Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Back in the USA!! (And Holland... Michigan : )

We finally got my bike back together and after another round of tests, decided we were good to go. Before leaving town, we had to check out Dual Sport Plus, an adventure riding shop that we had been hearing about since the Horizons Unlimited Meeting. Les and Cathy run a great shop, with everything you could need to prep and stock up for a ride around the world, or country, or what the heck, town! We got to spend some time getting to know them and hearing about the adventure they’re planning to set off on later this year… like us… destination unknown!

We set off for the border bright and early on Thursday morning, very excited to see how the day would unfold. And then 5 miles from where we woke up, we sat in traffic for 2 hours. UGH!

When we eventually made it to the ferry in St. Clair that would bring us across the river to Marine City, USA on the other side, we both had a sense of calm and peace. It was like the stress of the past few weeks of wondering whether or not Roel would be able to get into the United States, melted away. So we loaded the bikes on the ferry (YAY my bike’s first ferry ride!) and went on over. With only a dozen cars per ferry load, we were told that the border agents at these ferry crossings tend to be more positive and less likely to be put in a bad mood by thousands of (potentially nasty) tourists who have preceded you that day. 

Crossing from St. Clair, Ontario to Marine City, Michigan
This proved to be sage advice, as the four border agents manning the border at Marine city were professional, friendly and even encouraging of our journey. (Having noticed my site sticker on my pannier, one of them has even “liked” my Facebook page! How cool!) What I found to be especially impressive is that these guys were cheerful and professional even though they are not currently being paid due to the government shutdown. Can you imagine being friendly and cheerful at work if YOU were not getting paid? After filling out the necessary paperwork, and chatting for a few minutes about traveling, we were on our way.

We stopped shortly thereafter and proceeded to dance around the bikes in celebration and make-out like teenagers. Passers by must have been rather perplexed, but we were elated.

Welcome to Holland, MI!!
After filling up for under $35 for the first time in 40 days, we were on our way to Holland.

Holland, Michigan, that is!!

One of the many benefits of road-tripping around the States has been getting to catch up with friends and family I otherwise would have been unlikely to see.

Case in point…
The Ruffner Family + 2
My grandmother’s brother raised his family in Holland, MI. I’ve met a few members of the Ruffner side of the family before, but there are over a dozen of them, so I was quite excited to meet the rest. We stayed with my cousin Eric, his wife Jayne, daughter Erica, 1 dog, 4 cats, two horses, 1 goat and 8 chickens. We had a wonderful time with them…

Giving the Hondas a rest

Given that we were in Holland, MI, we of course had to see some of the “Dutchness” the city has to offer. Eric and Jayne took us on a tandem bike tour of Holland and I have to say it was the most fun I’ve had (off of my Honda) in a while : ) 

It was a stunning fall day, the downtown scene was vibrant with a large farmers market, complete with pumpkin-carving contest, and we got to check out the little Dutch Village, where you can actually pretend you’re in Holland, if you try.
Nelis' Dutch Village
In addition to spending time with Eric, Jayne and Erica, I got to got to meet several other Ruffners I had never before met and got to catch up with some I haven’t seen in 15+ years. My father’s Aunt Mary, the matriarch of the Ruffner family, is an amazing woman. The family she has raised is so full of love, and kindness and loyalty, it was like witnessing another modern miracle. While we were there, everyone got together every day… for either dinner, dessert or Aunt Mary’s famous Strada brunch. Roel and I felt so welcome we immediately felt like part of the family and it was very difficult to leave.

But, with snow already having fallen throughout much of the Midwest, it is now or never… and so, West we go!

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