Lake St. Clair, Michigan – Quick Trip Abroad

Big Boy in Detroit Michigan

Big Boys are everywhere...

Coney Island hot dogs in Detroit Michigan

...Coney Island Hot Dogs are too

Despite the depressing news on TV, Spring had sprung on Belle Isle in downtown Detroit

Harsen's Island ferry Detroit Michigan

Harsen's Island Ferry holds 9 or so cars

Harsen's Island Detroit Michigan Harsen's Island Detroit Michigan Harsen's Island Detroit Michigan Harsen's Island Detroit Michigan - swan Harsen's Island Detroit Michigan

B&B in San Souci

Harsen's Island Detroit Michigan

Riverside Grocery

Harsen's Island Detroit Michigan

Storefront in San Souci

Smoke stacks on the Canadian side of the St. Clair River

Pretty homes along the river too...

Port Huron Michigan

Pt. Huron, Michigan (US) - Sarnia, Ontario (Canada)


Mark buys us a basket of Bridge Fries - tasty!

Lake Erie coast of Canada

Classic red barns dot the landscape

Farm stand Lake Erie coast of Canada

Roadside farm stand on Lake Erie

Farm stand Lake Erie coast of Canada

Score!  Baked goods galore and veggie garden

treasures too.

Gobi fish trapping on Lake Erie

Trapping invasive Gobi fish for experimentation at the


Lake Erie shore Canada

Lake Erie

Lake Erie harborfront Canada

Lake Erie harborfront

Windsor Canada

Returning to Detroit via Windsor

Lake St. Clair, Michigan

Late May, 2009 - We arrived from the Burbank, California airport to a wonderful, warm family

reception in Detroit, Michigan.  Mark hadn't lived there in 30 years, and since then had made

only short visits, so we had many great get-togethers ahead of us.  In between, we wanted to

squeeze in some sight-seeing, as I had never seen much of Michigan, and Mark's motorcycle

trips around the state were back in the days when he had long hair, short shorts, and Rock

hadn't yet been labeled "Classic."

We arrived in Detroit at an especially dark hour in the city's

history.  Chrysler was in bankruptcy, GM was headed that

way soon, and most people we visited were out of work.

Unfortunately, I forgot my camera as we toured some of the

amazing mansions that were built by the auto industry's

icons in the days when their profits flowed like wine.  The

sultans of that industry lived better than kings.  The opulence was breathtaking.  I could only

wonder what the factory workers thought in the early 1900's as they saw these castle-like

estates going up.  No wonder the unions became so strong: the profits were staggering and

the leaders weren't into sharing.

The auto industry was a cash cow that kept giving and giving and giving, for decades.  Eventually everyone had a piece of the pie,

and as the news anchors droned on about the industry's current woes, like the retirees losing their vision and dental benefits

(gasp!), we heard a few back stories about Generous Motors that flushed out the details.  From more than one person we learned

how folks on the line used to punch in at work, head to the bar for the day, and then punch out.  Or punch in, find a quiet spot to

sleep through their shift, and then punch out.  The party lasted for almost a century.  I couldn't help but wonder: how would the

founders of those companies feel if they saw their city today?  Where would their industry be now if those early leaders had instilled

a culture of productivity, cooperation and true generosity instead of one based on greed?

The story of Detroit's malaise filled the airwaves each night.  A mansion

that had sold in recent years for $15 million got auctioned off during our

visit for less than $5 million.  Half of the gorgeous estates we drove past

along the Grosse Pointe waterfront were for sale.  The once

unstoppable flow of profits had dried up.

Eager for some

pretty scenery, we

drove a circle loop

around Lake St.

Clair, the Detroit area

lake that sits between

Lake Huron to the

north and Lake Erie

to the south, dividing

its shores between

the US and Canada.

Harsen's Island was

our first stop, and we drove onto the ferry for the 10 minute ride to the

island.  Harsen's island is very rural at one end, with graceful homes

spread out along the lake.

At the other end, the village of San

Souci beckons visitors with charming

victorian B&B's, cute shops and a laid

back air.

We stopped at the Riverside Grocery

for lunch, watching some kids rolling by

on their bikes and a pair of young

lovers sitting side

by side gazing at

the boats in the

water.  This

seemed a perfect

place for languid

summer afternoons.

A little further up the coast we

walked around Marine City and

watched another ferry boat carrying

people across the river to and from

Canada.  We heard later that this is

the best place to cross the border,

as the lines are short.  Along the

river, both the Canadian side and US side have stretches

of gracious homes mixed with stretches of heavy


After spending some time on both sides of this river, it

seemed that there is a strong unity that bonds the people of this region, regardless of the

presence of an international border between them.  We saw homes flying both countries' flags

off their porches, and we saw posters with both flags crossed and the words: "United we

stand."  So it was odd, and sad, to see several US border patrol cars sitting on the US side

facing Canada.  We are accustomed to seeing them in southern California and Arizona, but

here they seemed out of


Up in Port Huron we took

the bridge across to

Canada's small city of

Sarnia, Ontario.  The

lady at the visitors center

suggested we get some

Bridge Fries from one of

the vendors under the

bridge.  Served Canadian

style with vinegar, we found

her recommendation was

right on.  Yum!

Heading down the Canadian side of the St.

Clair River we felt ourselves relaxing.  The

homes are nicely spread out.  We stopped

at Bogey's Inn near the village of Sombra

for the night and ended up in their largest

suite for their regular motel room rate.  "Last

year at this time I was booked solid," the

proprietor said with frustration.  The night

we stayed we were the only tourists there.

We veered away from Lake St. Clair the next morning to catch a glimpse of Lake Erie.  The fertile

farmlands stretched for miles with classic red barns and homesteads dotting the green vistas.

Suddenly the beautiful shores of Lake Erie opened up before us.  The lake was turquoise and clear,

and the homes were perched high above the lake with rolling grass lawns stretching down to the water.

We stopped at a farm stand, thinking we'd grab some apples to snack on.  As

we approached, the luscious aroma of baked goodies wafted through the

door.  We stepped inside and were suddenly surrounded by pies, buns,

breads, cookies and the like -- along with fresh picked healthy veggies.  At

the sight of those pies Mark was in heaven.  "Wow!  I'm going to get one of

everything," he joked with the lady at the counter as his eyes darted from

table to table.  I wandered around looking for the one perfect snack, admiring

the rows of maple syrups and jams while I mulled over getting a muffin or a

scone or a mini sweet loaf.  When I walked over to the register with my lone

apple bran muffin, there was Mark with "one of everything" -- and two of

several things -- laid out across the counter in front of him.  He grinned at me

sheepishly and shrugged.  How often do you find a gold mine like this?

We piled our boatload of baked goods into the car and had a small

feast of pies and cookies while overlooking the lake's crystal waters

across the street.  There was an opening that led to the water, and we

wandered down to dip our toes in the lake.  Some University students

were trapping Gobi fish, an invasive non-native fish that they want to

remove from the lake.  They were

taking the Gobies back to the lab to

try to find some natural deterrent to

limit the spread of this unwanted

fish.  Unfortunately, though, the

Gobi's were proving especially

tricky to trap.

We stopped in a small harbor town

to stretch our legs, and continued

our slow journey back towards Windsor, Ontario and the

Detroit River.  Faced with another border crossing back to

Detroit, and not sure exactly what the rules were regarding

baked goods crossing the border, we stopped and gobbled

down as many of our remaining pies and pastries as we

could.  The strawberry-rhubarb pie was out of this world, and

we each slyly unbuttoned the top button on our pants to

make room for more.  But even stuffed to the gills, we still

had some pastries and pies to go.  We just had to risk losing

our booty the border.  Of course, in the end, although every

car in line at the border had its spare tire removed and

inspected, causing an hours-long traffic jam at the tunnel, no

one asked if we were bringing in any contraband pies.

After a few more days of family gatherings, we headed out

on a slightly longer sojourn into Ohio and Indiana.