By 6:30 am we are up, dressed, packed, and waiting for the bike to warm up. The fog is so thick that we can barely make out the neon VACANCY on the sign at the edge of the parking lot. The Kawasaki noisily clearing its throat is the only sound for miles, but even that is muted by the fog, its atmospheric blanket dampening everything but our spirits. For the first time in three days our outlook is bright and our moods lifted – because we’re going home. For the first time in four years, we’ve had a less than stellar vacation on the bike.
Memorial Day weekend in Canada sounded like a good idea. “Let’s go someplace different,” we said. “Let’s not wait until Fall,” we said. “Memorial Day isn’t even a holiday in Canada, so traffic won’t be bad,” we said.
The trip started like they usually do: enthusiastic start, good intentions, and breakfast at a Big Boy. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long after that that things went south. We hit rain. We stopped to put on our rain gear. The sun came back out. We stopped and took off our rain gear. It started to get grey and cold again. And then we rounded a bend in I-69 to be met by the view above. Three car accident on the Bluewater Bridge, a whole whack of Americans who had the same idea as us to get over the border for the weekend, and a rapidly dwindling fuel supply. This wasn’t the vacation we’d signed on for.
I’m going to spare you the details of the next three hours — mainly because I don’t particularly feel like reliving that swath of time that it took us to travel five miles across the bridge. I honestly don’t know how F did it; I was exhausted, and all I had to do was sit there. I also don’t know how yet again the trip took us so much longer than travel estimates — even without the traffic jam, it would have been an excruciatingly long day to get to Stratford, Ontario. By the time we finally rolled into town, we were cold, tired, hungry, grumpy — and had about 90 minutes to check in to our hotel, swipe away some of the road grit, change our clothes, find somewhere to inhale some food, and walk to the theatre for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival.
We were at that stage of hangry at which decisions seem impossible when we staggered into the Boar’s Head Pub. It was packed, and becoming increasingly clear that we wouldn’t even have enough time to finish our dinners, let alone take the leftovers back to our hotel, by the time our food arrived. In a flash of inspiration/desperation, I asked the waitress if they would be willing to box up our leftovers and keep them in the fridge for us so that we could pick them up after the play. She not only accommodated my weird request, she welcomed us back and heated up the rest of our food for us when we returned. I think we fell in love with her a little bit.
And once we were fed and feeling human once more, we were able to thoroughly enjoy the play, Timon of Athens, which was amazing. Day One was saved. Sort of.
The next day we strolled around the Shakespearean Gardens (which were lovely) before getting on the road to Goderich, where we were going to stay for our second and third nights. It was a pleasant ride to the town billed as “Canada’s Prettiest Town”… but… well, no offense, Goderich, but you really weren’t that pretty. And it’s the kind of town that rolls up the sidewalks at 6 pm. And the day rides we had planned that looked so great on the map turned out to be mostly straight roads through farmlands. And we were still pretty exhausted from our travel travails on the first day. And after seeing no ghosts at the supposedly haunted old inn we stayed at in Stratford, we got two terrible nights’ sleep at the outwardly cheery but oh-god-we-think-it-truly-was-haunted motel in Goderich. Definitely not the kind of atmospheric we were hoping for when we booked at the delightfully “50s kitsch” looking place. And we just never really ended up enjoying ourselves. At some point on Day Three we dragged ourselves out of our funk enough to come to a conclusion: we’d had enough.
So. Here we were, bagging our last day early to beat the border traffic and get the hell home. I suppose it had to happen eventually that we’d have a decidedly “meh” roadtrip. Fortunately, there’s always a next time.