First, some housekeeping matters. Mileage pedaled and donation totals are updated daily on the blog sidebar. You can see it on the right of a big-screen computer, or by scrollling down past the blog posts if you are using a smalll screen, at rideforhumanrights.com . Meanwhile, courtesy of Human Rights First, here is a map of our progress through Thursday evening, May 29 (the red dot is at Woodstock, Ontario). On Friday, we pedaled another 93 miles to Port Huron, Michigan, across the Blue Water Bridge from Sarnia, Ontario, which is depicted on this map.
At breakfast, Jeffrey overheard hotel workers intelligently discussing Canadian politics. He met Jen, Kaytlyn, and Jenna.
They are excited about the upcoming election. Jenna told Jeffrey about learning civics since 4th grade, and how young people (she is 18) look forward to voting as a rite of passage. Voting is easy for Canadians: they show two pieces of ID, generally a driver’s license and a medical insurance card (!), and they can vote, no pre-registration required. If these young women are typical, Canadians have a level of civic engagement that hearkens back to a United States that is no more.
Soon we hit the road, passing through a few small towns and the substantial city of London, spending most of the day smelling tilled fields and cow manure (which is much nicer to smell than the chicken farms we passed on Tuesday and Wednesday).
Several “Doctor Seuss” trees similar to the one above, in different colors, were on our route through downtown London.
In a housing development, we met municipal road worker James, out with a crew to patch the street. James holds more than one citizenship and has lived in England and in various places in the U.S. He misses the States, “the land of opportunity,” but stays in Canada now because of his spouse and kids. He doesn’t like U.S. militarism, but likes the efficiency of the medical system . . . so long as one has good insurance or money or both. Like others we speak to, James is sympathetic to unrepresented refugees and will follow our trip on line.
Hours later, after passing mile after mile of countryside, we reached Sarnia and the Blue Water Bridge to Michigan. Bikes aren’t allowed on the bridge, so a new Canadian friend with the bridge authority – Jeffrey forgot his name! – helped Jeffrey load the trike into a truck and drove us across for free.
Canadian officials were very friendly, supportive of us and of finding free lawyers for refugees in the U.S., and helpful. (Jeffrey had not found a way into the border area without violating a “no bicycles” sign. He apologized to one of the armed Canadian officers, who laughed and said not to worry, it being Canada, rules are merely suggestions.) Debbie, a Michigan Department of Transportation worker who met us on the U.S. side, was helpful and friendly too. American Customs and Border Protection people were colder and more suspicious, but after Jeffrey told the inspecting officer of our travel plans (he decided not to raise the sore subject of America leaving asylum applicants to figure things out for themselves), the officer mentioned his plan to go fishing in Wisconsin and shook Jeffrey’s hand.
A quick look back at Canada: People are friendly. They drive gently around bicycles, giving us much more room than most American drivers do. From the young people’s civic engagement to trade names (people of a certain age will remember when the U.S. had Esso gas stations) to the lack of constant reminders of The Troops and that We Are At War (we did see a military installation, a “Thank a Veteran” sign, battlefield monuments and a makeshift war memorial, but one is not bombarded with military symbols as one is in the U.S.), it reminded Jeffrey of the America of his childhood. It was refreshing to be there.