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.

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Trippin’

Last Friday, as the sun disappeared south of the equator for the winter, I wished that I could follow it.  On that day, I reached my best-before-date of 68 years old.  The decrepitude is decreeping up on me.

I was allowed to choose a supper menu for my actual birthday meal, and decided on chicken schnitzel with fries and gravy.  We have schnitzel about once a month, but it’s usually pork schnitzel, purchased over at Eurofoods.  Chicken is a bit more labor to prepare, but nice to have once in a while.  Saturday night, when the son’s taste buds were more awake, we had bacon-wrapped filets with baked potatoes and fried zucchini.

Friday for lunch, I made myself another platter of nacho chips.  The son works a midnight shift and is done Saturday morning at 7 AM.  As sometimes happens, the joy of weekend freedom kept him awake.  Instead of going to bed around 10 AM, he was still awake when I finally rolled out about noon.  Since he doesn’t get Tex-Mex as often as I do, he suggested going to Taco Bell for lunch, while we were doing some shopping.  I should have been eating up leftovers to clean out the fridge, but couldn’t resist some face-time with him.

When we got home and admitted what we’d done, the wife asked if I’d forgotten what I’d had for lunch the day before.  I asked her if she’d forgotten what we’d planned for supper on Sunday, when the daughter, grandson and fiancée came over.  The stuff we picked up while we were out was for beef fajitas.  Tex-Mex three days in a row!  Am I happy?  Si, senor!  Muy bueno!

The loot presents I received on Sunday for my birthday included an Esso gift card that I can use for gas this coming weekend, and a Chapters bookstore gift card that will continue to come in handy anytime.  My grandson and his fiancée presented me with a lovely carved letter opener.  When I slid it out of its holder I thought that it was ivory, because I saw off-white, but when I turned it over, I saw amber/honey color, and realized it was banded agate.  The end of the hilt is a Scottish thistle, to commemorate my heritage.

The wife and I got me a coin for my birthday.  Since the Canadian Mint no longer stamps out pennies, they are offering a twenty-dollar, 99.99 fine, silver coin.  It has three Maple leaves as the penny did.  When I ordered it, I thought it was penny-sized, but when it arrived I found that it’s as big as a quarter.

We’re off to metro Detroit for the weekend.  I have to remember to add the “metro”, lest someone think I’m entering the war-zone.  I made a mis-turn one time, and wound up right down-town.  Ours were the only white faces, and none of the well-tanned ones looked too welcoming.  We stay at a motel 20 miles down I-75.  It’s down the street from a big Meijer store, where we plan to do some shopping, and right across the street from the Gibraltar Trade Center, a gigantic flea-market/food-court/display arena, where you can lose an afternoon, and we plan to.

Not that we need one, but the excuse for the trip is a knife show.  We’ve been down for spring shows several times, but this is the first time we’ve come down in the fall.  We’ve never had a problem getting our choice of room type.  It may have to do with college football, but when I reserved the room a week ago, all the ones with king-size beds were taken.  The wife and I have trouble fitting in a standard double after years of a king-size.  I once missed an exit in Pennsylvania, coming home from Charleston, and drove from Pittsburgh, almost to Buffalo, before we found an officially un-open motel with a vacancy at two in the morning, because of college football.

We’ve offered to take the grandson and his fiancée with us.  She politely declined because her job includes weekend work.  If we’d got a king room, we could have got a cot for him.  He’s spent a year out of high school thinking about a career.  He wondered about horticulture, working one summer at a greenhouse, but jobs in that area are scarce (aren’t they everywhere?), the pay is poor, and the work is seasonal.  He currently has a half-day job at a transport depot.

He has decided to go back to school for a year to train for welding.  His schedule will be; walk to school for two hours of class, bus to co-op placement for four hours of training, bus to part-time job for four hours of work, then bus home after a 12/14 hour day.  It’ll be a killer schedule but the job prospects for a welder are fairly good, and the pay is decent too.  His co-op hasn’t kicked in yet and he’s booked the evening off at work.  By the time you read this, we should be on our merry way to the Motor City.

His Mom had to put a rush on his passport.  We provided a copy of our reservation to justify the hurry.  All goes well, he will have picked it up at the local passport office Thursday afternoon.  As partial justification of an earlier claim, we will be taking some orphans back to the U. S. with us.  In just over two years I have accumulated 36 American quarters, 36 dimes, 25 nickels and eight rolls of pennies, for a total of $17.85.  The daughter is sending the grandson with a roll of quarters, six rolls of pennies and a handful of assorted change about half as large as mine.

We’ll wave at Chatham for KayJai as we pass.  We will enjoy the knife show on Saturday, do some shopping, including some beet sugar at Meijer’s Sunday morning, roam the flea market in the afternoon and just generally enjoy the trip and the change of routine and scenery.  Blog to you early next week.

April Fools

That’s what the wife and I are.  April fools.  We’ve been buying a computer tax program and filing on-line now for over five years.  We bought and installed the program over a month ago.  The son calculated and filed his taxes.  He has to pay $24.  Nobody is ready to pay taxes, even if it is only $5.  Everybody hopes for and expects a refund.  The daughter took the program to her house and put it on her computer; it will do up to five returns.  She did her taxes, and has a small refund coming.  The grandson has his first (part-time) job.  He did his taxes and got a thousand back, part of which he gave to his Mom.

Unlike Americans, who have to file by the fifteenth of April, Canadians have until the end of the month.  Good intentions did not get our taxes done until the last minute.  They’re due no later than midnight, Monday, the 30th …today.  We finally finished them late yesterday afternoon.  We file together, but not as a joint file.  We split certain income and expenses.  The program balances taxes owed.  We will have to pay $252.  Canada’s bureaucratic system prevents us from sending the government that amount.  First, I have to give them my $650, upfront.  Then, whenever RevCan gets around to it, they will send her a refund for $400.  Well, somebody gotta pay for that socialized medicine.  I just hoped that it would be more somebody else, and less me.

For twenty years, at the plaza four blocks away, there were a Pizza Hut, and a Taco Bell, side by side.  Two years ago, the Pizza Hut closed down.  A new restaurant just reopened in the same building.  It’s a glorified pancake house, headquartered in B.C., like a Denny’s, or perhaps IHOP.  Last Saturday, the son and I stopped in to the Taco Bell, for a late lunch, about three PM.  I met the daughter of the Polish contessa, or maybe the sister of the Canadian Tire clerk.  As we entered, there were the usual inner/outer double doors.  On each of these doors, at adult eye height, was a notice stating that this particular Taco Bell would be closed as of Saturday, April 28.  Just inside these doors was the access door to the washrooms.  There was another copy of this notice there, and possibly copies on each of the washroom doors, I don’t know for sure.  I didn’t use the facilities

There was only one customer when we entered, a 20ish young woman.  Since the place was almost deserted, the male counter clerk had come out to do some clean-up.  I said, “You’re not even gone, and I miss you already.  Do you get to transfer to another location, when they close this place?”  The female brain-trust perked up.  “Oh, they’re closing this restaurant?  How do you know?”  Well, for the clerk, the answer would be that he works there, and management tells him things like that.  For the son and me, I pointed to the notices on the doors and told her that we read them on the way in.  “Oh, I didn’t look.  I guess I missed them.”  Please tell me that she walked here.  I shudder at the thought of her driving a car.

They say an honest politician is one who, when he’s been bought, stays bought.  My provincial representative has been bought.  She’s a she, and she’s been the rep. for this riding for 22 years.  She’s quite a worker, and very influential.  She’s never openly expressed a desire or intent to be the leader of her party.  Twice though, she’s been made Deputy Premier to a male.  The latest one, when they opened a dictionary to the word bland, his picture fell out.  The ruling party has a minority.  They can get enough friendly votes to get most bills passed.  They just floated the budget and, instead of doing the hard, right things to strengthen Ontario’s economy, they went with political expediency.  The ruling party had to woo the number three party with some money for their favorite projects to assure enough votes to get the budget passed.  The balance is still close though.

This female politico is sixty-five years old.  If she retires now, she will get a gold-plated government pension that most of us could only dream of.  The Provincial Premier has offered her a five-year contract as the CEO of the Provincial Health and Safety Bureau.  She’s been making $118,000 a year as our representative.  This offer lets her start collecting that outrageous pension immediately, and guarantees her another five years at $168,000 a year.  It also reduces the opposition by one vote on the budget vote.  A by-election can’t fill her seat till long after the vote is taken, and it removes a trouble-maker who might have led a campaign against the spendthrift party’s financial plans.

I don’t think the Premier himself is smart enough to have come up with this plan.  Somebody in his circle though, has used our rapidly diminishing money to ensure that they can spend more of our rapidly diminishing money.  If we’re going to go bankrupt anyway, perhaps I could move to Holland or Greece.  Thank God my pensions and benefits plan are guaranteed by the Federal government and the American, Big Three, auto-makers.