‘Bringer of Clouds’

June 24, 2013

I continue to pick away at William Least Heat-Moon’s book, Blue Highways, a book I mentioned in previous posts. It’s not been a linear read. I’ve returned to the beginning of the book and the chapter that’s titled, “Eastward.” He divides the book into sections by regions of the country. Because I purchased the book after I started my journey, I began reading regions that lay before me. Now I return eastward, so I begin Heat-Moon’s book from the beginning.

It’s here he considers a circumnavigation of the United States in his car through the back roads of America. Having not read this section before I started my journey, I had no idea my road trip had parallel origins to Heat-Moon’s. Our eureka moment came as we lay in bed late one night, but our purpose was different. He said, “A man who couldn’t make things go right could at least go. He could quit trying to get out of the way of life.” My purpose was to quit trying to get in the way of life. For me, part of finding that deeper meaning in life means not trying to control it so much; not trying to outthink it; letting go of conditioned ‘reason.’ Learning to trust that, given good intention, the universe will support and nurture me – give me what I need, and accept that I won’t necessarily get what I want.

Heat-Moon and I also diverge on another point. He states, “Beware thoughts that come in the night. They aren’t turned properly, they come in askew, free of sense and restriction, deriving from the most remote of sources.”  I say these are the thoughts that are turned properly. They’re the ones we need to be listening to more often – those that come free of restriction and all the logic and reason that needs to be questioned more often. Despite our divergence on certain philosophies, we both decided to set out on a clock-wise circumnavigation of the back roads of our country – he in 1978; me 35 years later.  We shared the same reason for making a circular journey: “to come around again – where taking a straight line would not.”  April 17th: springtime in the northern hemisphere and a symbolic time of new beginnings. Here I am 71 days later on the verge of closing that circle.

Today I landed in Bennington, Vermont, approximately 50 miles short of my home in Brattleboro. I’ll arrive tomorrow, God willing. Tonight I’m staying with my friend, Eric, and his two loyal companions, Mae and Ryan.  We’re grilling steaks in the middle of a thunderstorm. Eric calls me ‘Bringer of Clouds.’  It fits, given the rain clouds that have been my unfailing companions on this journey. Read one of my early blog posts, 13,694, to see and hear about Eric, Mae and Ryan.

Eric, Ryan and Mae

Connecting at the end of my trip with the last Vermont friends I’d see before leaving the state in April seems to close one part of the circle. I’ve come back around. But what I’ve come back around to I’m still not sure. I’ve been reflecting on that often these last few days. More on that in my next post. This isn’t my last.  But first, a look at the road out of Canada, where I last reported in The Gracious Host, and through upstate New York these past two days.

The road from Severn, Ontario, Canada, to Niagara Falls, where I’d cross back into the United States, was fast and direct. It seemed like I’d not be riding “blue routes” (back roads) on this leg of the journey. It was the trans-Canada highway and connections to other congested highways surrounding Toronto that got me to the Niagara area in the middle of a hot and humid east coast day.  About 30 miles west of Niagara I exited the freeway and blindly navigated back roads east and south to the falls.  Wine and wheat were the main agricultural crops in this region.


Wheat Fields

Big Barn

In my post, The Gracious Host, I showed you a lock connecting a small lake with Lake Huron. Between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, a series of B-I-G locks move cargo vessels between the higher-elevation Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.  I passed through the town of Thorold before arriving in Niagara. I saw lock 7 and had to stop to watch a large vessel moving through.  The water is released from the lock as the ship passes from Lake Erie to Ontario.

Lock 7

My daughter and I visited Niagara many years ago, so I learned that the view of the falls is better from the Canadian side of the border. Lake Erie empties into Lake Ontario here through the Niagara River. There are over 500 waterfalls in the world higher than Niagara, but the combination of height and volume of water make the falls a truly spectacular sight. Lots of tourists think so too. The place is a mob scene and total tourist trap.  But in my opinion the falls are still worth seeing. Incidentally, Niagara is the name given to three falls that plummet here – Horseshoe (the largest) on the Canadian side, American, and Bridal Veil.

This is a picture of American, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls.  Good reading on the falls here.

Niagara Falls

This is also Niagara Falls.


It’s a very touristy place. I had to wade through the crowds along the main thoroughfare to take some pictures.

American and Bridal Veil Falls (American side of the border)

American Falls

American Falls

American Falls

Horseshoe Falls (Canadian side of the border)

Horseshoe Falls

Horseshoe Falls

Some shots of the falls taken from the bridge across the Niagara river that connects Canada and the United States.

View from the bridge

View from the bridge

The viewing tower from the American side of the border.

View from the bridge

American Falls up close.

Up close and personal

As I was standing on the bridge I noticed all the traffic was flowing into Canada and no one was coming to the States. I asked a passerby why everyone was driving to Canada. He replied, “Haven’t you read the news?  Barack Obama has declared Martial Law. He’s called in the military, Congress has been barricaded, the Supreme Court judges have been put under house arrest. Obama’s declared that the top 1% of Americans will pay a 60% tax rate, the minimum wage has been raised to $15 an hour, all ‘illegal’ immigrants have been given U.S. citizenship, assault weapons have been banned, and Fox News has been taken off the air. These must be all the Republicans who are leaving the country.”


Just kidding.

But I am left wondering why all these cars are going to Canada and no one’s coming Stateside. Hmmmmm….


One last look.

One last look

I was tempted to stay in Niagara into the evening just to see the light show at the falls. I remember when my daughter, Elisa, and I visited we stood and watched the lights for what seemed like forever. I remember we ooed and ahed as the colors changed across the falls and we shared which colors were our favorites. But the tourist crowds and the threat of thunder storms pressed me to move east and north of the storms.  Medina, New York, would be my destination for the night. My friend, Mary, grew up in Medina. When she commented on my web site that she grew up in this area I took that as a sign I should visit. By sunset the air had cooled and the sky promised a clear night of no rain. I found a quiet corner at the back of a beautiful cemetery just north of town and pitched my tent.  Cemeteries are great places to bush camp.  No one will bother you there.

The following day I awoke early, packed up and set my compass for Ithaca, New York. The first cookbook I owned was Molly Katzen’s, The Moosewood Cookbook. I have wanted to visit and eat at the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca since the early 1980’s. And why not visit upstate New York wine country while I’m at it?

Moosewood and the road to Vermont in my next post…

If you’re new to my blog, catch up on nearly 12,500 miles of clockwise motorcycling around the United States here.  It’s not over yet!

For a map of where I’ve traveled, click here.


All content Copyrighted © Stephen Tavella

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