Day 12: Irving, NY to Niagara Falls, ONJune 6th, 2014
54.5 mi / 5:37:47 time / 9.7 mph avg. / 714 ft. climbing
Staying at Canuck Inn
Some of last night’s groceries served for first-breakfast, which was enough to fuel us on to a second-breakfast at McDonald’s. The lakeshore-vineyard beauty of yesterday began fading into Buffalo’s suburbs, but there was still some pretty lakefront riding. When we first saw the Buffalo skyline (including the row of windmills) across the eastern corner of Lake Erie, both Rett and I expressed some surprise that Buffalo is a lakefront city. It just didn’t fit with my “rusting pile of steel” preconception of Buffalo.
After passing through (and surviving) another “worse than Gary” neighborhood, we took a break at a nice canalside history display, ate some plums, and read the commendably unvarnished tale of the boom and bust of the Buffalo/Lackawanna industry that still plays a large role in the current economic condition of the city and even the whole region.
On the way in to Buffalo, Rett expressed how much she actually enjoys the urban riding, but by the time we hit our third construction detour, she may have been reconsidering. I guess at least they’re doing construction on things! Just like in Cleveland, we went right through the heart of downtown, past the enormous city hall in the middle of a traffic circle, and then were amazed by the blocks-long stone castle (which turns out to be the armory building).
Then, after navigating yet another detour to enter the border zone, we reached the Peace Bridge to Canada. We both had giant grins on our faces when we reached the windy top of the towering arched span (riding on the sidewalk); riding my bike to another country was something not even I had done before.
After talking with so many people on the road about our trip, we cheerfully informed the immigration agent that we were traveling to Skaneateles, NY (from Chicago! On our bicycles!) when he asked, before realizing that he gave not one single shit about all that. He only cared about what we were up to in his country. We then apparently answered his other questions to his satisfaction, and he let us on through. Rett’s passport, which arrived only a day before we left home, got its first use!
The Peace Bridge is at the beginning of the Niagara River/Strait connecting Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, so we still had some 20 miles to follow it downstream until it would plunge over the falls. We got a late riverside-patio lunch at a Chinese place, and then rode down the beautiful parkland that covers the entire stretch of riverfront. Lots of picnic areas, an off-street bike path (more annoying than the road), and well-kept houses that sure made the Interstate highway+industrial American side look like garbage. Rett was kind of flagging as we turned north (and west!) into some headwinds, but we got some drafting going and the miles melted away. We took a break at a riverside picnic table and performed a blind taste-test of the three almost-impossible-to-differentiate flavors of Twizzler Bites. Or maybe just impossible for me, as, after much analysis, Rett got all three right, and I got all three wrong. Drat!
Wait, what’s that in the distance? Smoke? No, that’s the mist rising from the crashing Falls! I really felt like an explorer, approaching the Falls on the same path that the water does, and only getting indirect clues about what lies ahead. Almost no one (except a coyote) was on the path through the park above the falls, so we got to watch the increasingly churning chaos all on our own.
And then apparently a Canadian genie granted us a fairly inconsequential wish (as genies of all nationalities are wont to do): Rett mentioned “I could really use a toilet soon”, and, abracadabra, not 30 meters further up the path, we crossed a barrier of trees, and suddenly both side of the path were lined with dozens of port-a-potties. Unused. Sparkling clean. With hand-washing stations outside. If not a genie, I was sure we had unwittingly sold our souls to some Canadian devil for this over-the-top miracle. OK, it turns out it was for a charity bike ride the next morning, phew! But you bet we took advantage anyway!
And then we were at Niagara Falls! Another iconic moment of our trip.
Coming away from the falls, we walked our bikes up a crazy-steep street and navigated our way to the cheap motel (but with jacuzzi!) we had booked the day before for our two night weekend stay. Doubts about Rett’s passport and our ability to hit a target two weeks out on her first bike tour had prevented us from booking earlier, and that would nearly be our undoing.
Rolling up to the locked and empty office, two drug-skinny women in the courtyard called out “Room 15” for us to check in. I hiked over there, and after a few knocks roused a possibly brain-damaged man from his lived-in room, he grunted a few words to me, shuffled back to the office, and gave me a random key. Only after I mentioned the jacuzzi room did he call the motel’s owner and hand me another key. With drug deals going on in the parking lot as we went to check out the room, I feared the worst, and almost got it. The room had rumpled drapes piled in the middle of the floor, broken mini blinds sitting on a chair, suspicious ash piles on the table, and hair clumps on the bathroom floor. Though oddly, other parts of the room, including the jacuzzi, actually seemed quite clean. We had brain-damage call the owner back (who also had little grasp of English) and demanded that the room be cleaned. Surprisingly, 3 or 4 of the tooth-lacking but friendly workers/residents all jumped into action and pitched in, though we had to help jury-rig the curtain one of them loaned us from her room in order to cover the window. What the heck, we’re used to camping, maybe we can be flexible. But then when we saw things were still dirty, light bulbs, toilet paper, and garbage cans were missing, and, most importantly, that security was clearly lacking around this motel, we decided to take other action. We had assumed that we had already paid for the two nights, but reexamining our booking indicated that wasn’t the case. With the sun getting low, and being tired, hot, and hungry after a 54 mile bike ride, our options were limited. There was one other motel down the block, so we ran over to check it out. While it still had problems (no TV, clock, or drink glasses, ironing board but no iron, and electronic keys that were very odd), it at least felt more wholesome, and the guy at reception appeared to care and be trying. So I spoke once more with the owner of the first place on the phone, told him we were not staying, and expected not to be charged. We grabbed our bikes and luggage out of our room and moved on over. One of the girls who helped clean saw us going, and while she didn’t seem surprised, I actually felt a little bad that the limited effort they put in had mostly gone to waste. It’s hard for me to imagine that they’ve ever seen any non-drug-using visitors actually stay in their motel (there certainly didn’t seem to be any in the hour or more we spent there), but they almost had us.
After all that stress and time, it was past 10pm when we finally walked back into town to get some food; we stuck with the “foreign” theme of the day at the Guru’s Indian restaurant, and the excellent food, plus the bottle of wine, and another drink at a bar on the way back, helped to calm the terror we had faced. Whew, time for another day off!
June 9th, 2014 at 8:09 am
Did you see happen to see a drunk Patrick Kane stumbling the streets of buffalo? Ã°Å¸ËœÂ
Congrats on reaching Canada! Did you at least get a Labatts or Molsen while North of the border!? Good call on vacating the first hotel… Wouldn’t want to stay there either! Ã°Å¸ËœÅ
Looks like you guys are in the home stretch of the trip so enjoy your remaining days.
June 9th, 2014 at 10:33 pm
So glad Rett’s passport came through! And a foreign country first for this adventurous couple – yay!! Hugs!!
PS: Why are last minute motel rooms shady?
June 10th, 2014 at 3:19 pm
Happy What a great route…to exit Buffalo at the Peace Bridge border crossing and to find a “green area pathway” to bike for 20+ miles to Niagara Falls. What a ghastly motel! I would have preferred a tent with a roaming coyote ;)! Happy for 2nd motel and Rett’s passport delivery. pp
June 10th, 2014 at 3:31 pm
No more mystery about Rett’s passport getting delivered :)! A great route…to exit Buffalo at the Peace Bridge border crossing and to find a “green area pathway” to bike for 20+ miles to Niagara Falls. What a ghastly motel! I would have preferred tent camping with a roaming coyote ;)! Happy you found 2nd motel .
June 16th, 2014 at 9:32 am
I’m glad the coyote didn’t eat you. Also that you didn’t stay in the AIDS room, where you almost certainly would have contracted the virus. Especially if you used that hot tub.