Colonel Thomas Talbot got a grant of 7,000 acres along the north shore of Lake Erie after retiring from the British military in 1803. He also cut a deal that would give him even more land for every settler he persuaded to prove a homestead there. Talbot made the most of the opportunity, building a 300-mile corduroy road along rich farmland between the Niagara River and the St. Clair River. The area was settled between 1820 and 1840, and Talbot was known as “The Benevolent Dictator of the London District.” The region he settled is still one of Canada’s most productive agricultural areas. The road also lead to the development of Buffalo and Detroit. But Talbot never married, so the government took his land back when he died.
We saw echoes of the original Talbot Trail in tidy mid-19th century brick farmhouses along the route, as well as homesteads that didn’t make it. We slept late on Sunday the 5th because our rides in Ontario should be fairly short, and also because it’s too cold now to ride first thing in the morning. The late start gave us a bit of time to walk down the shore of Lake Erie at Rondeau Provincial Park, which was a revelation. I saw fine sand and miles or unbroken woods stretching southward in a peninsula that juts into the lake. Rondeau is one of Canada’s oldest parks, so the woods here are near maturity and the land has been managed well for biodiversity. It is a beautiful place, and it was nearly empty of people on a sunny Sunday in October. It would be a great place for a long hike.
After an unsuccessful attempt to find an internet connection in a nearby town, we ate a late breakfast at a diner in Morpeth and started east on the Talbot Trail. The truck was leaking brake fluid, and we learned from Sara that the leak got a lot worse as she drove ahead of us to our destination, Port Stanley. We needed to get it to a mechanic in the morning. So we rode the 45 miles as fast as we could, passing natural reserve areas and the Lake Erie shore in a few places but mostly staying in agricultural land. I could see enough to understand that this would be a great place for birdwatching, hiking, and lying on the beach. But we had a problem to work out.
Port Stanley is an upscale town people describe as “quaint,” which meant that it had no affordable lodging or campgrounds. We re-filled the truck with brake fluid and headed north to St. Thomas, a larger town about 15 miles north. We located a car dealer, a Comfort Inn, and a restaurant, which gave our credit cards a small workout. We fell into bed by 10pm, awaiting the morning’s verdict on the truck.