It was going to be an early rise and off to Detroit right after breakfast, but breakfast is a leisurely affair and we only leave the house at 11. And so, much of our morning is gone before we hit the tunnel. Because it is the weekend, or perhaps because of some sports event happening in Detroit, it takes a while to get through the tunnel. I manage to get through with some deep breathing while trying not to get too anxious with claustrophobia. We head to the Detroit Institute of Art and by the time we get there it is time for lunch. We eat at a courtyard café that is enclosed by a historic building.
After lunch we head to the Diego Rivera murals painted in 1932. Wow! Incredible! The murals explore industrialization and its effect on society for both good and evil. Every person in the murals is someone specific. In the modern science part there is a nativity scene with Jean Harlow as the Madonna and the Lindberg baby as the Christ child getting a vaccination. On the dark side, Rivera depicts the poison gases used in war. There is so much to see and talk about that I can’t write it all down.
The art institute is huge and I don’t get to see nearly all of it. I miss the area with the Renoirs, Picassos, Monets, Van Goghs, Matisses, etc. However Rudy does see some of those.
I end up in an area where black artists were featured. Some recreations of famous paintings that were recreated with black persons portrayed are so good.
I see a photography exhibition by a photographer from Ghana and London who explores race and diversity and the photojournalism is fabulous and thought-provoking.
After a bit more touring of Detroit we head back to Windsor for a fish and chips supper. Luckily Rudy and I decide to share a plate as the piece of Haddock that is served covers the whole plate. We both eat until we are stuffed and then all of us head back to Cathy and Dave’s.
After a leisurely breakfast with Hilda and Gerhard, we pack and head on to Cathy and Dave’s. We arrive midafternoon, toss in our bags, have a quick drink, and immediately head off to the underground tunnel beneath the Detroit River that takes us from Windsor, on the Canadian side, to Detroit, on the US side. And so begins a tour of parts of Detroit. The Mariners Cathedral, where the bell tolled 21 times for the death of the men on the Edmund Fitzgerald (made famous by Gordon Lightfoot’s song) is just outside the tunnel on the US side. Cathy lives in Windsor but works in Detroit at the University there so is well versed in all sights on the Detroit side. Wayne State University has buildings spread out throughout the center of the city. We do a short drive around the centre of the city.
Some of the history is so apparent even in the architecture. Beautiful buildings, both houses and commercial buildings speak of a very affluent time. But there are huge empty lots where buildings have fallen into disrepair and infill condos, that speak of better times, now sit. One set of four large mansions have been renovated to make into a boutique hotel, but not before they had sat empty for many years, their roofs fallen in and in disrepair. The downtown has many sports venues within blocks of each other (the Ford Centre for the Lions [NFL], the Tigers Stadium [Major League Baseball], former Joe Lewis Arena, now Little Cesars, for the Detroit Red Wings [NHL]and a venue for the Pistons [NBA]). We go for cocktails at one place and then on to another place for a tapas style dinner. It is very fancy and so fun to be toured and hosted by a person who knows the city so well.
Ah, it is lovely to wake up at the home of old friends and sit together for morning coffee (tea for me) and ease into the day. We are enjoying the fruits of Hilda’s labour as there are still foodstuffs left over from Matthias’ wedding (a full weekend affair where they fed 110 people 3 meals a day).
Rudy has a cycling morning planned with his friend Willie Werner who had been at Paul and Kathy’s for supper. So, he took my bike out of the van and off he went. Little Gwennie had been dropped off by Adam in the morning so Hilda and I put her in the wagon and headed down the trail behind their house for a walk before her nap. Once Gwendolyn had been put to bed and Gerhard had finished a business call, Hilda and I hopped on our bikes, caught the trail behind their house and headed out for an hour cycle. We see the sights of the city and even see a really cool statue.
We arrived home just as Rudy returned and had lunch (wedding meat buns with a special Hilda twist on the spices). It brought me back to their Blumenort home on a baking day. Hilda always made the best buns. (This was confirmed later in the evening on a phone call with Miriam when, unprompted she exclaimed how Hilda’s food was always the best.)
After lunch we headed to a walking trail further out of town. It seems already on this trip that the walks and bike rides through the various locales are a highlight.
The evening ended up to be a great food experience. We made a few pitstops on our way on home from our walk at a middle eastern grocery store for a walnut/sweet pepper spread and pita bread and then on to a seafood place for oysters. Gerhard even had to run out after we got home for some Italian Burata. Then down to their extensive wine cellar for some Italian and Spanish wine. Main course was cedar plank salmon on the bbq, a rice dish with piles of garlic, cherry tomatoes, cinnamon stick, etc. and the fresh Burrata cheese with garden tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and oil. Conversation went well into the night: old connections, new insights, and fabulous food.
Paul and Kathy bid us adieu (a nod to the Shakespearean festival) in the morning. The private suite downstairs has offered all the amenities we could have wished for. The conversation has been soul satisfying and food great. And not only that, the weather has been so warm and sunny. Because we had had so much fun at the Stratford Festival yesterday we decide to take in another show before heading to Gerhard and Hilda’s in Kitchener Waterloo.
Rudy drops me off on the walkway between two of the festival theatres to enjoy a walk while he heads off to try to locate some cables that would help him with the GPS system in the van. I walk around the park, up one side of the river and then cross over a footbridge and down the other side. What makes a great walk? Exercise and good scenery of course. But there is an added benefit: stories in the form of plaques on the park benches. It must be human nature to try to find connections and tell stories, even if small and abbreviated. With these plaques I only get little snippets and have to fill in the details with my imagination. So here are the tidbits I found on the plaques and I will let you fill in the blanks and finish the stories and conjure up the people you imagine, connected to these.
The satisfaction of finding a story and following it does not continue on to the show we see at the Festival Theatre. It is Rent, an iconic and renowned show set in Manhattan’s East Side. It follows the lives of impoverished young artists trying to make a go under the shadow of HIV/AIDS. It is a look at the Bohemian lifestyle. Anyway, the long and short of it was that neither Rudy or I can “find the story”. There are multiple characters and multiple storylines and despite the wild dancing and singing, fantastic stage with multiple levels, the cool lighting and more, we look at each other at intermission and both decide that we have seen the whole show. We leave.
We head on to Gerhard and Hilda’s for supper. Adam, Nicole and baby Gwendolyn join us and we sit under the Pries Pavilion (a large covered area complete with outside kitchen [bbq, pizza oven, smoker, etc.] built by G and H a couple of years ago) eating delicious homemade pizza and catching up. After which we climb the couple of flights of stairs to the attic bedroom and fall asleep.
A change of circumstance, a trip, a move, or a change in routine, often gives rise to introspection. We’ve just come off of a busy summer. Rudy’s routine of golf games and suppers, walks with Alex, breakfasts with one group or another has ended. My summer of traveling between Victor St in Winnipeg (cycling, child care, renewing old friendships and enjoying the daughters that live a few streets away) and Rudy’s place in Steinbach (walking with Steinbach friends, enjoying my 3 grandsons and their parents) has come to an end.
And so, the question that arises is, what is the new story and how do I find it?
I am always looking for thread of a story and we have ample opportunity in our interactions with Paul and Kathy to piece together everything we glean in conversation, synthesizing it all into fascinating stories (at least our interpretations). We so enjoy are talks with them.
On the last leg of the cycle in the town of Milverton, with Paul and Kathy, I get lost and end up at an old cemetery. The old gravestones are from around the 1850s to the 1890’s. People put different information on gravestones back then. Of course, there are names and dates and that itself is interesting . These names are coming back in vogue: Mabel, Charlotte, Letitia, Henry and William. But the stories, I am sure are much different that today. For one thing the information recorded on the stones, pictures and motifs, poems and verses, etc. are different than what you would see today. Also the longevity of life. What does it tell me about life then? About the way people thought? What is the story behind each of those lives? I love spending time imagining and thinking about it all.
After lunch Rudy and I head off to Stratford to watch a production (and experience another great story) at the Stratford festival. It isn’t even something we had planned for but when we found that we were a 20-minute drive away, we jumped at the opportunity. Monty Python’s Spamalot is playing at one of the theatres and we arrived just in time to get parking and rush seating. Rudy and I both had enjoyed Monty Python in our early 20s and all the jokes and scenes are quite familiar as it is based on the Holy Grail movie. It is a musical and the singing and dancing and stupidity are excellent. Live theatre offers up a feast for the eyes with innovative and ever-changing staging, fabulous costumes, and unique ways of creating special effects.
We race back to Milverton with supper with Paul, Kathy and another friend that Rudy grew up with. Willie and everyone else review old times and people they have known. I nod and smile. It has been a great day.
Today the entry will be short. We have decided to push on, full throttle towards southern Ontario and the people we plan to visit. Weather has been unseasonably warm. The weather ranges from 30 degrees Celsius down to 19 degrees when we drive by the large lakes. It feels like an endless summer.
Rudy is at the wheel, as per usual. I periodically offer to drive and he declines. I am relieved, although the quieter highways that wind around the lakes are not intimidating to me. The busier highways, however, where the traffic is heavy and the lanes are many are a different thing altogether. Rudy has commented that I don’t clutch the door handle as much as I used to. Frankly, I have learned to keep my head down either reading a book or doing a small craft so I am not aware of the near misses that may be happening just outside my line of vision.
Today I am doing some light reading. Some people refer to these types of books as beach books. Lots of plot action and easy to follow. A page turner where the premise (a fairy tale loosely retold) is familiar enough and the added details and plot twists are enough to keep me interested. I hardly take my eyes away from the kindle except when Rudy pulls over off the road at a quaint and authentic Pasties takeout restaurant. We’ve seen these establishments for the last number of miles and figure we need to try this local delight. He goes in and orders two and brings them out to the picnic tables under the trees. They are VERY large dough wrapped potato, onion, and ground beef pastries. They are VERY bland. Imagine a VERY large pile of potatoes. They are a traditional food from the British Isles. Ah, we get it. British Food. We do our best and eat a portion of them and dispose of the rest. Now we know and will never have to try them again!
We press on. Me doing the important work of reading my book, and Rudy doing the really essential work of getting us to Milverton. Google has a special route for us once we cross the border into Canada. Drive 2 kilometers, then turn left onto a different road. Follow this winding road past lovely old brick farmhouses, cornfields, and large stone and wood barns for 10 kilometers. Turn right and travel down the only gravel road in southern Ontario for 3 kilometers. You get the picture! A lot of winding through the countryside, but absolutely delightful. It seems like an entirely different country. It doesn’t seem like Canada at all.
We arrive at Paul and Kathy’s (Rudy’s friends that used to live in Steinbach) for supper and settle in for an evening of visiting. Me getting to know these people I have never met, and Rudy, catching up on news.
Fall weather in Manitoba this year has been absolutely splendid. No cold windy days have whipped the colourful leaves off of the trees. It feels like the long warm fall days will never end. Rudy and I joking said that we really did not need to travel any great distance to enjoy what this time of the year has to offer. Nonetheless, the road has been calling and this morning we turned the heat down and shut off the water in his house, set out the snow shovels for those left behind and headed south to the border.
We have our bikes and hiking gear packed. We jetsoned the camping supplies when it seemed clear that the national parks would be closed. Now however, due to last minute finagling it seems that a US government shutdown has been averted and we could have done some camping. But no use crying over spilt milk: we will just have to enjoy the daytime adventures in nature.
We hadn’t traveled very far down the road when a smell emanating from the back of the van made us realize that we had forgotten to drop off the kitchen garbage in a bin as we passed through town. Now we were stuck with no place to drop off the chicken bones and rotting veggie peels. It took us a while to locate a gas station that had a big enough garbage can to squeeze the reeking bag into. Feeling somewhat sheepish, we quickly pulled back onto the highway and raced away.
Today our drive took us down small highways through Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The traveling is slow. We reduce our speed through small towns, following the curving roads past lakes and wetlands. At the risk of sounding like everyone else who takes this route in fall, the colours are fabulous. We are used to the brilliant yellow poplars in Manitoba but here, there is a mixture of those yellows with brilliant oranges and reds. These all interspersed with the many kinds of evergreens. Mostly the dwellings are modest. The people here don’t hide behind tall fences and immaculately manicured lawns and flower beds. Of course there are those as well but there are also ramshackle farms, rusted out vehicles, and wild patches of nature.
I didn’t feel great today and spent much of the trip sleeping and trying to get rid of a headache and general bad feeling. But as we neared Marquette, Michigan where we had reserved a room at the Cedar Motor Inn I began to feel better.
It is great to spend the first night at a mom and pop motel. It is just as you would expect; small, somewhat musty, but clean and a blast from the past. Definitely not a chain. No mention of Wyndham, Hyatt, or Marriott. Tomorrow we have another long day of driving. We are hoping to reach Kathy and Paul Dyck’s place for night in Milverton, Ontario.