– London, Ontario to Champaign, Illinois –

Mark, Ripley and I started our morning with a run from Thames Park here in London along the Thames River. It’s funny how all of that sounds, isn’t it? We were in Ontario, of course, but given the names, you’d assume somewhere else, right? I wonder what possessed the person that named the river to go with Thames. A total lack of creativity, perhaps?

Regardless, the trail was lovely, although it did do quite a few loopbacks every time we crossed the water. The trail would wind up to the road and then circle beneath the bridge. That got a little old after a while. I would’ve preferred a more straightforward route, but it was nicely paved and marked, so it’s not really worth complaining about. We actually ran into the first rain of our trip while we were out running this morning. We ended up a little damp, but no worse for our soaking. The rain came in little pockets, but the showers were heavy when they fell.

The Ambassador Bridge. We've seen too much of it.
The Ambassador Bridge. We’ve seen too much of it.

It’s a little over two hours from London to the border with Detroit, and we made pretty good time. We did have to stop for a bathroom break when we were almost there, and the towns right around the border are strangely difficult to access from the road. We did some circling and quite a bit of searching to find somewhere to stop without using our phones. We ended up at an outlet mall, and by the time we got there, some of us were practically sprinting to the bathroom. It wasn’t me. I missed out on my morning cup of unsweet tea.

It’s a good thing we stopped when we did, I have to say. When we arrived at the bridge, traffic was already backed up all the way to the far side. Did I mention its a holiday weekend in most of Canada? It’s their Civic Holiday, which is called many different things depending on where you are within each province, let alone within the different provinces. I don’t know enough about it to explain it, but we definitely drove through a few towns celebrating it as a “founders’ day” or a “homecoming” holiday. It was interesting. In any rate, everyone has Monday off of work.

With that being the case, the lines to get into the US (which probably would’ve already been bad, since it was Saturday), were atrocious. We waited in line for nearly two hours, watching car after car get pulled off to be more thoroughly inspected by hand. I was expecting the worst when we got up there, but instead, the border patrolman just asked where we were going and made some Dallas Cowboys jokes. I think our visit took less than 30 seconds. Some of the previous vehicles took more than 10 minutes, and that was before they were dragged over to their new line to wait to have their vehicles searched. I guess Michigan was fine with having us back. It felt wonderful to get through so quickly after such a long wait.

We got burrito bowls at Qdoba instead of actual burritos when we saw the wrapping skills of the employee
We got burrito bowls at Qdoba instead of actual burritos when we saw the wrapping skills of the employee

By this time, it was already 12:30, so we stopped for lunch at a Qdoba just outside Detroit. We didn’t actually drive into Detroit, by the way. We skirted around it. You hear terrible things on the news, and we weren’t too interested in seeing for ourselves, even if it was probably perfectly safe.

From Detroit, we drove over to Ann Arbor, where we decided we needed to stop at a bookstore to stock back up on Tony Hillerman novels. On this trip, we’d already finished, Listening Woman, People of Darkness, and The Dark Wind. Ann Arbor was positively full of people, and all of their used bookstores were downtown. At first, we couldn’t figure out why traffic was so bad and parking was nonexistent. It turns out that today, Ann Arbor was hosting an ICC soccer match between England’s Chelsea and Spain’s Real Madrid.

The University of Michigan
The University of Michigan

Vicki and I were dropped off at a stoplight while Mark and John circled the city center. Our first bookstore was a bust, but the second was called Aunt Agatha’s, and it sold new and used mystery books. Jackpot! We found two Tony Hillerman novels we wanted: The Ghostway and A Thief of Time. These are out of order, but they didn’t have the book in between those two, so we were out of luck as far as that went. We were just grateful to have one more to read, since we’d already run out.

Mark picked us back up in the middle of the street again, and we drove over to the University of Michigan to have a look around. We were all sort of wandering around alone while Mark took photos and I tried to convince Miss Ripley to go potty, and Mark and I were both asked for directions to the university’s stadium at separate times. I guess we looked like we belonged on campus? I told the woman that asked me that I was from Texas, and she laughed and asked what I was doing there. The soccer match started while we were still on campus, right at 3pm. We could still see latecomers running toward the stadium even after the carillon announced the hour.

Ripley leaping up and down from raised gardens at UM
Ripley leaping up and down from raised gardens at UM

Ripley and John in particular seemed to have a good time looking around the university. Ripley really enjoyed hopping up and down from the little raised flower beds a long the sidewalks, and John enjoyed helping her chase squirrels through the grass. We visited the library and looked around a bit, but the weather was still a little unpleasant, and we were already running incredibly late thanks to the delay at the bridge, so we eventually had to press on.

About an hour later, we stopped at a Culver’s for a snack. Culver’s is a bit like a Braum’s: they serve burgers and ice cream. Culver’s specifically serves frozen custard, which has a somewhat strange texture if you aren’t used to it. They have a flavor of the day, as well as more general vanilla and chocolate that you can add syrup and candies to. It sounded much more exciting than it turned out to be, at least to me. Braum’s (and even Sonic) are quite a bit better. That’s just my opinion, of course. John is a big fan on Culver’s. His massive milkshake was so thick he had to let it melt some before he could drink it.

Culver's ice cream. Not as spectacular as I was dreaming.
Culver’s ice cream. Not as spectacular as I was dreaming.

The time changed right around the Illinois/Indiana border, and so we were able to take a side trip to a national park visitor center that we thought we might miss. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore’s visitor center closes at 6pm, but the time rolled back, so we made it in to get our stamp right around 5:45. We were pretty excited. The park is a 15-mile stretch of beach along Lake Michigan, and it’s separated into 15 pieces, thanks to some ownership issues. The park is mostly sandy beach, as you might expect, but it also has endangered plants, and bird-watching, and hiking trails. We didn’t check out any of that, since I bet you can guess what we were there for.

Did you figure it out? That’s right. Mark collected some sand. Ripley didn’t get to go, because she’s only allowed on the beaches east of the state park, which is right in the middle of the national park, and we ended up picking one on the west side. If I’d known that beforehand, we would’ve picked a different one. Alas, poor little Ripley had to stay in the car. Most of the park is very pet-friendly though. The only places they aren’t allowed are the 3 sandy beaches to the west. Alas.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Visitor Center
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Visitor Center

Still, Ripley had a good time at the visitor center, and I fed her dinner, so she didn’t have too much to complain about. It was still 2.5 hours from the lakeshore to Champaign, where we were staying for the night, so we got a move on once Mark had his sand sample. I routed us around the toll roads, because after my experience in New York and New Jersey, I no longer believe in them. Toll roads are now the bane of my existence, and I will be doing everything in my power to get around them like some kind of crazy person. I’m sure it will make this blogging thing more interesting at some point. Expect a story about me getting us lost in the middle of nowhere avoiding a toll road someday in the future.

We ended up getting Panera for dinner around 8pm in Kanakee, and since the time changed, it felt like 9pm. That’s way past our dinnertime, if you hadn’t guessed. We were all starting to feel a little cranky by the time we got there. Once again, we didn’t make it into our hotel until after 9pm. We weren’t in our room and unpacked until 9:30. These last two days have been unbearably long.

The beach at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
The beach at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Tomorrow is mostly a driving day, so we won’t see much that we haven’t seen before. We will be in Beggs by tomorrow night, and then home to Denton on Monday. Vacations just seem to fly by sometimes.

– Trip Total : 3,185 miles

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