The Detroit skyline.

The familiar melody of The Eagles’ Hotel California blasted through the open window of a Canada Post delivery van, stopped beside me at a red light in Windsor.

“You can check out any time you like,

But you can never leave.”

 Thirteen years ago I checked out of Windsor but it feels like I’ve never left.

This down-but-not-out city on the banks of the Detroit River has changed. The once mighty auto industry is a shadow of its former self. The economy is slowly evolving from manufacturing to a more diversified knowledge and service based economy. In adjacent Essex County, the wine industry is booming. Retirees from Toronto are fleeing high housing costs for the laid-back lakeside towns of Leamington and Kingsville.

But what has not changed here are the friends. Good friends. Solid friends. Friends who treat you like you’ve just been on a long holiday out west, away from your real home. In five weeks here I’ve shared breakfast, lunch and dinner with scores of old friends. We’d need another month to visit with everybody. The highlight for me was a couple of days out on Lake Erie with old dive buddies searching for shipwrecks and diving on a recently discovered one.

Everywhere I go I see things that remind me of stories I covered, pictures I made, people I photographed. Walking along the Detroit River near the Ambassador Bridge I remember Bart Tucker, the electrical contractor who took me to the top of the bridge to photograph his crew installing decorative lights. On the other side of the River I see the U.S. Postal Service mail boat. I spent a chilly fall day on the tiny boat delivering mail and supplies to passing freighters. An accident here, a fire there, I’ve taken a picture on every street corner it seems.

Now heading back home, driving north and west, crossing this great country, that familiar guitar lead comes to mind and then the lyrics; “On a dark desert highway …”

A freighter sails on the Detroit River, past the Ambassador Bridge.

Colourful sunset over Lake Erie.

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