Friday, July 5, 2013

Day #38: The Port Burwell Predator & The Port Dover Angel

Today's Route: Port Stanley, ON to Port Dover, ON (75 miles/121 kilometers)
Total Trip Miles: 1998 (3215 kilometers)

Happy Fourth of July, people of the United States!

I have successfully managed to miss all independence day celebrations; I was in the U.S. for Canada Day, and I was in Canada for the Forth of July.

It sure did feel weird waking up this morning and seeing that it was July 4th, but knowing I wouldn't be seeing any parades or watching any fireworks. Heck, I haven't even seen any red, white, and blue decorations - flags, buntings, whatnot - for a few days now!

As it turns out, Canada celebrated its birthday on July 1st. I've seen many signs saying "Happy Canada Deh." I had to ask. Yes, "deh" is the good humored Canadians laughing at themselves for their "eh"-speak.

[Warning: Mother, do not read the next section.]

I had my second scary encounter today. If you recall, my first scary encounter involved a bridge (see Day #2: Scary Ass Bridge). Today's scary encounter involved a person.

I pulled into the town of Port Burwell this morning, in dire need of a place to pee. I'm totally comfortable popping-a-squat in the bushes; I did this many times out west. But out here, there just aren't as many places for appropriate pop-a-squats.

I went to the general store in town and asked for the restroom. The proprietor pointed me to the museum next door. I went to the museum next door and asked for the restroom. The woman pointed me to a public restroom down on the beach. Grr!

So, I go to the restroom down on the beach. And I pee. Ah!

While I'm at the beach, I figure I might as well refuel on calories. As I'm eating a burrito, this guy pulls up in a car. He's smoking a cigarette and totally staring me down. After a few minutes, he drives away.

But, then he comes back and parks even closer to me and Shirley. He's staring me down even more, making me ├╝ber uncomfortable. I decide it's time to leave.

As I get on my bike and turn my bike around, he turns on his engine, and he sits there.

I ride up the hill to get to the main drag. I'm concerned he might be following me, so I pull off onto the sidewalk behind a car, nonchalantly looking into my handlebar bag, but chalantly observing whether he passes by.

A few seconds later, I see him ride by. He looks at me as he rides by. Creepy.

He passes the turnoff for my route, and so I make the turn onto my route, figuring I was just imagining it all in my head. But then I see him approach from a side street and pull onto the street just behind me.

Fucking creepy.

I make a mental note of him (sitting low in the seat, dark hair, tanned skin), and I make a mental note of his car (tan, 4-door, license plate beginning in "BBYV...")

I quickly think of what I can do to shake him off my trail. The next 20+ miles are on country roads and go through very small towns. I do not want to have an encounter with this creep out in the middle on nowhere.

Instead of taking the next right onto my designated route, I go straight onto the road ahead instead. I glance behind me to see what he is doing. He has pulled onto the side of the road, and he is waiting.

So, I ride ahead quickly and then pull off and hide myself and my bike behind a fence. About a minute later I see his car go by again, presumably following me.

After he passes, I make like lightning, bike back to the turnoff, and then ride like mad.

My plan is this: If I see him again, I will ride as quickly as I can to the nearest house or flag down a passing car for help. I will ask for a ride to the town where I plan to stay tonight.

The next ten miles were undoubtedly the fastest on my trip. I kept glancing behind me, waiting for his car to appear. And I kept studying the approaching cars, hoping none of them were his. Meanwhile, as I'm biking along, I'm looking at the houses I pass, noting whether it appears as if anyone is home who might be able to help me.

I debate stopping to get my knife out from my food pannier, but I decide it's better to keep moving.

With each passing mile, I become more and more comfortable that I won't see the fucker again. With each passing mile, he has a larger and larger radius of roads to travel if he wants to hunt me down.

After about 20 miles, I stop glancing behind me. I'm comfortable that I've lost him.

This was really scary for me. I've ridden nearly 2,000 miles on this trip, and this is the first time that someone has really creeped me out. I'm not going to let this stop me though.

Looking back on the incident, I'm fortunate that I was smart about trying to evade this guy. I'm glad I noticed him in the first place. I'm glad my gut gave me an instant yucky feeling about him. I'm glad I faked the route as I first rode out of town. I'm glad I made note of opportunities for assistance as I rode along. Most importantly, I'm glad nothing awful happened.

Port Burwell Predator, you a creepy bastard.

After about 22 miles, I rolled into Port Rowan, where I spotted the "BentHub" gang from yesterday. I had met two of the guys on the trikes, but I now had the chance to meet all five members - three guys on trikes and two girls on recumbents.

The entire BentHub crew.

As it turns out, these folks stayed in Port Burwell last night and had a less-than-stellar experience. They thought it was a creepy town, too.

In Port Ryerse, I met Gary and Pam, who were walking down the street as I rode by. They asked the age-old questions: "Where are you traveling to?" and "Where did you start?"

Gary and Pam were really sweet people. They gave me a name of someone in Port Dover who might be able to help me find a place to pitch my tent for the night.

Gary & Pam.

When I arrived in Port Dover, I looked up the person who Gary and Pam recommended I speak with. This person suggested I check out the churches in town. This began a wild, wild goose chase of trying to track down contacts at the churches. I tried the churches themselves, the local board of trade, the library, and various businesses in town. All suggestions led to voicemails.

When I had knocked on the door of the Knox Presbeterian Church, a woman named Debbie answered the door. Although she was just cleaning the church, she offered to make some phone calls for me to see if anyone could help. The phone calls led nowhere, but Debbie kindly offered, "If you're just looking to pitch a tent in a yard, and if you haven't found another option, come over to my place at 7:30pm."

I exhausted my options, plus some. So I decided I would head over to Debbie's house at 7:30. She was just a few miles off-route.

In the meanwhile, I went to the local Tim Hortons. Over the last few weeks, I've heard a number of people suggest that I visit Tim Hortons if I need wifi while in Canada. I figured this chain would be akin to a McDonalds. Boy, was I wrong! It's more like a Dunkin Donuts!

I passed some time catching up on emails and drinking an iced mocha, and then I headed over to Debbie's house.

I was really surprised when Debbie said I could sleep inside in her basement, and even more surprised when she said I could use her shower. What a complete and utter act of kindness; I thought I'd just be pitching my tent in her yard!

I met the whole gang at Debbie's place, including her son (Ben) and her friend (Cathy) who is staying with her. I also met her two doggies and her two adorable kitties.

Debbie, Ben, & Cathy.

We chatted for a bit and then played a few rounds of Skip-Bo. This happened to be one of my favorite card games as a child. What a skip(bo) down memory lane! It was great fun playing with these folks - there was even a little bit of sass and trash talk goin' on.

Playing Skip-Bo.

At one point in the conversation, we talked about Debbie's water well. I asked how deep the well was, and Ben responded in feet. I was impressed that he knew the conversion, as I expected a metric measurement.

Ben informed me that Canada was on the imperial system of metrics until the mid-70s, when the metric system started to be used more readily throughout the country. Apparently, Canadians younger than 30 tend to exclusively use the metric system, whereas older Canadians tend to be "measurement bilingual."

What a day of contrasts - the day began with the Port Burwell Predator and ended with the Port Dover Angel. By and large, most people have big hearts; I am continually blown away by the acts of kindness displayed by people I have met on this trip. Given all the wonderful people that have helped me, I'm not going to let one creep spoil the eggs.

Thank you my Port Dover Angel, Debbie, for being a good egg.


  1. Prior to moving here, I too thought that Canada was metric. But I got straightened out within a metric day of living here. I was interested in getting a table from an early 20's woman off of Craigslist. I asked her how big it was and was surprised when she quoted the size in feet and inches. Canadians are not as metric as they think they are. Heights and weights are all still completely imperial regardless of how old the people talking about them are.

    Ugh, sorry to hear about your creepy experience. That sounds terrifying!

  2. That was truly a scary story, Sarah! And I'm really happy and surprised that was the only time you've been scared! Glad it all worked out okay, keep your guard up! I'll be praying for your safety a little harder now! xo

  3. Thanks for keeping me in your thoughts, MaryJo. It means a lot to me. :)


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