Day 14: Niagara Falls, ON to Albion, NY

June 8th, 2014

49.3 mi / 5:27:14 time /  9.0 mph avg. /  506 ft. climbing
Staying at Dollinger’s Motor Inn

Back on our bikes, we crossed the Rainbow Bridge once more, this time in the vehicle lanes rather than the pedestrian sidewalk. That allowed us one last wistful look at the falls. Somehow I’m always a bit surprised when they’re running in the morning just like they were the day before: “huh, I guess they haven’t run out of water yet!” We wanted to beat any rush of hungover American teenagers who visit Niagara Falls for the 19-year-old drinking age (we succeeded), so we waited ’til we reached Denny’s on the American side for breakfast. Oddly, no toll for bicycles, only pedestrians.

We’ve gone through some pretty economically decimated neighborhoods along this Rust Belt tour, and usually one of the primary indicators has been the people in them, loitering on their porches and in the streets on a weekday morning. The US side of Niagara Falls didn’t even have that much. It felt almost entirely abandoned, and the occasional car in a driveway was the only indication that a particular house might be occupied. Rett had warned that the small towns we would be going through in New York would be similar, and though I thought we might come across some cute canal towns, at least for the first part of the day her prediction proved accurate.

At Lockport we dropped down onto the Erie Canal. The towpath trail, mostly fine gravel, with some paved sections, stretches some 400 miles across New York right next to the canal. Which means that it’s dead flat. Not one foot of climbing for miles. So while the gravel definitely slows down the bikes, it’s probably a wash when compared with the ups and downs of the road. The path mostly stays on the north side of the canal, and with the towns tending to be on the south side, it was surprisingly isolated and pretty free of other travelers. So much that Rett was happy to just go behind a screen of bushes right off the trail and strip off her shorts to change to another pair. Or maybe that was more an indication of just how intense the sudden itching was from her first pair. (and maybe partly an indication that a prim and proper city girl can adapt to the practicalities of a more-adventurous life pretty quickly!)
I think Rett was a bit disappointed that the day off yesterday didn’t result in super-speed today, but the combination of trail and headwinds slowed things down. And my past experience has been that rest days show their benefits later and more subtly than you might expect.

We went past Gasport and stopped in Midport (rare is the canal town that doesn’t end in “-port”!) for a late lunch just as the rain was starting. The cafe I’d seen on the maps was closed, but a bar across the street was open, and a guy on the sidewalk recommended the chicken fingers. There was initially only one person working and it was fairly busy, so it took time to get our giant pile of chicken fingers, but that was ok, since the rain wasn’t going to be a quick one. We’d be getting wet no matter what. Rett was looking pretty glum, though accepting of our fate for the afternoon. And we were lucky in several ways: we hadn’t gotten wet yet, the bar had an awning that kept our bikes dry while we ate, we were able to gear up into proper clothing, and Midport was the point where I had already been planning to jump off the trail onto the more-direct NY 31 anyway; the softness and messiness of a wet gravel trail just made that road route even smarter.

So with 14 miles to go we headed out into it. The route was hillier, but traffic (and the road spray that comes with it) wasn’t too bad. The town of Medina (the first actual cute and thriving canal town) was 5 miles in, and I told Rett to look for some sheltered place for a break. Almost like the line of magic port-a-potties from yesterday, the very first place in the center of town was an out-of-business bank with a giant drive-through garage, one of the best bike rain-shelters I’d ever seen!

Then we powered on the last 9 miles to Albion, and the rain lightened a bit, but Rett was doing the best she’d done all day. I, on the other hand, was starting to get a bit chilly in my wet shorts and 59 degree temperatures. We pulled into Dollinger’s Motor Inn, where they have a fun super-spy check-in procedure. There is no attendant, just a phone that you pick up which immediately starts ringing. The voice on the other end gathers your information and then directs you to find an envelope with a codeword, inside of which is your room key. I was glad to see that trust is still strong in Albion, and then even felt fine leaving our wet and dirty bikes outside the room under the nice overhang safe from the rain.

I ran over to the grocery store across the parking lot to gather provisions for another bed-picnic. On the way back, I was surprised to see a guy walk out of a room, since there were no other cars in the lot. Turns out I should have been the last person to be surprised, since he was another bike tourist (with his bike already in his room). We chatted a bit about our respective tours, and I told him about Rett’s improbable journey to this point. He said “wow, it sounds like you should keep her”. Wise advice sir, wise advice. I think I shall!

3 Responses to “Day 14: Niagara Falls, ON to Albion, NY”

  1. Swati Says:

    What a day it seems to have been. Loving how easily Rett seems to have adapted to the biking life and days! The question of the hour, though is, sir, will she keep you? 😀

  2. Martha Uhler Says:

    What a great trip you’ve had so far! Once you get thru Rochester and start biking thru the Finger Lakes, the scenery will be unbelievably beautiful. Not too many more days left of biking. Rhett has done a fantastic job! It will be such a wonderful memory. Your blog is great…makes me want to do the same ride! I wish you sunshine and tail winds the rest of the way!

  3. Sophie Harms Says:

    You just better keep her. Remember my dad’s poem, “Overprotective Father”? Yeah.