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.  😀

 

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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.