The last few days have been an adventure, for better or worse. My second day in Canada was my longest day yet, by far. I woke up at 6 and was on the road just before 8. I cycled most of the day with about a two hour break on the internet doing work and writing. Normally I stop before it gets dark, as I don’t like riding at night, but there was really no good places to stop by the time 8 o’clock rolled around. That left about an hour or so of dusk before real nighttime set in. I decided to keep going on toward a town that I knew would take me about an hour to get to. Nothing but farms along the way, corn fields and cow pastures. None looked suitable for camping and I didn’t feel like knocking on a random door. So I pushed on until I reached Blenheim. I arrived around 9:30 and found a little burger joint still open selling dollar burgers. I went in and ordered one, then asked about camping in the area. One guy told me about camping on the beach (lake), but it was a bit out of the way and would have taken another half hour or more to reach. There was also a city park not too far down the road that no one went to at night. That would work.
So after chatting a while and getting some free ice cream, I went to the park. A few teens were there, but they didn’t stay long. I set up my sleeping bag on top of a picnic table under a big pavilion. All was quiet by 11pm when I laid down to sleep. Just as I was getting into some good sleep, around midnight, I heard a truck pulling down the dirt road into the park. Some teens pulled into the parking lot and started doing donuts, yelling. Not wanting to be vulnerable laying down, I got out of my sleeping bag and sat on the bench of the table. The truck had kicked up a huge cloud of dirt and dust. The four kids, three guys and one girl, got out and saw me sitting down. They wanted to know who I was so they walked over. One kid got right up in my face trying to recognize me or something. Some of them, including him, were obviously drunk. He saw the bike and asked the usual questions. When I told him, he was blown away. He got really excited and started talking about how he wanted to walk across Canada. I told him to go ahead and get started. They chatted with me a little while longer, even though I was obviously exhausted. The one kid just kept repeating that what I am doing is awesome and that he was gonna walk across Canada when he was 19. It got old. Finally one of them asked if I was tired and I said yes. They left after all shaking my hand. It was funny. I couldn’t wait to get back to sleep.
Next morning I got started relatively early, maybe around 10, knowing I had a long day ahead of me. It was brutal, nothing but headwinds, at least 10-15 mph, constantly. That on top of the road not having much of a shoulder made for exhausting riding. When trucks came the opposite direction I had to lean forward, throw my head down, and give everything to push forward through the blast of wind. When trucks came from behind me, I tried my best to sit up and act as a sail to ride their current.
This day I was down to just one dollar, and pretty much out of food. I didn’t really pass through any cities along the way, mostly just farms and an occasional tiny town. I decided to pick up some fruit to eat. I could afford two cucumbers, and I figured that was a good option since they are watery and I was just about out of water. By the time I reached the border town of Windsor, Canada, I was exhausted and maybe a bit dehydrated, and definitely very hungry. I was anxious to get back to the states to use my US dollars.
From Windsor, there are two ways to cross over to Detroit: one being a bridge, and the other a tunnel. Since I had ridden across the bridge from Niagara Falls, I found it only natural that I should be able to ride across this one as well. As I approached, there were no signs saying otherwise, so I proceeded. Before I could reach the toll gates, however, a utility truck honked at me, called me over. He told me I would have to take a bus across at the tunnel. No bikes across the bridge. He said there was a fare for the bus and it should take bikes, but if not, I would have to catch a cab across. So I followed his directions a mile or so north to catch the bus at the tunnel. I pulled all the bags off my bike at the stop, preparing it to put on a front bike rack. The bus pulled up, a few people approached, and they told me they couldn’t bring a bike across. Even though the bus had a rack, the driver said he couldn’t put it down to cross the tunnel; it would make the vehicle too long. I must have seemed pretty desperate when I asked if there was anything I could do, how I would get across. The bus driver was sympathetic and asked if anyone (the six people on board) would mind if I brought my bike on board. Everyone was rooting for me, so they didn’t care. The driver said it was against policy and he could lose his job, but he seemed to genuinely want to help. I asked the far for the bus: $3-something. He asked if I had money, I said all I have is a twenty, does he have change. It was a fare machine at the front. No change. ‘Just get on,’ he said.
Oh boy, was I grateful! I thought for a moment that I was going to get stuck in Canada or have to pay for a cab. But I made it across into Detroit. No real problems at customs. They ran my bags through an X-ray machine though. So I rode into Detroit in search of a map to find my way to Ann Arbor, where I would be couchsurfing. I asked a few people about tourism centers or chambers of commerce. No real great-sounding help. A cop pointed me toward City Hall. On the way I ran into some bikers and decided to ask them about bike shops, figuring a shop would either have a bike map or know a route. They pointed me to a shop in downtown, said one guy there would know a route. I found the shop, The Hub, and it was run by some kids my age. It was a really cool shop with used bikes they had built up from donated bikes and parts. Everyone was incredibly friendly, and after looking up the route and seeing it was another 40 miles to Ann Arbor, one of the managers, Joe, said he could give me a ride there. It was already four o’clock by the time I got to the shop, and I was so exhausted already from riding through Canada, I knew there was no way I could make the 40 miles in decent time. I took the ride.
So he drove me to Ann Arbor and dropped me off at Christopher and Tyra’s house, where they live with their adorable little daughter. They already had some delicious fajitas ready with chicken and peppers and onions, rice and beans, cheese and salsa. I chowed down. Their friend Corey, an avid cyclist, came over. We talked and played a board game called Ingenious, which I had never seen before but is very fun. Corey gave me a pair of handlebars from his collection of bike parts when I told him that mine were not terribly comfortable. Thank you for that. I’m going to swap them out when I get to Chicago.
Staying with Christopher and Tyra was really great. They were excellent hosts, fed me well, and we talked a lot. I left their place at 3pm yesterday after some waffles for breakfast, a trip to Trader Joe’s, and some gnocci with awesome homemade pesto. It was a really late start, but I figured I would just keep riding until I got too tired. I did that and ended up in a small town called Concord, around 9. I found a big catholic church that looked very suitable for sleeping outside. It had a covered entryway and was off the main road, so I figured no one would bother me. Being a Saturday night, I knew I had to get up before mass began the next morning, which was eight. I figured that was a good thing, as it would force me to get an early start. After changing, putting on my long pants and long sleeves to protect against skeeters, and laying out my sleeping pad, I was ready to go to bed by ten. I didn’t unpack my sleeping bag because I figured I didn’t need it. It was so warm and muggy outside, I was already hot enough just wearing long sleeves. For three hours I lay and tried to get to sleep. It was impossible, due to the heat and the mosquitos. There weren’t many of them, but they would come every five minutes or so and buzz around my ears. I would swat them away or jerk my head to the side quickly to make them leave. And they would, but only for a little while, then return. So this went on, and I was never able to actually get to sleep, just into a half-sleeping daze.
Finally around 1am I decided to get up and walk around a bit, eat a bagel, and try to calm down. It was working, and I was calming down a bit, but it was still very hot and I was itchy from what I thought were mosquito bites. (I found out today it’s probably poison ivy.) Just as I was laying back down, this time with my sleeping bag, thinking it would offer me some comfort and help me get to sleep, it started raining. Light at first, but continually becoming more intense. There was thunder and lightning. The overhang above me was not too wide, only about 20 feet, and I had opted to sleep toward the edge of the walkway, in case someone came early in the morning, so I wouldn’t be in their way to the door. I didn’t want to upset anyone. As the rain picked up, however, it splashed off the rocks next to the concrete and spattered on me a bit. Also a rushing waterfall had formed on either side from water running down the corrugated tin roof. On top of that, the wind was blowing some rain in on the side I was set up on. So I moved to the other side, thinking I would be safe there, but the waterfall on that side was also splattering tons of water on the walkway. I was forced to the middle of the walkway, but I stayed a bit away from the doors. That was no good either, as the whole sidewalk started becoming wet. The only dry patch left was right in front of the entry doors. So that’s where I moved my stuff. I sat up and listened to the rain come pouring down, only able to see it when the lightning flashed. I wondered how long it would go on, and what I would do if the whole walkway became wet or flooded. Luckily it never came to that. After a little over a half hour since it started, the storm moved off to the northeast, leaving a clear sky littered with stars. Finally, at 2am, I was able to lay down and fall asleep.
I woke up around 5:30 from the sound of someone opening the doors. It must have been a maintenance man. I apologized, but he said it was okay and that he would only be there for ten minutes. I asked when people started coming around and he said twenty before eight. So I went back to sleep and reset my alarm, which has been set for 5:40, to 7am. Just after the alarm went off, as I was getting up and beginning to pack up, the pastor came. I apologized to him as well, saying I had intended to be gone before anyone came, but he said it was okay and asked if I needed to use the bathroom. I did. When I was done, I continued to pack. The pastor came out and asked me some questions. He said he was glad that I had felt safe and sheltered there for the night. That made me feel good to hear someone say something so kind. He handed me twenty bucks and told me to go get some warm breakfast. I accepted.
So far today has been pretty nice. It was foggy and overcast in the morning, making for a nice, quiet, surreal ride. That all burned off by 11 and became pretty warm. It has been hot with some headwinds, but my energy level has remained fairly high. I’ve already done 60 miles by 3pm, and I plan on riding a few more hours before I stop. I’ll probably be in Chicago on Tuesday, although if I pushed it, I could make it there tomorrow. I don’t know if it’s worth it to put myself through that. A night of sound sleep would be better now.