27 June- 02 July – After crossing back into Michigan, we arrived in Stockbridge market to seek out our host Suzi who was running a stall there, and who made us so welcome. We had a listen to the jazz musician playing while the market was running and had a walk around the village until it was time to pack up. Followed Suzi back to her home – a 1930’s farmhouse on a couple of acres surrounded by cornfields. We had a super place to park under the trees and even had electricity connected.
The next few days we got to sample local Michigan – Saturday we were invited to a graduation party followed by a 50th wedding anniversary. The wedding anniversary was in the couple’s home – an elegant two storied affair from the 1850’s with wonderful gardens which they both tend themselves. One interesting barn housed a Morgan which ran on propane.
Sunday was Norton day (Suzi is President of the International Norton Owners Club and secretary of the local Michigan chapter). First off it was breakfast with a few interesting bikers then back home and in the afternoon we shot off to Jackson and a neat micro-brewery for a Norton get together. Mark & Ian (Norton owners and friends from Hamilton, NZ are well known to this crowd and we got to hear all about their antics while they are away from home). Bob gave a short speil about his bikes which was well received and as they don’t have many very old bikes in their club they were interested to hear about them.
Monday, Suzi so kindly lent us her van so that we could brave the freeway into Detroit and the Henry Ford Museum at Dearborn. We spent all day there – it is not what we thought it would be – it was not all about Ford but more about the history of technology advances and industry in America and included planes, steam engines, furniture, agriculture and even the whole power plant from one of Ford’s early factories. Suprisingly the traffic going into and out of Dearborn was not heavy and even in the 5pm rush hour there were no jams. We did read that the population of Detroit was about 20% of what is was 50 years ago, so that probably accounts for it.
Tuesday – Bob got to meet up with Joe (from the Sunday breakfast meeting) who spent the day with him at Lansing, visiting various museums and places of interest, including the RE Olds collection and the largest specialist book retailer in North America. I spent the day enjoying Suzi’s company as she bake d (scrumptious breads for her market stalls) and later drove into Mason for supplies. Wine and dinner were the order of evening events as Suzi regaled us with tales of Nortons and other escapades. Our trusty Dell laptop failed us today – we are of the opinion that Microsoft got into it and deleted the file required to turn it on because we were still running XP! The computer shop told us it is happening all around and can’t be fixed; the only solution seems to be to buy the new Windows 8 or an alternative – such is free enterprise! It was almost as cheap to buy a new machine fully loaded, so now we have to come to grips with the HP15 as well.
Wednesday – Bob set off back towards Detroit for the Hudson car and American warplane museums at Ypsilanti – the latter is housed in the old wartime Willow Run bomber factory operated by Ford, where they produced a new B17 almost every hour! I got to give Wanda a bath and then joined Suzi for her Wednesday Farmers market at Grass Lake. That was a bustling wee village – about 12 stall holders and went from 5-8 with live music from 6pm onwards. There were plenty of buyers and people all bought along chairs to sit out and listen to the music. A great day with loads of friendly people.
03 July – Said our grateful farewells to Suzi and started on our way to Canada. Hope we didn’t outstay our welcome – it was so nice to be able to relax, get washing done, swim in a refreshing pool, borrow the van, enjoy Suzi’s bubbly company and get to spoil some cute cats.
More corn and wheat fields accompanied our journey north-eastwards. Stopped off at a small town to dump our waste water (that was a bit steep, they wanted $10 to dump and $10 to fill up with fresh water). Only a short hop through to Port Huron and then we were on the bridge separating US and Canada. Immigration on the other side was quick – only had two cars in front of us. Only got asked if we were carrying firearms and where we were going (my ‘friend’ Bob obviously thought we were at a US post and said Canada – duh!!). We had cleared out Wanda of all fresh fruit and veges before leaving Suzi’s and they didn’t even ask about that or even to see the car papers.
First stop in Canada – Sarnia and we tried to see if we could get a similar wifi hotspot to the one we had in the USA to use here, but unless you have a Canadian address it seems impossible to get (and they are quite expensive) so we have decided that it will be free wifi and while we were sitting in Walmart were surprised to find that we had access – so we don’t expect to have too much trouble whilst we are travelling around.
Going out of the US there was no border post, so we are not quite sure how they will know that we have left the US by our prescribed deadline – it might be interesting trying to get back! Canada don’t put any restrictions onto NZ passport holders – just an entry date stamped in our passports.
04 July – Had a relatively quiet night at Walmart – no big trucks around us and the freeway was pretty tame. First stop today was the the Tourist Information Center where we got loaded up with brochures on Ontario. The centre was a really flash building, well laid out inside with brochures for each region, but the access from the freeway was awkward. They weren’t getting much business and they were just alongside of the entrance gate to Canada.
Sorted and read the brochures for the immediate area to make sure that we didn’t miss anything then got on our way up the coastal road on the east side of Lake Huron. The road didn’t touch down at the lake very often, and wandered through more corn and wheat fields. Major differences on this side of the border – we are now back in metric measures, speed limits are a lot slower (hopefully we will get better mileage), petrol is way more expensive (but still less than NZ – it is around $1.35C per litre), roads are a little better and they have different coloured plasticised banknotes for each denomination. There is much more use made of brick for house building and the typical farm house seems to be 2 or 3 stories tall but quite narrow.
Stopped for lunch in a church carpark outside of Bayfield and then headed on towards Goderich, The town was having their annual arts and craft market which was set up around their town square. Some interesting stalls and a pretty town. After studying the price of campgrounds and almost having apoplexy at the prices decided we would have to see if there are alternatives. One of our brochures listed all the nature and ski trails so we picked a likely one and lo and behold it was perfect, Down the end of a one lane gravel road was a small turnaround with room enough for Wanda to sit on the side of the road out of the way, There were two trails leading off left and right for cross country skiing and ATV use running beside a small river and apart from the inevitable mosquitoes a nice quiet place to park for the night. Had a wander on both trails – one petered out at the river’s edge but in winter of course if would be frozen so it would be easy to carry on, the other was more sheltered in the trees but more flying pests as well.
It looks like we are going to have to be quite inventive in this state as far as camping goes, once we get into Quebec it should be less populated and there are more public lands around where free camping is allowed, which should make life a little easier.
05 July – Had a change of plans and decided to head back towards Toronto and be in the vicinity for Monday to get our chores done so that we can head north again and out of the rat race. Came through on mainly country roads – more corn fields and even a few small hills. Tried to find the farmer’s market in Stratford to no avail so continued on to Brantford and the Military Museum where Bob spent a few hours on a personally guided tour before they closed. On our way to find Walmart, stumbled across a Casino which offered a quieter alternative for overnight parking. Brantford has a river running through the city and many kilometres of walking/biking trails so went for a very pleasant riverside walk in the cool of the evening. Weather the last week or so has been really changeable – last night was a cool 10C but tonight feels a very muggy 20 something.
06 July – The Warplane Aviation museum was the order of the day and only about 30 minutes from our overnight stop. They had on display around 40 wartime planes with many of them airworthy, flights on the Lancaster and B17 Fortress bombers being offered if you had a cool $2,500 to spare (someone must have donated some bucks as there were a whole load of school kids boarding the Lancaster). With that out of the way we had to get a little closer to Toronto at Mississauga where Bob had some stuff to pick up. The first Walmart we tried was in a horrible area – dirty and not at all conducive to staying overnight and dare I say it, a white face was also a rarity. Went a little further out and found a much better proposition in a predominantly Indian area. Not very impressed with the whole Toronto area – huge apartment blocks, and built up for a long way in all directions. The housing areas in the suburbs are very much like English housing, rows and rows of townhouses with only a few feet of separation and a small backyard.
07 July – With the chores done for the day it was time to get out of the metropolis and head for the Grey Bruce area. It took a while to clear the city but once out the terrain started to change – no longer do we have miles and miles of flat farmland stretching out in front of us – we have hills and nice views from time to time. Not much to see along the way as we passed through Orangeville and Shelburn and a few other small settlements. At Eugenie Lake we thought we might find somewhere to park but it was very busy with local holidaymakers so headed on a bit further to Beaver Valley and finally found a lookout/picnic area which doesn’t say No Overnight Parking, so parked Wanda with a nice view out over the Valley of a mix of woods and farmlands. With the crows and squirrels for company it would be idyllic but for the mossies and other flying pests that abound outside. That might be the order of the day from now on so we might have to invest in some mosquito coils to burn outside so that we can enjoy the outdoors. Listening to the news in the last afternoon, it was a good move to get out of the city when we did – traffic jams were blocking up the freeways that we had used, with delays of up to 30 minutes or more.
08 July – Moved from our nice spot on towards Georgian Bay on Lake Huron to Owen Sound for a wifi stop at Walmart to pick up emails and get this blog updated and loaded. Pouring with rain so really nothing else to do with our time anyway. Our target will be the Bruce Peninsula National Park area later today then we should take a ferry to Manitoulin Island the following day. Sorry pictures will be limited on this blog – still trying to come to grips with Windows 8 and not much in the way of scenery to show you. HSBC bank had left an email message regarding the use of our debit card and possible fraudulent use, but upon contacting them it was because charges had started to appear from Canada (we have a US debit card) so they had put a hold on our card. We were able to satisfy them that all the charges were legitimate and they were happy to take the hold off – just as well as it might get a bit more costly if we had to put everything on the credit card instead.