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That tidbit of information was from the 1967 Observer and it’s long out of date.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

  • Front.train
    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
  • Front.sculpta
    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
  • Funcolor
    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
  • Shadow.salon
    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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