Day 53: The Long Haul to Toronto

Driving through Chicago

October 19th; Miles 7070-8030

Today is when the reality of my trip soon being over really started to set in. I moved through the rest of the midwest and then entered the east. Well actually technically Toronto, Ontario is counted more central Canada, but after today I would just be heading south back to New York. I had also spent 4 years in Toronto for my undergraduate degree and so this area was actually familiar to me, in contrast with most everything else I’d done so far.

Despite this however, it was not an easy day by any means! I was on the road for a total of 17 hours, went through 5 states, 4 major cities, one time zone change, two countries, and went through my second iron butt of the trip!

It was not originally intended to be so long of a day, still tough, but only about 800 miles rather than the nearly 1000 that it turned into.

I actually got a good start this morning. My host, Debbie, woke me up at around 6:30 to leave by 7 since she had work to get to that morning. Then I was on the road, making my way entirely on interstate, I-94 –> I-90 towards Milwaukee, WI where I could hopefully pick up the ferry to cross Lake Michigan over into Michigan state.

I say “hopefully” because, unfortunately, when I arrived at 1:15, I had missed the last ferry by 45 minutes… and the next one wouldn’t be in until 5am the next morning. So I stood in the ferry hub after being told the bad news, took a deep breath, and decided to bite the bullet and start making my way the long way, south, around the lake. This meant driving through Milwaukee, Chicago, Indiana, and then finally back up to Michigan. This also meant going through Chicago traffic which was just pure congestion, not moving at all. It took me over 3 hours to go 150 miles, not good when I had an extra 200 miles to do.

When it started to get dark, and I could feel myself starting to fade a bit, I began toying with the idea of pulling over and just getting in early in the morning. But I had had an energy drink and a coffee at around 4 or 5 and figured once that wore off I’d pull over somewhere. I was in Ontario, at around 9:30 and with about 200 miles left when this happened. So I pulled off the highway when I saw there was a hotel, too expensive (over $100 with tax), so I went on, pulled over again, same thing. When I saw there were campsites, I pulled off only to see a sign telling me it was 14km off the highway. Not good when I had already experienced seasonal closings of campgrounds. So it wasn’t too long before I resigned myself to going the whole way, and by 1:00 I finally saw the Toronto skyline.

Unfortunately, my night wasn’t over yet! I was going to be staying with an ex-girlfriend of mine who I hadn’t seen in over 5 months since leaving Toronto after school for China. I got in at 1:30, unpacked the bike and carried my stuff over to her door. She had roommates so I didn’t want to ring or knock on the door. I couldn’t use my phone since I was in a foreign country now but luckily there was a 24 hour coffee shop across the street with wifi. So I left my bags at her door and went across the street to call. No answer. I called again. Still no answer. I did this maybe ten times, texting as well. Then I went across the street and knocked. Again, no answer.

This went on until about 3 o’clock in the morning. So with my eyes stinging from the exhaustion of driving and only having eaten a couple of the left over donuts at the Tim Hortons since my mid-afternoon McDonald’s snack, I found a hostel that was about a half mile away. So I left a message for my ex saying what I was doing, picked up my two bags and helmet and set off (in her defense, I wasn’t totally sure if I was going to make it in that day and I also wanted my arrival to be a bit of a surprise so I wasn’t too specific on when I was going to get in, explaining why everyone was asleep and unprepared).

I got to the hostel and asked if they had any space available. Of course with the way the night was going, they only had a private room that cost $70 before tax. After turning down only slightly more expensive hotels, I decided that was ridiculous and asked if there was anything else in the area. Turns out the guy was trying to rip me off because all of a sudden he realized that he was looking at the wrong day (because it was after midnight, right…?) and that there actually was an empty dorm bed for $23. I said I’d take it and moved in, trying as much as I could (though unsuccessfully) to be quiet as I took off all my riding gear and collapsed in bed.

At 4:30 in the morning though, my phone vibrated, waking me up. My ex had woken up and gotten my messages and wanted to know where I was. I told her the address and said she should come get me in the morning. Next thing I know, 10 minutes later, the porter for the hostel opens the door, sees me, and tells me my friend was there! So, feeling so tired that I feel drunk, I put my clothes back on, pick up all my stuff and head back with Courtney.

This was a very action filled first day back in Toronto for what would turn out to be a very intense 3 day visit.

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