2007.07.25 Memories of a great road

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

The International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie connects the two longest highways in North America. I learned that in the Observer’s Decade Review on page 2.

Interstate 75 ends at the Sault where it intersects the Trans-Canada Highway.

That tidbit of information was from the 1967 Observer and it’s long out of date. I don’t know how many U.S. highways are longer than the 1,786 miles of I-75, but that road now pales in comparison to I-90 with 3,099.

I-90, the longest road of the interstate system, falls far short of the Trans-Canada at 4,860 miles.

A funny feeling came over me when I typed the word “Trans-Canada” last week in the Decades. I felt a little breeze of fresh air off Lake Superior.  I sensed adventure, the open road, the long journey west.

I’ve pedaled a bicycle along portions of the Trans-Canada in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. I’ve driven a long stretch in Ontario and Québec. I’ve hitched across most of the remainder to Vancouver. Thinking about that road stirs up something from the past.

I had finished college, I had finished two years of service in inner-city Saginaw day care centers, I had bicycled back to Morenci after working for a year in a small rural school in Maine. It was time to hitch west.

Somehow I made my way north to Bayview to visit friends I made during a college summer job. They took me to the Sault, drove a few miles up the Trans-Canada and let me out.

I said good-bye and stood alone in the late afternoon. What an incredible feeling. Standing by the side of the road in another country. No one else around. The sun shining off Lake Superior. The excitement of the adventure ahead.

What’s a person to think at a time like that? The day was ending. The sun was getting lower. No one was picking me up for a ride.

It was a combination of exhilaration and trepidation, of anticipation and worry, of knowing a great undertaking is about to begin and wondering what I got myself into.

There weren’t a lot of cars on the Trans-Canada that afternoon. Traffic was rather sparse for the great cross-country route, and the few cars passing by were not interested in a young man and his backpack.

Finally, Don from Nashua, N.H., arrived on the scene and I guess he was looking for company. He was going to Portland, too, but not in a straight-away fashion. He had a side trip to Banff planned, but he would gladly take me to the turnoff.

I think we made it to the Kenora area before stopping at a little roadside park. Don slept on his front seat, but the back seat was full of his stuff, so I slept in my tent with it half collapsed so as not to be obvious for camping in an area that wasn’t for camping.

That was the night I had the encounter with a mother black bear who lightly bit my right leg to see if I was anything good to eat. Apparently not.

I remember another night with Don where I slept out in the open in my sleeping bag, half suffocating with a shirt over my face to keep the cloud of mosquitoes off.

Traveling with Don wasn’t the best, but in my mind I can still see the plains of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. I’d heard the plains were endless boredom; I thought they were fascinating. You could see forever. You could watch storms move in from far away.

Eventually it was time for Don to kick me out. I got a ride down the west side of the Rockies in a smallish sports car with a driver who had no fear. I spent the night in a hostel in Kamloops, then hitched a ride on down along the Pacific coast with Pam, a nurse from Boulder, Colo. Finally, one more ride inland to Portland and the journey was complete.

After a shaky start north of the Sault, the open road proved to be everything I’d hoped for. It was such a fantastic experience that even now, 30 years later, I can’t write the words “Trans-Canada” without seeing the sun getting low over Lake Superior and feeling that nervous sensation in the pit of my stomach.

  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.snake
    Lannis Smith of the Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor shows off a python last week at Stair District Library's Summer Reading Program.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Pipeline Spread
    LINED UP—Lengths of pipe were put in place last week along the route of the Rover natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Defiance, Ohio, to Ontario, Canada. Topsoil was removed before the pipes were laid out. The 42-inch diameter pipeline is scheduled for completion in November.
  • Front.rock Study
    ROCKHOUNDS—From the left, Joseph McCullough, Sean Pagett and Jonathan McCullough peer through hand lenses to study rocks. The project is part of Morenci Elementary School’s summer camp that continues into August.

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