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(>Pictures at the bottom!)
Our first big round begins to close slowly. After Route 66 and Chicago we spent a nice but very cold night on the shore of Lake Michigan. The fire warmed us far into the night and we were so engrossed in a conversation that we didn’t even notice the raccoon in the 5 metre distant jeep raiding our food supplies. We noticed the ensuing opossum at an early stage and so the hungry animal had to search the wide open space in the dark forest without getting hold of any bite.
In the morning the sun laughed at us early and the breathing air steamed through the morning freshness. Thanks to our fire it was still quite pleasant and the coffee tasted great at the sizzling fire. At the lake, since a few days it should be ice-free, many people already moved and enjoyed the spring-like atmosphere, although the icy north wind was anything but inviting. I enjoyed a short hike in the protected dune landscape and the views all the way to Chicago.
Already at breakfast we made another calculation of time and what would be possible or not. So we steered immediately in eastern direction and followed the southern border of the state Michigan. After the Great Plains our road led through a gentle hilly landscape along many farms that are still managed by the families. Fruit-growing and viticulture are the main influences of the area. We were always attracted by the many wine cellars, but the time, but also the many police patrols kept us from a deeper immersion in a cellar vault.
In Hudson, a sleepy small town in the middle of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, a young man called me by my first name. Probably I must have looked very awkwardly out of my laundry; on such a journey one meets a lot of people, but I couldn’t remember him with the best will in the world and when asked where Chantal was, I was quite embarrassed. But I couldn’t know him at all; he discovered us by chance on the internet, was totally enthusiastic about our trip and has been following our adventures regularly since then. The world can be so small!
He wished us all the best on our journey and was already looking forward to the next stories.
In Toledo we reached the Chrysler assembly factory, where our jeep once left the assembly line a little more than 12 years ago and was shipped to Europe.
Cars have no feelings and souls, but it was a bit touching for us, and thoughtfully we took a few souvenir photos in front of the symbols of freedom on 4 wheels. We would also like to claim that not many a wrangler, who was once brought to Europe, ever stands before the gates of his birthplace again! But we tortured our mobile vehicle over stick and stone, mud and sand tracks, asphalt and snow and had to cover 225’000 kilometres (139’808 miles). Thoughtfully we – Chantal and I – looked into each other’s eyes and secretly hope that our Jeep will hold that far again – the way around the world is from this place not yet finish!
Spring had definitely arrived in the southern part of Lake Erie and behind the window it warmed up wonderfully. After the long winter with snow and ice, nature began to live and a tremendous energy spread inside us. At that moment we could have pulled out trees and started straight for Alaska.
The landscape was scurrying past us and was especially impressive in the morning light. We found the many industrial complexes, which stand everywhere at best situation along the lake shore, rather as sturgeon objects than worth seeing. Probably it was once the good access to the lake, the labour force and local conditions for their settlement ideal. But not only the industry can sometimes be disturbing, also the immense tourist offers can take much away from the most beautiful landscape and let the rest become stress.
After Cleveland, Pennsylvania followed and we returned to the icy winter! We did not drive 200 kilometres and already we stood on ice floes in Lake Erie; in the southwest we experienced spring with all its colours and scents, here still the deepest winter, and a cold north wind scurried around our ears.
In the countless harbour facilities, the yachts were still standing outside on the dry docks, while the pick-ups with their huge exhaust pipes roared around them like ocean liners; for some a pleasure and music, for others a lot of noise about nothing.
After a few kilometers we had to take a break again and between the shut down big industries we found a suitable place in a newly used recreation area. While we moved back and forth on the harbour walls, many people walked over the ice surface as if there was a hiking trail. Others enjoyed ice fishing in the fresh breeze.
Although Chantal is only allowed to distort freshly caught fish, this fridge would be nothing for me and my shaking body.
During the summer months thousands of people probably squeeze their way to the barriers of the Niagara Falls. This afternoon, however, only a few Asian tourists dared to come here. Together we marvelled at the natural spectacle and froze our feet off. Before we went on the next day, we had to visit the Niagara Falls again to enjoy this and the opposite Canada, decorated with sunlight, ice and snow. From the USA side it looks really different and the views into the horseshoe-shaped falls as well as the whirlpool below were more impressive from a Canadian point of view.
At Lake Ontario we again followed the southern shore to the east. For the snowmobiles it was also the end of the season and desolate it stood somewhere in front of the houses in a puddle of water. The many signs in the fields and forests reminded us of the motorized winter fun and made us smile again and again: Traffic signs in the middle of the green field.
The northern area of New York State, with its family-run farms and landscaped area, moved my feelings strongly. The many dairy farms, but also orchards and vineyards were almost like a “home” for me. In the many small towns where agriculture is still the focus of economic activity today, these words often came out of my mouth to Chantal’s annoyance: “oh, this is for this and that”. And of course everything had to be photographed again and again!
In the orchards and vineyards men already worked intensively and gave the wood the appropriate cuts when we left Lake Ontario again and drove into a more mountainous landscape to finally say goodbye to the winter.
The higher situated villages like Indian-, Saranac- or Tupper Lake fascinated us and already we stood in the woods of the Adirondack Mountains, where during the summer time many people move in nature and, according to the many advertising posters at the roadside, can pursue innumerable leisure possibilities, but for these we were definitely too early for these things. 😉
We thought that the winter would definitely be over for us. But far from it; the cold journeyman had us firmly under control again and camping was definitely over at the moment. On the first we couldn’t reach the possible places because to much snow, on the second it was definitely too cold for us in the evening and at night! The thermometer sank again and again below -10°C and there we would probably have definitely frozen in the night.
We spent our (visa-) time in the USA practically until the last day. While the farmers tapped the maple trees to get the precious juice for the maple syrup, we moved towards the Canadian border. A strange feeling spread through us; it was like “going home”, but there – in Canada – is not our home! Or was it the tension before crossing the border, in the end we read and heard different stories. The feeling remained, although crossing the border was a matter of 10 minutes, without any harassment. We were kindly bid farewell by the American border officials and then welcomed by the Canadian ones.
In Québec it was neither winter nor spring: While there was still a lot of snow on some fields, others were already free and in the woods the maple trees were tied together with tubes to form labyrinths. At first we didn’t know what these tubes meant and thought of any barriers or animal enclosures. But far from it – here the maple trees are intensively tapped for the sugar-containing sap and led via hoses directly into the “maple syrup kitchen”. According to our information, the southern limit of maple tree use is moving more and more in a northerly direction. Whether this has anything to do with global warming, nobody could tell us, but that bad or wrong forest management has a very quick effect on the forests and the maple stock. Peter play also an importent roll in the extraction of maple juice; temperatures of -7°C at night and +7°C during the day are ideal. The harvest time for the farmer is a very short intensive time and the hustle and bustle is correspondingly high. As soon as the trees form buds it is over.
After the border Québec-Ontario on the side of Ontario is the farm of Cousin Philipp, where the first stop was made and we heard the first hello. There was a lot to tell and at this time, where almost everything is still resting on the farms, there was also a lot of time for long chatting hours.
Ice rain and snowfall accompanied us on the next and currently last stage along the Ottawa River up to our next domicile, where we will prepare us for the next big jump.
Also here; a warm welcome, make yourselves comfortable and tell us what you have experienced on your way through the vastness of America. Very beautiful moments, which sometimes just pass by too quickly.
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