Day 24: Papa Bengry was such a fantastic host, but it was time to continue onward. My plan was to eventually get to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and the weather was cooperating. Looking at a map, London, Ontario looked like a great place to spend a little time before getting to the tourist trap. I compared Airbnb postings with Priceline deals in London and eventually came across an Airbnb listing that looked like it had a great host in a walkable part of town, so I submitted my reservation request, packed my stuff, and prepared to head that way.
I keep my phone on a Ram Mount X-grip which consists of parts gifted from two different friends. While I was avoiding getting creamed by Detroit drivers on I-94, the glare off my phone was blinding me, so I tried to adjust the tilt while in motion. Bad idea! A rubber post cap came off and the phone popped out of the X-grip in my hand. I tried putting it into my left chest pocket with no success. Thought about maybe trying to sit on it, but there are manhole covers and road variants which regularly shoot me off my seat. People are merging in and out of my lane, and I’m riding with one hand on the throttle. It eventually occurs to me to partially unzip the tank bag and cram my phone into it. Success! And just in time. Traffic slowed to a halt and I needed my left hand to feather the clutch.
Just past Detroit, it was time to refill my gas tank. I had received notification that my reservation request was accepted. I had written to another host just in case this spot fell through, and that host pre-approved my reservation. For whatever reason, I was worried that maybe I just double booked for the night, so while I was filling my tank, my mind wandered, and for the first time at a legit gas station, the fuel nozzle didn’t automatically cut off when my tank was full. It was when I saw that my fuel cost was about $10 that I was perplexed and stopped pumping. Gasoline was all over my seat and I was standing in a huge puddle.
I cleaned my seat off with a windshield squeegee and ran my gel seat-pad under some water. I sorted through the Airbnb messages while I waited for this shit to dry a bit only to figure out that I only booked one room. All things being OK, I tucked the pad into the bungee net, shook my fist at the pump, and made my way to the US/Canadian border in Port Huron, MI.
On my way to London, ON, I rode past farms and dealt with more wind gusts. And then I noticed the giant wind mills. I already like these people.
While waiting at the border, I *should have* changed my motorcycle’s display from miles to kilometers, but being a space cadet lead me to going the pace of traffic and vaguely remembering that a kilometer is just under 2/3 of a mile. I did a lot of sloppy mental math for the next 63 mi/101 km.
When I pulled up to the house, the host and her visiting mother were sitting on the front porch, resting as a Moroccan stew simmerred. It smelled amazing. Layla, the host, said they planned to eat dinner in 30 minutes and I was welcome to join. With my belongings inside and my motorcycle re-parked in front of the house, I took a walk in no particular direction.
I passed the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum, which was closed at that hour. Also passed some Canadian Army barracks and found myself in front of a Superstore. That’s the name of the place, and I love the simplicity of it. I went in to purchase a few items with my American debit card and maybe get some Canadian cash back, but for whatever reason, it processed as credit and never asked if I wanted cash back. Near the exit, I found an ATM and took out $40.
I walked back to the house just in time to sit down to dinner. Layla gave me a key and suggested a few pubs to visit within walking distance, and I was on my way. Along my stroll, I observed the local architecture and behavior of the residents.
I wandered through the university bar district, into the less polished downtown area, and into the oldest pub in London which is on the ground floor of the possibly seedy-for-London, ON Richmond Hotel. A fella with the watery eyes and droopy face of an alcoholic offered to buy me a pint and due to his inability to communicate effectively, the bartender accepted all of his change as gratuity. This was how I learned that, yes, Canadians do tip in their own country. After some nonsensical conversation with the drunk, I asked the bartender where she goes for a pint and directed myself to Joe Kool’s.
This new location brought about more interesting conversation. The well dressed 60+ year old fellow to my left struck up a polite conversation with me, and when I eventually made it known that I am an American, talk turned to Trump. I am embarrassed that this joke of a human gets so much media coverage. I explain to my new friend that within my outstretched community, Donald serves as a litmus test to expose bigots. Changing topics, we talked about my departure from paying for stable housing, travels by motorcycle and working in Alaska. He suggests that perhaps he, too, should get a motorcycle and travel. Knowing that this is the sort of person who almost immediately gets killed, I suggested that maybe he get a Miata. It’s a go-kart he can take on a highway. Get one that runs well but looks like shit, have a blast doing burn-outs, and hit the road with the roof open and a latte in the cup-holder. His friend within earshot interjected, “Miata?! He can afford a Ferrari!” But not actually caring about the car and just having fun in the point of the whole thing.
After he departed, I chatted with the bartender for a bit. We talked about local wages and that, yes, Canadians do tip. She thought Americans were the stingy ones. (Most US service workers have been stiffed by a Canadian tourist.) I was sure to leave her a Loonie for her service.
There’s a diner nearby which is open late for the drunk crowd: Prince Albert’s. Today’s $5 special: Poutine. I would walk over 5 km that night, so I could justify the massive caloric intake.
I finally made it back to the Airbnb house around midnight and slept like a rock.