July 12 – The Longest Day and the Canadian Wilderness

Originally, we planned to make it part way across southern Canada, a distance of about 200 miles from Niagara Falls to Port Huron Michigan.  Now that we are getting a feel for the car’s mileage capability, we decided to go the distance in a single day.  This would put us in reasonable proximity for an easy drive to Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant, The Sun Catcher’s birthplace, and the official end of our Roy Chapin journey.  We wanted to reach the plant on Friday so that we could tour and meet some of the Ford people involved in the production of this spectacular car.

Now, if you do a Google Maps distance from Niagara Falls, NY to Port Huron, MI, it will come out to about 190 miles.  EVing, similar to stepping on stones across a river, is not a straightline process of going from here to there.  Today’s journey, as dictated by potential EV stations listed on Plugshare.com, would take us to Burlington Ontario, Waterloo Ontario, and London Ontario for a record breaking 220 mile 3 charge day.

Our first stop was at the Mapleview Mall in Burlington ON.  We arrived about 9:15am after a short 50 mile drive from Niagara Falls.  One of the benefits of EVing is that we have had no arguments about bathroom stops.  My enjoyment of watching Deb squirm for an additional exit or two of driving has been reduced, however.

To use the EV charge station at Mapleview Mall, you have to get permission from the Guest Services office inside the mall, which opened at 9:30am, so our timing was just right.  The mall had me sign a waiver, releasing them of any liability associated with me whipping gasoline powered vehicles with the charging plug, and gave me their magnetic card for charging.  The photos below show the charging station and magnetic card.  ChargePoint seems to be in the lead as far as charge station placement along our trip’s path.The Mapleview Mall was very nice with a huge number of stores for you shopaholics, however, we needed to stretch and get some exercise, so we unfolded our bikes and ourselves, and rode to the Burlington waterfront.  Kudos to the city of Burlington for being a very bike friendly place.  Nice wide bike paths line the main drag to the water front.  Another nice feature is that the land is a gentle slope rather than a steep decline to the water, which meant riding back to the car would be a relaxing ride.

I have to admit to never hearing of Burlington, but it is a very attractive city with a wonderful Lake Ontario setting. The beautiful blue water of the great lakes mixed with a clean waterfront dotted with cafes and green space is something most of us miss on treks across this part of Canada.

After our Burlington charge, we hopped another 50 miles to Waterloo and the Conestoga Mall. Similar to Mapleview Mall, the Guest Services desk gives you a charge card for initiating the ChargePoint station.  No waiver signatures were needed here, so I proceeded to damage as many petrol fueled cars as I could within the reach of the charge plug cord.  We didn’t venture into Waterloo but I can tell you that it has an excellent university (Univ of Waterloo) that has long been a leader in solar and renewable energy technologies.  We ate lunch at the mall’s food court that was a carbon copy of every mall food court ever built.

Our third charge was 65 miles away in London Ontario on the Thames River.  We charged at London Hydro’s charge station. London Hydro is the local utility and has two large solar tracking systems at the site. They are adjacent to a large Labatts brewery which added the delicious aroma of malt and yeast to the air.  This location was a block from the main drag through London which has a nice, fairly large downtown that stretches along Richmond St.I had to call the ChargePoint phone number to initiate the charge, and since we didn’t arrange for international phone service, I tried to make the call quickly as international phone service charges are usually outrageous. As soon as I activated my cellphone, several dozen messages were pushed through.  We are now dreading a bizillion dollar phone bill.

We walked down the street looking for a place to eat, and as in other large cities, it is difficult to tell the respectable places from the not-so ones. Deb is better than me at determining potentially sane people to question on the street.  She zeroed in on one young couple approaching us. We were given directions to a place called the Church Key about two blocks down the street. The interesting thing was that after receiving their recommendation to go down the street a few blocks, they immediately went into the nice looking Bistro we were standing next to.

The Church Key is an excellent restaurant, so whatever their reason for guiding us far away from themselves, we had a wonderful dinner in their outdoor area adjacent to the cathedral.  I had a “Ploughman’s dinner” with cold slices of duck, pickled quail eggs, pâté, assorted cheeses, enough bread to stuff a turkey, and a nice Barking Squirrel ale.  We shared scallops wrapped in smoked salmon strips and an excellent chocolate-stout cake with cream cheese frosting. I apologize for describing our meal in such detail, but it really was a wonderful dinner in nice surroundings.  The only hitch was that in the cathedral grounds on the other side of the wood lattice fence against Deb’s back was a somewhat angry and delusional person.  He mostly slept on a bench, but would stir now and then. As he would stir, and begin increasing the volume of his rantings (which were similar to my daily solar energy rantings), the waitress would head toward the kitchen to alert the staff. She told us that he had come over to the fence earlier, yelled at a customer, and then punched her through the wood trellis fence.  Above Deb’s left shoulder was a fist sized hole in the fence, which I pointed out to her.  I assured Deb that I would try to give her sufficient warning to duck, because I’m that kind of guy.

We finished dinner as our last charge of the day was complete, and waddled back to the car for a 65 mile trek to Port Huron Michigan.

As much as I was hoping to be strip searched at the border crossing, the customs folks were very nice, and mainly asked about the car and how it performed.  With my usual zeal, I proceeded to provide much more information than they cared for, resulting in them telling us to pass through.

We made it to the local Comfort Inn as the Hampton Inn was booked with activities for the Port Huron to Mackinaw sailboat race.  The Comfort Inn also had electric receptacles on their parking lot light posts.  We pulled up to one and hooked up for the night after a long and interesting day!

Ahead of us tomorrow is one charge and then completion of Roy Chapin’s journey as we head to Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant.