Thursday, 1 October 2015

Across the Border and Over the Edge

Location: Niagara Falls, ON, Canada
After a delicious breakfast of French toast we said goodbye to Jason and Michelle and got on our way. The route through Erie was disrupted by construction, so it was a slow start, then for many miles after we were riding through vineyards and rural housing. We both needed a wee but there was nowhere appropriate to go. It wasn't rural enough to sneak off into the bushes and not built up enough to have gas stations or cafes. Thankfully we came across a portaloo in a carpark, phew. More miles of vineyards and the fragrant scent of Concord grapes with glimpses of the lake followed. Then we crossed the border into our seventeenth state, New York.

We had fish butties from the lake for lunch in a little cafe in Barcelona and then continued on to Dunkirk. That evening we were camping in Evangola State Park and needed a few supplies, the shop I got directed to when I asked the library assistant where the grocery stores were was probably the weirdest shop I've been in on the trip. Dunkirk is another somewhat run down town and the shop was a strange set up: mostly cheapo-discount-food store (all brands I'd never heard of and sad, shrivelled produce) with one corner set out like a cafe, but with all the seats stacked up with boxes and other shop clutter and then another, larger corner devoted to a huge selection of creepy looking dolls. Very odd. Well I made it out alive and we continued on to the campground where we pitched up and ate dinner watching the sunset on our last night in the U.S. 

During the night, around 2am, a siren started and continued for quite some time. It woke us both up, we got out the tent to go the bathroom and check to see if any of our fellow campers were panicking, which they weren't. No idea what it was warning or who it was signalling to, but it stopped again after maybe 10 minutes so we just went back to sleep. The next day we made it into the outskirts of Buffalo and called in at a Tim Hortons for wifi and coffee. We'd planned to stay that night with some friends we'd made in Alberta who lived near Niagara but at Timmy's we got a message saying they'd had a family emergency and couldn't host us. No worries, there's lots of Warm Showers hosts in the area and campgrounds too so we were sure we'd be fine. We sent a request of to a host, did a little campground search and set off to cross the border. Riding through Buffalo was not a lot of fun, but most the roads we were on at least had a bike lane or were wide enough for cars to get past. We eventually made it to the Peace Bridge, followed signs for pedestrians and cyclists, squeezed our way through the turnstile and walked over the bridge and into Canada and Ontario, our sixth province. 

The border crossing was straightforward and simple, which was a relief, and we decided to stop for lunch at a cafe by the bridge as we were out of food (didn't want to carry it over the border) and it was about 1pm. Unfortunately the cafe didn't have wifi so we were unable to check on our Warm Showers request, but we did have a chance to check our passports and realise the guard hadn't taken the U.S. visa slips out of them as he should have done. Since we were only yards away from the border buildings we were able to go back and find someone to take them. We rode down a fairly quiet riverside road to Niagara Falls. As we approached we could see plumes of mist rising from the river and we both got pretty excited. 

It's weird approaching them because aside from the rising mist you'd have no idea they were there.  It looks like you're riding into a city, which you are, but it just seems strange that within this little metropolis there's this huge, natural wonder. And the falls really are stunning! It's a lot of fun getting covered in the spray and wondering at the rainbows.

The cafe at the falls had wifi, but wouldn't let us download emails so we still didn't know if we had anywhere to stay, but we checked out the nearby campsites and were horrified to learn they were around $40 a night with a 2 night minimum. Back by the falls we had a slightly odd interaction with a dude who had the head of an original GI Joe who suggested a load of motels when we asked him about places to camp. 

Having soaked up enough of the falls we headed into town to a Timmy's to try to get emails. Holy cow! The street up from the falls is like Blackpool or some similar tacky tourist resort. Stood outside the Timmy's we gathered a little crowd of well wishers but no emails from potential hosts. So we sent a message to a different host and then went to find pay phones to try and call them. Incredibly there were pay phones, but no answer from either host. It was now about 5:15pm, we had no where to stay, we had about 2 hours of daylight left and were in the middle of an expensive tourist trap. We decided to head to the town of the second host we'd contacted as it was a little closer and then play it by ear. Outside yet another Timmy's on the outskirts of Fonthill we had received an email from the second host saying ring them again. We were able to borrow a phone off the couple cleaning the windows, but no answer again so we left a message that we'd head into town for some food and try to contact them again. The grocery store didn't have wifi, there was no pay phone around, the sun was going down. I'm pretty sure I looked fairly dejected as I waited outside the store while Tom went to get us some food. That's when Corey came over and insisted we stay with them, they were on Warm Showers, had toured and knew what it was like. What a huge relief that was after a day of uncertainty and obstacles and once again renewed our faith in the kindness of strangers. Proving, for the umpteenth time, that "you can't always get what you want, but if you try some times, you just might find, you get what you need".


  1. What you can always guarantee reading your blog is that there will be food theme....Yummy! Mr P

    1. Food is so important on the bikes! Not that it wasn't important to me before all the cycling!! ;-)

  2. you look like a caveman tom get a shave.jb

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  4. Next Challenge: Visit the other 33 States? (I did the sums wrong previously)