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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You Can’t Get There From Here

The small town I grew up in had streets that ran north/south, east and west, and were a block apart.  The small town I was bussed to, to attend high school, had streets that ran north/south, east and west.  The small city we drove to, to shop, had square-meeting, compass-point streets.  The city I moved to for my first job embraced a long narrow bay.  There were a few streets that had to make allowances for shoreline, but again, geographical neatness was the order of the day.  I almost thought that this was a fortuitous law of the universe.  Then I moved here, and found the chaos capital of Ontario.

Several hundred years ago, the King of Holland gave several thousand in excess population, to his cousin, the King of Germany, who marched them several hundred miles, to settle an area emptied by plague.  They and their descendants lived there for more than a hundred years.  They were Protestants, surrounded by Catholics who hated and abused them.  They spoke Dutch, though, over the years their local dialect absorbed German words and phrases.    As soon as they were allowed to, these religiously persecuted people moved to the new world, and settled in Pennsylvania.

They became the Amish, speaking Pennsylvania Dutch, their Dutch-laden and accented German dialect.  Soon, a young preacher named Menno had an ever-growing group convinced that the Amish ways were wrong, so the peace-loving Amish persecuted the splinter group, now called Mennonites.

The Mennonites heard that there was good farmland for sale in this area.  They purchased a tract and moved north in their Conestoga Wagons.  The British government eventually sent out surveyors who laid out neat roads, and village streets, everywhere but here.  The original name of our ancestor village was Sand Hills.  The hills were not as big as the mountains of Pennsylvania, but the newcomers did as they had down south. 

If Klaus wanted to go to Gunter’s house, he just took the quickest, easiest way, which might not be a straight line,  If Gunter wanted to go to Horst’s house, he did the same, and Horst’s path back to Klaus’, just formed a sloppy triangle.  As the city grew, these trails/cow paths became the streets.  Germans have a reputation for being neat and orderly, but visitors and newcomers are driven crazy by the lack of road logic.  I was going to use the word, “layout”, but that implies that somebody actually laid them out.  These streets are more like the character Topsy, in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, they just growed.  No street in either of the Twin Cities runs more than a couple of blocks in any direction before it angles off, only to swoop back even farther a few blocks ahead.  The street map resembles a plate of spaghetti.

We have an impressive collection of three-point, and five-point intersections.  If streets cross at 90 degrees, it’s more by accident than planning.  The only street that runs due north and south, is a four block section of Lancaster Street, and it is labeled Lancaster West.  Our twin city to the north used to be five miles away, but over the years the two have grown, till now there is no separation.  This just makes matters worse, since streets in one city continue in the other. 

King St., the main street of our city runs south-east, to north-west.  Just as it enters our twin, it takes a 45 degree jag to the right.  After another three blocks in the new city, it jags 45 degrees right again, now running south-west to north-east.  Our portion is King St. East and West.  Theirs is King St. North and South.  Try explaining to someone why and how one street apparently runs in all four directions.  Its mate, Weber St. (pronounced wee-brrr), does exactly the opposite, producing a map that looks like a DNA molecule.  These two streets cross three times, once here, and twice to the north.  I once had a new salesman call me for directions to my plant.  When I asked him where he was, he told me, “King and Weber.”  I had to ask him to describe the nearby buildings, to know exactly where he was.

Streets in different areas grew to meet main roads at the same point.  Chopin Dr. goes through a traffic light and becomes Brybeck Crescent.  Strange St. runs past the daughter’s place and becomes West Ave.  Queen St. one-ways around the huge island a hospital sits on, and becomes Queens Blvd.  We must have a dozen examples like that.  Right downtown, Frederick St. and Benton St. didn’t meet King St. by a hundred feet.  Over the years, each has been widened toward the other, till now the intersection is perfect, just with different names on each side.

A block down the street, at the main intersection of King and Queen Streets, there is a twenty-foot difference on the two branches of Queen.  Two hundred years ago, there was an apple tree on a founding father’s farm.  The cows went around the tree on their way to the pasture.  The dog sent to fetch the cows, went around the tree.  The farm-boy who chased the dog, went around the tree.  The tree is long gone, but the S-bend in the road is still there.  Other towns have streets laid out by surveyors.  We got roads laid out by livestock.

The Region is the first and the fastest, in North America, to install roundabouts, as they have in Europe.  We now have dozens of the infernal things.  Drivers here have little enough ability to drive through normal intersections.  The learning curve is a lot slower than the ivory-tower traffic planners anticipated.  More accidents, just less property damage, although a female high-school student was seriously injured by a city bus, and is suing for $17 million.

Even in the new subdivisions, the city continues to cause Find-it problems.  Just west of me, they finished a street which forms a large 0, half a mile wide, and a mile and a half long.  Take more than a J, but less than a U from the ellipse, and it’s called East Forest Dr.  The remaining little J is called West Forest Trail.  This is another street that has two names, depending on which side of the main road you’re on.  And the chunk to the west, is the East Forest, while the piece to the east is named West Forest.

It’s no wonder you can’t get there from here.  You’d have to be a Zen driver, and most of the drivers in this town can’t even spell Zen.