After sleeping in later than we’d hoped to on Sunday, we left Rochestor in hopes of making it to Lockport, NY by nightfall knowing Niagara would’ve been too far of a stretch– of our time, distance, and calf muscles.
While following the Erie Canal trail for one more day, we ran into a bunch of good surprises. It seemed like every town after Rochestor had a drawbridge! At one stop we met a couple, Brian and Rachel, who were out for a Sunday ride down the trail. They just fixed up Rachel’s bike and were telling us how much better it was riding. Seeing as how it seems we’re fixing up Black Beauty every day, we got to talk about our fixings as well. We also greeted at least four recumbant riders and a huge group of hikers. Two older women in the hiking group asked where we were headed and when we replied “Oregon!” they threw their arms in the air and cheered loudly. In one town we found a welcome center complete with bathrooms, showers, “ever flowing coffee machines”, and free bike rentals! It seemed like after all of the trouble it had given us, New York was trying to see us off on a good note. The day was shaping up to be a great one.
That is, except for the wind. All day we were facing a strong wind. All day. The whole thing. This slowed us down tremendously and during lunch we tried to calculate what town we’d actually make it to by nightfall. We set our minds on Medina. After getting to there around six, we decided to push ourselves to Lockport. I had a teacher in school who always had us do an exercise. “Raise your hands up as high as you can”, he’d say. We did. “Raise them a little bit higher.” We did. “See? You can always go farther than you think you can.”
We decided to go farther than we thought we could. Tired and winded, we pressed on. After a few more hours of pedalling, we were getting close as we entered the village of Middleport. Across the street from the one foot welcome sign was a GIANT multi-colored sign that read “SUNSET DRIVE-IN.”
We immediately pulled in! We went to the ice cream shop at the front entrance to ask for info on the theater. We wanted to know what movies were playing and when, but most importantly, we wanted to know if we could go in with our bike. After making friends with everyone there and getting our information, we headed in. After a half an hour tour of the upstairs room where all of the film projectors are from the very proud and excited owner, we bought dinner at the diner then set up our vehicle next to all the others in front of screen 2 with the radio we rented for a dollar. After a great night of two movies (Super Eight and Pirates of the Carribean) and a strawberry milkshake with two straws, we headed out to find a place to sleep at 2am.
Two blocks from the canal trail, we got our second flat tire of the trip. Exhausted, we walked the bike to the trail deciding we’d fix it in the morning. A few of the ice cream eaters told us there was a 24 hour welcome center with showers and places to camp by the canal. We found they were mistaken and set up camp in the grass three feet from the path.
On Monday we finally made it! Walking into the American Niagara Falls park was wild. There were hundreds of people in school field trip matching outfits, nuns, fellow bicyclers, joggers, and a bunch of people exclaiming things in foreign languages. We thought it’d be fun to ride The Maid of the Mist and on it we impersonated Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty and yelled “Eroding!” Besides this famous star, the welcome center women also informed us that Flava Flav had been to the Falls just a few weeks ago.
After a full day of fun, it was time to make it to the other side of the border. We saw two signs. One that read “CARS AND BUSES ONLY” and one that read “PEDESTRIANS ONLY”. We took a guess and attempted to go through the pedestrian gate. An emotionless Border Policeman promptly came out of the building to inform us of our mistake. After crossing four busy streets we made it to the Cars and Buses Only line. The toll amount for bikes wasn’t listed but when we got to the actual bridge the guard told us it was 50 cents and tolled us. On the other side we told the emotionless Canadian Border Policewoman everything she ever needed to know about us. When she asked where we were staying for the night we said we were thinking about going to The Marriot.
When we got across, we were greeted by madness! While the American side was mostly businesses, the Canadian side was a tourism oasis. Every sqaure inch of Niagara Falls, Ontario was colorful, lit-up, and out of our price range. As we walked down one street we passed a three story Burger King with a giant fake gorilla on it, two Ripley’s Believe it or Not museums, two 4D movie theaters, three wax museums, a bunch of arcades, and carriage rides.
After ramen noodles at the park surrounded by red eyes seaguls, we got to thinking about what we said to the Border. Not wanting to be liars, we left the park and rode over to one of the hotels (that will not be named here). When we rode up not only did we see that we had stumbled upon the entrance closest to the pool, but we also found that there was a bike rack next to a bunch of surveillance cameras, the perfect place to leave everything we owned. Just as we walked up the side door, some vacationers walked in front of us to go in and swiped to get in. We excitedly followed behind. Walking like we were supposed to be there and knew where we were going, we explored until we found the right part of the HUGE hotel. As luck would have it, some guests were walking in to the pool the same time we were and swiped in first. After changing into our suits, we headed straight to one of the many jacuzzis and made friends with a couple from New Mexico. After some swimming, some lounging in the bubbley jacuzzi, and some hanging out on the deck in the cool rain, we decided we should head to bed.
When we woke up in the woods next to the falls, it was raining. we quickly packed up and headed to the look at the Canadian Falls. When we tried to use the phone to call our host for the night we couldn’t get it to work. It had gotten wet overnight and now the speaker was broken. We could only get it to work on speaker phone but since we were in such a touristy area, we had a hard time finding a quiet place to call indoors.
We headed out at noon. This was the first real time we rode in the rain but it only lasted about half an hour. After that the clouds left, the sun shown, and we were on our way with little wind resistance!
While riding down one street, we saw a hat fly out of a school bus window three cars ahead of us. We pulled over, waited for traffic, grabbed the hat, then began the chase. Four blocks and an unknown amount of metres later, we were catching up. The boy in the back of the bus yelled out asking if we had his hat. We yelled back that we did and a small white arm burst out of the back window of the moving bus. Then, tragedy struck. Seconds after I handed the hat to Dave and he went to lift it into the young adolescent’s hand, the navy blue hat escaped David’s grasp and greeted the concrete once more. From the back window came the loudest most agonizing cry of “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” either of us had ever heard as the bus zoomed away. Before we had a chance to pick up the cap a girl who had just gotten off of the bus grabbed it, thanked us, and informed us that she was in his class and would give it to him tomorrow. I in my purple spandex pants with blue shorts over and a hot pink shirt and Dave in his black spandex shorts with his crimson red t-shirt, felt like super heroes. Just a few days before we had saved a small white puppy from the same fate we’d saved the hat from– being run over and missed by its loved ones.
We called out hosts, Joe and Rick, a little before dinner time to check in. We told them we were in the city and should be there within the hour. Little did we know how wrong we were. After finding that the road that was a straight shot to their house was not only behind a three kilometre high hill, but also a road forbidden to be ridden on by bicycles, we had to look for an alternative route.
We thought we had lucked out when we found Snake Road, a street that seemed to go around the small mountain and straight to their house.
There was nothing straight about Snake Road.
At the start we had high hopes. We thought nothing of the mountain bicycler being picked up by a truck at the bottom of the hill to get a ride up or of the road curving signs after each and every turn– that is, until the sixth one in a row. After twnety minutes of winding left and right and left and right and left and right three kilometres up, we thought we had made it to where we were supposed to be. Wrong again. We ended up in the middle of a neighborhood. After kilometres of nothing, we finally found the straight-shot road again.
In the dark, on a four lane highway, we rode as fast as we could down the scariest road we had ever been on lit up like the Blue Man Group’s light show. We had our front and back blinking lights, our headlamp, and my glove lights on. We also put on our reflective clothing and gear and hugged the shoulder for dear life. When we finally arrived at our host’s home, he laughed at our story of the road. He told us the city nicknamed that road “Killer Six” because of how many people are killed on it each year.
After a long day of adventure, heroicism, warm welcomes, close calls, snake roads, and almost certain death, we had made it. Today we are taking the day off outside of Hamilton, Ontario. Tomorrow’s destination: London.
By the way, the phone dried out and is working at 100% again!