The Erie Canal has a long history. It was first proposed in 1808 and completed in 1825. The canal links the waters of Lake Erie in the west to the Hudson River in the east. It’s been called the Eight Wonder of the World. Ground was broken for construction on July 4, 1817. When it was completed October 26, 1825 it included 18 aqueducts and 83 locks. It had a vertical rise of 568 feet, was four feet deep and 40 feet wide. It floated boats carrying 30 tons of freight which were pulled by horses and mules on a ten foot wide towpath along the bank.
The canal was enlarged between 1836 and 1862. The enlarged canal was 70 feet wide and seven feet deep and could handle boats carrying 240 tons. The number of locks was reduced to 72. In 1903 the canal was once again enlarged and three canal branches added….the Champlain Canal, the Oswego Canal, and the Cayuga and Seneca Canal. This project was completed in 1918 resulting in a canal 12 to 14 feet deep, 120 to 200 feet wide, and 340 miles long. There are 36 locks that can handle barges carrying up to 3,000 tons of cargo, with lifts of six to 40 feet.
The Erie Canal today is utilized more often by recreational boats rather than cargo barges and the traffic on the towpath consists of cyclists and pedestrians. Approximately 80% of the Erie Canalway Trail between Buffalo and Albany is compete. The remaining 20% of the route is on city streets, county roads and state highways.
Our cycling tour of the Erie Canal began with a 17 hour drive to Buffalo, NY. We drove part way after I got off work Friday and finished the drive on Saturday. We arrived Saturday evening and joined Deb and Mark Esneault who would be riding with us. We had all planned to do a “self-contained” ride, carrying all our clothes, gear and personal items on our bikes. A few days before the ride, Debbie and Mark decided they would instead take a vehicle along, taking turns riding half days. Deb and I unloaded our trikes and all our bike bags that were loaded with everything we’d need for the week. We drove to a long-term parking lot near the airport to leave our vehicle. Debbie and Mark gave us a ride back to the hotel. We all walked to a nearby barbecue restaurant called Fat Bob’s Smokehouse and had dinner.
Day 1 – Sunday, July 3rd
We began our ride the next morning. Debbie rode with us, planning to swap out with Mark at our lunch stop in Lockport. We rode through downtown Buffalo for about two miles before reaching the start of the Canalway Trail. We were glad it was a Sunday morning as there was virtually no traffic. We stopped at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval Military Park on the waterfront to see the Navy ships and submarines on display. About four miles into our ride we encountered our first detour. We went around the barrier thinking we could maybe get around the closed section. We found the trail completely blocked and had to backtrack and take the marked detour. We encountered another roadblock when a pedestrian bridge we were to cross had a locked gate blocking the entrance. After consulting the map, we found an alternate way to cross the interstate and soon were back on the route. We rode on a combination of city streets and paved trail until we arrived in Lockport, our lunch stop.
We joined Mark at the Lock 34 Bar & Grill for lunch. Mark rode with us after lunch and Debbie drove their van. Before leaving Lockport, we stopped at Lake Effect Artisan Ice Cream for dessert. They had a wide variety of ice cream flavors including Red Velvet Donut, Cinnamon Toast, Black Raspberry Truffle, and Peanut Butter Epiphany. I had one called Guinness Stout……..Guinness Stout infused ice cream blended with milk chocolate pieces. We also admired the historic “Flight of Five” locks. When the canal was constructed, a double set of five locks were built here to allow boats to climb or descend the Niagara Escarpment. During the last enlargement of the canal in the early 1900’s, the southern set of locks were replaced with locks 34 and 35. It is the only set of double locks on the canal. The upper door of Lock 34 also serves as the lower door of Lock 35. The two locks have a combined lift of about 50 feet.
From Lockport, the trail surface became “stone dust”……very finely crushed limestone. We passed through the towns of Gasport and Middleport before reaching Medina, our overnight destination. With our detours, we ended up riding 54 miles today with 814 feet of elevation gain. We stayed at the Hart House Hotel which we really enjoyed…..except for the two flights of stairs we had to climb. The hotel first opened in 1876 and operated until 1918. For the next 86 years the building housed Robert H. Newell & Company, a manufacturer of high-end custom shirts. They also made pajamas and undergarments which were custom fit and tailored. Their customers included Bob Hope, Winston Churchill and President Warren G. Harding. The company moved in 2004 to more modern facilities and then ended business three years later. The building was purchased in 2005 and after a seven year restoration, now houses the boutique hotel and several other businesses. We visited a meadery located next to the hotel in the building. Mead is an alcoholic drink similar to wine except it’s made with honey instead of grapes. We tried several varieties and then had a glass of our favorite. We walked a short distance to an Italian restaurant and had our first taste of New York pizza.
Day 2 – July 4th
When the Erie Canal was dug in the 1820’s, “Medina Sandstone” was discovered. This reddish colored stone was quarried for over a century and shipped world-wide for architectural projects. Medina sandstone can be found in Buckingham Palace, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the New York State Capitol. The Medina stone was evident in the local churches, homes and municipal buildings in town. The stone can also be seen along the edge of the canal where it’s used to stabilize the banks and prevent erosion.
Leaving Medina, the canal curves forming a basin. The towpath follows the outside of the curve and we rode on top of a concrete retaining wall. On our right was the canal and on our left a sheer drop of about 50 feet down to the Oak Orchard Creek and Medina Waterfalls. The falls themselves are about 40 feet high. We saw several kayakers making their way up to the falls. Just upstream from the falls, the creek passes underneath the canal. A massive aqueduct, essentially a “water bridge”, carries the canal over the creek. A few miles east of town is the “Medina Culvert”. The culvert, built in 1823, goes under the canal. A one-lane road passes through the culvert. It is the only place on the entire canal where cars pass under the canal rather than over it on a bridge. We stopped at Brockport after 25 miles for lunch. Our planned lunch spot was closed due to the holiday but Mark had located a suitable substitute…..Barber’s Grill and Taproom.
Mark and Debbie switched out again after lunch and Mark rode with us for the rest of the day. We encountered another detour near Rochester which led to some head scratching and map consulting to get us back on track. Thank God for smart phones! We stopped at Lock 33 and watched a small boat go through. The lock operator let us go around the barrier to get a better look at the machinery and lock mechanisms. This machinery dates back to 1918 and is still in use today. The operator explained that each winter all the machinery is taken completely apart and refurbished/repaired piece by piece. The electrical panel he showed us was encased in wood and glass. He said it was a “museum quality” piece. Huge winches and cables lift the valves which allows water to flow out of the lock. Giant gears open and close the massive gate doors at each end of the lock.
Late each Fall, the canal is closed and drained. Large “guard gates” are lowered to stem the flow of water from the Niagara River. These guard gates were built every five miles on the canal and allow for quick draining of sections of the canal in emergency situations or when repairs are needed. The guard gates have huge concrete counterweights to raise and lower them. Draining the canal allows for repair and maintenance of underwater structures. Every ten years, the lock gates are lifted off their hinges to allow for maintenance. Apparently lots of weird things turn up on the bottom of the canal when drained, even the occasional body. In the spring, the guard gates are slowly opened a foot at a time to allow water levels to equalize.
We arrived in Pittsford after riding a total of 57 miles with 1,153 feet of elevation gain. We soaked in the hotel pool for a while before seeking something for dinner. We got some Chinese takeout and enjoyed it back at the hotel along with some of Mark’s home-brewed beer he’d brought along. We sampled several of his creations…..all very good, and got an education on the beer brewing process. It is a very complicated and time consuming endeavor to brew ones own beer. I think I will continue to purchase mine from the liquor store!
Day 3 – Tuesday, July 5th
We continued our ride along the canal today enjoying the scenery. We saw several large pleasure boats on the water. We stopped at Lock 30 near the village of Macedon and watched a vintage houseboat move through the lock. They had four bicycles laid down on the roof of the boat…their mode of transportation when docked in a town. We rode over the top of the lock gates to cross the canal….it was narrow, but rideable. The towpath crosses streets and highways often. Most of these crossings were a climb for us, rising up to the level of the road. Sometimes if traffic was present, we had to come to a complete stop at the top of the incline. We soon learned to change gears when nearing one of these crossings so we could get going again if forced to stop. Debbie got caught at one of these crossings and didn’t get unclipped from her pedals before stopping. She fell over, luckily onto a grassy spot, with her feet still attached to her pedals. A couple of guys passing by helped her get her feet loose from her bike. She said she was okay but her head hit the ground hard enough to break the inner liner loose from the outer shell of her helmet. We did a quick fix with a zip tie to make due until lunch.
After 25 miles we arrived at our lunch stop…..Parker’s Grill and Tap House in Newark. A few years ago, Deb tipped her trike over on a Katy Trail ride. I made fun of her, not understanding how anyone could fall over on a 3-wheeled trike with such a low center of gravity. I made a very sharp turn up an incline into a parking lot across from the restaurant and found out first hand exactly how you tip a trike over. I had my phone in my left hand (watching my map for navigation) and instinctively put my left hand out to break my fall as I pitched over onto that side. My phone went face down onto the asphalt, scraping along until I managed to right my trike. I was afraid to look at the screen of my phone, but was relieved to see only a scuffed spot on my Otterbox case. Three cheers for Otterbox! We made it to the restaurant with only my pride injured.
Mark again joined us after lunch. Debbie went off in search of a local bike shop to replace her damaged helmet. At mile 38 we diverted south from the Erie Canal and headed towards Waterloo. We rode low traffic roads on rolling hills through Amish farming country. We passed many Amish farms and saw one woman tilling a garden with a horse. We arrived at our hotel in Waterloo without anyone else crashing. Deb had a close call with a car that passed her and then turned directly in front of her. She had to veer to avoid broadsiding it. We rode 55 miles with 1,119 feet of elevation gain.
We ate at the hotel bar and spent most of the evening doing laundry. It was a large hotel yet they only had one washing machine and one dryer, so there was a lot of waiting. We used our bungee travel clothes line and even incorporated our trike flag poles as supports. Our room looked like an obstacle course….we had to leave the bathroom light on all night so we wouldn’t trip over a trike or run into the clothes line on the way to the toilet.
Day 4 – Wednesday, July 6th
Debbie was feeling the effects of yesterday’s crash and decided to do some sightseeing with Mark this morning instead of riding. We planned to meet at the lunch stop where Mark would join us to ride. Just a mile down the road, our first stop was the huge Mennonite owned “Sauder’s Country Store”. It’s an enormous grocery store featuring lots of specialty items. They have a made-from-scratch bakery, a deli featuring Pennsylvania Dutch meats and cheese, organic produce, free-range chicken and eggs, old-fashioned candies, bulk spices, flours and baking supplies, books, gifts, and a coffee bar and cafe. We bought some locally grown cherries to have as a snack later. The store was so clean you could’ve eaten off the floor. At the other end of the building was a store that sold handmade outdoor furniture, birdhouses, sheds, chicken coops and even tiny cabins. We bought some bluebird houses and had them shipped home.
We stopped in Seneca Falls and visited the Women’s Rights National Historical Park. It is the site of the first Women’s Right’s Convention held July 19 – 20, 1848. Elizabeth Cady Stanton who lived in Seneca Falls from 1847 to 1862 was one of the primary organizers of the event. Elizabeth married Henry Stanton who was a popular abolitionist speaker. When they married, the words “to obey” were omitted from their vows. For their honeymoon, they traveled to London to attend the World Anti-Slavery Convention. Elected women delegates for the convention were refused admission because of their sex. After a prolonged debate, it was decided the women could sit at the rear of the hall, but not participate. Seated in the women’s section, Elizabeth met Lucretia Mott, a Quaker reformer. The two became friends and vowed to hold a convention upon returning to the United States, to discuss the injustices against women. Elizabeth began to write, recruit, strategize, network, and organize for the cause of women’s rights. Although her family responsibilities kept her at home (she had seven children), she opened her home to those free to travel and speak about advocating equal rights for women. She became friends with Susan B. Anthony in 1851 and the friendship lasted over 50 years. Anthony took the speeches and writings produced by Stanton and traveled the country campaigning for women’s rights. After her children were grown, Stanton wrote and lectured on all aspects of women’s rights. She continued to write on women’s rights until her death in 1902.
Seneca Falls is also the inspiration for “Bedford Falls” in the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, which starred James Stewart and Donna Reed. Frank Capra, who produced and directed the film, visited Seneca Falls while writing the script for the movie. The fictional town of Bedford Falls is nearly identical to Seneca Falls. Seneca Falls calls itself “The Real Bedford Falls” and celebrates with an “It’s a Wonderful Life Festival” every December.
After leaving Seneca Falls, we rode along the shore of Cayuga Lake and through the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. The Cayuga-Seneca Canal connects the Erie Canal to Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake. We occasionally saw parts of the canal as we rode north back towards the Erie Canal. We stopped at an overlook in the wildlife refuge and ate the cherries we’d bought and had a competition to see who could spit a cherry pit the farthest. At mile 25 we stopped at Weedsport and had lunch with Mark and Debbie at the Old Erie Restaurant.
Mark rode with us after lunch. At mile 41 we stopped at Sim’s Store Museum at Camillus. The museum had a lot of historical canal artifacts and displays. They took donations and did dinner cruises on the canal to raise money for the restoration of a nearby aqueduct. Two elderly ladies were minding the store and they invited us in to use the restrooms and refill our water bottles. They also offered us cookies and lemonade. They wanted to know where we were headed and seemed concerned when I told them which hotel we were staying at in Syracuse. It is in a very high traffic area and they broke out a paper city map to try and find us a lower traffic route to use to reach the hotel. One of them even offered to tear out just the section of the map we needed but I told her I’d rather use the map on my phone. It turns out there is more than one Hampton Inn in Syracuse and we weren’t even talking about the same hotel. The last ten miles of our ride was on city streets through suburbs and Syracuse itself. Although we were on a designated bike route, it was an unpleasant ride with lots of traffic, a million traffic lights, and hot asphalt. It was a relief to arrive at the hotel. We rode 55 miles and gained 1,589 feet of elevation. We walked to a little sports bar called Tully’s Good Times for dinner.
Day 5 – Thursday, July 7th
Debbie once again joined us to ride this morning. We had only gone about half a mile when Debbie said she was having problems with her pedals….she was unable to get clipped in. When she bought her new helmet two days ago, she also bought some new cycling shoes. We thought maybe she just didn’t get the cleats installed in the correct position. We got out tools and loosened the cleat, repositioned and then re-tightened as she stood on one foot. The cleat still wouldn’t engage on the pedal. After looking at it further, we discovered the screws attaching the cleat were too long. They stuck out just enough to prevent the cleat from clipping onto the pedal. Debbie said the screws in her old shoes were a little rusted and dirty, so she tossed them in the trash can in their hotel room. She used the new screws that came with the shoes to install the cleats. We figured out the old screws were shorter and we needed them. We also discovered we couldn’t call Mark to come to the rescue because his phone got wet yesterday and died a painful death. Deb and I waited in a parking lot while Debbie rode back to the hotel. About 30 minutes later she returned with working cleats. Luckily they had not cleaned their room yet and she retrieved the screws from the trash can.
After we got on the trail, Debbie’s bike began making a squealing noise. We thought maybe it was just stone dust on the rear disc brake, but rinsing it off with water didn’t help. The brake didn’t appear to be dragging but the noise continued. After 20 miles we stopped in Canastota and had lunch with Mark at the Three Pines Bar and Grill. There was a display of boxing memorabilia on the wall. I found out later that Canastota is home of the International Boxing Hall of Fame. The town has produced two world champions, Carmen Basil and Billy Backus. Every June they have a celebration and induction ceremony to honor past and current Hall of Fame inductees. Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Joe Frazier have all attended.
Mark rode with us after lunch and Debbie again went in search of a bike shop to diagnose the squealing noise. We had no further problems and arrived in Rome early enough to make a short visit to Fort Stanwix National Monument before it closed. Fort Stanwix was built in 1758 during the French and Indian War. The fort was abandoned after the war ended. In 1776, General George Washington was ordered to rebuild the fort during the American Revolutionary War. The fort was renamed Fort Schuyler. After the American Revolution the state of New York used the site for its dealings with American Indians. After touring the fort we rode the last few miles to our hotel. We rode 45 miles with an elevation gain of 702 feet. We walked to two restaurants and both had just quit serving food. We walked back to the hotel and piled into Mark and Debbie’s van to drive to a restaurant. We ended up at the Black River Ale House…..it was a dive, but they had cold beer and good bar food. Debbie found a bike shop to work on her bike this afternoon and they found the rear brake disc was slightly bent (probably from her crash). They straightened it, so she should be good to go tomorrow.
Day 6 – Friday, July 8th
Debbie rode with us this morning. We got to see several types of boats in the canal fleet. We saw a small tug boat pulling a buoy boat along side. From the 1920’s to the 1960’s, over 2,100 kerosene lanterns burned on buoys and channel markers along the canal. Workers called “Buoy Tenders” used “Buoy Boats” to patrol the canal and refill the kerosene lamps. Today the buoy boats are used for general errands, maintenance work, and to take channel soundings. We also saw a large hydraulic dredge boat docked near one of the locks and a tender boat in dry dock for repair. We saw a floating bunk house used to house workers when they are working on the canal. Most of the vessels in the fleet were built around 1920. The canal workers do an excellent job at keeping the historic fleet running and looking good.
In my route notes for today’s ride, I’d noted “Use caution crossing the railroad tracks” at mile 16. When we got to the railroad tracks, that’s exactly what it was….just a set of tracks with no crossing ramp at all. We couldn’t have driven over them in a car, much less a bicycle. We had to stop, pick our bikes up and carry them over the tracks. As we came into Utica, we had to cross the canal by going over the top of the Utica Harbor Lock gate. The Utica Harbor is closed and this drop gate, which resembles a guard gate, separates the harbor basin from the canal. It was wide enough for our trikes, but sharp turns at both ends forced us to dismount and walk them across. We saw two people on bicycles in Utica that were painting route markers on the streets for the annual New York Parks & Trails Erie Canal bike ride that would begin in a few days. They typically have about 600 riders participate. It’s a camping ride with overnights at schools and parks along the route. We were following their same route with slight deviations allowing for staying at hotels. We’d been seeing their hot pink trail markers painted on the pavement and at times they kept us from getting lost. From Utica, we rode on a major highway for about 12 miles. Even though it was a busy highway, it had a very wide shoulder and it’s a designated bike route. At mile 29 we stopped in Ilion for lunch and met Mark at Sorrento’s Pizza. The pizza was yummy….Deb told the waitress, “This is the best pizza I’ve had in my life….and I’m old!”
After lunch Mark again rode with us. We rode a few blocks from the restaurant and visited the museum at the Remington Arms Company. Remington Arms has been located in Ilion for 200 years. The museum exhibits included antique, modern and custom firearms. In addition to firearms, the company has also manufactured typewriters, cutlery, and bicycles. They employ about 1,000 people at the Ilion plant. It was pretty cool to visit the place where my favorite shotgun was made….a Model 870 Wingmaster 12 gauge pump I got for my 14th birthday. It began to rain after we left Ilion. It came down pretty good for awhile, but it was warm and I didn’t bother putting on my rain gear. It rained on us for about 15 miles before quitting. We arrived at our bed and breakfast in Fort Plain after riding 60 miles and gaining 1,427 feet of elevation.
Deb Komar, a friend we’ve biked with many times, lives nearby and she drove to Fort Plain to have dinner with us. She took us to a place called “Beardslee Castle” near Little Falls. The castle was built in 1860. It’s survived two major fires, one in 1919 and the second in 1989. A two year restoration was completed after the second fire and it’s been open since 1994 under the present ownership. The castle has been featured on TV’s Haunted History. It is said to be haunted and many kinds of paranormal activity have been witnessed there. We saw no ghosts…. just great food and drinks.
Day 7 – Saturday, July 9th
It was raining in the morning when we got up. We lingered over breakfast, hoping it would pass through. After consulting the radar, it was evident the rain was going to be in the area for awhile. Debbie decided she didn’t want to get wet, so she opted to ride in the van with Mark. We loaded our bags on the trikes, donned our rain gear and set off. We hadn’t even got out of town when I rode through a big puddle….water splashed up through my mesh seat soaking my butt. The majority of the 26 mile ride to our lunch stop was on stone dust surfaced trail. It was soft and squishy under our tires. We had to pedal hard to keep our momentum up, sometimes sliding slightly sideways on the trail. About five miles outside of Amsterdam we saw an Amish buggy just off the trail. An Amish woman and her barefoot son had a table set up under an awning at the rear of their buggy. They were selling home baked goods. Their horse was tied back in some trees a few feet away. We bought some cookies to boost our energy and spirits. Thankfully the last five miles to Amsterdam were on paved trail. Besides the rain, it was also cool today. We passed a bank and their sign read 66 degrees. We met Mark and Debbie at Shorty’s Southside Tavern and rested up for our afternoon ride.
Mark opted not to ride after lunch, not wanting to risk a slippery trail on two wheels. The rest of the ride was all paved, either trail or highway, so at least we didn’t have to contend with the muck. We arrived at our hotel in Schenectady after riding 45 miles and climbing 1,009 feet.
We went to an Irish pub called “Pinhead Susan’s” for dinner. The story behind their name is pretty funny. Claire and Susan Duggan, two sisters that lived in Schenectady had always called each other “pinhead”. In 1981, seventeen year old Claire made good on a threat she made to her fourteen year old sister, Susan. She painted “Susan is a pinhead” on a wall near the Amtrak station parking lot. The city eventually painted over the insult, but the words “Susan is still a pinhead” appeared. The city again painted over the graffiti and soon after “Susan remains to be a pinhead” showed up. Claire only takes credit for the original phrase. No one knows who painted the other messages. The final insult remained for over a decade. In 1996 the city painted the wall with a special anti-graffiti paint and Susan’s name was covered over once again. A few years later the building near the wall was purchased and renovated. The new owners opened the restaurant in 2000 and named it “Pinhead Susan’s”.
Day 8 – Sunday, July 10th
We headed out on our last day on the canal this morning. We’d only gone a few blocks when Debbie’s bike made an awful noise and the rear wheel seemed to be out of balance. She has an electric pedal assist hub motor on the rear wheel and something seemed to be wrong with it. Not only would the electric assist not work, but it also seemed to have more resistance than normal when we spun the wheel. She had power to her console, so we knew it wasn’t a battery issue. The problem appeared to be with the motor itself. We tried calling Mark but he didn’t answer. Debbie pushed her bike back to the hotel and used their phone to continue trying to call Mark. Deb and I continued on, planning to connect with them at lunch. The trail outside of Schenectady had some steep climbs as we traveled along the Mohawk River. We passed by the huge Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory facility. They conduct nuclear research and development for the US government. They design and develop naval propulsion plants and reactor cores. They also provide technical support for the operation of existing naval reactors and train naval personnel who operate them.
At mile 18 we stopped at the town of Cohoes to view the Cohoes Falls. The falls were discovered by the Mohawk Indians who originally named them “Ga-ha-oose,” which means “The Place of the Falling Canoe.” I’m betting a few Indians got swept over the falls in their canoes! The falls are 1,000 feet wide and 90 feet tall and are regarded as the second most beautiful in New York after Niagara. As early as 1831, the town of Cohoes used the river to power turbines for their thriving textile industry. Harmony Mills became the largest manufacturer of cotton in the United States. The mill is no longer in business, but the mill buildings have been renovated into high-end residential loft apartments. It’s an impressive complex of beautiful historic buildings. At mile 25, we met Mark and Debbie in Troy at Brown’s Brewing Co. for lunch.
Mark rode with us after lunch. When we arrived in Albany, we rode up steep city streets to the New York State Capitol. We rode around the Capitol grounds and the nearby Empire Plaza. There are several unique buildings on the Plaza…..one of them called “The Egg.” We rode to our hotel having finished 36 miles and climbing 1,244 feet in elevation. We had completed the entire Erie Canalway Trail, riding just over 412 miles. We celebrated with dinner at McGeary’s Irish Pub.
Day 9 – Monday, July 10th
The next morning, Mark gave me a ride to the car rental agency so I could pick up the van I’d rented. For some reason, they didn’t have a van available even though I’d made a reservation. They upgraded me to a Ford Explorer and I drove back to the hotel. I was skeptical that the trikes would fit, but with the rear seats folded down they fit perfectly. We nested them close together, facing opposite directions and piled all our bike bags around them. We drove back to Buffalo to retrieve our vehicle. We transferred everything out of the rental vehicle and then I returned it to the airport. I took the shuttle back to the parking lot where Deb was waiting. We left Buffalo and drove to Niagara Falls, Canada. Mark and Debbie detoured to Syracuse to have her bike looked at. They ended up having a new regular rear wheel built and swapped it out with the electric assist wheel. They planned on stopping at the shop in Iowa where they’d bought it to have it repaired as it was still under warranty. She wouldn’t have electric assist, but at least she’d have a functioning bike for our planned ride in Canada tomorrow. Since they were several hours behind us, Deb and I checked into our hotel and went sightseeing.
We walked down to view the Falls. There were people everywhere and not many were speaking English….we felt like we were a minority. The Falls were incredible. The power of the water was impressive. When we were driving in, we could see the mist rising above the Falls when we were still six miles away. They are also noisy and they can be heard from quite a distance. We took the Hornblower Niagara Cruise boat ride. It was a fun experience and was totally worth getting a little wet. It’s very windy near the base of the Falls…..the force of the falling water displaces air as it hits below. We drove to the Taps on Queen Brewhouse and Grill for dinner. Some women came over to our table to talk to us after we sat down. They’d been on the patio, saw us drive in and noticed our trike rack. They were Canadians and were doing a three day bike ride called the Greater Niagara Circle Route. One of them owned a shop in Hamilton, Ontario that sells recumbent trikes and bikes. It was nice chatting with some fellow trike riders.
Day 10 – Tuesday, July 12th
The next morning Mark and Debbie joined us for a ride. We rode from the hotel on city streets for a short distance and then on the Olympic Torch Run Legacy Trail. We made our way to the Niagara River Recreational Trail which would take us up the Niagara River to Lake Ontario. There was some significant elevation gain on our route, and after five miles Debbie called it quits. Since she didn’t have her electric assist, she was definitely at a disadvantage. Mark stayed with her and Deb and I continued on. We soon rode across the Sir Adam Beck Hydroelectric Generating Station Dam. The huge power generating complex supplies about 70% of Ontario’s power.
We stopped at the Queenstown Heights National Historic site to see Brock’s Monument. The monument is a 185 foot tall column dedicated to Major General Sir Isaac Brock, one of Canada’s heroes of the War of 1812. We continued up the Niagara River, passing many wineries and vineyards. We stopped at a winery and sampled some of their offerings including some “ice wine.” Ice Wine is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. It is a concentrated, very sweet wine. We bought two varieties of their regular wine and one bottle of ice wine. They wrapped them in bubblewrap so they’d survive being stuffed in my bike bags. As we neared the town of Niagara-On-The-Lake, we passed the Fort George Historic Site. Fort George was built by the British Army in 1802 and was the site of several battles during the War of 1812. We rode on into Niagara-On-The-Lake, a town located where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario. We stopped in a city park on the shore of Lake Ontario to take in the views. We had lunch in town at the Irish Harp Pub which had excellent food.
After lunch we rode on low traffic roads west along Lake Ontario and then back south towards Niagara Falls. We passed many vineyards, orchards and produce farms as we looped our way back over to the Niagara River Recreational Trail. We stopped to watch the Whirlpool Aero Car cross the Niagara River. This cable car has been in operation since 1916. It transports passengers over a section of the Niagara River referred to as the Niagara Whirlpool. We finished our ride with a total of 40 miles and 2,050 feet of elevation gain. According to the “Ride with GPS” app that I use to create my routes, the maximum grade we encountered today was 21.3%. I’m pretty sure that was the very steep hill we had to climb back up to our hotel. We had seen several people pushing bikes up that hill….it was even pretty steep on foot. As we were spinning madly up that hill, a woman stepped directly in front of us and either took a photo or video of us. She had plenty of time to take our photo, then step out of the way as we were probably only moving 2 mph at most. I’m glad it was a short hill.
We walked to the nearby Skylon Tower for dinner. The tower has an observation deck and restaurant and has graced the Niagara Falls skyline since 1965. The tower is 520 feet tall and stands 775 feet above the base of the Falls. It offers fantastic views of both the American and Horseshoe Falls. The elevators that take you to the top run on the outside of the tower. They are very fast….getting you to the top in 52 seconds. After we ate dinner, we walked up to the observation deck and enjoyed the views. The Falls are illuminated at night by a total of 21 xenon lights, each one 30 inches in diameter. Each one of the xenon spotlights has a brightness of 250 million candlepower. The color of the lights can be changed and they frequently use special illumination to recognize charitable and nonprofit organizations. Tomorrow we will begin the long drive home. We’ve enjoyed seeing this part of the country from the seats of our trikes. We rode nine days and logged a total of 452 miles.