Since I last blogged we’ve travelled almost 600 miles from Chicago to Toronto. On our first full day in the States we took the train to downtown Chicago and checked out a food festival. Me and Andy befriended an anti-Bush activist and Andy is now the proud owner of an Impeach Bush flag. Then, by an enormous stroke of luck, a passer by identified us as being from out of town and recommended a restaurant that did fantastic steaks and also directed us to Buddy Guy’s Legends blues bar where those of us over 21 spent an immensely satisfying two hours being entertained by the finest blues in Chicago.
The next morning our plan was to leave town for Detroit by 11am. Unfortunately, it turned out that the tubes of the bike frames were too large to fit the bike racks (which were themselves too small for the roof bars, so were tied on with rope and duck tape), so me, Andy and Alex went to buy a back carrier while Neil and Leo sat in the motel carpark. Three hours, seven stores and two bike rack purchases later, we were finally ready to leave the windy city.
After realising that we were running too late to see Detroit (assuming there is anything worth seeing there) we took a detour to get closer to the Canadian border. We pulled into the town of Flint, Michigan for the night, only to find that the Super 8 there was fully booked. According to the GPS, there was a Travel Inn 1 mile away. At first glance it looked a little like a prison camp and it wasn’t immediately obvious whether the fence was for keeping people in or out. After paying just $70 for two rooms we examined our lodgings. It can’t be denied that the dirty sheets and towels, and the mysterious splash marks around the sides of the bed (blood or mud, we weren’t sure), left us a little apprehensive about where we were staying. Regardless, it was 11pm at night and we hadn’t had any tea, so we headed to the McDonald’s down the road.
Upon arrival, the staff waved from the windows to indicate that it was closed, but the sign said ‘24 hour Drive Thru’, so we walked round the side and stood in the queue of cars waiting to order at the little microphone panel. A couple of minutes later a woman came out of McDonald’s back entrance, apparently concerned by our loitering. We told her we were just looking to order some food, but she told us that we weren’t allowed through the Drive Thru without a car. We left the premises quickly, anticipating the shotgun/guard dogs that usually accompany such an eviction in the movies. We rejoined the grass verge at the side of the busy road (there are no pavements in Flint – walking is clearly for failures, Communists and those who dislike Big Macs) and found ourselves a petrol station with an alarmingly rough clientele where we bought a pack of microwaveable burgers each, heating them there and then and eating the soggy messes on the way back to the motel. The night passed mostly uneventfully, apart from Andy sprinting from his bed to the window in the early hours when he heard a car ignition that sounded like ours.
Funnily enough, none of us were too keen to hang around Flint much longer, so we were on the highway by 8am this morning. An hour later we reached the border, where Canadian immigration quizzed us about our intentions for a good ten minutes. Shortly after crossing the border we grabbed breakfast at Burger King before hitting the long, straight road to Toronto.
The (thankfully pre-booked) Super 8 at Toronto is a wonderful contrast to the Flint Travelinn: clean sheets, a working TV, an indoor pool and wireless internet access. After collecting Ed Smith from Toronto Airport we caught the train downtown and had a slap-up meal in a restaurant with crayons and drawable table cloths. We then had a wander round the water front before heading back to the motel. Tomorrow we’ll be heading back in with the intention of going up the CN Tower and checking out the city when things are actually open.