Monday, August 31, 2009

Oh Canada!

Rest Day In Niagara Falls, Ontario August 31, 2009 - Woke up nice and dry in the rustic splendour of the Backpacker's International Hostel, a cozy place with Continental breakfast. Once we got organized this morning we took off on foot to do some sightseeing at the Falls. Roger, Don and Mary and I took the walk "behind the falls" and it was very interesting. Tunnels have been bored behind the falls so that you can actually see and feel the water pouring the falls through portals that open to the falls. There are no windows you actually view the falls from about ten feet from behind them. The portal is about an 8 foot square. The feel part requires a little rain jacket but you also feel the natural power of 34 million gallons a minute of water cascading over the falls. After our trip down to the falls, Art and Jon arrived, were able to stow their bikes at the Police Station and we all bought tickets for the Maid of the Mist. This was the best part of the day. We sailed past the American Falls which includes a smaller falls known as the Bridal Falls and right up to the Horseshoe Falls, the views were incredible with water churning, roaring and rainbows appearing all around. I will post pictures soon. After the falls we headed back to the hostel and another meal with the 8 of us at Basell's. Tomorrow we part company with our Maine friends and head south, over the Peace Bridge back into the US at Buffalo.

Windmill Point Campground on the Quarry at Fort Erie, Ontario to Niagara Fall, Ontario August 30, 2009 - We leave camp laughing about last night's karaoke madness but hope the birthday boy enjoyed himself. Roger and I ended on out in front and cruised along the bike trail heading to Niagara. We were surprised that the trail which bordered a highway was all residential. We expected the ride along the Niagara River to be a pristine river ride with picturesque views, at one point we came out of a wooded area and saw the biggest skyline we have seen thus far-it was Buffalo, NY-what a surprise. We cycled past the Peace Bridge at Buffalo and continued on the Canadian side to the rapids and were nearing the falls. The falls were spectacular and a bit crowded with tourists. The whole scene was pretty disconcerting and I am not sure what we expected but regardless we were at the falls and they themselves were a sight to see. I had not done any research on the falls and learned there are the horseshoe falls on the Canadian side and the America Falls on the U.S. side. Our first order of business was to get the group together and find a place to stay. We found a great little hostel about a mile or so from the falls. The building was built in 1896 and was rustic to say the least but the host, Charley from Quebec, made it the stay quite pleasant . It was overcast with an occasional shower but we had a great dinner at Basell's and hung around for the evening lights on the falls and a fireworks show. We rode bikes down to the falls from Basell's and that was an experience as we went right through the guts of commercialism off of Victoria Street, House of Wax, Ripley's Believe It or Not, Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood, you get the picture. Rode up River Road from the falls after the fireworks and got to bed fairly late for us around 11. Looking forward to a rest day tomorrow and meeting up with Art and Jon from Maine who are on a collision course with us.

Rock Point Provincial Park south of Dunville, Ontario to Fort Erie August 29, 2009 - With last night's rain and this morning's rain our day has been delayed by about 3 hours or so. We finally take off through the muddy park roads out onto the pavement and of all things sunshine. We turned up along the Lake and rode along some nice and not so nice homes along the shore. We mostly were seeing residential development all along the lake with a few really nice estates all the way to Port Colborne. From Port Colborne we debated how far the day's ride would be and decided to make Fort Erie our next destination and go from there. At Port Colborne we ate at the Le Creperie and while eating a huge ship sailed past our window toward the aerial bridge at the Port, it was cool to see the ship sail by so close while we dined. At Port Colborne we got onto a nice bike trail that took us to Fort Erie. We debated about pushing on to Niagara Falls but wisely decided to call it a day in Fort Erie. We stayed at a somewhat pricey RV park on an old quarry called Windmill Point. The park was nice and we did some laundry and continued to dry things out. The downside of our stay was a birthday party and event tent set up about 50 yards from our campsite. I met the birthday boy, an 80 year old local at the washroom. Somehow karaoke was part of the night's festivities and as we tried to sleep a karaoke contest carried on until late-around 11 pm. The last straw for me was a rendition of Mack the Knife. I put in my ear phones and played some Los Lobos to drown out the sounds. I was told later I missed the Elvis songs done later in the evening. Braden complained that night to the management but to no avail as it was winding down about the time he headed to the camp office.

Port Boothe/Boothe Harbour to south of Dunville at Rock Point Provincial Park August 28, 2009 - Good Morning Lake Erie and hello big hill. The wonderful downhill into the park became yet another steep ugly climb first thing in the morning. Once we all pushed or rode up the steepness it was off into the Ontario countryside sometimes along the shore and other times down hilly, wooded country roads. Roger, Lynda and I were really enjoying one such road until we heard the commotion of a horn honking and Don yelling, seems we missed a turn. Don got one of the crew trimming trees to honk at us from his big Volvo tree trimming truck. Back on the right course we hit Port Dover and a great breakfast of French Toast and little sausages at Betty's Bakery and Cafe. Roger and I also bought some chocolate eclairs and fudge for the road. Betty's gets a gold star for good eats. On our way to Dunville we passed a huge US Steel Plant that was on strike and got a shot or two of the picketers. We had a headwind all the way to Dunville and our fun meters were bottoming out. Finally at Dunville we turned out of the wind and made good time to our camp which was the Rocky Point Provincial Park about 11 kms from Dunville. The park was muddy from the rains and we got more during the night and next morning. We went to sleep with our neighbours playing music and partying until the rain started. We all slept well with the pitter patter of rain on our tents.

Port Stanley, ON to Port Boothe/Boothe Harbour, ON (Fin Feather RV Park) August 27, 2009 - Our tents were only slightly wet this more so we guessed we might have a 50% chance of rain. Left the The Campground and went into Port Stanley a quaint little port on Lake Erie with a number of shops and a few inns. In the center of town was a huge hill going our direction so our first climb of the day was a short but steep crawl up from the port to our route. We headed east along the lake shore in and out of several small villages and arrived at Copenhagen for a rest stop at a general store. I called back to Wichita and spoke with Elizabeth a bit about upcoming fall semester class and our environmental project. Back on the road we headed to Port Burwell for lunch and some celery bread we had heard about from other bikers. No rain yet and lunch was good, fish and chips for most of us, along with some celery bread. The celery bread was OK but not sure we got the good stuff in Port Burwell. Had a nasty road outside of Port Burwell and decided to detour and after some tasty ice cream in Port Rowan we found Fin Feather RV park. We had a huge downhill into the park and vowed that we would dread tomorrow's exit and climb back up. The park was beautiful and we were able to camp right on the shore of Lake Erie. Our neighbor was very nice and told of his love for hockey. He was 70 and still playing organized hockey and claimed his league had an 80 year old still playing. The RV neighbors were nice and we enjoyed our camp although most of us retired early that night due to chilly winds and mosquitoes.

Rondeau ON to Port Stanley August 26, 2009 - "Dry tent in the morning, bikers take warning" or so I am told by Roger. Today's ride started with breaking camp and very dry early morning conditions. As we leave Rondeau we ride along the Lake Erie shoreline with lots of nice homes and nicely landscaped and manicured lawns. This residential area slowly turned back to agricultural land with blueberries, apple orchards, more corn and soy beans. About half way out for the day we hit lots of rain several miles outside of New Glasgow. We stopped at New Glasgow at, of all places, the Sunnyside Restaurant, ate and waited out the rain to no avail. We resumed the ride in rain all the way to Wallacetown. The rain finally let up there and we cruised into Port Stanley. Although it was general consensus that we find a motel for the night to dry out we ended up (except for Don and Mary who wisely stayed at a motel) at a free camp called the "The Campground". We had a nice dry campsite and after hanging my hand washed laundry on a fence to dry the owner advised me that I had put it on an electric fence. Fortunately he helped my move it and we both avoided getting shocked.

Algonac, MI to Rondeau, Ontario Canada August 25, 2009 - Left Algonac State Park in Algonac and we made a run to the local Kroger's for food. I bought too much and have the biggest food box on the truck. I have not weighed myself but think I have lost some weight regardless of how many cheese danishes I consume. From Algonac we took a ferry across the St Claire River to Walpole Island, Ontario. In Canada we had about a 45 miles of biking through Wallaceburg had lunch at Crabby Joe's. Saw lots of corn, beets, tomatoes and tobacco. We had some head wind but arrived at Rondeau Provincial Park. Campsite was not the best during the night we thought Don and Mary were out cooking but the noise was racoons invading their panniers for food. Not too impressed with the park but it met our needs and had the services we need. To date we have been on the road for 66 days and cycled about 3000 miles.

Emmett, MI KOA to Algonac, MI August 24, 2009 - Nice ride from our campsite and a short day to the St. Claire River and along a bike path, on which we got lost for a bit, as we headed to Marine City. As we finally got on the right bike path we saw a huge water tower that said East China. Fortunately we were not that lost and found Marine City for a nice lunch at a place on the St. Claire River. I spent 3 hours or so catching up the blog and pedaled solo down to Algonac SP from Marine City arriving about 7 p.m.

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