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day 1: the drive

November 17, 2012

After a few hours of sleep (I won’t specify how many, but not enough – packing took a lot longer than I anticipated!), I was up and ready to go. With some struggle, I made it to the departure meeting place at 8:30 in one piece and with my hiking boots.

I imagined that unmarked white cube vans would be ferrying us to Kentucky, but was surprised to find black minivans. After being briefed on the rules of Shotgun (can only be called when you see the car, a Shotgun must not fall asleep or else they get relegated to the back-middle seat) we were off. I was in a van with 4 other Artsci students and Riley, a Master’s (soon to be PhD) student at Mac whose research had him driving all around northern Ontario, digging holes and taking measurements.

Our van soon became known as “Sleep Bear Van” (well, I called it that) because like me, the rest of the passengers had been burning midnight oil (and then some) to get ready for the trip. Riley commented that he’d never met a group that slept as much as we did. Compliment accepted?

Anyways, I was Shotgun for the first little bit and thus could NOT fall asleep. Instead, I watched as the scenery started opening up. We saw wind farms, normal farms and a lot of flat land. I really like how relaxed having expanses of space around you makes you feel.

Then, we were at the Windsor-Detroit border, stopping off at a strip mall that could have been anywhere (Red Deer, Mississauga). I bought a large container of spinach at a grocery store. People scoffed at me, saying I wouldn’t eat it all. I proved them wrong 🙂 let’s just say I have my iron requirement for the weekend!

Border crossing went off without a hitch and we were in the parking lot of the Michigan Welcome Centre. We saw a sign for “Detroit Mexicantown” and after we stopped laughing, Chad (one of the other supervisors) told us it wasn’t a joke. Apparently the best food in Detroit is in the area right by the border, and it’s Mexican.

Then, we drove and drove and drove – through the industrial sprawl of Detroit (huge machines, mountains of salt), past clusters of fast-food/chain restaurants (McDonald’s, Ruby Tuesday, Outback, Bob Evans, Taco Bell, KFC etc. etc.) that seem to repeat every 50 km or so, and through a succession of large cities (Cincinnati, especially!).

I can’t get over how subtly different the US is. Things just seem bigger. The billboards are bigger, the portions are bigger (but prices seem smaller!), the sprawl is bigger, the roads are bigger. The scale just confuses me. It’s like an alternate universe. Their McDonald’s also has the calorie count of each menu item listed right below in on the ordering screens (“Didn’t change my choice a bit” my friend Sam admitted).

After a roadstop dinner (I ended up munching on the rest of my spinach and some complimentary biscuits), we drove off for the second-last leg of our journey. A really beautiful sunset sent us off. I don’t have a picture (and the computer I’m typing on doesn’t have an SD reader, so adding pictures may be difficult anyways!), but suffice it to say that it was gorgeous, and the sky was full of colour for a long time after. It was so nice to be in the car and just looking around, thinking about everything we were driving by.

We made a final rest stop at a gas station (that boasted a “Beer Cave”, also the restroom was sponsored by Coor’s Light) and played a few moving-around games (pretty much we pretended we were ninjas) before driving the last hour or so.

We’re at the hotel now, and after another meal at a great Mexican restaurant nearby (I think the theme of this day was food), my friends Lexi, Alisha and I are all turning in for a good night’s rest. We’ll be up at 6 tomorrow to get a good Kentucky breakfast before a full day of caving!

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!

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