We woke up and took a ride bike ride to the supermarket for some joe but we were up too early so we decided to pack up and grab a cup on the way out of town. Holley New York is a beautiful, peaceful area. I’d highly recommend a visit, but, we gotta move on!
On the way out of town Pammie gets back to trip planning. Should we stop in Niagara Falls or head straight to Detroit? YES! Okay, Niagara falls it is. The weather is a little overcast with spotty rain here and there. The route out of Holley takes us through a lot of farm country. This part of New York is very pretty and the traffic is minimal.
We arrive in Niagara Falls nice and early so there’s plenty of free parking right in town on the American side. We park the bus and pull down the bikes and start to explore. A short ride to the visitor’s center proves fruitless. The signage is confusing and everyone wants to take our money. Being cheapskates on a frugal budget we decide to just wing it and see what happens. Getting around on bikes is really easy and fun so poking around without knowing where the heck you’re going is a great way to explore.We cross the bridge over to Goat island just as a small group of European cyclists blow by. They’re quite raucous and jolly, “whop, hay, ho, ya, here we go. Good Morning!” It’s infectious but they head right across the gridded bridge. Pammie and I, every bit as raucous and jovial with a tendency towards the more cautious, take the vacant sidewalk. Once we’re across the bridge the sidewalk takes a turn away from the road and leads directly over to the other side of the falls. There’s construction everywhere so there are fences and barricades and more confusing signage but, eventually we wind up on a nice outlook with an incredible view of the falls. We take some pics and hang around a bit and then hop back on our bikes to find another spot.
Bikes give you a lot of freedom around Niagara falls. You can ride on the paths, as long as you yield to all the people, but you can also ride in the road, avoiding all the crowds and making getting around fun and quick! We took a footbridge across the top of the falls back over to a viewpoint on the other side. You caould see both sets of falls, all the boats down below the falls and the rainbow right in front of the falls that is formed by all the spray. I took a couple pics of Pammie on her bike. An Family asked if I would take a picture of them and then they took one of us. With that, we decided to head back to the car and get back on the road.
Niagara Falls is incredible. A must see for sure. There’s plenty of kitsch and disgusting shit but the falls and the surrounding area are stunning. When we were there a LOT of stuff was torn up. You couldn’t walk or ride anywhere around the American side of the falls without running into a barricade, fence, pylon, tractor, burly worker, bobcat, etc., etc. I may be exaggerating a tad, but not much!
We crossed over into Canada and headed for Deeeetroit City. Everyone thought we were crazy to want to go anywhere near Detroit. I played there back in the the day and had some fond memories of some stupid shit I did with a couple of my bandmates. Erin told us that she had enjoyed Detroit and that pretty much sealed the deal! Detroit, here we come.
The ride across a little slice of Ottawa was pretty uneventful with the exception of the fact that our phones flipped over to a Canadian provider so we promptly shut them off. Unfortunately, this meant we were going analog with navigation and we didn’t bring an atlas. I hadn’t even considered it. Pam had thought of it but didn’t want to take up valuable space so, no maps. We stopped and picked one up and it actually felt a little weird but kind of nice to be holding and reading a map. I don’t know about you but I don’t have a gps thing and I don’t have any maps. I always navigate with google maps and rarely have any problems.
Coming through customs on the US side was slow but uneventful as well. We waited in line for a while and I had daydreams of the radiator blowing up on the van like I had one do once on an old Rabbit I had while I was waiting in that interminable line to get onto Cape Cod . The radiator held up just fine but while we were waiting in line the guy next to said his car was running out of gas so he kept shutting the engine off. I told him we had a lot of supplies on board but no extra gas….aside from…ahem…nyuk, nyuk..I didn’t tell him that buy I’m telling YOU that because long about now you’re probably getting bored as hell and I thought a little potty humor might at least make ya chuckle.
Coming into Detroit, I screwed up and missed an exit or two but that was no issue. We found an exit and started in the direction of the Heidelberg District. Another wrong turn or two and I started to pay closer attention! Things are pretty ugly in that neck of Detroit and I was getting a little anxious. One more correct turn and about a block down the road, we came across a blown out house with some wrecked cars, dead trees and graffiti everywhere. This must be the place! I pulled over and parked to the right. Plenty of parking available, in fact, not a car – that wasn’t broken down and dismembered – in sight. Pam stayed with the van and I ran across the street to take some pictures. I didn’t hang out too long because there was a dude on my side of the street kinda just standing there looking shifty, at least to my paranoid, white-ass MF self. When I crossed back over to the side of the street the van was on I realized that he was hanging at a bus stop and I was just being a stupid cracker. All the same, I figured I’d move the van around the corner before we left it to check out Heidelberg street. I turned her over, stepped on the brake, shifted…tried to shift…tried to shift…errrr. She won’t shift out of park. I keep quiet, shut her off, start her up again, hit the brake and…NOTHING. She’s stuck in PARK!
I tell Pam, and, of course, she already knows something is wrong because she’s a lot smarter than I am and she knows when I’m trying to hide shit from her and she has radar and girlie voodoo or whatever it is but I swear she knows what I’m thinking a split second before I think it and only lets me think I came up with it because she’s nice.
She takes it in stride. No problem, we’re in a shady part of Detroit, in a BIG, WHITE, VAN with all kinds of shit hanging off it and stacked on top off it that screams, “COME, HELP YOURSELF” and we can’t shift the damn thang into drive. We’ve got enough food, wine and beer to make it a few days but there’s no question we’ll have to take turns keeping watch because the boogey man will surely get us and all our shit and all they’ll find of us is a couple bones, an iphone cord, a Eurovan stripped to the CV joints and a couple of dirty pairs of underwear. WE”RE $%^&ED!!! I comment that perhaps PD – this is the Eurovan’s nickname, short for PamDemonium – is hot and once she cools, everything will be fine. Let’s go check out some art! We lock it up, and stroll on over to Heidelberg street.
The Heidelberg visit was brief and tense. All we could think about was our pending doom in the van. We signed the yellow house, walked through a block and a half or so, took a bunch of pics and then headed back to the van. I tried the tranny and, no go, still stuck in park. So, we did what anyone would do in this situation, drank a beer and searched the interwebs; EUROVAN LOCKED SHIFTER. Much to my surprise, the third or fourth post had a response from a dude that said check to see if your brake lights work and, if not, it’s probably a faulty brake light switch. Pam hit the brakes, and, sure enough, no brake lights. I break out the tool kit, take off the plastic thing under the dash that keeps your foot from taking out all the guts under the dash, stick my bonehead up there and take a peek, fully expecting to be greeted with a tangle of wires and switches that would boggle a mind far superior to mine. Nope. Two switches. I wiggle the button that works off the brake lever, start her up, try the shifter and NOTHING! So, I try leaving it running and diddling the switch. On a Volksie of this vintage, you can hear the little thang that keeps you from putting it in drive until you hit the brake click when you hit the brake. That wasn’t happening. A couple more switch diddles and PRESTO, SAVED FROM A FATE WORSE THAN DEATH…I FIXED IT! WE’RE SAVED! We may have had another beer. Then we quickly departed DEEEEEEEETROITTT!
Next stop. Who knows. A place to sleep. Let’s make some tracks.
We make it to Ostego, Michigan. Pam spies a sign: Black River State Forest. Camping. SWEET! We take the exit, take a right at the end of the exit. Drive a half mile or so, take a left, drive another mile and a half or so and there’s a beautiful little state park with a bunch of campsites, a little lake, some hiking trails and bunch of other stuff we would never get to check out but if we were going to stay a few days, this would be a great spot too. We drive around the loop a few times, pick a spot and set up camp.
The Eurovan is very easy to setup. If the site is level, all you have to do is park, pop the top, and commence to camping yourself. On this trip we have a couple lawn chairs strapped to a basket on the top of the van and a couple bikes on the back on a bike rack that swings away so you can open the back door without taking the bikes off the rack. If we take the chairs and the bikes off, it takes a little longer, but not much. It’s a perfect setup for us.
We take a quick bike ride to the pond for a swim. The water is inky black and kinda spooky because you have no idea what is in there but there are a few people swimming and nobody’s getting dragged under water by monsters or anything so we decide it’s okay to take a swim. Truthfully, I’ll swim just about anywhere and if I get dragged under water by a monster, at least I’ll go doing something I love, right?
After the swim it was pretty much, get a fire going, eat a quick, light meal and crash. Pammie hit the hay earlier than I did. I sat up, drank a couple beers and smoked a stogie. I had a brief bonehead moment when I went to get another beer. I left my half-smoked stogie on the end of the arm of the lawnchair. When I came back with my beer, I sat down and put my hand right down on the stogie. Ahhh, seared flesh. Poifect! GOOD NIGHT!