After yesterday’s fun cycling on Mackinac Island , today we thought we’d take it easy and do some exploring along the North Western State Trail. This trail runs through Mackinaw City to the west and then heads south. Instead of riding from town we decided to drive in the car a few miles to Alanson and pick up the trail there.
The trail was paved and started out along the highway in town before diverging into the woods. It passed by Crooked Lake through Oden and Conway, and Round Lake where we took a break.
We came across the Michigan Trails Council building at a trail junction and stopped to see if they had any maps. They had a lot of maps. It seems like daily we are learning about more trails through the state and it is starting to get daunting. Daunting because we only have so much time on this trip and there are way too many routes to choose from. Traveling by car, we have to pick and choose there-and-back rides instead of traveling in a linear way which involves more thinking and planning than we are used to.
We continued on to Petoskey along the Little Traverse Wheelway Trail where we got our first views of Lake Michigan and Little Traverse Bay. We took a stroll along the breakwater at Bayfront Park and I tested the waters with my fingertips.
The return ride was just as nice. The scenery looks a different enough heading in the other direction to keep it interesting. We arrived back at the car in Alanson just after 2pm and started our drive north. We revisited the Topinabee Rest Stop for a late lunch picnic.
From there we were ready to head to Sault Ste Marie for another leg of our journey. It took about an hour of driving once we crossed the Mackinac Bridge and then we were back in Canada. I think we got the last motel room in the city. We had forgotten the hype that surrounds fall foliage season and the city is busy. Plans are afoot for tomorrow!
We were both excited to be going to Mackinac Island today. It was a short ride to the ferry dock from our motel and the 9am sailing – which as an added perk took us under the Mackinac Bridge – had us disembarking before 10am.
The island is situated between Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas and it is certainly inhabited, however there are no motorized vehicles permitted. No cars, no trucks, no buses. There are lots of bicycles and there are a lot of horses, carriages and people walking around. It really is a bit of a culture shock, but when you were planning to go bike riding for the day, it’s actually kind of utopic.
We started our ride going clockwise around the island on Lake Shore Blvd from Downtown to British Landing . From there we followed British Landing Rd inland, retracing the route that the British used to recapture the Island; kicking off the War of 1812 on the Great Lakes.
Sugar Loaf Rock can be seen from the highest point on the island known as Fort Hill where what is called Fort Holmes was recreated. The history of the island is quite fascinating and is worth further investigation.
As we got a feel for riding on around the island we worked our way from one end to the other. Around lunchtime we made our way back downtown through the Mission District to see what we could get to eat. The whole town seems to be kept in a state of good repair and is really quite pleasant looking on the whole.
After sizing up the local deli shop we decided to eat the food that we brought with us. We figured we could buy more food later if we needed to. Then we found a sunny and sheltered place by the water to have a picnic.
After lunch we rode counter-clockwise on Lake Shore Blvd around the east side of the Island to British Landing, passing below Arch Rock. Later we passed by above Arch Rock.
There are supposed to be 70 miles of trails on the island and we rode a lot of them. We rode a few of them more than once like Leslie Ave and Scott’s Cave Rd. Some of the other sights we saw were Devil’s Kitchen, Skull Cave, Crack in the Island and Cave in the Woods. The whole experience was very impressive.
There must have been a few thousand bicycles at various rental outfits in the downtown area. There were easily several hundred lining the streets and parked at various lockups. Although there weren’t any motor vehicles to watch out for, there were plenty of horse-drawn carriages. And there was plenty of horse poop on the roads too. These are both things I could get used to.
It really was a magical day. After one last lap around the island and a final run on our favourite trail, we coasted back down into the downtown. With only a few minutes to spare, we rolled up to the ferry dock and boarded the ship. As the sun was setting over the Straits of Mackinac we recounted our otherworldly day of riding.
Both of us got a good night’s sleep despite our icky room and the curious cacophony of nocturnal sounds. We were up and ready to get out by 7am but with no microwave or coffee maker to make our oatmeal. The lobby which may have had hot water available wasn’t going to open until 8am. In the past – in a pinch – we’ve made tea from hot tap water, but we were in Flint after all so decided against it this morning. We took a short walk and lo and behold there was a Starbucks next door. With the purchase of an espresso we were provided with enough hot water to make our oatmeal and my cup of tea. Things were looking up!
We had decided to do a short ride before we left the city and had seen the Flint River Trail crossing one of our routes from yesterday. After we checked out and cleared out, it was a short drive to a parking lot which would serve as our trailhead this morning. It was sunny and cool but we kept warm by pedaling towards downtown Flint. The trail started leafy and green as it passed through a residential area before opening up into the Chevy Commons County Park. There was some colorful artwork that continued to enliven our spirits.
At the Durant Dort Factory One we posed for pictures with their namesake bronze personas. Both figures were prominent in the auto industry and helped to revive the Buick brand.
We passed by Kettering University and the University of Michigan – Flint, both of which have a substantial presence in the city. Pedaling through the campus we passed through Riverbank Park and Amphitheater Park. It being a Sunday morning the area was practically deserted, but it must be a fairly bustling place during the week.
As we passed through the other side of Flint the trail narrowed a bit and the pavement started to crack. We rode another mile or so to Vietnam Veterans Park where we stopped to have our breakfast in the sun by a dock at the river. There was a cool wind blowing from the north, but our oatmeal was still warm which helped push the chill from our hands. After we ate we crossed over the river and made our way back on the opposite bank.
We took a short detour from the trail and rode a few blocks into downtown Flint. It looked like an intriguing litte city. Of course everything was closed but we saw a few interesting shops including the Hat Store and a pipe shop. We arrived back at the car just after 10am and after we loaded the bikes onto the rack we were heading north on the I-75.
After driving for a little over an hour we were starting to think about lunch. Studying the map, we decided to get off the highway and have a picnic by the water. We found a nice spot at the beach in Linwood overlooking Saginaw Bay. The wind was howling so we ate in the car.
Back on the road, we missed our turn back to the interstate so followed hwy 13 through Pinconning. Once we got back on I-75 we were zipping along again. The speed limit is 75mph which is equivalent to 120kmh. Most people were passing us. I get the sense that America does driving well. We stopped at 2 different rest stops along the way which looked like they could have been State Parks. Both had immaculate restrooms, well kept grounds with picnic tables and even BBQ stations. At the Topinabee Rest Area we hiked a trail up a short hill through the woods to a scenic lookout. Looking west, we could just make out a sliver of Burt Lake in the distance.
Our final stop today was Mackinaw City. We found a nice little motel among many and we quickly settled in. The room seems like a 5 star resort after our experience at the Red Roof last night. There is a trail nearby which we rode on into town. On the way we stopped at the trailhead where we saw maps of more nearby trails. Our plan for tomorrow is to go to Mackinac Island, but after that, who knows!
Day 1: Kitchener, Ontario to Flint, Michigan by car
Saturday, October 1st
Sunny and mild. 19C
My mom and I have found some time to squeeze in a Fall bike trip. Our plan is to combine a traditional car-based road trip interspersed with some cycling day trips. We are heading to Sault Ste Marie via Michigan and we will see what we see along the way.
We left my place in Kitchener after lunch and started driving west. Crossing the border between Sarnia and Port Huron over the Bluewater Bridge was fast and easy and was the water ever blue! We drove for another hour, arriving in Flint around 5pm.
After having previewed some potential accommodations earlier while we still had internet we knew there was a cluster of hotels to choose from by the airport. As we approached that part of town we exited the interstate and started looking. Between the blinding late afternoon sun and the unfamiliarity of the city, we had to do a couple of passes up and down the strip before we got our bearings. The first place we found was closed. The second place we found looked a little too tired.
We finally settled on the Red Roof Inn which did look a little thrifty but was surrounded by somewhat respectable looking businesses including an IHOP. In the office we learned that they did in fact have rooms available but that we’d have to wait a little while for housekeeping to finish getting the beds ready. Not ones to argue, we figured that that sounded reasonable and got back in the car to find the mobile phone shop and the grocery store we drove past earlier. Surprisingly we found the T Mobile store pretty easily and they got our pre-paid SIM cards up and running again in no time. The grocery store took us a bit more searching and it wasn’t where we thought it was after all. The store was called Kroger – new to us – and we stopped in for a few bits to add to what we’d brought along. After shopping we filled the car with gas and then found our way back to the Red Roof. After driving this route for the third time things were becoming familiar.
At the hotel we finished checking in and made our way up to the second floor to our room. Or rather, tentatively stepped in and around piles of garbage, pizza boxes, bottles and butts. Abandoned laundry carts only alluded to what may have happened at the Red Roof on Friday night. Our room looked quite nice at first, but as our eyes adjusted, our checklist of lacklusterness grew. Rumpled, half-hanging curtains, no lampshades, no towels – save one – face cloths for hand towels, one pillow each and no top sheets. Not to mention the innumerous spots, stains and burn marks that adorned every surface in the room including the walls and ceiling. Even the framed picture was missing from the wall, as was the chain for the door. Nonetheless, we made ourselves at home and planned our escape while we ate our dinner. There is a TV with cable but the remote doesn’t work so we’ve been taking turns standing up and channel surfing by using the buttons on the back of the screen. The choices are mostly Football; red team, blue team, gold team or green team. The most memorable stays are always the worst ones and the best ones. Nobody ever recollects or relishes the mediocre places they spent the night. And this one will go down in our storied history alongside the Gold Dust Motel and Cell Block 7.
We have plans to some riding in Flint in the morning. Check back with us to see how it goes!
So the six of us have reunited to do some cycling for the first time since the Covid 19 pandemic started. The six of us are: myself, my mom and dad (Wendy and Don), Duncan, and sisters Glor and Yvonne. We left in 2 vehicles from two different starting points and together nearly circumnavigated Lake Ontario. Glor and Yvonne picked me up in Kitchener, ON and we crossed the US border at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge. Aside from some typical Ontario super highway congestion, the drive was great. There was no wait whatsoever to cross the border and the remainder of the drive to Rochester was basically pleasant. Don, Wendy and Duncan met up in Kingston, ON and drove east around the lake crossing the border at Gananoque. By 5pm we were all safely settled in the rental house in Rochester.
The house is perfect for what we need on this trip. It’s location is absolutely ideal for our purposes as it is situated where the Erie Canalway Trail intersects the Genesee River Trail Way. For all of our planned routes, we can actually ride right from our front door.
Glor, Yvonne and I took a short walk through the neighborhood before the others arrived and we were on the bike trail within minutes. Despite the oppressive heat and humidity we had a nice stroll along the trail in the shade. We went further than we intended but came across a really interesting mural painted on the side of an old, vacant industrial building. We dubbed it ‘the chicken’. Our curiosity was piqued. We asked or accosted a couple of locals to get some answers to our inquiries about the history of the building but have not gotten any satisfactory answers yet. We even made friends with some of our neighbors, with whom we have crossed paths multiple times already.
In the evening, we went by car to the grocery store to stock up on some provisions, including something for dinner. I found the mobile phone shop too where I bought a couple Sim cards to keep us connected. It was a late, light supper back at the house. We have started hatching plans for our first ride in the morning. It’s going to be another hot day so an early start is what we are aiming for. Stay tuned to see what really happens.
Day 2: To Fairport and back 50km
Sunday, August 7th
Sunny, hot and humid with a west wind. 33C
We did get an early start this morning and were pedaling down the driveway at 8:30am. As I mentioned, the bike trail is very close to our place and within minutes we were on it. There was a lot of lovely shade to be had after we crossed over the pedestrian bridge to the University of Rochester campus and were riding through Genesse Valley Park. We took a left turn at the Erie Canal and followed the trail east along the north bank.
It was quite busy on the trail between Rochester and Pittsford and being a beautiful Sunday, that was no surprise. We stopped frequently to hydrate, pee, sightsee and sometimes for no apparent reason at all. After arriving in Fairport and poking around for a bit we hopped back on the bikes and rode back to Pittsford for lunch.
At Alladin’s it was busy but we were able to get a table for 6 on the second floor patio overlooking the canal. It was nice to rest and refuel but all of us ate too much which is entirely too easy to do in restaurants with delicious food.
The final leg back after lunch was tough. The humidity was oppressive and the wind was against us. Shade was really the only respite from the heat, aside from air conditioning, which we wallowed in at the REI store just off the trail. We spent the better part of an hour in the outdoor goods store, slowly browsing while our body temperatures stabilized. When we made the last push back to our place we were all tired and hot. We have never been so grateful for air conditioning. For dinner we ordered pizza in and devoured most of it. After dinner, we took a stroll to the chicken mural with a stop for ice cream from the corner store on the way back. Don went MIA but turned up eventually. As it turns out he got ice cream too.
Day 3: Through Rochester to Ontario Beach Park 35km
Monday, August 8
Sunny, hot and humid with an afternoon shower. 30C
For a change of pace we decided to ride through downtown Rochester all the way north to lake Ontario. Again, we picked up the trail just outside our door and started riding downstream alongside the Genesee River. After a mile or two of shady forested path we emerged into the city proper. The paved trail seamlessly traverses underneath bridges and bypasses intersections.
In no time we arrived at the abandoned subway station by the Broad Street Bridge. I don’t think any of us knew that Rochester even had a subway. In actual fact, it was a light rail system that operated from 1927 to 1956.
After that the navigating got a little trickier. The map showed trail on both sides of the river so the trouble would be choosing which route to take. The route we chose ended up having detours, bridge closed signs and some busy roads. We unknowingly bypassed High Falls and rode past the Genesee brewery before crossing back over the river on Driving Park Ave. From the bridge we could see the river way, way down below. From there we were in Maplewood Park and resumed following the trail. It took us through the park along the top of the gorge and then from end to end of Holy Sepulchre cemetery. At Turning Point Park we followed the trail down, down and down to the boardwalk where now the trail was literally right over the water.
The Genesee River starts to widen here and soon after that point there were boats in slips marking the marina and the channel to Lake Ontario. We stopped to refill our water bottles and take a break in the shade.
Once the lake was in sight we beelined it to the beach. People were swimming, life guards were on duty and the water looked inviting. Glor, Yvonne, Wendy and I got changed into our swimsuits or at least took some of our clothes off and walked over the hot sand and into the cool water. The lake was surprisingly warm and also weedy and shallow. It was refreshing nonetheless and we floated around like corks until we were corralled back in to shore by the paddle-boarding lifeguard. After that it was off to lunch at the Pelicans Nest.
It started to rain on our short ride to the restaurant and though initially we hurried to escape it, the rain shower was a welcome relief from the heat. It was another feast for lunch. It’s hard not to order everything on the menu and It’s equally hard to stop eating when there are still fries on your plate.
After lunch, half of us decided to stay at the beach while the other half would ride back to pick up the van. Duncan, Wendy and I were the riders and Don, Glor and Yvonne were the beach combers. The rain had stopped by the time we maneuvered ourselves back onto our bikes. We decided to take a more direct route home so after we backtracked through Turning point park we cut through Holy Sepulchre cemetery onto Dewey Ave. We followed Dewey for the majority of the way back through the city. The scenery was interesting to say the least and we got a real sense of what the west side of Rochester was like – a lot less affluent. In the end, we rejoined the bike trail closer to our neighborhood and the rain started up again. We got a little wet but it was so hot out that it felt really nice.
Once we were back at home my Mom and I hopped in the van and drove back to the Port of Rochester where Don, Yvonne and Glor were relaxing with ice cream. We picked them up and drove back along Dewey so that they could see what they’d missed.
Tonight was movie night and we had a date with Elvis at 7 PM. All of us were still quite satiated from lunch so we just had light snacks for dinner while getting cleaned up to go out. The movie trailers were not received well by anyone, but everyone liked the film. After the show we dropped by Wegmans supermarket for supplies and then drove back to the house for bedtime snacks.
Day 4: Genesee River Trail and Erie Canalway Trail 25km
Tuesday, August 9
Humid and cloudy with sun. 24C
For our ride today we decided to go south along the Genesee Riverway Trail. We were now quite familiar with our neighborhood and how to get around on the bike trails so it was easy to find our way. From our place we rode south and crossed over the Erie Canal, following along the west Bank of the Genesee River. This was another tree-covered and paved trail that is well used by locals. At one point the trail splits with one route hugging the river and the other like an express lane a little farther from the water.
After about half an hour of riding the path concluded at busy road. According to our maps, the trail follows the road for awhile and eventually links up with a rail trail headed to Scottsville. We decided to turn around and try the Erie Canalway west. On the way back on the upper trail we passed by a firefighter training area complete with a burned out building and an airplane. When we got back to Genesee Valley Park we turned left at the Erie Canal and started riding west.
The bike trails here are like little freeways for bikes and they are well signed and easy to navigate. We followed the trail for an hour or so before stopping for a snack. Seeing as we wanted to do some sightseeing in the afternoon we were aiming to be back at the house for lunch.
Our ride home was just as nice as the ride out and when we got back into familiar territory we stopped on one of the bridges to admire the intersection of the canal and the river.
We had accumulated enough leftovers by this point to lay out an impressive buffet lunch. We huddled around the kitchen island dipping, slicing and snacking our way through the fare. Our plan for the afternoon was coming together.
After lunch we piled into the van and drove downtown to explore. One of the places we had missed seeing the day before was High Falls; one of three waterfalls in Rochester along the Genesee River. Located in the heart of downtown, the falls are the site and the impetus of Rochester’s early industrial development. The view from the Pont de Rennes pedestrian bridge is pretty impressive.
I don’t think any of us were expecting a 96 foot waterfall in the middle of the city. We would have come across this on our ride the day before but construction, detours and perhaps lack of research had us obliviously pedaling past. As the packed patio at the Genesee Brewery can attest, High Falls is a very popular destination.
Next on our list was Maplewood Park, another place we rolled through by bike on our way to the beach. Here there are steps and a trail down towards the riverbed. We hiked down the trail and along towards the Lower Falls. There is a bridge there, or more accurately the dam of a power station. It is closed to the public from 7am to 4pm and we would have crossed it yesterday on our ride but we were too early. Now we’d get to see what we had missed. It was around 3pm at this point and we arrived at the locked gate. While peering beyond, a worker emerged declaring that he’d be opening the gate in about 5 minutes. We waited patiently for that to happen and then were able to walk out over the dam.
After awhile we hiked back up to Maplewood Park to view the rose garden. Don led an informal tour of hundred-odd varieties of roses while others retired to shady benches to relax. It was getting on in the day and we wanted to visit the local Tuesday market, so we drove back to our house.
The Westside Market was within walking distance, but we inadvertently missed a turn took the long way through the neighborhood. We got to the market in the end and everybody gravitated to to different booths. Baked goods, cheeses and fresh produce were immediate draws and the hot food items looked delicious. We had other plans for supper so we exercised our will power, but collectively we bought enough desserts for 3 days. At markets I have the tendency to get chatting. Noticing the rest of the group was ready to go, I had to be politely dragged away from a conversation, but not before getting a free sample of essential oils from Clover Meadow farms.
Reconveening at the house we were all ready to eat. Tonight we were dining at Alladin’s again, but at their downtown location. It was a short drive across town to Monroe Avenue which as it turns out had many restaurants to choose from. We were so impressed by the food at Alladin’s in Pittsford that we couldn’t be swayed from trying it again. None of us were disappointed and we had a table on the second floor patio overlooking the street. Forget cycling, sightseeing is hard work. We cleaned our plates and passed on dessert knowing the abundance of baked goods that awaited us at home.
This being our last night in Rochester, we firmed up our plans for the next few days by booking our Air B&B in Niagara Falls. We’ll be sad to say goodbye to our spot on South Plymouth Ave, but our next accommodation looks pretty sweet.
Day 5: Rochester to Niagara Falls NY – by car
Wednesday, August 10
Warm and sunny. 27C
Check-out time was 11am but we were all packed up and ready to go by 10am. We didn’t want to arrive in Niagara Falls too early so we went to visit the George Eastman Museum, named after the founder of the Eastman Kodak company. It is the oldest museum dedicated to photography, and houses extensive film archives, an art gallery and the Dryden Theatre.
The museum is built around Eastman’s house which we also toured through, but unfortunately the gardens were under construction.
The neighbouring area is replete with grandiose homes, something we hadn’t seen during our stay on the west side of the city. When lunch time came we drove to nearby Cob Hill Park. We still had rather a lot of food with us and so we spread out an impressive array that even our table-neighbors were envious of.
Once we had eaten, refreshed and visited a local bakery we were ready for the drive to Niagara Falls. We traveled on the interstate so the route was nice and direct. We arrived within minutes of each other despite taking slightly different routes through the city.
All of us had been impressed with our house in Rochester, but our house in Niagara Falls was even nicer. In addition to having lots of room for sleeping, it had a front porch with furniture and a big dining room table to eat at; two things our place we lacking. This place was also conveniently located near the bike path that would take us to the Falls and downriver to the north. There was a nearby Tops grocery store that we promptly walked to and selected our suppers for the evening.
Having learned that there were nightly fire works by the Falls, we took our bikes out after dinner to scout a location to watch from. We found a great place about 5 minutes ride from our house. The fireworks were still a few hours away so we went back home and played ‘Reminiscing’ the board game for awhile. The sofa here was a lot more comfortable than at our previous place and it was hard to remove ourselves from it when it was time to go out again.
We thought we had left enough time to get to our lookout over the Niagara River to view the pyrotechnic display, but by the time we got ready and actually departed on our bikes we could hear booming in the distance. Duncan had the brightest light so he led the way. We rode as quickly as we could in the dark, along an unlit trail, but when we arrived the last flare had already been flung into the sky. Oh well, we would try again tomorrow.
Day 6: Niagara Falls – The Great Gorge Railway Trail 34km
Thursday, August 11
Warm and Sunny. 25C
Today was our first full day in Niagara Falls and our last full day of the trip so we were all eager to do some more riding. The plan for the morning was to ride north alongside the river on the Great Gorge Railway Trail. Just steps from our rented house it was easy to get going on the trail after breakfast. It was another beautiful day for riding – not too hot – and the trail is paved. There were many gorgeous views of the Niagara River along the way including lookouts over the gorge.
We passed a few other people on bikes but we basically had the trail to ourselves. We stopped frequently along the way to enjoy the scenery and to take photos. We rode through Whirlpool Sate Park and Devil’s Hole State Park, both of which were a little busier with tourists. Continuing our ride north we passed by the dam at the New York Power Authority. Here our paved trail turned into a paved road, but without the traffic. It was wide enough for us to ride six abreast. Soon after we saw the dam on the Canadian side at the Niagara Falls Power Generating Plant. It was easy to believe that there was some dam envy at play.
We continued along and passed under the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge and it was around this point that we could see the fuzzy blue line of Lake Ontario in the distance. The trail sloped downward and we zoomed along, coasting all the way to the bottom. The Artpark State Park was at the foot of the escarpment and we rode through it to see the art? We didn’t find much art in the park, but there was an outdoor concert venue which looked like it would be a fun place for live music. We meandered through the park for awhile and then stopped to take a break. Here, the trail was temporarily closed while a scaling team practiced repelling down the rock face. This would be our turn-around point for our morning ride.
Leaving the park we could see our bike trail snaking it’s way back up the escarpment alongside the Niagara Scenic Parkway. It hadn’t really occurred to us – or at least to me – that our entire ride so far today had been downhill. And what goes down, must pedal back up. It was just over a 2 kilometer climb back up the escarpment, but it was a gradual ascent and the view was a nice distraction. We reconvene at the top and I didn’t see anyone out of breath. On our way back we retraced our route but with fewer scenic stops. We did stop at Whirlpool State Park where we got off the bikes and walked to the lookout over the whirlpool. We probably spent half an hour just watching. The power of the water at the bottom of the gorge is simply mesmerizing, as are the jet boats, helicopters and aero cars (gondolas).
From Whirlpool State Park it took us 10 minutes to ride back to our place and it was just approaching noon. After lunch Glor, Yvonne, Wendy and I took a drive to the ALDI for a little shopping. ALDI is what I would call a discount grocery store and it has an intriguing section called ‘Here today, gone tomorrow’. The last time my Mom and I were in New York State we had to cross the border back into Canada by bike. Our bags were already full and we weren’t able to stock up on any fun food items. This time would be different! I found a few different salad dressings and some cookies, none of which can be found in Canada. Perhaps I’m making this sound more exciting than it is, but the way I see it, it is all part of exploring another culture.
After a few hours being off of our bikes it was time for our afternoon ride to The Falls. This time we rode south from our house along the trail. We rode past the Aquarium and the Disovery Centre. There were still very few people around, but as we approached and then rode under the Rainbow Bridge it got very congested with pedestrians all of a sudden. We opted for riding on the road at this point and made our way to Bridge that would take us to Goat Island. The hordes of people increased. Once on the Island we decided to just park our bikes and walk to see some of the sights. Our first stop was Luna Island- accessible by foot – with a great view over the precipice and Bridal Veil Falls. There was mist in the air, enough to cool us off, but when the wind whipped a certain way it threatened to soak us.
From there we walked through the heart of the tourist scene past the Nikola Tesla Monument, the line up for the Cave of the Winds and finally the gardens. I think we may have missed the gardens but according to the map we walked right by them. Even busier still was Terrapin Point, which overlooks Horseshoe Falls. The place was bustling with eager onlookers, all vieing for openings along the rail for that perfect selfiie. Again, the power of the water and of gravity is truly something to behold. The fact that something as simple as falling water can captivate thousands of people daily, year after year is frankly remarkable.
Eventually we made our way back to our bikes before continuing on to Three Sisters Island. This is a series of 3 tiny islands upstream from the falls, connected by a foot bridge to Goat Island. There were a few other people there, but the further we got from the falls the less busy it was. Continuing our counter-clockwise circumnavigation of Goat Island we were now able to ride on the path again. We slowly made our way around the little island and back onto the mainland. At Prospect Point we stopped yet again, for one more look at the falls. From there we could see across the river to Luna Island and all the little people getting wet.
Finally it was time to make our way back to the house. After a short trek through the downtown we picked up the bike trail and were back home in 5 minutes. I think we were all thankful for our morning ride, because as fun as the afternoon was, it wasn’t much of a ride. Indian food was on the menu tonight and after finding a restaurant that was actually in the United States of America, and open, we placed our order. Glor and Yvonne went to pick it up while I whipped up a salad and within no time the feast was on. We sat around the dining room table but it was surprisingly quiet because we were all enjoying the food.
The evening was spent relaxing, sitting on the porch and watching the local skunks slink around. At 9:30 some of us reprised our attempt to see the fireworks. We arrived to the viewing spot 20 minutes early, but that just heightened the anticipation. Right on cue, actually a couple minutes early, we saw the sparks and heard the booms. After the display smoke hung in the air and the river was suddenly quiet. We know they do this every night here at the Falls, but for us it was still pretty special.
Day 7: Heading Home
Friday, August 12
Sunny and warm. 25C
Today was basically a travel day so after having breakfast and organizing we loaded the bikes onto our respective vehicles and headed for the border. Don, Wendy and Duncan were in one car and Glor, Yvonne and myself were in the other. Our crossing at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge was relatively uneventful. When asked if we had anything to declare I didn’t hesitate to say no. What I really wanted to declare was that we had a great time together and that maybe we are all a little sad that our trip over. Until next time.
After arriving in Fort Erie yesterday, we had one last night to enjoy the confined comforts of a motel. It was a great way to unwind after a busy few weeks. Despite spending 3 days in New York City, mostly off of our bikes, we are exhausted. Our legs are sore – in a good way – and our minds are recuperating from the sight-seeing extravaganza of the Big Apple.
Sunday morning we arranged for my Dad to pick us up. It felt strange being packed and ready, but with nowhere to ride to. He arrived on schedule despite a minor hiccup navigating the border control zone. We were able to follow his progress with the help of a friendly, little tracking app. Once he found us, we loaded the bikes onto the bike rack and set off on the highway. We had a picnic in the car with some of our residual food and were back in Ajax by 2pm. After being affectionately mauled by Riley the dog, we got our first – in person – look at the storm damage. After settling in, we had a celebratory dinner and spent the evening watching hockey with our feet up.
These trips are often a little longer for me because I leave my place in Kitchener to meet up beforehand. And even though my parent’s place does feel like home, I still have to pack up one final time to get home, home.
On Monday morning I took a walk down the street from my parent’s house to the beach on Lake Ontario. I used to relish the idea of looking out to the horizon there and imagining it as the edge of the world. Or at least the edge of my world. You can’t see across the lake so it’s perfect for spacious contemplation. Now, in my mind when I look across, I can see places and a landscape I’d never really thought of before. Names like Weedsport and Medina. Eagle Harbor and Albion. I can picture the Erie Canal snaking along just south of the lake. Rochester, Syracuse and Albany. All of those places, and people, cars and grocery stores have shattered the illusion I held so dear. This trip has thoroughly changed how I see the world. And ultimately, isn’t that why people travel in the first place?
I admit that beforehand I was a little apprehensive about traveling in America. I couldn’t exactly say why, but guns, COVID, Trumpism and Yankee fans were a few of the notions I was ruminating about. For the record, I only saw guns in the possession of police, we didn’t catch COVID (despite sometimes being the only ones with masks on), the Trump lawn signs didn’t bite and the Yankees baseball team never came up in conversation. In fact, pretty much every person we talked to was really nice, helpful and friendly. Spending time in New York State has completely, and at least temporarily, changed the way I perceive our closest neighbour to the south. As a matter of fact, we have already started talking about going back, perhaps as early as the fall.
I would like to officially thank our support staff for all of their help to make this trip possible. Thanks to my Dad, who drove us to Niagara Falls and picked us up in Fort Erie. To Joanne, who offered to water my house plants and collect my mail (the hoya is in full bloom, again), and to Russell, my neighbor at the community garden, who tended to my tomatoes and other seedlings while we were away. Also, thanks to everyone who followed along and read our daily reports. I started keeping this blog as a way to remember the minutiae of the day-to-day experiences, but it’s nice to know there is an audience that enjoys reading about it too.
Day 20: Utica to Buffalo International Airport (BUF) by car. BUF to Fort Erie, Ontario 21km by bike.
Saturday, June 4th
Sunny and cool with a W wind. 17 C
Today was just about the final leg of our Spring bike trip. Leaving from Utica, we needed to get the rental car to the Buffalo International Airport – just over 200 miles. We stopped for breakfast in Seneca Falls near the Finger Lakes and got to the airport just after noon. Once there we loaded up the bikes with our bags once again, and after a quick pit stop in the arrivals lounge, we started to ride. It took over 2 hours to get to the Peace Bridge, but we did make a few stops along the way. We stopped at a grocery store to buy some cheese to go with our lunch. We stopped at a dollar store to stock up on greeting cards – they are quite inexpensive in the U.S. We also stopped twice to eat all the fruits and vegetables that we couldn’t take over the border.
Despite the headwind and having to ride on the road, the cycling was pretty good. We stopped one last time at a conveniently placed port-a-potty, and to get our documents in order. We walked our bikes most of the way across the Peace Bridge to enjoy the view. After a bit of a wait lined up with the autos, we were waved to the front of the line by a very nice Border Guard. We didn’t have far to go in Fort Erie to find our motel for the night and the grocery store. It’s nice to be back in Canada, but it is still sinking in
Day 19: Leaving New York (20km around Central Park by bike) Manhattan to Utica by car
Friday, June 3rd
Sunny and warm. 24 C
There were two things left on our checklist today and we accomplished them both. The first was to rent e-bikes, and ride around Central Park. We had some technical difficulties initially, but were able to overcome them to get the bikes we wanted. It was a 20km loop around the perimeter of the park, with all wheeled devices going in a counter clockwise direction. We really got a sense of how big the park truly is. What I found surprising was the elevation within the park, there are some real hills.
The second item left on our list was to get some street food. After checking out of our hotel at noon, we rode our bikes to the car rental place, which was only a block away. On the way we stopped for a chicken shawarma platter to take with us on the road.
Having arranged the car rental ahead of time, it was smooth sailing. We loaded the bikes and our bags into the car and we were on our way. Driving in Manhattan is actually more difficult than riding a bike or walking in the city. As a driver you have to watch out for everything, from every direction. The key is to go slow, look twice and be ready to honk.
Once we got out of the city it was quite relaxing to sit back and drive. We are taking the car to the Buffalo airport and from there we will ride our bikes to the Peace Bridge, and cross over to Fort Erie. We’ve got a little more sight-seeing to do on the way so stay tuned.
Day 18: In and around New York City 24km (by bike)
Thursday, June 2nd
Mostly cloudy with an afternoon shower. 25 C
Today, we got back on our bikes. We officially completed our journey by cycling around the tip of Manhattan. From our hotel we rode east to the United Nations building and then followed the East River Trailway to Battery Park.
We posed for the photo – this time with bikes – that we always pictured. Riding our bikes right to the tip of Manhattan, with the Statue of Liberty in the distance.
In the afternoon we took another bus tour on the double-decker, this time through uptown and Harlem. Again, it was interesting, but it got hot when the sun came out, and the fumes from the bus were suffocating. Then the traffic snarled and heavy rain looked imminent. We got off early and walked back, getting to the hotel just as the skies opened up.
After dinner, despite just wanting to stay in bed (yes, we eat dinner in bed), we took the subway to explore the High Line and the Vessel at the Hudson Yards. On the way back we stopped to take a look at Grand Central Station. Sight-seeing is exhausting.
I was up late last night writing the blog post. I wanted to get it down while it was still fresh in my mind. I can feel it already, the sensory overload that is New York, tends to overwrite memories really quickly.
Both of us woke up just after 6am for no particular reason. I guess we were excited to be in New York, and thrilled to be finished our ride. We took a short walk through Central Park, stopping for bananas at the Dakota where John and Yoko had their apartment.
We had our real breakfast back in our room before heading out on the double decker sight-seeing bus. We hopped off in Lower Manhattan and made our way to the Seaport. We ate pizza for an early lunch and then walked under the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges to Pier 35 for the Statue of Liberty cruise.
It was fun being out on the water and getting to sit and rest for an hour was good too. The tour was informative and of course, offered a different perspective of Manhattan and the other boroughs.
After the cruise we hopped back on the bus, riding it to Battery Park. From there we walked up to the World Trade Centre site. The memorial is a striking and solemn tribute to the event that forever changed New York.
Then we found a grocery store to pick up some supplies prior to hopping on the bus again. We rode the rest of the loop up the west side and hopped off near our hotel. We had one last thing to pick up for dinner and made it back to our hotel just as it started to rain. We prepared a delicious dinner in our room, and in true tourist fashion, we are watching the New York Rangers hockey game on TV. We have ample snacks and with the sounds of the city leaking in through our open window, it really feels like we are here.
Day 16: (Peekskill to Tarrytown by train) Tarry Town to Manhattan 55km
Tuesday, May 31
Sunny and super hot. Light N wind. 36 C
Today was finally the day we would get to New York City. Up until last night, our exact plan was still being established. What we ultimately decided is as follows. Retracing our route from yesterday, we caught the train in Peekskill back to Tarrytown. We got to the station early and had to wait around to catch the first non-rush-hour train heading south. It was hot out already by 8am, but the breeze coming off the Hudson was refreshing. Boarding the train was easy again, although the train car was different so we had to make our bikes fit as best we could. The first ticket checker didn’t seem to mind that we were blocking the aisle a little bit, but the second one did not approve. He was less than helpful to say the least. After one station stop we had to switch trains anyway, and while exiting the train a friendly rider helped to hold the door for us while ticket-man priggishly observed. Our sense of ease on the train was starting to wane. The next train – more of a milk run – would get us to Tarry Town but was coming in on a different track. So after some consultation we hauled our bikes into the elevator, down the hall to the other elevator to track number 2. As it turns out we did this needlessly because the train doors opened on both sides of the car, precisely where we had been standing. This time we stowed our bikes more efficiently and the next stop was Tarrytown.
It was getting hotter. I don’t think I mentioned in yesterday’s post that the 4km ride from the trailhead in Tarrytown to the train station was extremely downhill. It was thrilling at the time, and at that point, our plan didn’t involve going back there. However, this morning we had decided to continue riding from where we’d left off. This meant starting our ride with a 4km serious climb. We knew this, and we were dreading it. We actually walked most of it, and by walking, I mean pushing our fully loaded bikes up steep streets in sweltering heat. It was an intense workout for some different muscle groups. When we reached the plateau above the town, we found the trail and stopped at the first shady bench we came to. After a little more breakfast and a little chat with some curious passersby, we were ready to proceed.
The main reason we had been hesitant to ride from Tarrytown, was having to overcome the hill in town. The main reason we wanted to keep riding into the city from Tarrytown, was that the trail is amazing. The North County Trailway is mostly shady, mainly downhill and for the most part utterly devoid of traffic. Picking up from where we’d left off, we hopped on the bikes and practically coasted along. I kept waiting for the oasis of green to vanish, leaving urban blight in its place, but mile after mile we were riding through the woods. Sometimes, the woods were only twenty feet deep on either side of the trail but the illusion was a good one.
The trailway twines along the Saw Mill River and it’s namesake Parkway which is a sizzling cacaphony of cars and trucks. Occasionally the soothing sounds of the former were drowned out by the cranky din of the latter. Every now and then we’d have to cross a road or pass through some light industrial or commercial development, but the park-like setting endured. After 15 miles we arrived in Yonkers. I figured that around the next bend the city would finally reveal itself. Redmond Park led to Tibbets Brook Park which connected to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. It wasn’t until we rode out the south side of the the park that it really felt like we were in the city. But after that point, it happened fast.
Now we were on streets, riding underneath screeching subways, amidst the flow of a thousand cars and trucks. Bike routes needed to be followed, bridges to be found, and shady spots frequently sought out to stop and recalibrate in. Bit by bit we pressed on. We ended up walking over the Broadway Bridge which was nice, because we could take it all in without having to focus on the road and staying alive. Crossing over the Harlem River onto Manhattan Island was an achievement, something we’ve been picturing doing for awhile now. Next, we found our way to the Hudson River Greenway – the bike path that circumnavigates most of the island. It was really astounding seeing the megacity take shape, and just after we passed under the George Washington Bridge, we saw the skyline as proof.
By this time we were getting tired. It was so hot in the sun, and we had stopped for food and water countless times. We just wanted to get to our hotel, get off of our bikes, and rest where it was cool. But, we still had a little ways to go. Riding down the west side of the island, we finally had our chance to enter the city proper at 95th Street. We headed straight for Central Park. From there we rode south through the park, getting more relieved the closer we got to our destination. Our hotel – The Manhattan – is just south of Central Park near Times Square. After exiting the park and a few blocks of city streets, we had made it. Sweaty and smiling, we wheeled into the lobby at 4pm and checked in without any fuss. We took a few minutes to unpack before going for a stroll to the nearest grocery store.
After dinner when all we wanted to do was rest, we went out and took an evening double decker bus tour. We figured we’d have time to rest later. We are planning a day off from riding tomorrow, but our plans have been known to change.
Day 15: Brewster to Tarry Town 67km (Tarry Town to Peekskill by train)
Monday, May 30 (Memorial Day)
Sunny and hot with next to no wind. 30 C
After rediscovering the joys of riding on rail-trails yesterday, we were keen to continue on the trail south today. Our maps indicated that there would be some significant elevation changes throughout the day which is not normally typical of rail-trails. Leaving Heidi’s Inn, it was a 4 mile ride back into Brewster to pick up where we left off yesterday. Branching off of the Maybrook Trail, our route was now called The Putnam Trailway. This former rail line was a commuter line running between Brewster and the Bronx.
The trail started climbing almost immediately. Steeper than most rail trails, but still a lot more gradual than any of the roads we saw in the vicinity. The scenery was lush and green. I’m still beside myself with the mature trees that line the trails throughout the Hudson Valley. We climbed for about 10 miles until we reached Mahopac, then the trail tilted in our favour. We were able to coast down the other side of the pass for about 3 miles. The slope was again surrounded by mature deciduous forest. The trail was busy again today with people, but in a break between groups I saw a what looked like a large cat cross the trail in front of me. Coasting past the woods where it slunk to, I peered into trees. To my astonishment, I saw a lynx staring back at me.
We loved the trail so much that we rode further than we were supposed to. Originally we had planned to get off in Mahopac and then take Hwy 6, the road-route to Peekskill. Mid-morning we changed our plan. We decided to ride trail all the way to Tarry Town where we would catch the Metro North commuter trail back up to Peekskill. In a nutshell, that is what we did.
The whole train trip process was relatively easy and straightforward. When we got off in Peekskill our hotel was less than a mile away, although it was up a steep hill so we walked the bikes. Checking in, we were covered in sweat, again. Our room has the best view of the entire place. We’re not sure how that was arranged, but we a certainly enjoying it.
Our stay at the Greener Oaks was very nice and we accomplished what we needed to do, which was to rest. Today, we wondered how our legs would feel after they started pedaling again, but once they were warmed up, they felt fine. It was a mile ride back into Hyde Park from our place and then another 4 miles south to Poughkeepsie where we were to pick up the trail. Along the way we passed FDR’s place. We wanted to get a good start on our ride so we didn’t go in, but I think it wasn’t open yet anyway. The road was generally downhill into Poughkeepsie, which was great, and we also passed by the Culinary institute of America and Marist College.
We picked up the trail at the base of the pedestrian bridge over the Hudson River and it was busy. The weather was nice and being Memorial Day Weekend, it was not surprising to see many people out biking, walking and running. The Dutchess Railtrail (DRT) is 13 miles long, starting in Poughkeepsie and terminating in Hopewell Junction. There the path continues as the Maybrook Trailway to Brewster – another 21 miles – and beyond to Danbury, Connecticut. It was so nice to be back on a Railtrail, with its gentle gradients. The first half of our ride today – to Hopewell Junction – was uphill, but it was spread out evenly over miles. The latter half of our ride was downhill, again spread out over a distance, not one steep drop. Similar to the train engines that used to traverse the same route, our legs are little motors that appreciate a steady, predictable rhythm.
In the afternoon we crossed paths with 4 other bikers from New York who were riding electric assisted bikes. We shared a rest stop together in the shade and got to chatting. They were curious about what we were up to and likewise, us about them. We spent 20 minutes telling stories and swapping facts. It was a really great interaction and we felt a little more energetic afterwards from it. The final few miles into Brewster were downhill as advertised and we coasted along through sun-dappled shade.
Our easy descent into Brewster quickly transitioned to heavy hill climbs once we left the trail for the road. We knew it was coming, but sometimes ignorance is bliss. We prevailed over the last few hills and even had some company as a fellow cyclist and I got chatting riding side by side up one of the climbs. Then, our motel appeared and we disappeared into it. We’d already acquired all the food we needed so it was time to relax.
Cloudy and cool with some rain and a heavy downpour in the afternoon. 21 C
So, yesterday we were starting to rethink riding the hilly roads down the valley. They are rideable and there is a bike route, however we don’t subscribe to the suffering ethos of road bike racing. We plan on enjoying ourselves and enjoying the adventure of the trip. With that being said, while walking to Walmart yesterday, we started to entertain any and all ideas of how to get farther along without having to ride another grueling course of river valley hills.
We talked about taking a boat, renting a car and I downloaded Uber for the first time. Car rental places were closing soon, closed for the Memorial Day weekend and most likely without cars for hire. Leaving Walmart I tried to hail an Uber, but instead of waiting around for 20 minutes we decided to walk the 40 minutes back to our motel. That was when fate curiously intervened. A car went by and pulled into a parking space directly in front of us. The side of the car was marked with ‘Catskill Car Service” and it looked like a courtesy car for an auto dealership. We decided to inquire and hovered patiently nearby while the driver readied herself to exit the vehicle. Once she did, we pounced. Politely I asked what exactly the car service was and she replied that it was basically like a taxi. The lightbulbs went off simultaneously in our minds. I asked if they do out of town trips and she simply replied that they do. I asked if we could get a ride to Hyde Park in the morning and she said yes. Our eyes were wide with excitement and illuminated by hope. After conferring with the boss, who coincidentally also just pulled in to park, we were quoted a price. The only information required from us was: 10am at Peloke’s motel and room #4. And just like that our fortunes changed. We’d be fast tracking our trip by one day, but more importantly we’d be skipping another tough hill-filled ride. And for good measure, we asked for a lift to the motel. No problem. For 5 bucks flat-rate we were back in time for supper.After dinner we were at ease and eagerly awaiting an overdue day of rest.
So today, we woke up and packed our bags before taking a stroll along the main Street in downtown Catskill. There were a lot of interesting looking shops to peer into, but because it was still early, everything was closed. We ate our breakfast back in the room and then got the bikes ready to be stowed – hopefully effortlessly – into a car. We were expecting a ‘Tahoe’ to be precise, but you don’t want the driver second guessing the size of their vehicle. We’ve done this before and we like to look the part. At 10:01am the Tahoe arrived and we slipped the bikes in the back like pancakes on a plate. Put the bags in too and then ourselves and sat back to enjoy the ride. We had a great conversation over the hour-long drive to Hyde Park and when we arrived we asked to be dropped off at the Laundromat.
Once we were unloaded from the Tahoe we loaded our wash into a machine and then put our bikes back in order. When the wash was done we packed the clean, still-wet clothes into our bags and made our way to The Greener Oaks where we’d be spending the night. It was a short ride – less than a mile – but of course it was hilly. The road was narrow and twisty and wet and busy. Not that much fun and it was starting to rain.
The room is in a house, in a lovely treed area on a quiet street. Our host met us at the door, gave us a tour and made us feel immediately at home. While chatting we mentioned that we might be going out to see FDR’s home and stopping by the Stop & Save for groceries. Then she offered to take us to the store, since she was going there too. We couldn’t refuse. We had been thinking of riding to the store and the historic site, but with the questionable weather we balked. So all three of us piled into her car and away we went. We did see FDR’s place as we drove past and both it and the store were a little further than we thought. It was a big store and we were able to find just about everything we wanted. After checking out we met our host out front of the store in the midst of a torrential rainstorm. Were we ever thankful that we weren’t out there riding around on our bikes. It was then that we finally realized that today was truly a rest day and that we would not be going anywhere else.
Back in our room we hung up our wet laundry wherever we could and we whipped together a nice hot lunch with squash, asparagus and our leftover chicken. We’ve had our feet up for the remainder of the day and have been planning our arrival in New York City. We do plan on actually biking again, just not today.
Today was our first day riding exclusively on roads and it was eye-opening. Cycling along the canal we were able to admire all of the majestic rolling hills from a distance. Today we had front row seats. Obviously the downs are a lot easier than the ups, but with narrow shoulders, traffic, road detritus and sightseeing thrown into the mix, even the descents can be trying in their own way. Clearly, the ups are a lot of work and usually only rewarding when you reach the top, but when the ups keep going up, they too get tiring. This is especially true when the hills keep repeating themselves, over and over again.
At the end of the day you really only remember the good parts. There is a certain sense of accomplishment, even satisfaction, with having laboured so hard to made it to your destination, but you can never accurately recall the toil like it was in the moment. This is where memories can be deceiving and why you are tempted to or even compelled to repeat the same process again day after day. Well, our eyes are wide open and we are scratching our heads, trying to come up with a way not to repeat the grind that was today’s ride.
The good parts… Leaving Rensselaer we were already elevated from the river so our first vertical action was down. The steep hill caught us by surprise and both of us, later, admitted to applying the brakes instead of letting gravity take control. That began the barrage of hills. We did pass some historical places along the way including a spot where Henry Hudson landed near Kinderhook and 2 really old cemeteries where we stopped to rest.
Connecting Hudson and Catskill is The Rip Van Winkle Bridge. It features the Hudson River Skywalk, which is actually just the sidewalk where pedestrians can cross the bridge. It does provide great views of the river valley, the Catskill Mountains and Olana the historic site of Frederic Church’s estate.
Once we arrived at our motel in Catskill we pulled ourselves together and went for a walk. We ended up at the far end of town where Walmart lives. After doing our shopping, a chance encounter presented us with the ‘plan B’ we’d been looking for. Stay tuned for more details..
Instead of back tracking yesterday’s route to where we left the trail, we decided to take a more direct route along the highway to rejoin the Canalway trail a mile out of town. It was a lovely downhill ride out of Amsterdam and when we reached the bottom near the canal, we saw our trail on the other side of the ditch. A quick Portage and we were back riding on the paved trail.
I felt that the theme of the day started out very industrial with a lot of beautifully stark infrastructure. Actually, the day started out with us buying bananas and granola bars for breakfast from the local convenience store and the police being summoned to our motel for a domestic dispute, but I didn’t take any pictures of that.
Then I thought that something more uplifting, thematically, might be in order, so I started paying attention to all of the various flowers in bloom along the trail. They were everywhere and I had to limit myself to only photographing them when we were stopped for a break.
The riding along the trail today was amazing. The path seems like it was paved yesterday and yet it runs through deep woods a lot of the time, so it seems like its been there for decades. Not all of the trail follows the route of the original towpath, when they used horses and mules to pull barges along the canal, and some of the newer sections have hills. We crested one such hill by the General Electric Global Research Centre and at the summit, were rewarded with a great view of the Mohawk River and the surrounding area.
The trail was in impeccable condition right up until we saw the dreaded “Trail Closed” sign in Cohoes. Of course, we pedaled around the sign and carried on and the trail got rough. Like, really rough. I scouted ahead on foot, through a tunnel, to take a look beyond. There was no getting past this blockage. The trail looked like it was being prepared for re-paving in this particular section and there had been some serious tree removal. All of the trunks and branches of the felled trees were piled entirely on and along the surface of the trail. The heavy machinery had torn up the old asphalt sufficiently enough to make the trail officially unridable. We conceeded defeat and finally aquiesced to the detour. Within half a mile we were back on the trail, but ready for a another break.
The rest of our ride along the Mohawk River – which is part of the Erie Canal – was down hill. The Mohawk flows into the Hudson River and we were getting close. In time, we came to an Empire State Trail sign that offered us a choice: north or south. This is what we’d been waiting for. We turned right – south – toward New York City and right into the gusting wind. We said goodbye to our tree-covered trail and knew that the last few miles today would be tough.
Slowly but surely and snack by snack, we rode on. Our first glimpse of the Hudson showed whitecaps and because of the wind, the river appeared to be flowing in the opposite direction. Inching ever closer to Albany we found ourselves riding on the road through Watervliet. Then we had a dedicated bike lane. Then we were back in the woods riding along the Hudson.
By this time it was 5pm and we were still 10 miles from our destination Rensselaer. With Albany in sight, we finally came upon the Dunn Memorial Bridge. Crossing this bridge would take us over the Hudson and into Rensselaer. So up and over we went and down the other side. We got a great view of Albany and the cool, green bike path we had ridden on.
Based on our prior scouting we knew that there was an ALDI grocery store en route to our motel, so we stopped on the way to stock up. The final mile was uphill, but we managed to plod along with our now overstuffed bags. We checked in at 6 and promptly sat down to eat. Our evenings are usually spent doing the same things. Putting our feet up. Catching up with people. Writing journals and blogs. Showers. Planning ahead. Snacking and inevitability sleeping.
The trouble with having such a nice room with lots of big windows is that it gets bright quite early. We both woke up before 7 to our lovely view across the river. We even went for a short walk to see where we would be leaving by bike.
Most of our adventure today happened in the first 5km. While eating our bananas overlooking the canal I realized I had left my travel mug and the tea that was in it back in the hotel room. So I zipped back by bike and raced up to the third floor to fetch it. Yes they had found it and to check the kitchen. Yes it was being washed in the sink by the staff. Relief! Back down to street level, on the bike and over the bridge. From the hotel we rode along Moss Island – between the canal and the river – to Lock 17. Crossing the lock was no problem, but then we had to lower our bikes down a long flight of steel steps. That led to a switchback ramp that took us back up to trail level. It was there that we saw the dreaded Trail Closed sign. Fresh asphalt had been layed recently and the blacktop was basically pristine. I was ready to turn back, but my mom doesn’t do detours unless absolutely necessary. We proceeded with caution. Around each bend fully expecting to arrive upon the road crew and have to explain either our illiteracy, our delinquency or both. We didn’t need to because we made it to the next road crossing uninterrupted. However, the next section of trail paving looked like an active work site so we did follow the detour this time. Unfortunately it took us up over a big hill that wound it’s way through a residential area before cresting and descending the other side. When we picked up the trail again the work crew was behind us and our legs were warned up for the day.
The rest of the day went by relatively fast. We tried something different today which was to stop every 10km for a break. Sometimes for food, but sometimes just to get off the bikes and stretch for a minute. It occurred to us that we had adopted this strategy on past bike trips. Now I remember why, because it works. It’s nice just mentally to reach that goal and rest for a minute and then ride for another half an our or so.
When we arrived in Amsterdam we realized that everything we need is up. Following the canal, we are usually at the low point – topographically speaking – of the area. The directions to our motel didn’t specifically mention that we’d be riding up steep hills, but we probably should have seen that coming. At the end of our day’s ride the last thing we want to do is climb hills. After climbing said hills, the last thing you want to do is ride back down them and across town and up the other side to go shopping, only to do the whole process again in reverse. So we stayed put in our our room, ordered spaghetti and meatballs for dinner from a local restaurant, and had it delivered. We don’t walk to grocery stores every day! Our room tonight is sort of like the back-to-basics version of a motel room. It seems more noticeable after yesterday’s boutiquey upgrade, but nonetheless, it is a place to put our feet up for the night.
Despite being unable to open the windows in our room for fresh air, we awoke to a nice cool draft in the morning. Probably safer than a screen door, we give full marks for ventilation at the Relax Inn even when the door is closed.
Both of us were feeling our legs today and although we didn’t want to take a day off, we did enjoy our breaks today. The wind was blowing from the east, lightly at first but strengthening as the day wore on. The trail conditions changed too. What started as two dirt tracks transitioned to stone dust and then to asphalt, in theory, making it easier to pedal.
We had a stretch of highway riding today between Utica and Herkimer. The shoulders are wide and paved and the road wasn’t that busy, but there is something about riding next to traffic that is extra draining. That, combined with the wind in our face, left us huffing and hungry before lunch. A quick stop at a farm market picked up our spirits and we spotted a shady place to have a picnic. It was the west-facing side of a sports complex, in the middle of a field.
After lunch we put our heads down and pedaled our little legs as much as we could. Mile by mile we got closer to Herkimer. When we did, we found our way to the trail head and stopped for another breather.
The last 7 miles took us to Little Falls. When we arrived we were swiftly upgraded to a bigger room in the neighbouring Inn with an elevator. The building is a fully restored mill from the 1800s. Both the Inn at Stone Mill and our room, overlook the town’s namesake. It was a well earned reward for us, particularly today after riding so hard to get there.
It was a short walk to the local grocery store where we did our thing and then made our way, as quickly as we could, back to our room to enjoy it. The only problem so far that we’ve found is that it’s too spacious. We have to walk all over the place to get at our stuff and we have things spread out everywhere!
After 7 days of riding, we are getting the hang of this again. Everything seems to be getting easier including packing and pedaling. The first few days on the road we were both figuring out how best to pack our stuff, especially the things we need easy access to like tissues, disinfectant wipes, masks, hand sanitizer and sunscreen. Packing our food is important too. Carrying enough so we can keep our strength up, but not too much that we are hauling extra weight. Raincoats near the top of the bags and with the warmer weather lately we don’t need to worry about gloves and extra layers. It’s nice to be getting into a rhythm.
Our room last night was certainly adequate but it sure was nice to move on this morning. We took our breakfast with us and made our way back to the Canalway trail heading east out of Syracuse. Starting in nearby DeWitt the trail is even paved. This section of the trail is also called the Old Erie Canal State Park and features several historic aqueducts and bridges. The asphalt lasted for a few miles before reverting back to crushed gravel. We didn’t want this trip to be too easy.
Getting into a good rhythm is also important for the actual cycling too. We try to time our breaks every hour or so, eating when necessary. Too much much food at once tends to make us lethargic. Too little and we are just weak. Finding the right equilibrium and the right type of foods is crucial to enjoying the ride. As I previously mentioned, we have been eating what constitutes breakfast, over two or three stops. Today we were practicing our picnic lunch. A nice selection of juicy fruits and vegetables, crackers and cheese of some kind and then something sweet to finish it off. Afternoon snacks we lean towards fruit, cookies and if necessary, chocolate.
We have also been testing out different variations with our equipment, specifically our bikes. Minor adjustments to the height of your bike seat throughout the ride can breathe new life into your legs when you thought there was none. Tweaks to the hand grips and handle bars can change your posture just enough to help relieve tired muscles. Sometimes the best distractions from the grind of riding come in the form of the scenery along the way.
This happed today when we saw a huge, dinner-plate-sized turtle. It was sitting on a log in the slimy muck of the old canal with 4 or 5 other turtles, each smaller than the one before it. When we stopped to look closer, only the big one was left on the log. This prompted us to pay more attention and we started seeing turtles everywhere. We were calling out our numerous sightings as we rode along, narrating our tour with facts and queries about turtle town. Neither of us had ever seen so many turtles before. There were easily a hundred of them in the span of a mile or two and that was while we were still paying some attention to what was in front of us.
The last few miles – which are usually the toughest – passed by effortlessly. The next thing we knew, we were in Rome. We worked our way through town, opting for side streets instead of the highway. When we spotted our motel it was a sad sight for sore eyes. The Relax Inn appeared to have bars on the windows and looked like a giant industrial shed with a broad red stripe the colour of fresh blood. The proprietor still needed to clean the room when we arrived to check in, as they had been extremely busy yesterday which seemed hard to believe. We agreed to wait, we were actually early anyway, so we walked to the grocery store to kill some time.
We knew there was an ALDI which was some kind of grocery store we hadn’t been to before, but we also saw another supermarket called Grand Union. So we went into Grand Union to look around and we were impressed. Good prices, great selection and a lot of interesting products we hadn’t seen before. We toured all the aisles, planning our dinner as we went. Then we left without buying anything and walked over to ALDI to investigate. It was very interesting too. Less selection, but cheaper prices on the things they did have. We picked up a few things there and then made our way back to Grand Union to finish up. We knew our room would be ready by now so we tentatively walked back to the motel unsure of what to expect beyond the room’s door.
Remarkably, the inside of the room was much nicer than the exterior, which is better than the other way round. It was clean, spacious and checked pretty much all of the boxes we want in a room. Within minutes we were unpacked, settled and getting our supper ready, which is all part of getting into a good rhythm.
Partly cloudy and warm. Rain later in the day. 26 C
Leaving Weedsport this morning we almost missed the start of the trail. We did a U-turn and pulled off the road, down a single dirt track into the woods. This was the most rustic we’ve seen the trail yet. The bumpy ride was a great way to be shaken awake as we hadn’t eaten breakfast yet. Then the trail was entirely covered over in freshly mowed grass. It was like pedaling along a green shag rug. Farther along the trail was blocked by a newly fallen tree. With just enough space to get by underneath, we pulled the bikes along the ground and through to the other side. Soon after, we arrived at a more well trodden part of the trail with park benches and a beautifully repurposed section of the old canal where we stopped to eat.
Near Camillus the trail was busy and there were a lot of people out walking and on bikes. Approaching the outskirts of Syracuse the trend continued. We knew that the Canalway Trail comes to an end at the outer limits of Syracuse because the old canal has been built over there. At that point we’d have to navigate by following the Empire State Trail signs and work our way across the city. When the trail ended I checked the map to confirm our location and we weren’t anywhere near where I thought we’d be. Plan B then came into effect, which was to just keep following the trail signs.
This worked really well for us and we got to see the New York State Fairgrounds – which were closed – and the bathrooms there, which were also closed. We followed the signs up and over an expressway and up a hill overlooking Lake Onondaga. We followed the signs down, around the lake and across the new pedestrian bridge at the lake outlet. We followed the signs onto the Onondaga Creekwalk which connects the lake to Armory Square in downtown Syracuse. We just kept following the signs and we slowly picked our way across the city, taking in the sights as we went. Pedaling out the east side of downtown took us up and eventually over a long hill. We passed Le Moyne College and got a fleeting view of the city before we gleefully coasted down the other side. We found our motel at the bottom of the hill and half an hour after checking in, the rain clouds finally caught up and it absolutely poured for an hour.
The rain delayed our hike to the grocery store, but we were content to relax with our feet up and we spent some time planning our next few days. When the rain stopped, we were eager to go get our supper. Our destination was Tops, only a 20 minute walk, but just around the corner from us was a Trader Joe’s. Unsure of what exactly it was, we approached it cautiously. From a distance we spotted pineapple and melons outside on display. Our eyes widened! Neither of us knew it was a grocery store. It was enlightening and it was also really busy. It seemed like half of the people in the store were employees, most of them were replenishing things and tidying up. We found some interesting foods to try and the theme for dinner was salsa and chips. When we were done shopping it took 2 minutes to walk back to our room. Then we got cleaned up and proceeded to pig out!
We knew it was going to be hot today so our plan was to get an early start. We woke up at 6am and were out the door and on the bikes by 7:30. The canal was only steps away so we ate our bananas overlooking the placid water.
Some of our route today was on the road as some small segments of the trail haven’t been fully developed along the canal. Sometimes the maps are wrong, like when we found ourselves on a trail that didn’t even exist. At first, riding on the road was a nice change from the trail because the crushed gravel of the trail was sticking to our tires, showering us with gritty sprinkles and adhering to our sunscreened bodies. Although, after pedaling up a few hills, baking between the sun and the asphalt, we were missing the shade and the flatness of the canal way. As the heat built throughout the morning, we stopped often for shade, snacks and water.
Then we were back on the road to climb some more hills.
And then back to the trail…
Our scouting report for Weedsport revealed that it was a pretty small place and we weren’t sure what the grocery situation would be like so we stopped in neighboring Port Byron at a small market store. We packed the food into our already full panniers by shuffling, swapping and stuffing items between ourselves and various bags. Now, the final 5 miles to Weedsport and we were back on the trail in the shade after another quick snack. When we arrived in town and found the Rodeway Inn we were excited to see the Super Fine Supermarket across the road and a laundromat next door! After unpacking and showering we went back out, strolling slowly in the blistering heat to do our wash and to see what else we could buy to eat. It might sound painful sometimes but it usually is pretty fun on these trips.
PS We heard about the wind damage in southern Ontario that afternoon and there were 2 big trees knocked down at my parent’s place. We were glad to hear that everyone there was ok and the damage is still being assessed.
Warm and muggy with a little midday rain shower. S wind. 28 C
The weather is getting warmer and today called for shorts and more importantly, sunscreen. It is a slimy inevitability at this time of year and because we are almost exclusively traveling east, we are at risk of getting tanned only on one side.
We learned that today was the opening day for the navigation season on the Erie Canal. We had only seen one boat so far, but today was another story. Along with several rowing sculls, we saw river boat cruisers, fishing boats and kayaks. We also saw a lot of of other people out on the trail walking and biking, especially between Rochester and Fairport. There seemed to be an awful lot of bridges over the canal. In fact, I counted the ones we passed under today and there were 36.
Another highlight today was finding a Little Library in Perinton Park in Fairport where I left the copy of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation I’d been reading (sorry Joanne, I’ll get you another copy).
It was a really pleasant ride overall today, despite the humidity and the brief period of rain around noon. The canal way is so green and lush with vegetation, like at Swift’s Landing, that sometimes it feels like riding along an ancient riverbed.
We also had our first real detour of the trip near Pal-Mac Aqueduct County Park where we had to ride on hwy 31 for a bit. Thankfully hwy 31 is also NY State Bikeway #5 and there is a dedicated bike lane alongside the road.
Arriving in Newark, we could see our hotel from the trail which was a welcome sight. Also, Wegmans wasn’t nearly as far a walk as it was yesterday. It only took 20 minutes and gave us some time to plan our supper. Tonight was a cool salad day, with grilled chicken breast (not by us), cheese and crackers (jalapeno triscuit) and salted caramel iced cashew cream for dessert!
Rain overnight with misty showers until noon. Clearing through the day. W wind. 16 C
It rained overnight and we slept in a bit because it was so grey outside. As we were getting organized we decided to make a stop at the post office to send back some extra stuff we were carrying. Between the two of us we came up with 7 lbs of superfluous gear. Mostly clothing, but also some extra maps and electrical gadgetry. It wasn’t so much the additional weight of the stuff as the volume it took up in our bags. We were both feeling overstuffed, trying to jam things here and there. Now we have some extra space, for more stuff!
Our new rain jackets came in handy today as there was a lingering, drizzly mist hanging about as we made our way along the Canal way trail. The air was warm enough that it wasn’t such a big deal to get a little wet and the light west wind dried us off nicely once the rain clouds moved on. We saw our first fellow cyclists on the the trail today. 3 day trippers were riding together in the same direction as us and we saw a single rider as well as a couple riding west, fully loaded with bags. We have only seen one boat on the canal so far, but we learned today that the canal was only filled last week. Apparently the canal is mostly drained through the winter to minimize freezing damage to the banks.
Most of the ride today seemed very rural. We passed through the small towns of Holley, Brockport, Adams Basin and Spencerport. Even approaching Rochester was deceiving because the trail was shrouded in trees and greenery. Every now and then we would surface from alongside the canal basin and see a few buildings, but then we would again descend into the forested trough. It wasn’t until the canal met the Genesee River that the general vibe morphed into an urban park feel. Then we noticed the University and more people about and an interstate whooshing nearby. We reemerged from the trail again at East Henrietta which was the street we needed to take to get to our hotel. A couple of blocks later along a busy road, but with bike lanes, we arrived at our destination.
Yesterday we ended up having chili and chicken soup for dinner and cranberry/orange and coconut/pineapple scones for desert, all of which came from Wild Flour Bakery, just a few steps from our motel. We went to the Tops grocery store too which was just as close, but left us severely underwhelmed.
So today we were determined to find a Wegmans to see if we could vanquish our grocery blues. A Google search revealed that the closest one was only 1.5 miles away. That is a bit of a hike, and we had already decided we would be hiking, not biking. Asking Google for directions to Wegmans ballooned the distance to 2.5 miles. I kept this fact to myself because my mom really wanted to go and I figured we walk fairly fast so it couldn’t actually take that long.
It was a nice walk and the sun was out by this point in the day. We passed by Monroe Community College and then some light industrial where the sidewalk vanished. I kept up the reassuring banter. We started to encounter box stores. Then more box stores. The usual suspects, supersized and specialized. Health food, junk food, fitness and medical centres. Google did keep us going in the right direction and we did find Wegmans eventually.
It was pretty impressive, especially compared to yesterday’s disappointing experience, but it was still just a grocery store. We were ravenous by the time we got there and we had a plan. We took our time and investigated the aisles we were curious and excited about. Breakfast fixings, fresh fruit, crackers and cheese and then for dinner we bought acorn squash, pulled pork and a side of pasta. Success! We also decided to get a taxi back to the hotel. However, we couldn’t reach anyone by phone who would actually pick us up. Neither of us has Uber or has ubered before, so we just started walking. Not tentative walking either, we strode with swagger. Diagonally through box store parking lots, behind buildings, over guard rails and up grassy slopes. As is typical in a suburban, commercial, box store jungle we didn’t see any other pedestrians with whom we could claim solidarity on this grand jaunt. Coincidentally, we stumbled upon a bakery tucked away in an industrial stripmall where we bought a few cookies for dessert. Our round trip was just over 8km which is not really that far to walk. If we had known it was going to take 2 hours we might have just ordered pizza!
Dinner was delicious, especially the squash which we cooked in the microwave. We are now seriously relaxing, with our feet up in bed, eating cookies and oranges and laughing about it all.
Sunny in the morning with high clouds building. SE light wind. 16 C
We’ve been experimenting with multiple breakfasts so far on our trip. In our room we ate the shredded wheat that we brought with us and then we prepared our oatmeal and dried fruit for eating later. We actually ate our oatmeal on two different stops along the way this morning for a total of 3 breakfasts, but who is counting.
It wasn’t far to ride from the Inn back into downtown Lakeport. We looked around for a bit before setting out along the Erie Canal.
There was some beautiful architecture in Lakeport and the town’s history seemed most evident around the canal.
We had help from some locals to realize this selfie as the Packet Boat Family.
It was great to finally get riding in one direction without having to be concerned about traffic or navigating through city streets. The bike path follows alongside the canal almost entirely to Albanyand it is both relatively flat and straight. We were able to pedal side by side, talking away, while the miles ticked by. We are still using kilometers because there are more of them and it makes us sound like we are going faster.
We stopped for a few breaks along the way to snack and sightsee including at a bumble bee infested picnic table. We left them the table and took our food to the canal side where we dangled our feet over the edge. One minor detour where the trail was marked closed for construction resulted in us crossing to the other side. When we saw that no work was actually being done, we turned back and rode through the heavy machinery anyway. It takes more than that before we change course.
Pretty soon we arrived at the bridge at Albion. Our motel was a mile back through town on hwy 31 which gave us a look at the local amenities. Grocery stores and a bakery! That is what keeps us motivated. Now we have to decide what’s for dinner.
After a light breakfast and packing our bags yet again, we took the elevator down to the lobby to retrieve our bikes from the hotel office. Finally we were going to be riding! We made our way down Clifton Hill through the thin crowds and crossed the Rainbow Bridge along with the other vehicular traffic. The border guard seemed more interested in why we were riding our bikes to New York instead of what dried fruit we might or might not have concealed in our paniers. I bit my tongue when they asked how many stops we planned on making. I wasn’t sure if they meant just today or over the next 3 weeks of riding. Either way, too many to count comes to mind. Being slightly flummoxed by gaining entry so effortlessly, I forgot to ask for a stamp in my new passport.
Once we were safely in America we stopped to recalibrate. Originally we had talked about touring and toodling through the park there and viewing the Falls from the American side, but after conferring with one another expiedience won out and we rode east. Something else we had to take care of was getting connected to the internet again with new SIM cards. I thought I knew where a phone store was but actually needed to get directions from a few folks before we found the store. It doesn’t seem that long ago that the internet was just a fun thing to use occasionally and now you feel almost naked without it. Eventually we got connected again.
For most of our ride to Lockport today we followed the signs for New York State’s Bike Route 5. We had a strong tailwind when we were riding east, but the few times we turned north the wind was really in our face. Just as we arrived in Lockport we crossed over the Erie Canal which we will be following all the way to Albany. It looks like a lot of that route will be a dedicated bike path which will be great, although riding on the roads today felt perfectly safe for the most part. More than once we were surprised by the patience of drivers here (looking at you Ontario!).
It was still fairly early in the day when we arrived at the Inn in Lockport so after we unpacked we set out on foot to find the grocery store. Because we didn’t want to walk any further to see if Top’s was in fact just down the way, we went to Walmart so it was a cultural outing too. I didn’t see a greeter when we entered but I did see an armed guard with a tactical shotgun which seemed perfectly normal. We had a short list of things we wanted to get, for both dinner and tomorrow’s breakfast. Really, we wanted to oogle at the fun and strange foods they might have that we aren’t used to seeing. Red Hot Onion flavoured Rings was one item that stood out and another was Mint Chip flavoured Milk. Neither product ended up in our basket – actually in our arms because we couldn’t find any baskets – but will endure in our minds for quite awhile.
Back in our room we ate our supper early because we were famished. Crackers and cheese for an appetizer and a chic pea salad with cucumber, mango and orange pepper for our main. Desert was salty dry roasted peanuts and some chocolate. Delicious! And its only 4pm. Trying to stay awake at least until dark.
Rain in the morning, clearing in the late afternoon. 16 C
So my Mom and I are embarking on another bicycle trip. This is our first big ride in almost 3 years which is mostly due to COVID 19. Originally we had planned this trip for May 2020. We plan on riding to Albany along the Erie Canal and then onto New York City via the Empire State Trail.
My Dad drove us, our bags and our bikes from Ajax to Niagara Falls after lunch and we checked into our hotel just after 3pm. After getting settled in our room my Mom and I set out on foot to see the sights and scout the Rainbow Bridge where we will be crossing the border in the morning. It didn’t take us long to get into full on tourist mode.
We had a nice walk around while the sun came out and it was enlivening to be surrounded by so many other people visiting the sights. No visit to Niagara is complete without a look over the edge…
Last minute preparations include eating the food we are prohibited from taking across the border.
After another fairly serious day of riding we ended up at our desired location – Gino’s Pizza in Harrowsmith.
After sunrise in Belleville I went back to bed!
We travelled on the road from Belleville to Napanee and then to Strathcona to the beginning / end of the Cataraqui Rail Trail. Our final 25 kilometres were spent riding along through sun dappled forests and alongside sunny farmer’s fields. There were a few rough patches of loose gravel but that only makes us work up an even more intense appetite.
Many breaks was the strategy we employed.
In Harrowsmith we were picked up by my Dad and we were greeted by the dogs too once we arrived back at the cottage. Swimming ensued! We are very fortunate to have such a generous and available support crew.
It was really a great day of riding today. We rode from town to town in manageable spurts. The wind at our backs helped us up the gently rolling hills and we were able to coast down them pretty quickly.
From Cobourg we went through Grafton, Colborne, Brighton, Trenton and then Belleville. We rode exclusively along Hwy 2 even when the waterfront trail signs directed us otherwise. This strategy minimized our mileage and maximized our stamina. Before we knew it we had arrived and it didn’t feel like we pedaled another 80 kilometres.
Our food rations were basically depleted when we arrived at the hotel so we rode a short distance to the grocery store to stock up. If soups have defined our cold weather trips, frozen desserts might define this one…
With only a week to spare and the end of August approaching, my Mom and I decided to take a few days to ride our bikes from Ajax to the cottage in Kingston. My Dad and the dogs (and Duncan) are there already so we’d have a welcome wagon waiting and eventually a ride home.
So the road trip begins! We are getting more crafty on our trips like today when we hopped on the GO train in Whitby and rode it one stop to Oshawa which saved us riding between 5 and 10km. This so called savings we planned on spending later in the day – which we did when we rode the final 10km from Port Hope to Cobourg.
The weather was quite warm and the humidity was thick. There was a lovely tailwind that helped to push us along and when we were near Lake Ontario we could feel the cool water on the breeze.
We stopped for many snacks along the way including two separate lunches.
At this picnic stop at Bond Head we did cucumber facials to help cool down.
The waterfront trail has some very beautiful parts to it as it stretches along the North shore of the lake. We have ridden this route before so it is not as mind blowing as the first experience. That being said it was so hot today that I kept my camera packed while we rode and I didn’t take any pictures of the beautiful scenery we saw.
The wind was howling from the west when we woke up and we knew this would affect our riding today. We were still uncertain where we would end up but we knew that we needed to get to Hamilton. We followed a bike route through the city and into to downtown and then to McMaster University. From there we decided to ride up through the Dundas Valley on the Hamilton to Brantford Rail. On a previous trip we had pedaled this section only going down the escarpment.
Being a holiday there were a lot of other people out on the trail which was nice for a change. Once we reached the top of the valley we were exposed to the west wind again. This prompted another change in plans.
We decided at this point to turn around and ride back down the trail into Hamilton and then carry on toward the Aldershot GO Train station where we started our cycling six days prior. This way we’d be riding with the wind, a nice way to conclude our Golden Horseshoe tour. One last hiccup had us hauling our bikes up 165 steps to reach the bridge on York Boulevard that would take us over the water toward Burlington.
When we arrived at the train station we purchased our tickets and then the train arrived. We got on board, secured our bikes and set out our picnic lunch. 2 hours later we arrived in Ajax and rode the remaining 6km home with the wind at our backs.
Day 6: St Catharines to Stoney Creek (Greenbelt Trail) 60km
Sunday, May 19
Mostly sunny, hot and cold 27 / 15C SE wind
Today we navigated our way out of St Catharines along the Greenbelt Trail. This trail runs parallel to the Waterfront Trail but instead of following the waterfront it runs along the top of the Niagara Escarpment as hwy 81.
Riding on the road was a nice change for us and because it was Sunday the vehicle traffic seemed light. We stopped along the way in Jordan and Beamsville for snacks and to fill our water bottles.
The weather was strange too. An incoming weather system was pushing warm, humid air into the region but because we were so close to Lake Ontario there was a cold damp wind blowing. As we climbed up the Escarpment out of Jordan we hit the warm air mass and instantly started sweating. It was hot in the sun and the air was thick and sticky with humidity. A little further along as we descended a bit we pedaled into a mass of cool, damp air. Instantly it got cold. It was a drastic change in temperature and for us it meant coats on – coats off.
Nearing Stoney Creek we had a spectacular view of Hamilton and the Golden Horseshoe in general. Our route had us riding past Devils Punch Bowl Conservation Area before we turned onto Centennial Parkway and zoomed all the way down “the mountain” to our hotel at the bottom. Familiar territory but we went to a different grocery store for supper. We also bought extra food because of the Victoria Day holiday tomorrow.
Day 5: Fort Erie – Niagara Falls – St Catharines 59km
Saturday, May 18
Partly sunny. Warm / cool mix. 14C NE wind
There was bright blue sky this morning when we pulled back the curtains in our room. My Mom suggested going for a walk to wake up so we took a quick tour of the surrounding neighbourhood before we ate breakfast. We saw a sign for a garage sale but we didn’t actually come across it.
Yesterday at the Bulk Barn we picked up yummy additives for our instant oatmeal (dates, coconut and ground flax) and so today we were both eagerly anticipating our first meal. We used the microwave in the room to hand craft our oatmeal and I made a cup of green tea for the road. Today was our earliest start so far, we pulled out of the motel parking lot at 9:30am.
It was a short ride to Mather’s Circle where we picked up the trail after leaving it yesterday. We passed under the Peace Bridge and followed the Niagara River north.
There were several other groups of cyclists out too and we waved and nodded as we rode along. The Niagara Parkway Trail is paved and parallels the road which fronts houses along the way. Big houses, small ones and in between too. New ones, older ones, modern and modest as well. It occurred to me that for all the mega mansions I’ve seen, I’ve never seen anyone sitting around in their expensive patio furniture enjoying their exclusive view – ever.
The city of Niagara Falls appeared in the distance as a staccato of glassy hotel spires. The mist from the falls could be seen from quite a distance too. As we got closer the river got quicker and more energetic and then we could hear the sound of the falling water roar.
We stopped for lunch by a row of magnolia trees in full bloom and as expected the place was busy with other tourists.
After we ate we made our way into the throngs of people and parked ourselves in the mist with a spectacular view of the falls. We were planning on staying up road and decided we would go and check into our room before venturing out again to see more sights.
At the motel we were quoted an expensive rate so we changed our minds, deciding instead to ride on. Thinking ahead as we do sometimes we ended up back in St Catharines in familiar territory. Upon arriving we were again quoted an unreasonable price for a room, but due to circumstances we couldn’t mitigate we checked in to stay. This is the same place we stayed a few nights ago and we walked to the same bakery and grocery store where we bought an entirely different supper. I guess we’re not going to Fallsview after all.
Sunny and warm 20C / Cloudy and cool 10C with a gentle SW wind
Today we slept in and admired the nice curtains in our motel room. We decided to have somewhat of a rest day today, aiming for nearby Fort Erie. There were a few shops in Port Colborne we wanted to see as well as the historic downtown. When we left the motel at 11am we took a short ride east of town, then south to the rail trail and eventually circled back into town by Sugarloaf Harbour. We locked up the bikes and then started exploring downtown on foot.
As we made our way north toward the bakeries and bookshop we’d seen yesterday we realized how far away they actually were. Too far to walk considering we still had to ride to Fort Erie and we hadn’t even had lunch yet. So we decided that we didn’t really need to see the bakeries and bookshop and made our way back to where our bikes were parked. Then we rode over the canal on the bridge and stopped at the start of the Friendship Trail where we had a trailside picnic lunch. It was cold when the sun disappeared behind the clouds with a cool, damp Lake breeze coming off Lake Erie. When the sun peeked out it was almost hot and we’d have to unzip jackets and take off our gloves.
Once we started riding toward Fort Erie along the Friendship Trail it was a lovely ride. The trail was paved and we’ll signed with road crossings and maps. With the wind pushing us along we made our way eastward. The trail eventually emerged from fields and farmland to a view of the sandy beaches of the lake. We passed by cottages and lake front homes before the Buffalo skyline came into view.
Then we saw the old fort of Fort Erie and peace bridge. At Mather’s Arch we stopped to get our bearings.
From there it was just a short distance to our accommodations for the night. All of the usual amenities are nearby too. Home sweet home..
Day 3: St. Catharines to Port Colborne (The Welland Canal) 50km
After breakfast and a quick trip to the Niagara Outlet Mall we retraced our route to the Welland Canal Parkway Trail at the QEW overpass.
During our lunch break at Lock#3 we saw the memorial to commemorate the workers who were killed constructing the canal.
We got to watch a lake freighter traversing the lock and watched in amazement how such a huge vessel can be piloted so precisely.
It was a lovely ride south along the canal even though the wind suddenly switched from a tailwind to a headwind in a matter of minutes. Clouds had been building too and finally it started to rain. We only suffered about a hundred drops and then it stopped. It was warm enough that we dried off in no time.
We stopped for another snack near Welland and then made our final push to Port Colborne. Remnants of the regions industrial past were evident all along our route but especially prominent was the old Robin Hood flour silos.
Riding through Port Colborne on our way to the motel we saw several points of interest that we will explore in the morning. We could see the luminous sign of the grocery store from the motel and after checking in we made a b-line to the store and ordered our supper.
Our evening was spent discussing and planning the next leg of our trip. Details to come…
Sunny and warm with an afternoon thunderstorm. Light West wind.
Neither of us trusted the forecast we saw this morning when we got out of bed. Sunny skies and double digit temperatures. I actually put on Sun screen, but had my feather vest in my hands as we checked out because it couldn’t possibly be warmer than 10C. It was and I reluctantly tucked my vest into my pannier before riding away from the hotel.
Once we had picked up the waterfront trail again it only took a few minutes of pedalling for both of us to request a stop to take off more clothes. This time it was my sweater that got stuffed in alongside my feather vest. Every now and then there was a gush of cool air off of Lake Ontario, but generally it was a lovely, warm Spring morning.
Riding with the wind at our backs we sailed through Grimsby and past Lincoln. Pretty soon 2 hours had gone by and I realized that I hadn’t taken a picture of anything. I started to pay attention and to wonder what I might document for today’s ride. I had noticed several Magnolia trees spectacularly in full bloom, but didn’t want to break our rhythm to stop for pictures. It was when we rode alongside an apple orchard bursting with puffy, pink blooms that I tried to snap a few pictures while rolling past at 25km/h. By the time I opened up my phone – ignored several push notifications, closed the map App and initiated the camera – we had pretty much passed the cotton candy colured orchard and it’s diverging linear rows of trees. I was a little disappointed but vowed to pay more attention to the passing beauty even if it meant not having pictures to prove it.
Soon after the orchard we stopped for a roadside picnic. Our pantry was not overflowing after our triple supper yesterday but we did have a small piece of cheese, a small piece of cucumber, half an apple and 6 grapes each to tide us over. Our rest stop would have been shady had the leaves on the tree been out, but since they weren’t, we were still in partial sun. After our quick snack we continued on, riding mostly along the North service road alongside the QEW.
2 cyclists approached from behind and the second one pulled up alongside for a rolling Q&A. His name is Jerry, a local out for a ride. He queried about us, our departure point and destination. He ended up inadvertently escorting us into Port Dalhousie all the while directing us along the best possible route. He also dropped back to visit with my Mom and he didn’t hesitate to wave cars past as they qued up behind him. By the time he rode off without us we were in St. Catherines.
It didn’t take us long to find somewhere to stay and it didn’t take us long for us to find some more food to eat. A little local bakery / deli had our mouths watering and provided the inspiration for our dinner this day. The regular grocery store is where we stocked up on the essential items like fruit and vegetables. It poured rain while were shopping and the rain stopped while we walked back to our room. It rained again while we were eating with some rumbling thunder and a flash or two of lightening.
Once again we have eaten most of the food before I could photograph it. Will try again tomorrow.
The weather wasn’t nearly as inviting as it should be at this time of year in Southern Ontario but cloudy and cool are actually perfect conditions to cycle in. You get to wear most of your clothes instead of sunscreen and no sweat means no laundry generally speaking.
My Mom and I left my parents place in Ajax just before 10am and rode our bikes 5km to the Ajax GO Train station. We had enough time to purchase our tickets and haul our bikes down the stairs, under the tracks to the elevator and up to the westbound platform. Once we boarded the train we had 2 hours to sit back and look out the window. At Union station in Toronto most of the other passengers got off the train and a whole new bunch got on. We passed through Oakville and Burlington and then Aldershot – the end of the line.
Once we got back on the bikes it was a short ride down to the waterfront where we stopped for a picnic lunch. Carrying on along the Waterfront Trail we crossed over the Burlington canal just in time to watch the lift bridge opening for a passing ship. Though the lake looked calm, every now and then a big swell would crash against the breakwall sending a big plume of spray skyward.
This time of year is when the lake bugs hatch in full force and we had our bug nets and bandannas ready for the occasion. The trail along Hamilton Beach is a wide, paved pathway and the riding was so nice that we overshot our turnoff to Stoney Creek by a few kilometres. Once we turned back we were off the trail and riding under the QEW into the Power Centre where our accommodations for the night are located.
After settling in to our room and stowing our bikes we set off on foot to see the sights. Actually, we went straight to the grocery store to satiate our foodly desires! Back in our room we had a three course supper. Veggies and dip, soup and then crackers and cheese. After supper the sun came out and we’ve been staring out the window watching all the people come and go and wondering what kind of food they may have purchased..
After consulting numerous sources for a drier weather forecast they all seemed to reach the same conclusion. Today was to be WET.
Leaving the motel in Saint-Faustin the skies were certainly grey, but it was only sprinkling rain as we rode up the highway to rejoin the trail. There was a strong SE wind, precisely the direction we were heading. After reaching the trail we were sheltered from the wind but because we were at the summit of the trail – nearly 400 metres above sea level – there was still some wet snow covering our path. Some of f it was easy to ride over and some of it wasn’t. There was one stretch where we walked the bikes for nearly a kilometre. This actually helped to warm us up a bit.
It rained all day. Even though we’ve had about two weeks to practise dressing for cold and wet, our layers and rain gear were no match for the persistent precipitation that pelted our persons. It was too wet to take pictures with my phone and I also had plastic bags over my gloves to keep my hands warm. If a picture paints a thousand words, then hopefully some words can help to paint a picture.
It rained so much today that I hardly had to sip from my water bottle. There was constantly water on my face, dripping into my mouth. My mitts ended up with water in the bottom of them. My shoes were soaked. My rain pants slowly started leaking. Cool rain running down my legs. My wool touque kept the rain at bay but eventually my neck warmer let a few drops seep through back behind my ears.
By the time we arrived at the car rental place in Saint-Jérôme we absolutely dripping wet – all over their floors and counter top. After loading the bikes into the back of the SUV we got changed into dry clothes and hit the road. It was a treat being dry and warm again. We stopped for food at the last grocery store before the Ontario border for roast pork and maple – cheddar cheese. We are staying in Kingston tonight, near where we started our trip 16 days ago.
My Mom summed up our day and our trip with a limerick:
Cloudy and cold with a bit of snow and rain. 2C SE wind
After yesterday’s beautiful sunshine today’s silver skies were a reminder that it actually is November. At least the day started out dry.
We noticed brand new trail signs along our route today as we retraced our route down the Petit Train du Nord. Past Lac Mercer, Mont Tremblant and Saint-Jovite.
The snow started again after lunch as we pedaled toward the summit of the trail. We persevered uphill and stopped for a photo-op overlooking the quarry.
Our final push has us sailing along Hwy 117 for just over a kilometre to our motel in Saint-Faustin. We have 3 small suppers planned for the rest of the day; soup, burgers and fries and beans with toast. Looks like tomorrow might be our final day of riding and it is forecast to be a wet one! Stay tuned..
The weather was great for riding today. It seemed like we hadn’t seen sunshine in a week!
Before we left Mont Laurier I realized that we were missing something. Our mascot and travelling buddy Lambie was nowhere to be found! We looked under the beds, unpacked all our bags and still couldn’t find her. Ironically she was last seen during our picnic lunch on the side of the trail near Guenette. It was there where I took some pictures of her tucked into the back pocket of my pannier which I posted as part of our day’s adventure riding toward Mont Laurier on Friday. After her photo shoot, once we started riding again, we rode through several really bumpy sections of the trail. This is where we figured she might be.
Both of us scoured the trail with our eyes as we rode barely paying any attention to the scenery which is pretty nice on this stretch of trail. Hoping we’d find her either on the trail or along side it we remembered the time that we found Gloria’s green jacket 13 miles from Washington DC. We considered that someone may have found her and taken her home. I even entertained the notion that perhaps we had inadvertently reunited her with whomever lost her in British Columbia in the first place… so as we were riding, scanning the trail ahead of us, I spotted something pink in a tree to the right of the trail. It was Lambie! We were so relieved. We left a thank you note – with a link to the blog – hanging on the branch where they left her.
The remainder of our ride today was much more relaxing and we were able to soak in all of the sunny scenery.
For lunch we made a picnic at a table in the sun.
In the afternoon we saw more people on the trail than we have in the the last week. Once we arrived in Riviere Rouge at the Bar-Resto-Pub Motel we unloaded our bags and pedalled to the IGA. The sun was setting behind the hills in the west as we made our way home.
Another great supper in our room and we have been planning the final days of our ride back to Montreal.
Today was our rest day after completing our trek up Le Petit Train du Nord. There was also rain, wind and snow forecast so it was an easy decision to stay put. Although we did quite a bit of lazing around in bed, we also went out and explored the town a few times. Before breakfast we walked over to La Muffinerie and bought a fresh baguette and a peanut butter cookie, both of which were for later.
After breakfast in our room we went out again. This time we found the new trail head for our route that we missed yesterday because of a detour.
We also wandered around in the local mall and found a great deal on new cycling mitts. After a little bit of grocery shopping it was time for lunch so back to our room we went. An afternoon hockey game on TV was a great way to pass some time too. Later in the afternoon we walked to the fromagerie and then to a different grocery store for a few more bits. Thankfully all of the stores are quite close so we haven’t actually been that active on our rest day.
We have tonight’s supper all planned out as well as tomorrow’s ride. Here is a picture of us heating our soup in the staff kitchen..
We slept soundly and we slept in! Our room was nice and warm and the beds were very comfortable. Being the only guests we also had the breakfast room to ourselves to enjoy our porridge. We toasted our leftover bread and ate it with peanut butter and jam. After checking out we spent quite awhile on the front porch getting our layers of clothing – plastic bags to cover our gloves – just right.
It must have rained overnight because the roads were wet. We could see tiny ripples in the puddles so we were prepared for more rain. Our route today started off with a 20km uphill climb, albeit a gradual one. Pedalling uphill keeps us warm in this weather and we had to stop twice to undo zippers and remove layers. After reaching Lac-Saguay it was all downhill!
The final 33 kilometres were a treat and we sailed along at top speed. Near Guenette we stopped for a snack in the caboose shaped rest stop, one of many along Le Petit Train du Nord.
What we anticipated being a gruelling ride in the rain turned out to be fast paced, dry and fairly effortless.
Coming into Mont Laurier there was a detour with only 2 kilometres to go. Unfortunately we ended up having to ride on the main road / highway to get to our hotel. Our hotel, fortunately, is surrounded by grocery stores, bakeries and a cheese shop!
Cell block 7 is the nickname we gave our room in Labelle. Although it was warm and fairly clean we were excited to get going in the morning. We ate our leftover yogurt and I made tea from the hot water tap, then after packing, we fastened the padlock and checked out.
There was a chance of rain in the forecast, but thankfully it didn’t materialize and we enjoyed a dry day of pedalling. The section of the Petit Train du Nord we rode along today was paved which also was a bonus.
After our picnic lunch in Riviere Rouge we spotted some deer enjoying their lunch.
The final leg of our journey today had us arriving in Nominingue by 1 o’clock and we had two hours to kill before we were able to check in to the L’Auberge de la Vieille Gare. We took a walk around the small town and discovered a small grocery store and half a dozen hair salons. I was expecting to see everyone in town sporting a fancy hairdo, but a lot of people were wearing hats.
Upon checking in we were treated like royalty. I even had my luggage carried upstairs to our room. We are the only guests staying here tonight and rumour has it that we are the last people cycling on Le Petit Train.
Snow was falling when we looked out our windows this morning and we weren’t sure if that was better than the rain that was forecast for later in the day.
After a short ride through town to the the trail we had a 12km descent to Sainte-Jovite. Unfortunately because of the slush and ice pellets on the asphalt we had to go quite slowly and almost froze because we couldn’t even pedal our bikes. In Saint-Jovite we parked our bikes and hiked into the village for some shopping and to warm up our bones.
We visited our favourite little fromagerie and a bakery we had been in before. After we ate lunch we were back on the bikes and were able to pedal again as the trail was clear and we were going uphill again. This helped us keep warm in the cold rain.
In Labelle we stopped to find somewhere to spend the night. After almost having to ride to another town, we lucked out and found a place to stay. There is a restaurant upstairs and the food was just what we needed.
Day 9: Sainte-Adele to Saint-Faustin-Lac Carre 47km
Tuesday, October 30
Cold, cloudy, flurries and sunny breaks. 2C
The first 2.5km of our ride today was down steep roads back on to the Petit Train du Nord. The following 45.5km was spent climbing uphill towards Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts. At least half of our route today was on snow covered trails which made the uphill trek even tougher.
While we were still full of energy we attacked the trail, emerging from this underpass for our mid morning snack.
The patches of powder blue sky were slowly swallowed up by clouds and the distant hills seemed to disintegrate.
I’ve never seen so many Tamarack trees before. Their golden boughs lined the trail and their fallen needles fought with the snow to see who would carpet the ground first.
They would each have their turn…
Other highlights of our stimulating and strenuous afternoon…
When we finally arrived in Saint-Faustin we were starving and ventured out for our supper. After an hour and walking 5 kilometres we arrived at our room with dessert, soup and burgers!
It was 9:30am when we left the hotel in Blainville and found our way back to the trail. There was snow still on the ground and on the rooftops but it actually seemed a little warmer than yesterday. The misty clouds added a slightly mysterious feel to our ride through the woods and we encountered a downed tree across the path.
Both of us were soaking in the natural surroundings and marvelling at the incredible bicycle infrastructure that exists here. Sometimes it gets confusing riding through towns because there are too many bike paths, but they are typically very well signed. Arriving in Saint-Jérôme at mile zero of the Petit Train du Nord is the perfect example. Roads, train tracks, both bicycle lanes and paths as well as sidewalks all mesh together in a seemingly flawless way.
Our lunch stop today was beside the Riviere du Nord and we set our places on a snow-topped table.
The afternoon presented us with another challenge. We encountered a sign that said PISTE FERMEE – AUCUN ACCES – TRAVEAUX EN COUR.
We were pretty sure what it meant, but didn’t really want to detour onto the HWY so we came up with our own interpretation… Something about the Ski Farm called Aucun Acces to Work on our Hearts… It was really funny at the time and kept us chatting and laughing until we came across the truck and the workers cutting down trees by the trail. We finessed our way past and promised that we wouldn’t be back. We rode away without trying out our funny translation on the guy.
Nearing Sainte-Adele we had to leave the trail and ride into town. As it turns out our motel is at the top of a huge hill (small mountain), but the intense climb was worth it. Our room is very nice, spacious and warm, and it is located near the IGA and a boulangerie, it has a microwave – not all rooms do – and we’re going to get to see the hockey game tonight. Win, win, win, win, win!
Our plan for today was to take the Orange line Metro from Mont Royal station over to De la Concorde station in Laval and then take our bikes on La Route Verte #2 heading toward Saint Jerome. After breakfast we executed our plan almost perfectly.
Cold rain turned to wet snow before our eyes as we rode to Mont Royal station. We hauled our fully loaded bikes down the escalator and conversed our way through the turnstile, each of us with a one way ticket. Bikes are supposed to go on the first train car and we obliged. Several stations later we reemerged and were welcomed with the same sloppy weather we had left behind.
The bike path passes directly past the station and would take us exactly where we were headed today. Helpful signs directed us through subdivisions, towns, industrial lands and natural areas, allowing us to really enjoy the ride.
The cold wet weather enabled us to test and perfect our cold, wet weather wardrobes and both of us arrived at our destination in Blainville surprisingly dry.
Hotel check in, supermarket check out. Succulent salad and superb soup. Dishes, hot showers, hand wash laundry, journals, feet up. I think we might be hungry again.
Day 6: Cornwall, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec – by car
Saturday, October 27
Cool, cloudy and windy. 3C strong NE wind
We knew the wind wouldn’t be in our favour today and we’re pretty sure it is going to rain later – possibly snow – and all night and tomorrow. So after investigating taking the train to Montreal with no positive results we resorted to renting a car.
After breakfast we walked to the car rental place in Cornwall and got to experience the cold, north wind face to face. Once we were behind the wheel we whipped back to the motel and loaded our bikes in the back.
The drive to Montreal went smoothly due to my Mom’s excellent navigation skills and with only one stop at favourite bakery of ours in Coteau du Lac the drive took no time at all. We made a picnic in the car once we got off of the hwy.
We are staying at a place on the Plateau near Mont Royal. We have nicknamed it our hovel as it is a sprawling, two room unit partially underground and it is quite cozy and warm although a little dingy. After checking in and unpacking we took a walking hike up Mont Royal.
At the top we reprised our selfie in the fog from our last visit here.
When we got back to the bottom we were bombarded by snowflakes. It was time to prepare our supper and we had another delicious soup and salad supper with a side of quiche.
The room also has 2 TVs and we are watching hockey and baseball simultaneously. Tomorrow we are aiming for the trail head of the Petite Train du Nord in Saint Jerome.
I checked the weather from bed on my phone and it said “minus 5 degrees with Freezing Fog”. Freezing Fog! I think it was hunger that motivated us to get up more than anything else. We lazed around the room eating and packing until it was time to leave.
Once we stepped outside the sun was shining and warm on our skin. There was no fog in sight freezing or otherwise. After a short stretch of riding along Hwy 2 we arrived at the Upper Canada Village. The rest of our ride today was on mostly paved trails which was a nice change.
Beyond the village the trail passes through some beautiful wooded areas. Dry leaves littered the trail and crisply crackled underneath our bikes. Sunlight filtered through the diminishing canopy of the forest and a quiet breeze pulled ambivalent, golden leaves back down toward the ground.
Its days like this that come to mind when thinking of Fall riding. The rest of our ride was pretty impressive too as we rolled over the Long Sault Parkway and then into Cornwall via Power Dam Rd. After visiting the train station and then checking in to our room, we did our usual afternoon activity and went shopping for dinner. Soup and salad anyone?
Our early morning forecast involved poking our heads out the door and there might have been a sighting of tiny white flakes falling from the sky.
Back inside our room we bundled up as we ate our steaming porridge. Once we were ready to leave we pulled on our hats, pulled up our socks and put on our gloves. Thankfully the breeze today was a gentle crosswind and at times actually helped us along.
When we arrived in Iroquois we had the good fortune to meet the owner of the purple moose on hwy 2 and also of Ross Video. He pointed us toward town which features Ontario’s first strip mall. Once we got there we found a hot mac’n cheese for lunch and froze our buns off eating it outside.
To warm up we got back on our bikes and continued riding east to Morrisburg. We knew that the McIntosh Country Inn was on the far side of town so we rode straight there. Tip toeing in on our frozen toes we managed to secure a room for the night. While checking in I was recruited to photograph a group of quilters who are spending the week together at the McIntosh. After a couple of pictures on a couple of ipads and a couple of cellphones, we were warmed up and had made some friends.
The quilters have a conference room for themselves to work away in and after we settled in our room we stopped by to see them for a visit. We marvelled at their camaraderie and I think they marvelled at our adventures.
After yesterday’s tiring ride into the wind we decided to take it easy today and aim for nearby Johnstown. After our Super 8 breakfast we rode our bikes – without our luggage – back to downtown Brockville to do some sight seeing.
Having missed seeing most of the waterfront yesterday, we started exploring there. We saw the Tall Ships Landing and the Aquatarium from the outside. We also stopped by the Railway Tunnel which was locked up, but about to receive a Halloween makeover. The fellow waiting outside assured us that we could take a look inside around 11am. That sounded like a great idea so we rode back to the motel to pick up our bags and then back downtown to the tunnel entrance for 11am.
The tunnel is impressive! With LED lighting running the entire length of the tunnel the historic features of its construction are literally illuminated. There are also speakers playing music and information boards stationed throughout. Definitely worth a visit!
It was getting close to lunchtime so we cut our conversation short with the locals and found our way to the grocery store. There was a park bench nearby that was sheltered from the wind and partially draped in sunlight.
Around 1 o’clock we figured it was time to actually leave Brockville and we began our ride east towards Johnstown. After riding for about an hour we arrived in Prescott. Again we had to seek out a grocery store to pick up our supper as Johnstown doesn’t have any shops. On our way from Prescott we came across a bakery/brewery/distillery and had to stop. Surprisingly we left with only a couple of sweets.
Finally we arrived at the Bridgwaters Inn. We felt like we were home as we have stayed here before.
Sunny and cool with an afternoon shower. 10C NE wind
The weather forecast we expected today was rain so both of us stayed in bed until almost 9:30am. After we pulled back the curtains there was a cloudy sky with a smattering of clear blue patches. By the time we had prepared our porridge in the microwave the sky had completely cleared.
Before we left the motel we put sun screen on. The worst thing about today’s ride was the headwind. Pedalling was quite brisk and both of us had gloves on. When we stopped in the sun it seemed a lot warmer.
Our ride today followed the 1000 Islands Parkway. The bicycle trail parallels the road and is paved. The route has small rolling hills and we worked up a sweat on the way up and flirted with freezing on the way down.
Having pedaled this route in Spring 2017 it was interesting to see the same sights in Autumn.
As the rain clouds reeled us in from behind, Brockville finally emerged. We arrived downtown and found the bike shop, a thrift store and drugstore where we bought soup for part of our supper. It started to sprinkle rain on our way east as we made the last push to our motel.
Having sort of skipped lunch we were both starving. It didn’t take long to settle in and start their feast.
Today was the first day of our Fall bike trip which is taking place a little later in the season than usual this year.
My Mom and I drove from Ajax to the Kingston cottage in the morning, stopping in Harrowsmith for pizza for lunch. After we ate we loaded up our bikes and said farewell to both the car and the cottage.
The cool weather was perfect for testing out all of the various outerwear we brought with us. Hats, headbands, gloves, wrist warmers, necks, vests, jackets and shoes. Both of us were pretty happy with our clothing options. After riding for about an hour at Kingston Mills it started to rain. This was another great opportunity to test out our cool weather gear.
It wasn’t until we made it to Gananoque that we needed to put on our rain jackets. By this time we were on foot, waking through the Downtown. The bakery closed one minute before we got there, but we did find the batteries for my odometre at Mega Dollar. Our last stop was the grocery store where we bought some soup to prepare back at the motel.
Our room has lots of hooks to hang things from and we made good use of them with all of our wet and damp gear.
Both of us are looking forward to fine tuning our packing. Rain is forecast for tomorrow and I think we’ll be trying out our rain pants.
Sunny, hot and humid. 31C
Our flight was scheduled for 3:45pm so we had some time to kill today. After breakfast we returned the rental car and then finished our packing. We had arranged a late checkout time so we decided to take a walk through the neighbourhood which consists of other hotels and big box store plazas. Each place we popped into was air conditioned so that was nice and we finished off at the grocery store to buy a few more items for our pantry. We ate lunch in our room before heading downstairs to catch the airport shuttle.
At the airport we spent some time people watching after we checked our bikes and bags. Then we ate another snack before passing through security. On the other side we found a nice leather live seat with a view of the runways and proceeded to watch the planes come and go. Eventually it was time to proceed to our gate and board the plane.
The flight was only two hours in duration and we followed our progress on my phone. I’m always inspired by being above the clouds.
The landing was successful as was our pick up by my Father. We arrived home to my parents house just after 8pm, concluding another bicycle adventure. Piece by piece we are working towards cycling across Canada.
Our last full day in Winnipeg was a busy one. Sightseeing and a few errands had us driving all over the city which was a nice way to get a feel for it. Considering it was so hot again today it was a pleasure to be in a fully air conditioned environment. In the morning we took a tour of the mint.
We also visited the Exchange District, Whiteout Way, Portage & Main as well as the areas of North End, West End, Tuxedo, River Heights and St James to name a few.
Later in the afternoon we caught up with family friends who own and operate The Real Escape escape rooms and we had a great visit and tour.
After dinner in our room we packed up our bikes in boxes in anticipation of our departure tomorrow afternoon. Finally there was a little rain here in the evening, only the second time it’s rained on our whole trip.
Mostly sunny and hot. SE wind. 30C
Looks like the bikes have been retired now as the temperature out here is hot! After breakfast at the hotel with no cereal and no bowls we brought our own and enjoyed some complimentary milk.
We took a short walk to the local car rental company and then spent the day driving around with the windows down and the air conditioning cranked up. Our first stop was the small village of Brunkild which was the summer stomping grounds for one of my brothers.
Next was a visit to the Cottage Bakery in Winnipeg and then lunch by the Assiniboine River downtown. It was so hot outside that even then shade was almost unbearable.
Then we drove over to The Forks, passing the Human Rights Museum on the way.
After 3pm we checked into our hotel room and dropped off the bikes. Then we drove to a bike shop to pickup 2 empty bike boxes for our flight home on Friday. Then we went to the grocery store in search of our supper ingredients and then back to our room to relax in its cool confines.
Sunny with the odd cloud. South wind. 29C
With another hot day in the forecast we tried to get an early start but both of us were content to lie in bed for awhile in the morning. By the time we made it down to the breakfast room and ate it was after 8am already. Our route out of Portage was quite nice, pedalling alongside Crescent Lake and the island park.
Before long we were riding down the on ramp of the trans Canada heading east. Shade has been very hard to come by along the highway, but when we spot it, we stop to enjoy it.
The wind was even more annoying today than yesterday. It was just strong enough to keep from getting any real speed built up so it was a constant struggle to keep our pace up. Like yesterday’s ride we took a lot of breaks. After 20km then almost every 10km after that just to drink water, eat some food or just stretch out a bit. The temperature climbed all afternoon and it was close to 30C after we stopped for lunch behind a Tim Hortons.
Slowly but surely we were getting closer to our destination. Winnipeg is within reach!
Sunny and warm with a south wind. 26C
Our beds at the Robin’s Nest motel were surprisingly comfortable so we didn’t get up as early as we’d planned. Hoping to beat the heat, by the time we ate our cereal and hit the road it was almost 9 o’clock. Like yesterday, the south wind almost seemed like a headwind although it was really another crosswind. We also encountered a few gentle hills on our ride today which broke the otherwise flat monotony.
The kilometres didn’t come easy today and break by break and snack by snack we inched our way across the map. Shade was hard to come by. We contemplated stopping underneath this lonely big tree, however the grave marker and it’s proximity to the busy highway changed our minds.
After almost 4 hours of toiling along we arrived in Portage. Being a holiday today we weren’t sure if the grocery stores would be open but alas they were and we were excited. After hunkering down at the motel restaurant yesterday we were eager to fix one of our juicy jumbo salads for dinner. The walk to the grocery store in the hot sun was the last thing we wanted to do, but it was so worth it once dinner was served.
First thing in the morning we drove our rental van back to the enterprise and then pedaled our bikes back to the hotel where we had breakfast. We could see smoke still coming from the huge fire in downtown Brandon the day before.
Once we left the hotel we started off on the trans Canada heading east. The wind was blowing from the south which created a crosswind for us which neither helped nor hindered our progress. After one or two short breaks along the way we arrived at the Robin’s Nest motel in Carberry just after noon.
Our room wasn’t quite ready for us so we sat down in the adjoining restaurant and had breakfast for lunch. After we ate we walked over to our room and put our feet up in bed and watched a hockey game on TV. When that was over we walked back to the restaurant for a light supper – burgers and some of the best coleslaw I’ve ever had – and ultimately we passed on pie for dessert. Back to bed and another hockey game on TV. Other than our earlier bike ride it was a supremely lazy day.
The general serenity was broken just before 11pm when a few other guests showed up at the motel including someone with 2 yappy dogs. Thankfully the drone of our uncontrollable air conditioner deftly drowned them out.
Sunny and cool with a light wind. 20C
Our beds lastnight were less than comfortable although because we were so tired we didn’t notice until morning. We tuned in the Royal wedding and I watched with one eye open from under the covers. Once we did get up we ate cereal in our room and then took a quick tour of downtown Dauphin before driving back into Riding Mountain.
There is so much to see and do in the park that we decided to spend the day again. It started with a short hike at Beach Ridges where aspen trees towered overhead.
Then we walked the loop at Kippan’s Mill and then a midmorning snack at Moon Lake.
After that we drove through the Bison enclosure near Lake Audy. We did see some bison from quite a distance but we still wanted to do some riding so we continued on to the Strathclair trail and got our bikes ready to ride. There were people biking and horseback riding as well as a couple on bikes. The trail was grassy again and went on for miles.
We only rode a short distance before we had an option to take the Central trail which follows the fence line of the Bison enclosure. We rode about 4km before deciding to turn around and shortly after that we spotted a mother bear and her three cubs. She scooted them up a tree (see picture below) and they turned around to stare us down! We took off in a hurry.
When we got back to the van we had a picnic lunch before driving back through the Bison enclosure. Mom spotted one very close by and we waited while he slowly grazed his way towards us. We spent several minutes just watching and he didn’t seem to care in the least.
Finally on our way back to Wassagaming Mom spotted a moose in the woods by the side of the road. Again we watched for several minutes while it munched its way back into the forest. Can you spot it?
Then we had to drive back to Brandon where we will set off on our bikes again in the morning.
After a few errands in Brandon we drove north for an hour or two to Riding Mountain National Park. The town of Wassagaming is situated at the south entrance of the park and we started poking around there. At first we had planned to drive around and try to figure out what we we do in the park on Saturday, but after talking to one of the park staff we were inspired to do a short bike ride.
So we unloaded there bikes from our rental van, packed some food and set off pedalling out of Wassagaming and on to the highway which runs through the park. Within a few kilometres we arrived at the trailhead for Grey Owl’s cabin. The trail is 9km each way and begins with a lovely wooded trail which eventually turns into a hilly grass trail before getting a little rougher with Rick, roots and soft gravel.
5km in we decided to lock up the bikes and hike the rest. It was nice to exercise our legs in a different way. We decided on the term bi-hiking or b’hiking. We seemed to walk forever and came across all sorts of evidence of wildlife like this bear paw print.
Finally we arrived at Grey Owl’s cabin…
It was a 40 minute hike back to our bikes and then another 11km back to the van. Then it was time to drive the 70km north through the park to Dauphin. Half the drive was spent going up and up and up. Just after we crested there was a spot to stop so we did just that and took in the view from the red chairs.
We were a little hasty checking in to our motel in Dauphin. The price is right but that is about all. At least the grocery store is across the street..
Cool, cloudy with rain and a hail storm. Strong east wind. 10C
With another strong east wind blowing today we found ourselves in a bit of a holding pattern here in Brandon. The wind is way to strong to keep riding east so we decided to spend the day touring around the city before picking up our next rental car after 5pm.
When we checked out and left the motel this morning an immediate hailstorm followed by rain descended on us. It lasted just long enough to get us pretty wet and cold. We did find a nice warm bakery to spend some time in and then we had a picnic at a nearby grocery store.
We spent some time downtown but the wind and the cool weather made outdoor sightseeing less than ideal. Eventually we ended up back at our same motel where we’ll spend another night. Our car was ready to pick up after 5pm and we decided that hearty soup would be on the menu tonight.
We have big plans for our road trip tomorrow so stay tuned!
Mostly sunny and a fierce east wind. 16C
Our one hundred kilometre ride yesterday was our strategy to avoid riding into today’s extreme east wind which was 40km/h gusting to 60. Originally we planned on renting a car today but Verdin has no such services. Plan B was to catch the greyhound bus at 4pm.
We spent most of the morning working on this plan which included talking to the local ticket agent to find out what we’d have to do with our bikes to bring them along. Turns out we needed boxes to put them in so we dumpster dived the Home hardware’s cardboard bin for a selection of boxes and bought a few rolls of packing tape. Then we dropped the cardboard off at the bus depot and then walked back to our hotel for lunch and a late check out. Back at the depot we pieced together a bunch of cardboard into makeshift boxes and then taped them up tight to travel. Shortly thereafter the bus arrived and we got settled on board with a dozen or so others who were on a much longer journey than our 75km trip.
Within no time we were dropped off in downtown Brandon and we were glad not to be travelling any further by bus. Reassembling the bike took a few minutes and then we were on our way to the Redwood Motel.
Check in, walk to the grocery store, back for supper by 8pm and before we knew it it was bedtime! We looked online into renting a car and that may prove to be more challenging than we thought…
We accidentally got up two hours early this morning and were at the breakfast buffet at 6am. Needless to say we got an early start and had pedaled to Moosomin by 9am. Originally this was going to be our destination for the day but the way the wind was blowing we decided to pedal all the way to Verdin.
Neither of us had pedaled in such a strong wind and what started out as a crosswind ended up as a straight tailwind by the latter half of the day. Dust was blowing everywhere and it was 30C by mid afternoon. At least it was a dry heat with next to no humidity.
At the Manitoba border we stopped for a photo and then huddled behind some bushes for shelter and shade while we had a snack. With a little perseverance we coasted into Verdin at 25km/h and stopped at the first hotel we saw. It is a pretty nice place and we feel like we’ve earned a little luxury.
Sunny and warm with an east wind. 23C
Today’s ride was a little different than our previous rides because we were pedalling into the wind. Although we didn’t have to ride very far we probably spent twice as much energy doing it.
We did get an early start this morning and we stopped in Broadview for lunch. After visiting the bakery there we sat down at a picnic table in a park to eat.
This rest stop was a nice change from resting at their side of the road and with the warmer temperatures it was nice to have a bit of shade as well. When we continued our ride after lunch the wind seemed to switch and started blowing from the north. This crosswind helped us along a little bit on our last 25km into Whitewood.
Our room in the Inn is very spacious and there is an indoor pool although it is not open yet. Town is only a short walk away so we picked up our supper at the grocery store shortly after we checked in. I was offered a part time job as a roughneck after I helped an older fellow put his walker in the back seat of his car. That might be fun to try for a day, but unfortunately we are riding out of town in the morning.
This morning we met our neighbour Bob Pittuck who is travelling by bicycle from Calgary to Oshawa. He is also a Canadian Hall of Fame Bowler! We could have chatted for much longer, but we all needed to get going on our way.
First stop for us was a short side trip to the Historic Bell Barn just north of Indian Head. The circular structure has 39 single stalls for horses.
Breakfast was served back at the motel and after we ate our cereal it was time to start riding east. The sun was scorching before noon and we were glad to have a nice breeze to pedal with. There is a lot of time to look around while riding a bike and some of the exciting scenes we saw were freight trains…
And fields of course.
Underneath a grain storage silo we found lovely shade to rest in before continuing on to Wolseley where we had a snack to keep our strength up.
The final 24km to Grenfell was tougher because the temperature was rising quickly. Both of us were thankful to be off the road when we got there and our room for the night was as cool as ice.
We found out from the innkeeper that the CO OP grocery store was closed today, but luckily we were carrying enough food for lunch. We got cleaned up and spent an hour relaxing in our room before heading out for supper at Vicki’s restaurant. The laundromat is next door to the restaurant which is next door to the gas station so we ran a load of laundry while we ate. After supper we were full and our clothes were clean and we walked back across the street to our room.
Sunny and warm with a fair West wind. 20C
The hotel breakfast consisted of a piece of raisin toast with butter and a quick cup of coffee. By 8:30am we were on our way. After pedaling 20km we stopped for another breakfast in the ditch at Balgonie and ate our cereal.
The wind was blowing nicely from behind us and the traffic was light. At Qu’Appelle we turned of the highway and rode a kilometre or two to town into the wind. A short tour of the grocery store yielded only a tomato. We weren’t sure what we were looking for and we were already carrying quite a bit of food for lunch. So back to the hwy we went.
The ride today seemed fairly flat although we could see for miles as we crested a ridge west of Indian Head.
We were pleasantly surprised when we reached the Sunshine Motel. Not much to look at from the outside but the the rooms are really nice on the inside.
We ate lunch on our porch in the shade and then took a walk into the historic downtown to see what we could see and visit the bakery. We also stopped by the library where there was a book sale and got chatting with several people inside. On the way back to our motel we had a great view of the old and the new grain elevators.
Our homemade dinner was delicious as usual and we managed to stay awake to watch the sun set.
The weather forecast sounds good for the morning and the temperature is supposed to rise so we plan on getting an early start to the day.
After a restful night we packed the car one more time and set off on the trans Canada towards Regina. It was fun to retrace the route we pedaled several days ago although the scenery goes by much faster in a car.
We did some scouting before we returned the rental car and then had a short ride to our hotel on the east side of Regina. Then we took a walk through “new town” including a tour of Costco, Winners, Bulk Barn and the Superstore for our supper.
Back in our room after we ate we worked on some modifications on our bikes. In the morning we are continuing our ride east towards Winnipeg.
With another day with a strong east wind we thought we’d spend the day sight seeing in Moose Jaw. In the morning we went down to the Tunnels of Moose Jaw and went on both of the guided tours. One was about Al Capone’s time in the city during prohibition and the other tour was an account of early Chinese immigrants in Canada and the struggles and immense discrimination they faced at the end of the 19th century. They were both very interested and we would highly recommend them if you find yourself in Moose Jaw.
After lunch we walked to the bakery which had us going on the bridge over the rail yard which I thought was pretty impressive.
After our snack in the bakery – fresh maple dip donuts – we walked over the new pedestrian suspension bridge on the trans Canada Trail. We did a few more errands as we passed back through downtown and walked through Crescent Park on the way back to our room.
Another delicious meal in our room was followed by a relaxing evening with our feet up watching the hockey game.
Sadly we did not do any shots during our stay at Shots on Eleven but it was a perfect place to put our heads down for the night.
As was forecast the wind was blowing from the north today and we were heading south. Once we started riding we turned onto hwy 2 and started pedaling. The wind was wild!
There was a big downhill into the Qu’ Appelle river valley and a big up on the other side. I got to try out all of the gears on my new bike.
After a quick snack at the Side of the road near Tuxford we carried on to Moose Jaw where we were four days ago. We rented another car in the afternoon and then drove to Buffalo Pound Provincial Park to see if we could see some bison. If you look closely in the picture you might see a few at the top of the ridge.
Tommorow we plan on doing some sightseeing in Moose Jaw before carrying on..
Neither of us were in a rush to get out of bed today and we enjoyed sleeping in. Once we did get up we ate cereal in our room as we got our things organized. When we left the hotel and Lumsden itself, we were greeted with a nice climb up out of the valley on Hwy 11.
As we had hoped, the wind was with us today with a strong SE breeze.
This made today’s ride even more enjoyable. It still took us several hours to reach our destination of Chamberlain, passing through Disley, Bethune and Findlater along the way. We are staying at the hotel above the bar called “Shotz on 11” , and our room is nice, just not very big.
Once we arrived and relaxed for a bit we walked through town under a light rain. Chamberlain sits atop a valley and at the edge of someone’s property we had a pretty good view.
With shared bathrooms down the hall – although we seem to be the only guests here – I noticed the sunset on the way back to the room after my shower.
Both of us are getting used to the pedaling and to packing our bags on this trip, which usually does take several days to get the hang of..
Today we changed our plan slightly. Instead of continuing eastward we decided to let the wind choose our direction. So with a east wind we headed west. We spent the first part of the morning riding through Wascana park, slowly making our way out of the city.
In search of a bathroom we came across the RCMP Heritage Centre but they were not open yet. After our photo op we spotted a gas station down the street.
The next leg of our route heading north out of Regina involved gravel roads and construction sites…
The pedaling wasn’t easy despite having the wind helping us along in places. After a few breaks we arrived outside Lumsden with a great view of the Qu’Appelle River Valley.
There was a surprisingly steep hill into town. We found a picnic table by the river where we ate lunch and rested our legs while we waited to check into our room. After lunch we toured the bakery, the grocery store and the rest of the small town. By dinner time we had everything all figured out and picked up our supplies in record time. One of the highlights of biking all day is relaxing afterwards and that is exactly what we did.
Both of us were excited to get on the bikes today and without our trusty vehicle we didn’t have much choice. With another warm day instore we decided to get an early start.
It was 8am when we left downtown Moose Jaw and our motel was on the trans Canada so all we had to do was ride east. After almost two hours of riding we stopped at a gas station for a break and a snack. After that we felt a little more energized and the wind seemed to be helping us along.
Our route, not surprisingly, was relatively flat. Compared to some of the inspiring landscapes we’d seen in the past few days, today’s was fairly typical. Farms, fields and big skies. Plus the sporadic pulse of passing traffic.
We could see Regina on the horizon, but it took us almost two more hours to actually arrive there. As with most of our bike trips we encountered construction, but this time it was smooth sailing.
It was hot by this point in the day and we were both relieved to be off the road by 2 o’clock. We found our room and our supper and retired for the day. Hopefully our legs will appreciate the rest.