Day 21 – Sarnia (Shantz's) to Wallaceburg (Baxter's) ~ 33 miles
We woke up around 8:30 and lazily got going. It was really nice to have slept inside in a comfortable setting. We really didn't want to go because it was so nice. But we got our things together and headed out back to get our bikes loaded. We interviewed Troy quick on camera about the Turbine issue and then got ready to go. We said our goodbyes and took a couple of pictures with Troy, Dayna, and Porter. It was really nice to have met them and we knew we were leaving with three new friends.
We hopped on the bikes and headed out of town toward our destination in Wallaceburg. We stopped at one of the local Tim Horton's just on the edge of town and got our caffeinated beverages, a bagel with cream cheese, and a couple doughnuts. We are suckers for Tim Horton's. We were right next to the Imperial Oil plant so after we ate we went and did a bit of filming. It is amazing how large and intricate the oil plants are. Imperial Oil or Esso is known as Exon in the States. We headed down the road parallel to the plant and ten popped out right next to the St. Clair river. It is a pretty river lined with homes and docks and industrial/ shipping enterprises. And even though it is nice to look at we aren't to keen on swimming in it due to the level of pollution.
It was another nice and hot sunny day. And the wind was at our backs. We were cruising along and it was even better because we knew we only had a short distance to go today. We both agreed that it was one of the nicest rides we have had yet. We were following the river and it never really left our sight. We were on nice bike path and smooth pavement pretty much the whole day.
We arrived at the Baxter's home sometime around 2:00 or so and we met Margaret and her husband Ken. They were born and raised in the area and have a nice home not to far from the river. They had read an article about us in the Sarnia Observer and contacted us about offering a place to stay. Right away Margaret offered us a beverage and we sat in the yard and talked and relaxed, enjoying the nice day. Ken showed us around his man palace/ garage and showed us his collection of license plates. He has some really neat and old ones. They even have a hot tub in the garage!
We went inside and Margaret cut up some watermelon and introduced us to Butter Tarts. It was our first experience with the Canadian treat and they are delicious. Then we showered and relaxed with them in the living room and talked. It was great having such nice company.
They both prepared an amazing home cooked meal for us. It was steak, potato salad, salad, asparagus, and watermelon! SO GOOD. We scarfed it down like mad. Afterwards we went and utilized the opportunity to sit in the hot tub. It felt so good and after we got out our muscles just oozed with relaxation.
We went back inside and watched a bunch of episodes of Duck Dynasty and were thoroughly amused. We definitely want to watch more. Kris also got the route figured out for tomorrow because we are going to have to zig zag a bit to avoid the freeways. We hung out in the living room and got some work done on the computer and waited for Mantracker to come on at 9. Kris had told Zach about it a few days earlier and now we were going to get to watch it! Ken made us all popcorn and we sat and waited. Unfortunately Mantracked is sinking into retirement so the whole episode was all about trying to recruit a new tracker. Not worth watching. So we eventually flipped back to Duck Dynasty!
At around 11:30 we headed up to bed. We are so spoiled being able to sleep under a nice warm roof two nights in a row. Almost to spoiled. We aren't going to want to leave.
We had so much fun with the Baxter's and hope to see them again when we are on the opposite side of the river about a month from now.
We are headed to Holiday Beach Conservation Area just outside of Amherstberg tomorrow and it is going to be about an 80 mile day. Going to bed content.
Day 22 – Wallaceburg to Holiday Beach Conservation Area ~ 83 miles
We woke up warm and comfortable in the Baxter's home around 8:45. We got out of bed and pack our things up and headed downstairs for the amazing breakfast that they had prepared. Eggs, bacon (Canadian and American style), toast, and coffee. It was so good. We sat and ate and talked for a bit and then got ready to head out. Margaret even packed us a lunch of egg salad sandwiches, butter tarts, and date bars. We had our bikes stored out in the man palace so after we got our things from upstairs we headed out and packed the trailers. We said our goodbyes and took a picture together. We really had an amazing time with them and can't thank them enough. We may see them again on our return trip on the otherside of the border.
We took off and headed toward Wallaceburg. The weather wasn't ideal but it wasn't raining and the wind was thankfully at our back. About 5 miles out Zach got attacked by a bird that he spooked while riding by. It flew out of the tall grass and squawked and tried to peck him, but it never quite got close enough and eventually gave up. We continued on and biked through Wallaceburg. We had a lot of direction changes throughout the day so we had to stop after every turn and double check our route. It ended up being kind of nice because it broke up the monotony of the day.
We continued on through the farm country and backroads and eventually reached Tillbury where we stopped at a convenience store and ate our lunch. After we ate we changed directions again and headed through town. We were crushing the miles one after another and then stopped at a local berry farm/ greenhouse and had a basket of fresh strawberries. Pretty sweet and delicious.
A few miles down the road we stopped in a small town called Cotham and double checked our directions and asked about a grocery store so we could stop and grab dinner. We headed toward our destination and on our way witnessed someone back up at a stop sign into another car. They were just trying to back up to give room to a semi that was trying to turn, but they forgot the most important thing to remember when backing...look behind you.
We continued on and had our first run in with a dog. It saw us coming and sprinted out of the yard and chased after us. It was barking and we looked behind us to see that it was gaining on us so we put it into gear and booked it out of there. He eventually gave up. Just before our turn to the campground we stopped at a small convenience store and picked up things for a pasta dinner and a snack.
We headed about another mile down and reached Holiday Beach Conservation Area. It is right on the edge of Lake Erie where the Detroit River runs in. There was a note at the check in station telling us where to go and what site we were at, they even had firewood waiting for us! The Essex Region Conservation Authority had heard of our trip and offer a free site for our stay! People have been so kind to us.
We headed to our site and quickly realized that it is the best site in the park! Huge and sitting directly under a gigantic Oak tree. It is also right next to the marsh and just a minutes walk from a bird blind.
We checked out the area and went down to the marsh for a few minutes to check it out. Before dinner we set up the tent under the tree and then went and utilized the showers. Felt great after a long day. After showering we made our pasta dinner and relaxed. After dinner we headed down to the beach for our first encounter with Lake Erie!
Across the water we could see a nuclear power plant on the U.S side of the lake. It really dominated the view and it is amazing that it still looks so big while being so far away. After checking out the lake we went down the shore toward the Detroit River to check out the hawk tower. It is a tower that was built for viewing the migration of the hawks in the fall. Basically there is a bottle neck for the hawks migration path right on the west side of Lake Erie, where the distance to cross the water is short. Very similar to the situation that we experience on the North Shore of Lake Superior, via Hawks Ridge.
While we were heading to the hawk tower we began to hear this very loud humming and we weren't sure what it was. Once we reached the tower we realized very quickly that is was coming from an enormous swarm of bugs! We learned later that the bugs are known as Midges. They are an insect that spends most or their life in the water and come out mainly to breed and then die. They actually don't even have mouths, just the organs to breed. It was ridiculous how many there were. Think of a black cloud and you can pretty much see the swarm of bugs.
We then biked back to camp and started the fire. We sat there for a bit and then headed down to the water for one last look at the water. There are an incredible number of different spiders in our camp and at the blind that we hadn't seen during the day. Some were huge. We watched them for a while a listened to the darkness before heading back to camp and to bed. Tomorrow we have a shorter day to Leamington after making a stop in Essex to meet a city counselor who is going to show us some wineries.
Day 23 – Holiday Beach to Leamington via Essex ~ 43 miles
We woke up at around 9am this morning and got ready to head out. Kris saw the guy who was secretly camping in the site next to us and he seemed to not want to be seen. After we got ready we headed out of the park and met one of the staff on the way out. After chatting with her for a few minutes we headed back to the gas station about a mile down the road and had breakfast of pre packaged pastries and coffee. After that we headed to essex through the back country roads. When we arrived we went to Canadian Tire and purchased some much needed fuel for our stove. After that we headed into town and tried to reach the city counselor by phone again but he was still not answering. We ended up going to the library to see if we could find a different number for him. When we got on he had written back that he couldn't make a visit with us because he was in meetings. We were a little discouraged by this but we found out that the Essex Regional Conservation Association was right around the corner. They were the ones that gave us the free campsite last night so we went there to learn some things about the area and their group. We learned a lot about the area and interviewed Kevin Money about the organization. We learned that today we are the furthest south in Canada we will be on our whole trip. Now we will slowly be heading north east until we turn around in Quebec City.
After we left their offices we headed out of town and stopped at a place called Dairy Freeze. It has been open for 50+ years and was amazing. We had burgers and cones and went on our way. We soon were close to Leamington and decided to stop at the Aleksander Estate Winery. We interviewed the owner and tried some very nice wines. Zach had never had this experience before so we were sure to capture it on film. They ended up giving us free wine. Thanks for the amazing wine guys! We learned that Essex County is a rich place for growing, with similar conditions to Northern California and Italy. There are more greenhouses in the area than any other places in North America.
After the winery, we headed into Leamington and went to the grocery store and got more materials for pasta dinner. We made our way back to Robbie's house where we set up our tent and made a great dinner with great wine. He finally arrived home and we met him and his daughter. We shared stories of the road and then got all showered up. After our shower we headed to Walmart to get Zach a new phone charger as he had left his behind in Sarnia. Off to bed soon after that as we have a huge day tomorrow towards Port Stanley.