The first day on the road

After a few cold beers in the Pearson Pub beside the hotel, I crashed around 9.30pm, which was 2.30am according to my British body-clock and I hadn’t slept well the night before. As expected, I was awake early, 5am. That’s the trouble with long-haul travelling, it takes a while for the body to adjust.

Mother nature was trying her best to deter me from an early start. And it worked. After the heat of yesterday in Toronto, I had woken to a wet, miserable day. I decided to see if I could wait out the rain, and tried updating the blog a little and re-packing all my luggage into a better riding configuration.

The Trooper loaded and ready for action.                      From Michigan, July 2013

As well as crossing the border, I also had a shopping mission for my first day. I needed to get a US cell phone for my time here, to avoid the massive call roaming charges on my UK mobile phone. What I was actually shopping for, was a replacement for UK phone, one that I would be able to swap the SIM card on and use when I was back in Blighty. Since getting my first MacBook last year, I’m becoming a late convent to Apple fandom and I’d decided to replace my old, dysfunctional Nokia with a nice shiny iPhone 5. The cost should be cheaper in the US than back at home. I also desperately needed to replace my boots.

There's a hole in my boot

There’s a hole in my boot

These are the boots that had taken me around the US the last time, but were now badly worn and the holes in the bottom let in water. I hadn’t really worn them since returning from the last trip, but I had worn them out this time with the idea that I would dump them as soon as I got a replacement. I could have bought replacements from Edinburgh Harley-Davidson before leaving, but again I figured they ought to be cheaper this side of the pond.

By 10am, the weather was showing no sign of letting up and I knew I would have to bite the bullet and ride in the rain. I packed up the Trooper and pulled on my waterproof over-pants. This was the first time I had packed the Trooper with the full set of luggage and it wasn’t a quick job. I’m sure that I’ll get the loading time down with practice, and I’ll get plenty of that as I’ll have to do it nearly every day for the next 3 months.

The ride to Sarnia on the Canadian side of the border was miserable. It rained on and off for my entire journey in Canada, with some heavy downpours in places. The Trooper wasn’t enjoying it either. During some of the heaviest downpours, he was spluttering and threatening to cut the engine out, and the indicators decided to stop working for a while. The Trooper has never been happy in the rain. He’s been into Edinburgh Harley-Davidson several times with water-related complaints, but simulating true wet riding conditions in the workshop isn’t possible and they’ve never really got to the bottom of the problem. There had been a recurring problem with the side-stand sensor coming on in the wet, even when the stand was up, and that stopped the engine being able to start, but I had had that sensor replaced just before coming over and it now seemed to be holding up to the wet conditions. Still the Trooper was clearly not happy. Fortunately all his woes seem to be intermittent and stopped before I reached the border, but I’m going to mention them next time he is in for a service, and see if anything can be done easily. That service is going to be pretty soon. He has come over to America with nearly 29,000 miles on the clock and is going to need a service around the 30,000 mark.

Crossing the US border at Port Huron was almost a pleasure. I always seem to get very anxious about the border crossing because I know that under the Visa Waiver Program, an individual CBP officer can, at his absolute discretion, refuse entry and there is no right of appeal. My friend Lissie had posted on Facebook just the day before that she had been refused entry to US. Lissie is a bright, young Brit living and working in Toronto (and I’ll be meeting up with her when I get back to Toronto in October), what possible reason could there have been for refusing her entry?

But as I said in my post I ♥ Port Huron CBP, they did let me in. The adventure was on. The Trooper and I had been allowed to invade America for the second time.

As soon as I crossed the border, the sun came out. Off came the waterproof over-pants. My first mission now that I was in, was to get replacement boots. The wet weather in Canada meant that both my feet were sloshing wet inside the boots and the loose bottom of my riding jeans had soaked up water way past my knee (I must remember to tuck them in my boots when I put the over-pants on). My jeans would dry out easily in the hot sun and wind as I rode, but my feet wouldn’t. I headed for Motor City Harley-Davidson in Farmington Hills, pretty much a suburb of Detroit.

From Michigan, July 2013

Motor City H-D is a big dealership. Plenty of bikes and accessories. The tattooed girls that showed me their boot range where very helpful and I do love a tattooed woman (yes, Doreen does have one). They had lots of boots, but unfortunately not the waterproof Hustin boots I wanted. That mornings ride in Canada had demonstrated once again the importance of waterproof boots, and living in Scotland means that waterproof kit is doubly important. Despite the squelching coming from the boots I was wearing, I had to leave it and try a different H-D dealer somewhere else down the route. I rode out of Farmington Hills past rows of wooden houses still festooned with Stars and Stripes, and bunting, from the July 4th celebrations the previous day.

My next destination was the Apple store in Ann Arbor – very efficient. iPhone 5, tick, about £140 saved compared to UK price. Then the AT&T store to get a pre-paid SIM – not nearly as efficient. As a walk-in without an appointment, I had to wait nearly an hour to be seen, but I got the SIM card, and I could now phone Brian and let him know what time I would be arriving.

It was now around 7pm and I was feeling guilty for not letting him know before, but  without the phone to contact him and the without the chores on my list ticked off, I really didn’t know what time I would reach him. Thankfully he took it in very good grace and gave me directions to his house.

  The Trooper parked up for the night                                          From Michigan, July 2013

Brian lives down a dirt road, which I never like doing on the bike. I just don’t trust the gravel. I’d largely managed to avoid unpaved roads on my last time, with no more than a handful of exceptions, but this time I didn’t have a choice. I rode slowly along and found Brian waiting at the bottom of the drive in his pick-up truck. He’d come out especially so that I didn’t miss the turn off. That is just one small example of what wonderful and considerate hosts Brian, and his partner, Roo, are.

        Brian and Roo                                                     From Michigan, July 2013

Brian lives with Roo on her old family home on 40 acres just outside Chelsea, MI. They’d made curry, but had eaten their’s already, since they hadn’t known when I would arrive. We chatted as I ate mine, and then went and sat out on the porch for the rest of the evening.

Peace and tranquility are the first two words that spring to mind. In the brief lulls in our conversation, all you could hear were the crickets, and the fire-flies were at the peak of their mating season, their brief flashes of light gave a never-ending display across the fields the porch over-looked. Good conversation flowed easily, and before I finished one beer, Brian had another out of the fridge and ready for me. Roo and Brian are incredibly good company and perfect hosts, and both have lead interesting lives with plenty of tales to tell. Whilst both Brian and Roo had grown up in Michigan, both had travelled widely. Roo got her nick-name from her travels to Australia and Brian had been a fisherman, among other things, in California and Alaska.

   View from the Roo’s porch                                           From Michigan, July 2013

I felt so comfortable in their company, that I even broke one of my cardinal rules of travelling in America which is not to talk about politics or religion. Both subjects got an outing in our wide-ranging conversations, and we still parted the best of friends in the morning.

Thank you so much, Brian and Roo, for all your wonderful hospitality, and as I said, you’ll always have a warm welcome, cold beer and a place to stay in Edinburgh.

Roo’s gnome garden                                               From Michigan, July 2013
Zombie gnomes                                                     From Michigan, July 2013



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