Day 45: Niagara Falls, ON to Rochester, NY

We left Tim and Janet’s house a bit later than planned, as we enjoyed a pleasant breakfast and chatting. We rode out of their neighborhood and took a short-cut to the Queenston-Lewiston bridge rather than following Adventure Cycling’s route on the bike path. We reached the bridge, and faced with a long line of cars waiting to cross the bridge and go through US Customs, we decided not to cheat the line and waited behind the cars. After about 30 minutes of inching slowly forward, we met some cyclists who were riding in a large event around the region, and they encouraged us to skip the rest of the wait to take advantage of the special treatment that their ride’s participants had in getting through the border crossing.

Unfortunately, while we were waiting in line, we realized we had left our safety flags for our trailers back at Tim and Janet’s place! We had already biked 10 miles and waited to cross the bridge, so it didn’t seem worth it to turn back. Just at the crossing, some cyclists mentioned that two motorcyclists had tried to ask them to take some flags up to “the cyclists with trailers.” Tim and Janet had ridden their motorcycles up to the bridge to try to get our flags to us! Unfortunately, something was lost in the communication, and those cyclists hadn’t understood what they were being asked to do, so they had declined to help deliver the flags. We hesitantly rode onward into New York without our flags, aware that our trailers were not very visible to drivers. We passed by many items that seemed like they might work as replacements, such as American flags on lawns, and dowels sticking out of fire hydrants, if only they were available for us without stealing.

Greg, who helped us with our makeshift flags


We passed by a home where two plastic poles lay on the ground, the kind that appear to be used to mark driveways for snow plows. A man worked on the garden down the driveway, so Nick rode down to talk with him and see if we might take the poles. The man ended up being Greg, and though the enormous knife attached to his belt was a little frightening, he was very friendly and happy to give us those poles to use as flag poles. We duct-taped the poles to our trailers and tied rags to the tops, and these worked quite well!

makeshift trailer flag


 

entering the Erie Canal path


Shortly after aquiring our make-shift flags, we got onto the Erie Canal tow-path. It’s unpaved, with soft gravel that isn’t too bad for riding. It was flat, and the canal was pretty, so it was a nice ride for the most part. Some sections were poorly marked, and there were areas where families used the path to spread out while fishing, creating some obstacles for cycling, but for the most part, it was pretty easy. We saw many geese, and nearly ran over a cuddle-puddle of ducklings in the middle of the path! We stopped in Lockport for some surprisingly good pizza – it was fast, cheap, and the crust was excellent. 

duckling cuddle puddle


 

When we reached Rochester, NY, we used the maps program on our phones to find the home of Nick’s childhood friend, Wes. Just before dark, we arrived, where Wes and his husband, Sean, greeted us with wine, quinoa salad, and quiche, and showed us to a lovely guest room. We had let them know that we wanted to take a day off here so that Rachel could get some work done. They were incredibly hospitable, cooking for us, letting Rachel use the computer, and being great company. It was a perfect break, despite the multiple days off we’ve taken over the past week or so. We figure it will help us to be rested as we head into the Adirondacks and the higher passes of Vermont and New Hampshire.

Wes and Shawn’s place!!


Stats:
 

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Day 44: Peacock Point, ON to Niagara Falls, ON

We left the campground at Peacock Point early in the morning, too early for any staff, so we managed another free night of lodging. We wanted to stop at the store in “town” (just the campground and a store) for coffee, and realizing we were still hungry after our usual oatmeal at the campsite, we got a second breakfast of a Joshy, the store’s name for english muffin-egg sandwiches. The woman working the store was very nice. She gave us a weather report, as our phones don’t work in Canada, and plenty of coffee refills. 

riding along Lake Erie

 

presumably propaganda by the oil industry

Our route took us right along Lake Erie, which continued to surprise us with its cleanliness. It was really quite beautiful to ride along it. We passed many wind mills, and plenty of signs proclaiming commitments to clean energy, and plenty of other signs declaring that the windmills were lowering property values and were a scam that could cause health problems (!?). We rode into Dunnville around 11AM, and we fully planned to pick up supplies for peanut butter sandwiches to save money and time. We saw Flyers Bakery/Cafe, where we stopped to pick up some fresh bread. However, the menu looked so good, and the wifi so enticing, that we had to stop for a meal. This led to third breakfast, consisting of an amazing greek veggie omelette and eggs benedict. We sat for a while with our coffee, using the wifi for work (Rachel) and route/lodging planning (Nick). We were approached by a very nice couple, Janet and Tim, who had stopped at Flyers for a break from riding motorcycles. They asked about our trip, provided us with a map, and then said we should come stay in their daughter’s old room at their house in Niagara Falls, ON. We decided to take them up on their offer, and headed out of Flyers to continue the ride. We passed by more farm stands, including one with wild blueberries. They were so tiny and sweet! 

When we reached Port Colborne, we stopped in a park for a late, light lunch of sandwiches, and decided to take Tim’s shortcut to Niagara Falls. This meant leaving Lake Erie a bit early, but we didn’t want to keep Tim and Janet waiting too late. Port Colborne was having a fair all through the streets, including blocking off traffic across the Erie Canal. We were a bit worried as we waited for enormous drawbridges to come down from letting ships pass, unsure if they were staying up for the festivities. As we waited, Nick sadly realized he was too full to eat a funnel cake from the fair. But just as he was making up his mind, the bridge came down, and we were able to progress on our route to Niagara Falls. 

enjoying nature’s beauty!

We reached Tim and Janet’s place just in time to join them for a lovely dinner of homemade carrot soup and salad. They warmly welcomed us into their comfortable home, showing us our bedroom, the bathtub and bath salts we should use, and their gorgeous two cats – a Russian Blue and a Siamese from the same litter! We also met their son, Bruce, who is studying neuroscience at the university. After dinner, Tim drove us over to the Falls, where they are lit up at night, so that we could watch the fireworks show while he took his evening walk. 

our amazing hosts in Niagara Falls

 

hydro power from Lake Erie

We took the next day off so that we could explore the Falls and get some work done. It was so nice to sleep in a bed, take a bath, and use the wifi. Tim and Janet were so welcoming and easy to get along with – we are incredibly grateful for their hospitality! 

Stats:

today’s distance: 69.8 miles
time in the saddle: 6 hrs, 28 min
total distance: 3,361 miles 

Day 43: Port Stanley, ON to Peacock Point, ON

small farmers’ stands everywhere!


We headed out of Eric’s place relatively early this morning, and went into town to enjoy an espresso and some variation on a cronut (donut-fried croissant that has been getting quite a bit of news coverage recently — in this case, we believe was actually a day-old croissant, deep-fried to prevent spoilage). We biked along Lake Erie all day, passing many farms and farm stands. Of course, we had to stop at every single farm stand, so we’ve been enjoying the inundation of fresh produce. We’ve been buying local, fresh blueberries every day since somewhere in Michigan, and now we’ve added raspberries and strawberries to our purchases, along with kale, beans, and tomatoes. Our diets have improved exponentially. The berries have been truly amazing. 

raspberries straight from the farmer

typical lunch and route planning at a park by the road


 

Lake Erie


We had heard that the campsites around here were ridiculously expensive. We also learned that this was recent — while the US has dealt with the recession by closing sections of National and State Parks, apparently Canada has dealt with the financial difficulties by charging more. So when we finally reached our destination of Peacock Point, were were not surprised to find out that the campsite charged $35 for a primitive tent site! However, it also looks like they have cut corners by not employing staff for as much of the day. By the time we arrived, there was no staff present, and they were not there when we left either…. so we were not able to pay for our night of camping. Oops. This was our fifth night in a row of free accommodations!

Our campsite was gorgeous, too — we were right on Lake Erie, by a picnic pavilion, large willow trees, and a family of Canadian geese.

free camping by Lake Erie


Stats:
today’s distance: 81.7 miles
time in the saddle: 7 hrs, 14 min
total distance: 3,291 miles 

Day 42: Marine City, MI to Port Stanley, ON

day off in Marine City, MI

We had an enjoyable day off in Marine City yesterday, celebrating Nick’s birthday by having a couple of drinks by the insanely turquoise St. Clare River, hanging out on the beach, and getting some work done/reading at a coffee shop. Staying at Cheryl’s house was lovely as well. It was nice to have free accommodations under a roof! 

back in Canada! — no Ontario sign for the province

We headed out of Marine City today and took the ferry across the St. Clare River into Ontario, Canada. We followed the river for most of the morning, then rode through farm land and small towns for the rest of the day. We enjoyed Canadian culinary specialities, such as poutine-flavored potato chips from the convenience store, and we were thrilled to realize that every small town we passed through has a great bakery. 

views from Canada: Lake Erie, soy beans, clean energy


 

We had contacted Eric, a Warm Showers host in Port Stanley, and he had offered to host us for the evening. He mentioned that he had six cyclists in his yard already, and then emailed us again to let us know that they knew who we were — it turned out that we were again overlapping with the cyclists we’d stayed with at various points on the trip, from eastern Washington until now! The weather was cool and rainy by the evening, and we had cycled just over 100 miles when we finally reached Port Stanley. It looked like a cute vacation town, but we were so exhausted that we just headed to Eric’s house. We spent a few minutes catching up with the other cyclists, and then went to bed in our tent, set up on the back porch to avoid the rain.

tobacco fields and more wind power


Stats:
today’s distance: 100.5 miles
time in the saddle: 9 hrs, 5 min
total distance: 3,209 miles 

Day 41: Otter Lake, MI to Marine City, MI

The farm was so quiet that when we turned off the alarm this morning, we fell back to sleep … until Mike got back to shooting his gun around 6:30AM. We put our things away and headed over the kitchen area of Blueberry Lane’s shop to order an enormous, delicious breakfast made by Theresa: buttermilk blueberry pancakes, eggs, and coffee. We also purchased another pint of blueberries, a blueberry cookie, a loaf of bread, and some nuts to serve as our snacks for the day. It was a great, hearty meal for our long day of cycling. Unfortunately, much of the day was spent on busy state roads with fast traffic. 

Yale, Michigan is famous for its bologna festival


We went through a few lively towns, got stuck in conversations with locals who were happy to have a captive audience as we ate lunch or waited for restrooms, and ended the day on a somewhat confusing bike path into Marine City. Marine City is right on the St. Clare river, dividing Michigan from Canada, and eventually leading to the ocean. There’s a beach, a bunch of cute shops, and a lovely Warm Showers host, Cheryl, who welcomed us into her home above the bar/restaurant she owns. There’s another cyclist here, Connor, who is headed in the opposite direction, so we’ve been trading information about places to sleep and eat, roads to avoid, etc. It’s a great place to stay, which is especially fortunate given that we have a couple of good reasons for taking a day off: free lodging, Nick’s birthday, and a bunch of work that Rachel needs to catch up on. So we’re spending Tuesday working/reading in a coffee shop and hanging out on the beach. 

Stats:
today’s distance: 89.2 miles
time in the saddle: 7 hrs, 14 min
total distance: 3,106 miles 

Day 40: Midland, MI to Otter Lake, MI

Dow Chemical’s headquarters in Midland, MI, with influence all over town, such as the school mascot: The Chemics

We woke up refreshed after a full 8 hours of sleep, and headed out of Midland, wrinkling our noses at the (real? imagined?) harsh smells coming from the Dow Chemical headquarters. We listened to new audiobooks as we rode through farmland interspersed with residences, feeling strong with the tailwind pushing us to Bay City. We hoped there would be a natural foods store in this larger town so that we could pick up today’s groceries.

vegan brunch at Heather’s in Bay City


While we didn’t find one in our Internet search, we did find a mostly vegetarian/vegan restaurant that was open for brunch today! So we took a longer break there, enjoying vegan coconut-crusted french toast, a tofu-veggie scramble, and fantastic tofu bacon. We’ve clearly abandoned our usual style of mostly vegan eating on this trip, so any meals like this are a real treat. Right next door was Jack’s Bike Shop, where, though they were closed today, the owner let us in to purchase some supplies.

Michigan bike paths are great!


After struggling to follow the bike path through Bay City (it was mostly sidewalks, sometimes poorly signed), we eventually got out of town and turned into a headwind. The weather was cool with scattered rain throughout the ride, so we kept our rain gear on most of the day. It was challenging riding, especially because we had a goal of reaching Otter Lake to get to a blueberry farm where they serve blueberry pancakes until 6PM each day. 

Blueberry Lane Farms’ many delicious blueberry products


We rode hard, sometimes on country highways, but mostly on well-maintained bike paths, until we reached Blueberry Lane, just in time to purchase two pints of blueberries, a few slices of blueberry pie, a blueberry cookie, and some blueberry lemonade. We were very disappointed to miss the blueberry pancakes, as the store was closing up for the day as we arrived. We sat down to eat the pie at their picnic benches, and the owners, “Blueberry Bob” and Theresa, came over to talk about our ride with us. They informed us that although we had missed the pancakes today, that they would be here at 6AM and would serve us breakfast.

foreground: blueberries! background: our tent!

Then, they told us we were welcome to pitch a tent right here among the blueberry bushes! The regular campground around here is pretty expensive, and would add a few miles to come back for breakfast, so we were thrilled at the offer of a free night’s lodging in such a unique location. They have toilets, potable water, and picnic tables, and it’s nice and quiet here. It’s a lovely place to spend the night. They warned us that their handy-man, Mike, would be shooting to scare away the birds for a bit this evening, and that they would let him know we were here. After he finished shooting for the day, he came over and chatted with us about the blueberry farm, the bird population, his grandchildren, and our ride. It was a good thing he knew that Bob gave us permission, because he’s been known to scare away blueberry thieves with his 12-gauge. 

Stats:
today’s distance: 68.4 miles
time in the saddle: 6 hrs, 12 min
total distance: 3,017 miles 

Day 39: Le Roy, MI to Midland, MI

Michigan goats on a truck cab roof

Today we had ambitious plans of riding over 100 miles to Lake Huron, but we ran out of steam and time. The weather was quite cold and rainy, which is preferable to last week’s heat wave, but still difficult at times. So 86 miles seems good enough to us! After the first 20 miles, we were starving, and happy to come upon a diner where we ordered Breakfast II for under $4 each, plus a nice dose of caffeine in the never-ending coffee cups. We continued riding rolling hills on empty roads, surrounded by old farms and forests, until we eventually reached the Pere Marquette bike path, which was very flat, very straight, and in excellent shape.

surprisingly nice rail trail!

It’s a “rail trail,” or a bike path made from an old rail line, and though these can get boring, it was a nice break after all the hills — especially with the tail wind. We stopped in Farwell, where we were excited to find a farmers’ market, and then disappointed to learn that it was all crafts and no produce. We then stopped in Clare, where an excellent bike shop supplied us with new tires for Rachel’s bike (it turned out that the tread was nearly down to the thread, making the blow-out in Manitowoc much more likely). Then we stopped in Sanford, where the owners of the Tin Roof gave us free ice cream while we surfed the internet and charged our phones, trying to figure out where we would spend the night. We decided on Midland, the first town we’ve seen in this state so far that looks like it has some real wealth — and then we realized that Dow Chemical’s name is all over the town. It is a striking contrast to the last couple of days, but a nice place to spend the night.

Stats:
today’s distance: 85.6 miles
time in saddle: 7 hrs, 17 min
total distance: 2,948 miles