Destination: Unknown

My father-in-law and I had planned a motorcycle ride along the north shore of Lake Erie.  We were to begin in Port Stanley and work our way over the next few hours to Niagara Falls.  We booked a hotel on the American side where we would spend a night and would come back to Embro after a second day of riding.
As plans often do, they changed.  He called me just a couple days before and explained that his wife had been in a car accident and felt he should stay home with her.  Good call.
Since I was on vacation for the week, my wife was working and my kids are enjoying doing almost nothing on summer vacation, I figured I would still take a day trip.  The hotel in New York state was cancelled and I was just going to enjoy a day without a destination.  All I knew was that I would head east.
I mentioned this to a friend, Terry, who has over 200,000 km on his 1999 Harley Davidson Ultra.  He too was off for a day so we agreed that he, his wife Cathy, and I would take a day trip.
We started off shortly after 9:00 a.m.  I had no plans, just that I wanted to stay as close to the lake shore as I could.  I have ridden the roads in the area for many years, so I wanted a new experience.
East of Port Burwell, a portion of the Lakeshore Road is closed.  Years back it was determined unsafe for traffic due to the erosion, so there is a detour before coming back onto the main road.
We stopped in a the ever popular destination for bikers, Port Dover.  This is the location of the Friday the 13th rally.  I have only been here twice when it wasn’t the rally.  It’s a town of about 5000 residents that embrace the beach culture.
We continued east on our ride.  It’s easy to end up back on the main roads, it’s as though the rural stretches squeeze vehicles off of the back country and out to the highways.
Somewhere east of Nanticoke we ended up on a long stretch of road with a maximum speed of 50 km/hr.  The road hugged the lake and weaved it’s wave between cottages and summer retreats.  If you find yourself on this section of Lakeshore Road between Highway 53 to the west and Highway 49 to the east, slow down; there’s much to enjoy.  Families sharing in memories, sailboats in silence, geese with their babies, and minimal traffic.  Just don’t expect to get anywhere quickly.
We eventually made it to Niagara Falls, riding along the Niagara Parkway past million dollar homes, now up for sale.  The excess is ridiculous.  I don’t understand how anyone needs that much.  Maybe it’s me.
When I was preparing to leave on the one day trip, I mentioned to my wife that I might chronicle the day and write up some sort of nice travel blog for bikers.  As often is the case with my writing, nothing goes as planned and the story actually began at the Number 11 Bridge in Allanburg.  
The Niagara region is packed with rivers, the shipping lanes for cargo vessels and the thoroughfares for sailboats and motorboats.  We rode into Allanburg shortly after 5:00 p.m. and soon found ourselves parked for at least 20 minutes as the bridge was raised for a cargo ship passing through.  Terry and Cathy rode up to the bridge to watch the spectacle while I stayed back to hold our spot.
While I stood around, a man who was parked behind me came up and mentioned that my rear tire looked flat.  Indeed it was.  I had just spent $282 on a new tire only 6 days previous.  I was choked.  I pulled off to the side and strolled up to Terry to let him know the situation.  
At the Bridge 11 is a family run restaurant called Indian Flame.  The owners, Rika and Asha Bhagria offered up some suggestions and offered me the use of their phone book to track down some options.  The problem I quickly found was the timing of the incident.  It was after 5:00 p.m. so most everything was closed.
Back at my bike, I noticed a guy riding his Harley Davidson just across the road waiting to turn.  I waved him over and his came over to offer assistance.  Jeff rides a beautiful bike.  I think it’s a street glide with a light bar.  He has it chromed out fully with mag rims and a perfect custom paint job.  Spotless.  He called around on his cell and found no luck.  Getting a CAA membership would cost me $189, include 200 km of free towing, with additional mileage at $3 per km.  Steep!  I was more than 200 km from home so this would cost me.  This was without a repair still!  Jeff is a constable with the Niagara Police and he went above what he needed to do, making call after call to get the job done.  Still, though, no luck.  I gave Jeff my card and a testimonial DVD from Barry Mayson.  Thank you Jeff for stopping to help out.
Terry returned shortly afterward.  He rode up to a garage and they offered him a compressor to see if we could get enough air in to ride down to the shop and leave it overnight.  No luck.  Air leaked out as quickly as it went in.  We eventually found the source of the leak too – roofing nail.
Cathy suggested we rent a truck and load up my bike to go home.  I called U-Haul.  After much confusion, nothing.  They had only one one-way truck available.  It was about 20 minutes away from where I was at and the shop staff wouldn’t stay open to wait for me.  It was now 6:45 p.m.
Rika had come outside to check on us in the mean time.  He and his family had only been in the area for about 16 months, but spend most of their time at the restaurant.  He was apologetic that he couldn’t have been of greater assistance.
I decided to spend the night in Niagara Falls and get my bike towed to a shop in the morning.  I asked Rika if he had a spot to store my bike for the night.  He readily allowed me to park on the restaurant patio and chain it to a post.  This was the first thing that went well.
Terry, Cathy, and I had dinner at the restaurant.  Rika said that he knew the owner of the Howard Johnson motel up the road.  He called and got me a cheap rate – Niagara Falls in the summer is not a cheap place to stay.  It cost me $52.20 for the night.  Our discounted hotel in New York at $113.00, but I am sure it was nice place.
When dinner was finished, Terry and Cathy headed for home.  They didn’t need to stay as long as they did, but that’s what friends do.  Stay to the end.  “Heaven’s Saints Don’t Quit.”
Rika drove me up to the motel and made sure that I was all set before he left.  He didn’t need to do that either, but he did.
Originally, there were no standard rooms, only a suite that I was able to get for $80 (regularly over $120), but there was a standard room available.  The staff explained that it is a dark room, window faces a concrete wall, might smell like smoke since the last person failed to comply with the rules and wasn’t in an ideal spot.  If I wanted it, it would only be $40.  I figured I’d stay there since I would be forking out more money in the morning.
Aside from the poorly painted door and the blood stain on the bed, the room was fine.  What could I expect for such a cheap space right?  The motel staff gave me a toothbrush and deodorant for the next day, but they were out of toothpaste.  
I walked around to a couple stores looking for a good motorcycle magazine to read that evening, but found nothing worthwhile.  I bought my toothpaste and some snack food and went back to room 117.
In the morning, I mentioned the blood stained bedding to staff and called myself a cab.  $27 plus a tip to get me from the hotel to the restaurant, a trip of just 7 km.  Should have called Rika!
When I arrived at the Indian Flame, Asha served me up a coffee.  They only charge $1 for a cup of coffee, and it’s good coffee too.
Rika is from India.  He moved to Canada with his family when he was 13.  Now, 47 years old and married with four children, he explained to me that this restaurant is his dream.  They bought place 16 months ago and sunk a lot of money into restoring it to as a restaurant.  Everyone helps out at the restaurant, except their youngest child who is in public school.  Each member of the family that I met was very polite and friendly and helpful.  Rika’s son made sure that he unlocked my bike before he left that morning for his driver’s test.  True to his word.
Rika and Asha practice Hinduism.  I am a Christian.  We have different beliefs, and I am sure we don’t fully understand each others’, but we talked over coffee about our beliefs and values.  He spoke strongly about the Hindu value of non-violence, unless there is no other option.  He shared that over the past 50 years, India has never initiated violence against another country.  He seemed proud of that.
I learned a bit more about their gods, Lord Brahma (The creator of the universe), Vishnu (The preserver of the universe), Shiva (The god of destruction).  Different than the trinity that I place my faith in, Father, Son, Holy Spirit.  I asked whether Jesus Christ fits into their beliefs anywhere and Rika advised that they believe in all beings.
I seem to get stretched during these encounters.  Not regarding tolerance, but rather understanding.  Again, through our differences, we co-exist and share in conversation and can talk respectfully about beliefs and values.  I offered Rika a testimonial DVD as well, which he readily accepted.  Thank you Rika and Asha for looking after me.  You went above and beyond!
I had earlier called Clare’s Cycle to ask about a repair on my tire.  I only needed a tube replaced since the tire was fine, except for the small hole.  Corey came to pick me up with a trailer.  Still cost me $30, but cheaper than calling a a towing company to get me.
Corey seemed to be a young guy, but he’s been at Clare’s for 16 years and knows his stuff.  He is proud of working for a Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha dealer.  I trusted him right away, and I am often skeptical of mechanics.  I had mentioned to him that there problems with the lights since I bought the bike in 2007.  He offered to take a look.
After 45 minutes, Corey had my bike back together, tire on, tube replaced, axle greased (the shop that put the new tire on last week did not do this), rewired my lights, soldered the connections, and had me on my way.  They guys in the shop were great.  Respectful and professional.  Including the trailering to the shop, my bill was $134.90 – Checking out my electrical was complimentary, except for the $2.99 light bulb.  Thanks Corey!
I made it home later in the afternoon and reflected – my plans aren’t always the plans that are laid out before me.  I tried to get a truck, I tried to get a shop.  No luck.  What was before me though, were people who were gracious in caring for me – Rika and Asha at the Indian Flame, Constable Jeff – off duty Niagara Police officer, Corey and the others in the shop at Clare’s.
Had I gotten my way, I wouldn’t have met these people and shared in their lives, to hear some of their stories.  Everyone has a story.

3 thoughts on “Destination: Unknown

  1. Nice story, Todd, and well told. Enjoyed reading it, though I didn't enjoy your financial hit. Still, you have an enviable trait, I've noticed, of being open to new things and new adventures. I find that quite admirable. Thanks for sharing the tale.

  2. Pingback: Attitude of (In)Gratitude | Everyone has a story

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