2007.07.25 Memories of a great road

Written 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That tidbit of information was from the 1967 Observer and it’s long out of date.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.

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
  • Front.chat
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016