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cycling story 1Monday, May 20
Port Burwell, Ontario

Waking up in a motel room is a major treat. There are so many options, and none involve facing a frosty cold morning out at a windy shore. I choose; turn on my phone. First thing that comes up on my screen is a meme, no surprise, but this one gets me...it's all just about copper. Copper's powers, abilities, its lineage of mystique and importance, and I just stared at it and thought, because it got sent by my friend Mali, it has potential quantum significance, or something like that, but anyway, I get on with the morning, having washed clothes, unpacked and reorganized the gear, etc. After two weeks on the road, the motel stop can be crucial. So I'm getting all packed up, I'm testing out the heft and steadiness of the load, and,...uh oh.windontheroad

My deKerf is super strong but lacks places to attach racks, so one needs to fashion a clamp somehow and, well, during the last minute switchover of bikes (see chapter I) clamps of the right size were scarce, and I used two foundlings that worked, but now one had just snapped. So my whole rear system, rack, panniers, bags, were all hanging busted. Can't ride. Got no extra clamp, there's no hardware or bike store near here, on the outskirts of Windsor. This is crisis #2. What do I do? And it came to me. The copper. I have copper! I've always included a small coil of copper wire in my tool kit, and I've never had the need to use it. But now, out it comes, and I sit down on the warm cement floor outside my motel room, and I take pliers, and carefully lash the rack to the frame, and there's just enough. And it holds. And by God, it's even sturdy. Test ride in the parking lot...I'm good to go. So down I go on Walker Ave, past the airport, for a few kilometres everything seems fine but I see a Home Depot. And I pull in. Ken walks me to the hose-clamps selection, lends me a good screwdriver, and I go back outside, and add two hose-clamps around my little winding of copper wire, inspect it, it's perfect. Then I go back inside, and return with a third one which, for good measure, goes on the other side. And the bike and all my stuff are now rock solid. This has been the greatest mechanical improvement since changing my saddle position in Goderich. And now, riding the bike is smoother and the handling is tighter than ever. It's all pretty much a miracle. From a broken clamp that was probably just plastic in the first place.cycling story 2

South of Windsor, eventually the harsh pace of traffic fades out, and a country-side of nearby water, farms, trees in full leaf now way ahead of back home. Amherstburg comes along and I'm thinking about the Motown singer songwriter Harrison Kennedy "Chairman of the Board" and how I remember seeing him in Flesherton at Aggie's. He has a song called "Bob Lo Island", and it mentions Amherstburg, and I'm singing it as I ride through town.

I get to a really interesting conservation area, the John R. Park Homestead: old, preserved barns, sheds and farmhouse right on the shore of the Western end of Lake

Erie. The boulders by the water are barely holding back the water. The small waves look about the level of the neatly cut grass on the grounds. A man is walking his dog in the evening. We get talking, and he's one of the main charity fundraisers for the homestead, and he says nobody would mind if I camped in the little beach just through the trees on the edge of the grounds. So I got my own private beach, closed off with hanging vines, a rocky point, and some trees standing knee deep in the high water levels. A beautiful calm Lake Erie night.

Next day, I made it down to the tip of the country. Point Pelee, a lifelong dream finally realized, and it's a dizzying, dazzlingly summer-like day, small groups of birders everywhere, silence throughout the park except for the birdsong and chatter. At a certain point the path turns to beach sand and the bike needs to lean against a tree while you go barefoot to the tip. The sand is deep, soft but coarse somehow, and the final southern spot of shore in fact, has a lovely curl to it. I wade into the water, ostensibly to rinse out my clothes. I'd been told the spit has strange qualities. Strange waves. An undertow. I can feel the gravel beneath my feet wanting to slide me deeper and for a moment it's scary. But the water feels fantastic and it chills down all the aching muscles.

pointpeleeThis is my first trip to the southern end of the land. It's different, quiet, neat, warm, always with birds singing, and for some reason my bell starts ringing permanently. Not loud, just a feather-light background tinkle. Like in those 1970s Aaron Spelling made-for-TV movies, where the triangle is being played for most of the whole soundtrack, and it sounds like tension is gradually building, and what's going to suddenly happen next? And, THWACK! BzzzFlzzzbzzz...?! Yep, a bee has flown smack into an opening in my helmet, and just as I'm madly grabbing it to pull it back off my head, the pilot of the crashed helicopter struggles, wounded, and drags itself up to my forehead, stabbing me with its last breath. And I feel the bump, with the remaining bee parts, and get my helmet fastened, and keep riding. Oh, the drama that unfolds while cycling down the road.

In Cedar Springs, an older fellow on a bike flags me down, so we get talking, and he's Eugene, from the Netherlands and he has a birdcage and a baseball bat attached to his bike. It's a Road King that he got free at the wrecker's yard. He wants to tell me about a guy who's come through there last year, on the very last day of a nine year long trip...

"Dis guy, he got a divorce, and he got on his bike and he crossed Saskatchewan, and den, he go all de way down to Panama, den de tip of South America, and den over to New Zealand, Australia and Japan. And den, he rode de whole way back de same route. He was gone nine years! And so I asked him, y'know, in all dat time, was der something dat, like, stood out as an experience, and he says 'yah...'

You know, he was yust like camping on de side of de road, and he vas in Brazil, yust on de road in his little tiny one man tent, and den he says, 'a big shadow came over the tent...' (Eugene gestures here, bringing both arms forward, hovering as a big dark shadow, and I'm thinking, uh oh, bad guys. That's every cyclist's worst nightmare) "And it's one of dose big, big South American snakes, you know? And it's lying right overtop of him, and it stops. And it's not moving and dis guy, he says 'I was never so scared ever in my life', but he has his little pocket knife inside his tent, right, and so he gets it, and he just...pokes de snake's belly, right, and den, de snake, he started moving, and he left!"

And on it goes, the road, the shoreline, the strangers with stories, all overlapping each other as the gentle waves of Lake Erie. It's finally warm, and the sunscreen needs to come out now. Ahead: Rondeau, the Port Stanley lost time loop, and other wonders of the beautiful south...

D. Robinson
Southampton

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