladies in the laundry room were only too happy to take a couple of minutes off and talk.  Since we were there, over two years ago, Tim’s has opened at least six new outlets that they knew of.

One is about three miles west on the road in front of the motel, but Tim’s is opening another, just a mile to the east.  It’s supposed to be near the Outback Restaurant we ate at on Friday night, but I wasn’t looking for it then.  It will make it quicker and easier for motel staff to get their daily caffeine ration.  The laundry ladies say that a lot of people are abandoning Drunken Dunkin Donuts.  The buzz is, that both the coffee and the pastries are better.

We used to get our American satellite stations from Buffalo for years.  We got to know the on-air people and had a bit of interest in the closest U.S. city.  Then Shaw Entertainment swallowed my Star Choice, and now our American channels come from Detroit.  We often see ads for Tim’s.

Dunkin Donuts is making a push to get into Canada.  They have 79 outlets in Quebec, but only 2 in Ontario between Montreal and Ottawa, teamed with Burger King and Pizza Hut.  I don’t think Le Clown, in Montreal laps up their slop, but some of the frogs do.

To accommodate the grandson, we took a room with two double beds.  That’s a real crowded comedown for the wife and me, used to a queen-size bed for years.  For the skinny little grandson, he had all the room he needed, and more.  There’s talk of the son and I going back down in the spring.  A bed apiece won’t be bad.  If the GS can come with us, maybe he can bring an air mattress and sleeping bag.  If his gal comes along, they can rent their own room.

Finally, after gassing up, at prices less than Canada, we headed for the border.  The dump off I-75 to the bridge is now smoother also.  We paid our crossing fee, collectible on the American side, no matter which direction you go, and headed over to face Canada Customs.  I pulled into Murphy’s line.  It was the shortest, but, I think a trucker from Georgia drove through in another lane, while we still sat there.  Maybe the guy at the front had had plastic surgery.  Papers got passed out, and back, and more papers out, and back.  Finally it was our turn.  I reported for the wife and me, and let the grandson deal with the woman in the booth on his own.

I told her what we had, including two, one-liter bottles of vodka.  She then asked me what size the bottles were.  If you ask the question, shouldn’t you listen to the answer?  The grandson explained what, and how much he was bringing back, then our queen of security bent down, looked into the back seat, and asked the wife how much she was declaring.  The wife pointed at me, and said, “I’m with him!”

The drive back home along the 401 was quick and smooth.  The grandson got some nice photos, and even a video of the big wind-turbines.  I don’t know if she knows how to embed videos, but perhaps I can persuade the wife to post a story about the trip from her perspective, and include the pictures.

We stopped at the east-bound mate to the west-bound rest area, for a quick pit stop.  There were some heavy clouds overhead, but they were blowing west, faster than the sun was setting.  Suddenly it appeared in a big notch in the clouds, just like a sunrise in a mountain valley.  That shot would rival anything that Edward Hotspur has published.  If she posts, that one will have to be included.

Okay, verbosity has been expended.  Thanks for coming along on the drive with us.  I’ll get on with nattering about something totally different.

Motor City Madness – Pt. 1

Getting There

The Canadian government has recently changed regulations about the dollar value of merchandise that Canadians may bring back from trips to the USA.  The amount for a *day-trip* has increased slightly, but the amount for a two-day stay has increased substantially.  I’m not sure how stringent Customs officials are about the 48 hour interval.  It used to be that you could cross into the States at 4:00 PM, and leave at 2 o’clock, two days later, and no-one said much.  Now, it may make a difference.

Neither the wife or I is much for early morning starts, but I gently pushed, and got her ready to leave about 11:00 AM.  The grandson wanted to attend his first period instruction in welding, and would be back to his house and ready to go by then.  It all worked out.  There we were, newly minted passports in hand and dumb grins on our faces.  And off we went.

Highway 401 in Ontario stretches 900 kilometers across the bottom of Southern Ontario, much like the Interstate highways in the US.  Between London and Chatham, there is a rest area which is about the half-way point of our drive, so it was time to stop in for a quick lunch.  There used to be just a McDonalds here, but it has been rebuilt, bigger, nicer, almost.  It now boasts a deli/burger outlet called The Market.  There is a combination KFC/Taco Bell, the ubiquitous Tim Hortons and an A&W.

It’s a given that prices at these places will be higher than usual.  It’s a captive market.  Take it or leave it, although with four choices, it shouldn’t be too bad.  The wife was in the mood for some greasy KFC chicken, and wandered over to peruse the menu.  The choices were restricted, and the prices were about three times those of a normal outlet.  We all settled for A&W.

I dropped my sunglasses in the washroom and saw something skate across the floor.  I thought it was just a lens that I could pop back in, but found I’d broken half the left arm off.  I had to drive with them hanging off my nose until Sunday, when I could buy a new pair.

From Chatham to Windsor, there were thirty miles of wind farms, giant three-bladed windmills.  Some so close to the road it seemed as if we were driving right under them, but just far enough back that, if one fell over, it would not quite reach the road.  Hundreds of others were scattered back, on both sides of the road, as far as the eye could see.

I also noticed a couple of farms where crops had been replaced on several fields with solar panels.  Farmers used to make money growing wheat, corn or soybeans.  Now they support their families by growing electricity.

As we got off the end of Highway 401 on the east side of Windsor, the road used to lead through a residential area with lots of traffic and stoplights.  It’s still under construction, but there is now a bypass road which takes you to the golden mile section, close to the Ambassador Bridge.  Oh so quick and easy!

I did some study on the bridge after we got home.  The exits on the Detroit side were restricted and confusing.  One time I got on the wrong road, and wound up right in downtown Detroit.  Ours were the only white faces, and the well tanned ones didn’t look all that friendly.

I would have thought that the bridge was owned by various levels of government.  I was amazed to find that it is owned by a single man.  He’s married, but he’s still only one guy.  He’s a billionaire, SURPRISE! He’s a Palestinian immigrant who started and grew a trucking business into a huge success.

When he purchased the bridge from the government, he signed an agreement to improve the access lanes to the various highways by a certain date.  To get onto I-75 took a mile on surface streets, through four stop signs and four traffic lights.  Despite pressure, he waffled and wavered, literally for years.  He was served with requests for completion dates, but sent lawyers to court with all kinds of excuses and delays.

Finally somebody’s patience ran out and he was served with a writ to appear in court personally.  He still had no answer but wasn’t worried.  What are they going to do to a billionaire?  Throw him in jail??!  He met a hard-assed judge who did exactly that.  He went to the slammer for contempt of court for failure to obey writs.  He only served one day before his lawyers got him out with a promise to begin construction ASAP, but he got the message.

Like the Windsor side, construction is still proceeding, but the lanes to the various highways are easy to access, and signage is clear.  There has been a new ramp to I-75 constructed.  You just come off the bridge and instantly you’re heading south.  See above, oh so quick and easy, finally.

Our motel was about twenty miles down I-75.  There was construction on the highway which necessitated getting off on a detour, and then back on.  Fortunately, it was at the off-ramp one past our exit.  Just as traffic started to back up, we got off.  I hope I haven’t bored you too much with the tale of a drive.  We had a wonderful weekend.  I’ll post some of the details later.

P.S.

The fabulous author, H E Ellis has greatly honored me be publishing my short, fractured fairy tale about the Hare and the Tortoise, over on her site www.heellisgoa.com  I would be thrilled if you would pop over there to read it.  Push the *like* button a few times, and leave some glowing comments to salve my ego.