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The Detroit flag is a reflection of the countries that have once ruled the city. The Fleur-de-Les represent France, the lions are England, and there are 13 stars and 13 stripes for the first States.

The name Detroit was derived when the British, in 1760, shortened the French name, Fort Ponchartrain du Detroit. The city was first settled by 52 French Canadians sixty years prior.

Geographically, Detroit is in a spectacular location. It sits on the Detroit River that connects Lake Erie to Lake Huron via Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River. This key spot allowed Detroit to become a powerhouse of shipping, manufacturing, and  culture. The “Motor City” was once referred to as the “Paris of the West”. The decline of the auto industry caused economic problems. In the previous decade, Detroit lost 25% of its population, the city unemployment rate is 15%, and the poverty rate today is still well above 30%.

Despite that, Detroit is said to be recovering, although very slowly. The auto industry is showing signs of life. The Detroit Lions football team and Detroit Tigers baseball team have constructed new downtown stadiums. Historic hotels have reopened. Within the last 10 years Detroit has hosted the NCAA Final Four, the MLB All-Star Game, Superbowl XL, and the World Series. Compuware built their world headquarters and Quicken Loans has consolidated 4,000 employees inside the city. Ford, GM, and Chrysler continue to be large employers.

On July 20, I left my hotel near the airport in Romulus and cycled through Detroit to the privately owned Ambassador Bridge. I cycled without incident through “Little Mexico”. I had to hire a taxi-cab to drive me across the bridge to Canadian Customs before I could begin cycling across Ontario. I posted four pictures that night;

My blog that night focused on my interactions with the taxi-cab driver and the Canadian Customs Agent.  A few days later I received two comments from someone identified as “Stylin,  but written in very different styles, leading me to believe that it was two different people. Both comments were highly critical of my posting that night, and defensive of the City of Detroit. The comments accused me of posting “Detroit porn” which I deduced to be pictures of abandoned, burned-out, and/or derelict buildings that may have been taken years ago and are now used to denigrate Detroit. It was also said that I was critical of hard-working people, Homeland Security regulations, and the “boarder” crossing personnel of Detroit. I was admonished to stop being unfair to Detroit.

Below is one of the comments from Stylin, in its entirety;

“Sounds like a poorly planned trip. It would have taken a minute to check the Adventure Cycling Association’s website search funtion (ahead of time) to determine the proper, safe and dignified way to access the Detroit/Winsor International Boarder Crossing, with a bike in tow. Or maybe you could have just stopped in the information center and asked the person behind the desk.

Oh, but maybe that’s way too much like right and not sensational enough for your writing purposes. BTW: that gruesome murder the cab driver told you about involved a suburbanite man who gunned down a couple in their suburban (Allen Park) home, dismembered their bodies, drove 15 miles to an Eastside Detroit canal and dumped their body parts in the river. I don’t think anyone would brag about such a horrible tragedy. You are seemingly misunderstood about his communication of the information. FYI: Cab drivers (in general) are subject to car jacking and armed robberies, so I’m sure he had no reason to “seemingly brag” about harm imposed upon another human being.

Hopefully your next report will come across a lot more authentic and positive in nature or was it your intention to put down Detroit, its boarder crossing personnel, homeland security regulations and hard working people.”

At first I had no idea why I would receive such negative comments and I went back and read my original post. The only legitimate concern I saw was that the cab driver may not have been bragging. The word “bragging” is definitely my opinion. But I could see no reason for the vast majority of all the other accusations.

Then I remembered that I did receive and post a comment from someone that I recognized and it included a link to a book published in 2012, by two French photographers, titled “The Ruins of Detroit”. I believe the commenter, Stylin, may perform Internet searches for this link, and then defend Detroit. That is the only logical explanation I can come up with. And it certainly is my fault that I did not review the link before allowing it to appear in my blog. My only excuse is that my 4G signal was horrible in Ontario and opening large picture files was impossible.

I have since reviewed that link and I include it here, not to put down Detroit, but as part of a discussion. I will say that I find the photos stunning for two reasons; 1) that such beautiful architecture has deteriorated so badly, and 2) at how beautiful it once must have been.

http://blogs.denverpost.com/captured/2011/02/07/captured-the-ruins-of-detroit/2672/

I hope Detroit continues to recover. I would like to see impoverished neighborhoods everywhere, in every city (including my own), regain strength and vitality. In 1805 a terrible fire burned Detroit to the ground. The two Latin phrases on the Detroit flag reflect the sentiment of the Detroit residents at that time;

Speramus Meliora: “we hope for better things”.

Resurget Cineribus; “it will rise from the ashes”.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012; Reflections on Canada, or more precisely, Ontario.

Ontario is big. It’s southern border is comprised of four of the Great Lakes; Superior, Huron, Erie, and it’s eponym. I entered Ontario on  July 20 at Windsor and returned to the USA on July 24, following a path mostly along the north shore of Lake Erie, north along the Niagara River, and back into the USA near Lewiston, NY.

I spent the first night at a Bed & Breakfast in Tillbury, the only accommodations in town, and the only B&B I used on the entire trip. A lovely retired couple made me feel at home and cooked me a wonderful breakfast. I noticed a photo of their son in his military uniform (he served a tour in Afghanistan). Eventually we got on to the subject of the War of 1812.

There are lots of Canadian flags flying all through Ontario and I think the 200th anniversary of the conflict has helped to stoke Canadian pride (it certainly did so 200 years ago). They are staging re-enactments of the larger battles of the two year conflict and some USA citizens are taking part. I got the impression that my hosts felt they kicked some USA butt. I have done a little light reading about the war and, interestingly, both Canadians and Americans were generally pleased with the outcome, and national pride soared for both. That’s probably because we felt we kicked some Great Britain butt, and Canada felt they kicked ours.

Ontario is fertile, one of the most productive areas I cycled through. No wonder it is such a desirable place. Back in 1812, Canadians in Ontario felt we had intentions to annex them. There were some American politicians that felt all we had to do was march in and claim it.

Ontario was probably more of a bargaining chip than a goal. The USA was angry at Britain for blockading France and eliminating American trade with them. Britain was also stopping American ships and impressing sailors. Additionally, the English attempted to establish a huge coalition of native tribes to slow American expansion to the west.

After a couple of years, Britain and France made peace and most of the reasons for the war disappeared. Everything was worked out in the Treaty of Ghent in 1814. It was basically a stalemate, although many soldiers, American, Canadian, and Native Americans lost their lives.

The USA is probably lucky that they didn’t get Ontario because how could they possibly fit 51 stars onto a flag?

Canadian money has lots of cool animals on it. There is a beaver on the nickel, a loon on the dollar coin, and a polar bear on the two dollar coin. (I wish we had a turkey on one of our coins.) But one thing occurs in Canada that does not occur as much in the states. Invariably, I always had about two pounds of coins to carry. I would try to use my change whenever I could but usually I would be about a dime short, and they would give me another pound of coins to carry.

This is the only photo I have of a Canadian coin. It is there for scale to show the size of the nail that stuck into the tread of my tire and came out the side wall!

Ontario is flat (at least it was along the north shore of Lake Erie).

The north shore is also windy and beautiful. The prevailing south-west breeze was a joy, pushing me along and keeping the temperature moderate. There are lots of wind turbines and more are planned. Some of the lake-front homes had signs protesting the installation of the behemoths (they are nearly 22 stories tall!). I visited a wind power interpretive center, which was really a propaganda disseminator for the wind turbine company. They gave me a free t-shirt which I wisely did not wear until I got out of Canada.

The Canadians that I met are happy, proud, easy-going, and almost without exception, polite drivers. They believe in free choice. I finally figured this out after three days of watching lotto ticket sales at the local convenience stores that I frequently stopped at for liquids. At first I thought it was a marketing technique. The scratch-offs are encased under plastic at the point-of-sale making them impossible to ignore.

When a ticket is purchased, the entire plastic case is lifted and presented to the gambler, who then gets to pick any ticket from anywhere in the display. Here in the states, you get the next ticket off the roll. It’s kind of cumbersome, but I like the way the Canadians do it. If you pick a loser, it’s your fault.

Canadians have a great sense of humor. In Blenheim I was entertained by the announcer and spitters at the Cherry Pit Spitting Contest as the contestants went through contortions to propel the “stone” far enough to qualify.

And I am sure I would enjoy the “gas” fest in Selkirk;

There are 33 million inhabitants in Canada. They have high taxes and universal health care.

There are 33 million inhabitants in California. They have high taxes and no universal health care. And three of their cities have declared bankruptcy this year, with probably more to follow. Ontario is probably lucky they kicked our butt.

One thing I always liked about New Hampshire (and any river anywhere that has rocks) is the rocks. This photo (credit B.Pawlow) was taken as we were gently ascending (at the time) up the Wild Ammonoosic River, alongside NH Route 112. At one spot, a sweeping highway of rocks curved in a wide arc, bending just enough not to bury the road. I imagined the spring floods, kinetic energy unleashed, rocks tumbling and clunking invisibly because of the raging waters. That is why the rocks are all worn smooth. All of them, without exception.

Two days earlier, Brian had mentioned to me that he was wondering why I had not written a heartfelt post about my sister, whom I love very much. I did not have a good answer for him and this is what I was thinking about as I enjoyed the scenery, watching the now calm and lazy river struggle down the mountain. And then, just as my Dad would have done, I invented a metaphor (or a simile or an analogy, I can never keep them straight).

How is it possible that all of these rocks, countless rocks, have been worn smooth? Only rushing water can have such an effect. The water runs constantly, but it is my understanding that the majority of the smoothing process takes place during times of high water, when the force moves the rocks easily, as if  they were game pieces on a playing board.

The capacity of water to move things, things that we believe to be unmovable, is amazing. The floods in Vermont last year, at a time when no one expected them, is a good example. Entire hillsides and highways, bridges and cars, were swept away, as easily as leaves off your driveway. For some, it was a major inconvenience for a few weeks or months. For others, life changed forever. Such is the power of water moving.

Then, as I have often done on this bicycle excursion, I started to think. I wondered how the rocks would feel if they actually had feelings. What if the rocks were like people with emotions and loves, fears and worries? The water flowing over them could be the minutes and hours ticking away, unstoppable. Each spring flood would be a birthday, with new adventures and surroundings awaiting. Of course, you would be a little smoother too.

I thought I discovered a flaw in my musings. I saw a huge rock to in the middle of the river, towering over all. Surely, no waters were going to move the behemoth. But, in reality, this rock had already been moved here. Any illusions that it was impervious to the passage of time (and water) was simply that; an illusion. It too, someday, would be one of it’s smaller neighbors, clunking along, bumping into everyone else.

I occasionally feel like such a large rock. When I arrived home yesterday, to comfortable surroundings, turned up the air conditioning and opened the refrigerator, I was the biggest rock in the river, immutable. And this is the fallacy.

No one can resist the passage of time, even as the rocks can not hold themselves in place, as the roaring waters push them along. Even the biggest of all the rocks, when it wakes up in the morning and is proud to say “I have not moved”, when it looks around everything is completely different because every familiar rock is gone, forever, succumbing to the force of time and water.

I am working my way back to my sister, and if you have made it this far, you probably know me very well. I am very comfortable amongst my friends. They have the ability to make me happy and content and to never move, spring floods or not.  I attended my ski club’s bicycle ride tonight and I realized that at this very same ride, last year, my Dad was there helping to check the riders in and collect money for pizza at the local restaurant.

For years and years, my Dad was the biggest rock in the river to me. Year after year, he never faltered, and he loved me, he always supported me, and I always knew I could meet him for breakfast and he would listen attentively to anything that was on my mind. He never passed judgement, he just listened, and then maybe had a word of encouragement or advice.

Over the years, the current of the river slowly eroded away his foothold. The unexpected flood washed him away, and when I woke up the entire river was different. The big rock was gone, I looked around, and thank God my sister and my friends were still there. And this is where I finally get back to my sister, Lynn, and I apologize for taking so long. Luckily, when I looked around, there was my sister. The swiftly moving current, that had either moved me or moved my Dad, had left us shoulder to shoulder. We are tumbled smooth, the water has had its way with us, and it will continue to do so. I can only hope that when I wake up in the morning, that familiar rock is still next to me.

I don’t know if I have answered the question Brian asked. It’s tough to answer a tough question, and it’s equally hard to write a reply. My sister is an awesome person. She rows a scull on the Connecticut River and has raced on the River Charles. Lynn loves her garden, flowers and veggies. She is happily married to Jeanne, with several grandchildren (I witnessed my grand-nephew running into the house, screaming excitedly, “Gramma’s here, Gramma’s here”). I often brag about Lynn being the Vermont Teacher of the Year, which bothers her to no end because she wasn’t. But she should be. And I love her.

These are videos for train lovers. There are lots of trains out west and we saw plenty of them.

I heard this Burlington-Northern train approaching while I was at the Great River Road Visitor center in Prescott, Wisconsin. In the background, at Point Douglas, the clear waters of the St. Croix River are mixing in with the Mississippi, nicknamed the “Big Muddy”.

In Glen Ullin, North Dakota, the Adventure Cycling maps directed us north to leave Old Route 10 before it changed to dirt. We were waiting for the train to clear the intersection and Mac realized we had turned too soon as he spied the route sign, on the other side of the tracks, between the passing cars. I don’t know what’s in these tankers; corn syrup, maybe?

On the Oregon side of the Columbia River, near the Washington state line, a train caught up to me and entered a tunnel. The video pans a 360 degree view before the train disappears.

. . . or rather videos “from the road”.

My late posting today is because I am spending time catching up with as many friends as possible before I return to Detroit.  Today my friend Karen drove us down to Napatree Point beach, the most southern and western point in Rhode Island. The long, slender spit stretches for a mile and a half from the town of Watch Hill. They don’t see much of this in North Dakota;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me continue on with video from the road. On June 17th we cycled from Jordan to Circle, Montana, enjoying an energetic tailwind that got stronger as the day went on. The green fields flowed and dipped with the wind and we felt like birds soaring over the road;

After joining the July 4 parade in Waupaca, Wisconsin, I continued on to Menasha, on the northern shore of Lake Winnebago. I observed a tractor hauling a load of hay on Manitowic Road. Listen to my huffing and puffing as I try to catch him;

In Michigan I discovered that the “bicycle” button on the Google mapping program includes dirt roads. On July 8, traveling from Saginaw to Howell, at least 20 of the 65 miles were on dirt roads.

At the ski club meeting on Wednesday night, I was asked what my favorite state was on the trip. I had to think a minute, but it came down to Oregon and Montana. I chose Montana.

It’s not entirely fair to Oregon because one of the reasons I like Montana better is that I had four cycling companions to share the scenery, the tail winds, the climbs and descents, the rain and the heat.

Flying back to Connecticut, we soared in over the north-west corner of the state, which many would say is the most beautiful, rugged, and wild section. I gazed out the window at the reservoirs and the ski areas but what I noticed most was the trees. The entire state appeared to be plush-carpeted with green fur. I felt as if I could brush my hand over a soft corduroy fabric of lush foliage.

Last night I drove to my favorite Mexican restaurant, Coyote Blue in Middletown. I took my bike and enjoyed a leisurely 20 mile ride through the town of Haddam, before dinner. This town is in the larger area that I call the “Bermuda Triangle”, the points anchored by Middletown, Branford, and Old Saybrook. The Connecticut River forms one entire leg of the triangle. It is full of curvey roads, short steep climbs, rollicking, knuckle-tightening, roller coaster descents, and beauty that replenishes my soul. Streets like Beaver Meadow Road, Roast Meat Hill Road, Little City Road, Skunk Misery Road.

I found myself trying to describe the countryside as I have been doing all summer across the United States. You know something? Connecticut might be my favorite state. Oaks of all varieties, maple trees, birches,  and evergreens are thick alongside the road, many of them towering to 75 or 100 feet tall. Some of the trees are right next to the paved surface of the narrow, back roads, creating a tunnel of leaves. The understory is thick with the gnarly, interesting trunks of Mountain Laurel, ferns, and skunk cabbage. Stone walls, perfect or in various states of decay, run along the frontage and occasionally diagonal off, disppearing into the thick vegetation. I realize now how unique Connecticut cycling is.

As promised here are a couple of more videos. Today you can meet my cycling companions. The first video is an interview of Tom Sullivan, his son Mac, and Mac’s high school friend, Drew Gottman. We are waiting for Ty at the bottom of a great downhill that was preceded by (surprise) a tough climb, a few miles outside of Highwood, Montana.

A couple of days later we were being chased by a rainstorm. Try as we might, we could not outrun it and the rain drops were beginning to thicken. Luckily, we were coming into the town of Belfield, North Dakota, population 800. Hopefully, there would be some type of structure there that we could use for shelter. Mac’s bike is equipped with a GPS unit that sends out a location signal every 10 minutes. Dozens of people are watching his signal on-line and when he stops, they all know. While hiding under the covered picnic area of a residents home, Mac called Ginny (his Mom) to let her know why the “blip on the radar” halted for 30 minutes or so. Ginny said “get video”. Here it is;

I’m enjoying a few days off at home before flying back to Detroit and resuming my journey. Last night, my former firefighter/coworkers invited me for dinner. The new guy (Tony Lecca) cooked an awesome pasta dish. Then I went to the Mountain Laurel Ski Club meeting. I met Bob Ledoux for breakfast this morning.

At home, I can convert the video I have taken and post it to my blog. I will try to add at least one video every day of my cycling hiatus.

In 1913, advocates for a road along the Columbia River Gorge met. Planning began a month later (obviously not as much red tape in those days). They looked for spots of natural beauty and tried to build the road to make the overlooks and waterfalls accessible. By the 1920’s, the engineering marvel was being called “the king of roads”. On May 30, I was cycling through the waterfall section.

Two million people a year visit spring-fed  Multnomah Falls, the second highest year-round falls in the United States. The lower fall is 69′. The upper bridge crosses the pool below the 542′ upper fall.

This is a view of the upper falls from near the bridge. On Labor day in 1995, a school-bus sized hunk of basalt dislodged and crashed into the pool, sending a 70′ wave over a wedding party and drenching them!

There were so many places to stop on this section that I was worried I would not arrive at my hotel before dark. (I had not met Mac, Drew, and Ty yet, but they were so late, they cycled on the interstate to save time at the end of the day.) There are 77 waterfalls on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge. I think this one is Wahkeena falls;