May 11: Port Ontario to Sodus Point, NY - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

May 11: Port Ontario to Sodus Point, NY

You'd never know from the outside that the interior was a Coke temple, would you?
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ABOUT AN HOUR before Sodus Point, on the shore of Lake Ontario, the Northern Tier turns on to Ridge Road. There on the right is a fruit shop like any other. Next to it, part of the same business, is a new cafe. There's no hint outside that it is a Coca-Cola museum. For all around the walls are old signs and other artefacts from the history of the brown bubble.

There are happy 1950s blondes and clean-cut boys drinking Coke but never so much as holding hands. In a corner is a Coke dispenser in the shape of a petrol pump. A golden oldies radio station plays Chuck Berry and Little Richard.

"We extended the cafe beyond the pillars you see there," the waitress explained as she supervised a dozen tastes of ice cream. "That was a year ago. The owners' son was always a Coca-Cola collector and he got a lot more on e-Bay."

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There are other such collections and doubtless better ones. The point about this one is that it is unexpected, not least because there's no sign it's there.

We left Port Ontario in sunshine and with our first tailwind since the outskirts of Montreal. There was another change, too: the countryside little by little turned more gentle, still rolling and occasionally hilly but now fields of lush grass in which cows stood and chewed and wondered, being cows, what else was expected of them.

The villages passed one by one, devoted to camping and boating and money from tourists they were preparing to receive. Lake Ontario, invisible from the road, supports a whole industry.

There are new houses, made of plastic boarding that resembles wood planks, and there are old. The old fell into two sorts. There were Boo Radley houses - old, mysterious, sometimes surrounded by overgrown vegetation, often peeling. Someone menacing lived there, a secret character whom everyone knew grabbed children who played on his land. The others were of dark timber, the way that houses in forest clearings ought to be. To me they sang of charm, of bread and butter heating on the stove, scented blue smoke climbing out of the chimney. Instead, these were the houses ringed by broken cars and discarded refrigerators. You knew there would be unwashed dishes in the sink.

So, what differs between American and European eyes? Why are the houses I would love to own the ones with the broken down cars?

The other thing is plot size. That seems to matter more than the house. Some of the largest plots were occupied by the shabbiest buildings, sometimes just a trailer, as though the owners found the place they wanted and then saved to build the house of their dreams. But is that the American Way? There are subtleties and differences in this land that I may never understand.

Equally, one side of a town can be rotten and crumbling and the other entirely filled with glamorous houses in which beaming children display perfect teeth. No sooner have you decided you are in a town which America forgot than you are riding through the perfection of which British girls dreamed when they were swept off their feet by GIs in the depression of wartime Britain.

After hours of bucolic countryside we reached Volney and turned right for Fulton. We were instantly in a soulless land of car exhaust shops, tyre-changers and gutter-fixers whose titles were always a single name: Ron's Tires, Mel's Exhaust Depot. There were homes here as well. Could it always have been like this? There had been hope and dreams and now there was no conceivable way out. Except for the folk on the other side of town. There, in their smart homes, I suspect - although obviously I cannot know - all they know of the other side of town is that it's good for getting a dent bashed out of your fender.

AMERICAN FLAGS SEEN: 264

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