On the 11th day of Gavin Smith’s fundraising ride for Ecojustice, he crosses the border and learns why America is the land of opportunity. Gavin also finds that getting wet is different from being soaked before having a realization about his trip.

Day 11
June 21
Distance travelled: 127.73 km (Bear Den Grocery and Motel, McMillan, Michigan)
Milestone: broke 1,000 km total

Got up a little after 6 a.m., packed, ate and left. I had been worried about this border crossing. When you select the “directions by bike” function on Google Maps it recommends re-routing through Thunder Bay to avoid the Sault Ste. Marie bridge. Thunder Bay. That’s a long detour to avoid a bridge.

It turned out to be fine (like many of the things I worry about) … it was long and there was no shoulder, but the traffic was light. Customs was also fine. The officer asked me a bunch of questions, told me I was going to get soaked and then sent me straight through. He was clearly magical because as soon as I paid the toll lady and crossed the border it started raining.

The rest of the day offered a variety of light rain, heavy rain, cloudy skies and thunderstorms. Michigan Highway 28 (which, for about a quarter the traffic of the trans-Canada, has twice the shoulder) ran mostly through forest for that day, so when it wasn’t raining the road had an eery quiet feeling under the grey skies. Something about being in America, in a state I had never visited, made the trip seem larger, more real, more exciting.

I didn’t mind the rain. The only unpleasant part was starting to get wet. Once I was soaked, I wasn’t sure why I was worried about staying dry in the first place. I wasn’t cold because I was biking, my gear was covered and my clothes would dry eventually. I was more concerned about the lightning. Fortunately it never got close enough to make me think about pulling over.

Then I saw the Bear Den Grocery and Motel. I jumped at the chance to let my stuff dry indoors. For basically the same price as camping in an Ontario park, I got a room, two free coffees, a free homemade donut and a free movie rental. America: the land of opportunity. The lack of anything else in the vicinity meant I had to settle for canned spaghetti, which I cooked on my stove, sitting barefoot on the motel stoop. Then I watched The Hangover and ate a large number of potato chips. As the second thunderstorm started, I was pretty happy I had decided not to camp.

Good decision on the camping thing, Gavin. But consuming a large quantity of potato chips. If you’re reading this, please check out this story about how potato chips make people fat.

Of course, you are averaging more than 100 km per day so maybe your metabolism can handle it.