A Day In Canada - America's Most Naive Bike Tourist Rides From MN to MA - CycleBlaze

June 26, 2014

A Day In Canada

Along the Niagara Parkway, Ontario

How can I claim to be on a Quest for Fun and not pay a visit to Canada, eh?  Only yesterday did I make the decision to cross the international border.  I admit I was hesitant to enter a foreign country where they speak a different language--Canadian.  It would have been easier for me to pass up Ontario, but since I just got my passport recently, I figured "why not make use of it, eh?"   And learning about foreign cultures that are completely different than your own is what travel is all about.  Canada, here I come!

The travel today started with our hero getting frustrated with the crazy twists and turns on his Northern Tier map.  He pulled out his regular Rand McNally road maps and said, "F--- this.  I'm going north on Highway 62."

Unless you are dead set on going out of the way and following the Northern Tier to Orchard Park, I highly recommend going off-route onto Highway 62 out of Hamburg.  It starts out with a good shoulder, goes straight to Buffalo where there is a designated bike lane and plenty of signs directing you to the Peace Bridge that leads into Canada.  Along the way, you get to go past the beautiful Our Lady of Victory Basilica.  It is truly an awesome church.

Our Lady of Victory Basilica and National Shrine.
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Front view of the Basilica.
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I took my time through Buffalo.  I really like riding through cities and Buffalo seems like a pretty nice one.  I could almost picture it beneath a couple hundred inches of snow, which is a total they must get every winter.  At least it SEEMS like every time I see a blizzard on the national news, Buffalo is getting it.

The Buffalo skyline sans snow.
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Onto the Peace Bridge I rode.  Looking to the south I could see the wide open Lake Erie.  Looking north, I was impressed by the volume of water flowing up the Niagara River.  I had no doubt that the falls, 20 miles away, must be as spectacular as I've heard.  I met and talked to a couple who were touring the Underground Railroad route from Cincinnati to the Niagara area and were on their way back.  While I was talking to the guy, the gal surreptitiously snapped a picture of me.  I wish I had gotten a picture of them.

Now I have to relate a story that is almost too weird to believe.  It starts back in MN before I began this tour.  I put my brand new passport into a small pocket in my left pannier.  That zippered pocket was of such a size that it appeared to be designed for a passport.  Inside of my passport I had tucked five $20 bills that I intended to be used ONLY in case of an emergency.  Of course, being the plan-ahead-guy that I am, that emergency would probably never happen.  Still, you know, it was there just in case.

Don't think ahead.  Let me tell the story.

When I got to the customs booth I proudly whipped out my passport, handed it to the Canadian customs official, and waited for the questioning.  He opened the passport and right there, inside the front cover, was $100 cash.

    "I will not take your passport like this, sir," he said with disgust.  "You know what this looks like, don't you?"

     My heart rate went nuts.  "Oh my god.  I swear it's not a bribe," I answered in all honesty.  "This is very embarrassing."

    He made me take the money off of my passport photo.  He didn't touch it at all--as if it was a scorpion or something.  Then came the questions.  "Where do you live?"  "Where are you going?"  "What's in the saddle bags?"  "Have you ever crossed here before?"  "Have you ridden your bike all the way from MN?"

    I answered all of the questions honestly.

    "Where did you say you were going again?" he repeated.

     "Boston, MA."

     "I hate to tell you this, sir, but you're going the wrong way."

    He caught me off guard again.  "I know, but I'm following an established bicycling route that takes in the Canadian side of the Niagara River, then crosses back into New York."  He probably knew that, but I still thought I would be pulled aside for a strip search.

    "Where are you crossing back into the U.S.?"

    "Um, I'll have to check my map."  Unprepared once more, (extra thorough strip search) I fumbled with the map and answered, "it looks like the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge."

Eventually he let me go and even gave me directions on how to get to the Niagara Parkway.  Tomorrow I better be more savvy or who knows WHAT the U.S. Customs Service will do to me.

Looking at Canada from the Peace Bridge. I'm lucky I got in.
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The parkway is great.  The big houses are only on the left, so on the right I can always see the Niagara--the bluest river I have seen on this trip.  There appears to be no public campgrounds along the Niagara River so I camped at another private campground.  The Riverside Campground was acceptable, but expensive.  But hey, it's a novelty to be in another country.

The Reckless Mr. Bing Bong taking a break in the shade along the Niagara River Parkway.
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It's sunny and clear here in Canada. The big clouds are way over there in another country.
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My first Canadian campsite EVER.
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Today's ride: 33 miles (53 km)
Total: 1,179 miles (1,897 km)

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Kathleen JonesI'm having fun rereading this, Greg.

Your Buffalo bit reminded me of when I was living in NY. Winter of 1977 (or so) was VERY blizzardy, especially for Buffalo. A radio station had a contest of some sort, with the winner getting a week in Buffalo. Second place got two weeks.

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2 years ago
Gregory GarceauTo Kathleen JonesHi Kathleen,

That's a good joke about Buffalo. One just never hears anything positive about Buffalo (aside from the chicken wing connection) but I really did enjoy my time there. Somewhere on this journal, I think it was a couple of pages ago, I replied to a message from Keith Klein, who said Buffalo was pretty bad back when he lived in the area. In my reply I added an additional story about why I enjoyed my short visit. I'm not going to repeat it here, but if you're interested you can look back and try to find it.

Great to hear from you and I'm glad your journals found their way over here to Cycleblaze.

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2 years ago