Invasion USA

chuck-norris

Recently Chuck Norris the wife and I executed a quick little raid into American territory for cultural observation and retail therapy.

We were barely outside the city limits, when trouble first arose.  It wasn’t long before there was a knock-down, drag-out, cursing and swearing, screaming and yelling, hair pullin’, eye-gougin’ match going on over in the passenger seat, between the wife, and Ethel, the snotty GPS.

The last little village we went through before getting on the Superhighway, was Roseville, ON. Our destination, north of Detroit, was Roseville, MI.  When the wife tried to enter that, Ethel insisted, “You’re already there.” The wife finally punched Ethel in the button that read ‘Change State or Province.’  Suddenly, Ethel knew all about Roseville….California.  No! No!  No!  I finally suggested adding the Michigan ZIP-code, and the fight ended with no serious injuries.

The Windsor/Detroit crossing is the most heavily-used border point between Canada and the US, and the one we’ve been using for years. Security is strict.  Since we were going well north of Detroit, we chose to cross from Sarnia, to Port Huron, MI, and work our way south.  Between a less-busy crossing, and the passage of 15 years since 9/11, it was quick, easy and almost informal.

Our border guard was a young, white male, who wasn’t suffering from testosterone poisoning from listening to Donald Trump speeches. When the wife volunteered that we were staying three days, he replied, “I don’t care how long you stay, as long as it’s not more than six months.”  When he found that we were going to strew cash into the economy, we got waved through before The Donald could collect enough Mexican pesetas to erect his wall.

Hotels/motels and restaurants cluster around Interstate exits. The better ones are usually right up front, while the Eats Diners huddle a little further back.  Right across from my Red Roof Inn, was a Days Inn, while the Victorian Inn was half a block south.

Red Roof

While searching for a Taco Bell, on the next main road over, and a block north, we drove past the Alibi Inn….because apparently the name Divorce Depot was already taken.  They oughta warn a fellow about things like that.  Trying to drive a car while giggling hysterically, looks a lot like DUI.

We went to a Wal-Mart to get some work jeans for Shimoniac, in his ‘big and tall’ size that Ontario Wal-Marts no longer carry. The first one we tried was down towards Eminem’s Eight Mile, surrounded by ‘houses made of ticky-tack, and they all look just the same,’ occupied mostly by melanin-rich folks.

It wasn’t dirty, but had the feel of dowdy, and unkempt.  In the Men’s Wear section, there were shelves and shelves of jeans.  Regular fit, Boot cut, Relaxed fit, Carpenter style and Flex-waist were all inter-mixed in the same piles, as well as waist sizes from 28 to 48, and inseams from 30 to 48.  After 20 minutes of frustrated searching, we managed to find one pair.

We then drove north and west to another Wal-Mart. Soon the homes were $500,000+, with gated drives and manicured lawns.  The area mall shone like Xanadu.  I’m surprised that we were allowed in, and disappointed that they didn’t have valet parking and shuttles to the shops.

This store gleamed. In the Men’s Wear section, all the styles were carefully kept separate, and sizes ran from smallest at the top, to largest on the bottom.  They have a much-different clientele.  It took only 30 seconds to find another pair of jeans, leaving the wife time to peruse the ladies’ sweaters.

You know you’re having an interesting vacation when you look out your motel window in the morning to see a State Trooper putting his steel battering-ram door opener back into the Police sport-ute.  He didn’t have to use it.  A local woman rented a room for a couple of visitors.  They partied too rowdy.  Instead of calling the front desk, who would have had to call the Police anyway, the outraged neighbors called the cops themselves.

While I was gabbing with a room-clerk, a young man came in to get another keycard. “I didn’t mean to pull the door all the way closed.”  Fortunately, he didn’t do it while dressed only in his Calvin Kleins, ‘cause she wanted ID.

The motel leaves a printed sheet, reminding guests to flip the ‘privacy’ switch on the inside of the door, so that no-one can enter, even with a keycard. While doing my usual wandering around, I found a keycard which someone had dropped just outside their door while entering.  I turned it in at the office.

At the wife’s suggestion, we ate supper the first night at Taco Bell. Michigan stores offer nachos Bel Grande that Ontario outlets don’t have.  We followed that with Cracker Barrel, and then The Outback, finishing off the last morning with brunch at Denny’s.

The Cracker Barrel wasn’t really busy, but in our section, the Negro waitress stood around talking to a Negro friend, while the white waitress took orders, delivered food, and cleaned tables. When she finally rushed over to serve us, she apologised for taking so much time.

The wife assured her that we were in no hurry, “You’re busy.”  We had till closing time, and told her to take her time.  You could just see the stress flow away.  “Not a lot of people are like that.”  We each got two corn-meal biscuits.  I, of course, ate both of mine.  The wife ate one.  When the bill arrived, I asked for a bag to take the biscuit home in.  When she returned, the bag held three more fresh biscuits, “So that you’ll both have two for breakfast, and there’ll be no fight.”  Quid Pro Quo!

Finally, well-fed and happy, we headed our mule-train loaded with beet sugar and new clothes back towards the land of maple syrup, socialized medicine and good manners. I’m sorry if that offends any Americans.  Please accept my apology….and come back soon.   😉

 

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SLEEPING WITH SOMEONE STRANGE

Snowbank

For four years, between 1976 and 1980, I worked in the next small city over, just down the Superhighway. It was 13.2 miles to work, after looping around three big clover-leafs, but only 12.2 miles home because – merge lane, merge lane, merge lane.

One winter night, it began to snow just as I was going to bed. I exited the house a little early the next morning.  There was almost a foot of snow on the car and driveway, but a 4 to 5 foot pile at the end of my driveway.  I lived on a bus route, and bus routes get plowed first.

Snowplow

I thought about shovelling, especially carving a hole through the snowbank, but decided to wait till I got home. I always backed in, so I just barged my way out through it.  The bus route led to a Regional Road, which led to the Expressway, which led to the highway out of town, which led to the Interstate, all well plowed, and heavily travelled.  I got to work quickly and easily, while the guy who lived four blocks from the plant couldn’t even walk in.

All day, the snow continued, getting even deeper. By mid-afternoon, the radio was telling listeners not to go out, and that every street and road in the Region, including the big highway, was closed.  Most employees could get home, even if they had to walk, but what was I to do?  Where was I to spend the night, sleeping in the break-room?

Storm-stayed 2

One of the young lads in the plant said, “I have an apartment, and live alone. You could stay with me.”  By the time we left at 5 PM, the sky was clear blue and sunny, though the streets were deep with snow.  As we crossed over, I got a look at the highway – cars everywhere – cars sideways, cars backwards, cars stuck on the shoulder, cars abandoned in the middle, cars banged into each other.  I could have driven home, if not for that blockade.

Storm-stayed 3

On reaching his one-bedroom apartment, the unmarried male operated a can opener to serve me a gourmet meal – Heinz Alphagetti and dry bread. We watched some TV, and told some lies.  As the 11 o’clock news came on, he turned off the TV, and turned on the radio, tuned to a loud rock station, and disappeared into the bathroom.

When he came out, he headed for his bedroom. I said, “I’ll turn the radio and lights off when I’m done.”  Oh, no,” he replied, “I always leave the lights on, in case I have to get up in the night, and I need some music to lull me to sleep.”  So I’m left on a lumpy couch with no blankets, all the lights on, and the radio blaring in my ear, while he’s comfortable behind a closed door.

There are medicines that will cure sociable diseases, but you can pick up something even worse when you sleep with someone strange.  I think I found out why he was still single.   🙄

Flash Fiction #69

Disney Dumb

PHOTO PROMPT © Ron Pruitt

UPS AND DOWNS

This was Bernie’s first day of driving tourists to Disney World. They were slow boarding, and wanted him to hurry so they’d have a whole day there, but Bernie kept to the speed limit.

What’s that guy in the aisle seat doing?…..
What Epcot turnoff?
Damn!
How far to the next interchange?

There’s a turnaround spot.
Police and emergency vehicles only.
This is an emergency.
Nobody coming?….
Slow down.
Turn into the depression.
Front wheels down – now rear wheels dipping.
Front wheels rising…..

Crunch!  All wheels off the ground??!  Stuck!  😯

They’re going to miss the Mouse. Is Wal-Mart hiring?

***

The above ‘Fiction’ is based on a real-life situation I observed some years ago, while driving toward Orlando. I cannot begin to guess how a trained bus driver could miss something as large and well marked as Disney World, or what would lead him to attempt a U-turn through an unpaved median on a divided highway.  Aside from the stranded bus, and 50 angry, disappointed tourists, I could see a career change.

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

 

The Fellowship Of The Blog – Episode Seven

Day 4/Part 1 – I Shoulda Stood In Bed

Cordelia’s Mom was a joy to visit.  We would do it again in a heartbeat; in fact we may do so, next year, on a weekend, so that we could also meet Cordelia, her Dad, and her sister.  Buffalo is only a two-hour drive, as opposed to four, for Detroit.  But the primary goal of this trip was always to meet John Erickson, especially after his recent, uncharacteristic, internet silence.

Online maps said that it was an hour and a half, from our motel to John’s place.  Add slowdown because of road construction, and the possibility (Certainty!) of getting lost, and it might take three hours.  Allow time for meet and greet, and another four-hour drive to Detroit – it was going to be a lonnng day, so we were up and ready to leave early.

I lamented to the checkout clerk that there was no way to get around the potential traffic jam.  “Oh sure there is.  Just go to the edge of town and turn north on Ohio 23.  It’ll take you right to Newcomerstown.”  Sure enough, the flat print map showed a gently curving line, sweeping at a tangent, right to where we wanted to go.

The Map is not the Territory.  I’d have done better, both on the car, and on the wife, to have chanced the backup on the Interstate.  Any resemblance between Ohio 23, and an actual highway, was purely coincidental.  The optimistic hour and a half stretched to well over two hours.  Not once in that time did I drive the car faster than 40 MPH.

The Golden Dragon roller-coaster at Six Flags might have had more twists, and stomach-turning, heart-stopping plunges.  The only thing that narrow little road didn’t have, was a loop-the-loop, and I’m not entirely certain of that.  The poor wife was shaken and rattled in every arthritic joint.  She ached!

Miss GPS was having another snit because I insisted on taking the back road.  She wouldn’t even RECALCULATE, and kept insisting that I return to the Interstate, so we turned her off.  As we slid under I-77, and neared John’s house, I turned her back on again.

“Turn right on Highway 21, and immediately left on County road 49.”  Well, that might take us in the back way, but I know that John lives just off Highway 93, so I proceeded further west.  Sure enough, in 3 more kilometers, she said, “Turn right on 93, and proceed 7.2 km.”  There, she ordered me to, “Turn left on Highway 2.”  It was a gravel road, barely wide enough for an Amish wagon, so I proceeded further north – till the paved highway ran out, and I turned onto the far end of “Highway 2.”

Lost and Confused Signpost

 

 

 

If I thought I was lost yesterday, the Hell was just beginning.  Already off ‘the paved road’, we soon left gravel again for a dirt road, and finally, in the middle of a ten or twelve mile loop, drove across an acre of grass field, with two ruts in it.  If the Amish drive their buggies this way, they have to use mares or geldings, because a stallion would high-center.  All I could hear was my new $400 muffler going clang, clang, clang.

We finally reached paved road again, the correct paved road, as it happens.  I turned north, and soon reached a church and a cheese factory which I knew were north of John.  Turn around and head south again, soon we finally reached John’s little cluster of houses.

After three hours without a rest stop, both of us had to go – badly.  There’s no There, there.  I pulled in, and asked the lady who runs the two-pump gas station/convenience store/bait, tackle, and hunting shop, about a public washroom.  She just looked at me strangely, until the bearded stunt co-ordinator for Duck Dynasty explained to her that, “Some peoples is got they privies inside t’ buildin’s.”

Rednecks

 

 

 

 

With the possible exception of BrainRants, I swear never to turn off the paved road again.  These folks are so off the beaten track, that Friday the thirteenth doesn’t occur until Sunday.  A lot of them are happy when they reach 21 – because not just everyone’s IQ goes that high out there.  When John and his wife moved in, the average rose considerably, but the same could be said about a load of pumpkins.

After the pit stop, we met John and his wife at their impressive country mansion, and were warmly welcomed, but that, again, is a story for another day.  We left John’s place and turned south on 93.  It did not, at all, resemble the road we’d driven north on.  It did resemble the Highway 93 I’d used Google Street-View to research.

When we popped back out onto the east/west feeder highway, I turned back east and, only a couple of miles up the road, I found County Road 93.  This was the one that Evil Ethel Snitfit had led me astray on.  Way to go, Ohio, put two roads, both numbered 93, right beside each other.  No wonder Rants badmouths Nohio.  😦

 

The Fellowship Of The Blog – Episode Six

Old Jalopy

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3 – Lost In Thought – And Other Places

The muffler shop manager holding our car for ransom, called early. After trading retirement financial security for a ride back to Canada, we had our treasured transportation back to the motel by 10 AM.  Now we were ready to attend the knife show, at 1 o’clock.

The drive to the knife show was 44 km/26 miles. Halfway there, work crews had two matching bridges down to one lane each.  With the usual assholes rushing up as far as they could, before cutting someone off, by the time we got there, the two-lane, bumper-to-bumper backup on the Interstate was five miles.  By the time we returned from the show, the parking lot was ten miles long.

Cracker Barrel Sign

 

 

 

 

The wife decided that we needed some sustenance before reaching the venue. She had been eyeing Cracker Barrel signs since Erie, PA.  At the exit before ours, there was another one, so, up we went.  Little Miss GPS was not happy.  RECALCULATING!  Turn around. Turn right, now! Get back on the Interstate or I’ll smack you.  We turned her off, and wound up having lunch at Denny’s, saving Cracker Barrel for supper.

Residents either knew exactly where we were from, or couldn’t point to Canada (and maybe even Ohio) on a map. Our server at Denny’s had both her maternal grandparents come from Paisley, a little village of 900, 80 miles north of Kitchener, where my brother lives.  He probably bought their old house.

We had seen TV promos for a movie called Ouija, where the game pointer is inhabited by a malevolent spirit. I didn’t believe in such silliness – until Ethel the evil GPS struck.  Perhaps she was angry because she was ignored, and turned off while we lunched.

When we turned her back on, she quickly got us to the next exit. The ramp comes up to a T-intersection.  My memory from a trip there almost ten years ago, said that we turned right, but Ethel insisted that we turn left, and drive 6.7 km.  Turn left on this highway (?), then turn right on this county road. (It’s a farmer’s lane!)

I knew we were in trouble when we passed under the Interstate, and were south of it.  Turn off the paved road??! We left pavement for gravel road, and ran off gravel onto dirt road.  We finally looped around, right back to where we started, and she insisted that we turn left again. Oh no you don’t! We turned her off, and I turned right.

I drove for several miles, but now I was spooked. I didn’t see the Civic Center.  I did see a gas station, with a State Trooper, so I pulled in and asked him.  I admitted that I was a dumb, lost tourist, and where was this venue?  He leaned to his left, and pointed just past the big tree, around the bend.  Damn!  Damn!  Damn!!  I gotta get these glasses retreaded.

After recovering from our adventure in the wilderness, the knife show was a dismal failure. AFrankAngle didn’t miss a thing.  Apparently the Ohio Knifemakers’ Guild had a little schism, and the clique responsible for advertising and promoting the show, took their toys and went home.

Two of the makers were amazed that I’d even heard of it, in Canada, and drove all the way to attend. One maker packed it in at the end of Friday, and refused to return Saturday.  Only about half the expected displayers showed up, not including any of the fancier makers.

The show was about half-size, and so was the paying-customers crowd(?). There were a few ‘purveyors’ – collectors with a display of other people’s knives they were anxious to unload.  There were a few Suppliers, with grinding wheels, sanding belts, and handle materials – and damned few makers to sell them to.  There was only one ‘rusty jackknife’ display.  One maker was selling para-cord bracelets that his kids had made.  One maker’s wife had added some small knitted items, and etched drinking glasses, to expand the display

There were to have been door-prize draws, every hour, on the hour.  There was one, just as we arrived at 2:20 PM, but I didn’t hear any others before we left, a couple of hours later.  With so few ‘good’ knives, I took only a few photos.  They include a dagger with dyed, stabilized Maple-wood handle, and a couple of shots of a Japanese-style Katana.

SDC10669

 

 

 

 

 

SDC10668

 

 

 

 

SDC10667

 

 

 

 

 

Battle Horse Knives is a production team of a husband, his wife, and a friend. Using production-line methods, they had dozens of well-made, but uninspiring, hunters and skinners, suitable for the local outdoor crowd.

Since the guys work with wood for the handles, they’ve also acquired enough carpentry skills to build an 8 foot long miniature battlement to display their wares. Like my Rapunzel post, they included a tower with hair streaming down.  I thought it might have come from the center of the V-shaped beard on the friend.  The wife told me that it cost her a knife at the Atlanta show, but she got it from a 12-year-old girl attendee – with her parents’ knowledge and permission.

SDC10671

One artisan – not maker – took factory-made knives and removed the handle material, and replaced it with the State stone, Ohio Flint. Cute, but so what?

Back to the motel, a home-style supper at Cracker Barrel, a little shopping at the plaza, and a good night’s sleep to rest up for the Erickson Expedition. Wanna know how it turns out?  You know where the Archon’s Den is!  See you 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.