May 13: Rochester to Medina, NY - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

May 13: Rochester to Medina, NY

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NOW, ADMIT IT... there's not a guy on this site who doesn't dream of being 10 again and having the right to play with model trains. They - you - are in good company. Marty Phelps spent his working hours putting out fires and, in his dreams, stoking them. He was born to run a railroad. Which is just what he does. For beside the tracks at Medina, a town even locals can't decide how to pronounce, is Marty's model railway.

That understates it. It fills an entire freight building. Trains run through scenery painstakingly made to scale, through hills and hollows, town and country, slowing on ascents, rattling through marshalling yards.

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"I started the collection years back," says Marty, an amateur drummer of 66 with bright blue eyes, grey hair and

Marty - drummer and rail enthusiast
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a distinct passion for his subject. "Since then people have added their own collections and we've incorporated those as well. And we're still building."

Around the walls down one side are model locomotives in cases, helmets, axes and who knows what else from a dozen fire brigades to mark Marty's past, and down the entire facing wall is the largest assembly of railway memorabilia that any small boy could hope to see. Including an oiling chart for a steam locomotive that would take a computer two weeks to fathom.

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"We moved here seven years ago and now it's all protected by state law and no one can touch it." He paused a millisecond. "You guys wanna caaahfee?" I swear he didn't wait for an answer before fetching first one and then another.

"Where you headed for tonight?"

We said we planned to get a little closer to Niagara Falls, pass through it and then ride out the other side in the afternoon.

"Stay here if you like. Look..."

He led us outside and pointed to blue tarpaulins put up for a Thomas the Tank Engine weekend due to start next day. "Pitch your tent inside there. Why not? Gonna be a storm tonight and your tent'll stay dry in there. We've had

Not a model: this is a real train, parked outside.
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Stand back... an express approaches.
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other folks stay. Make yourself at home. I'll leave the rest rooms open for you and I'll tell security you're here, so they'll keep an eye on you."

And so that night we camped out, our tent within another, as the skies fell onto the land and thunder rolled long drum calls and the rain jumped back up from the roads as it landed.

It was a bright end to an ordinary day. We left Dale and Sue's reluctantly in an exchange of photographs, then turned into the park and took the winding bike route west. It was a lovely ride at

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Spot this bike in the picture above?
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But perhaps it's seen better days...
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first, in sunshine and with the wind behind us. But then the hard surface turned to gravel. We ploughed on at two-thirds the speed and half the effort again until, tired of losing the battle to rain-dampened ciders, we took to the ugly main road that would get us to our destination in a fraction of the time.

And I always considered yacht clubs to be classy
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It wasn't a ride to bring laughter to the heart but the wind was a gift and we romped along nearly effortlessly at 30-32kmh, on shoulders beside busy traffic until an out-of-town Wal-Mart sucked it all away, then on past two jails - "correctional facilities" - outside which trusty but dour-faced prisoners were collecting litter and gardening, and then finally into Medina.

Medina: a solid, permanent, welcoming sort of a town.
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We liked Medina. It has a sense of age without being weary. Unlike many American towns it is content with its age. Like a woman who accepts the year in which she was born and lives life contentedly nevertheless, Medina had age but not wrinkles. It was a town I could live in. And go and play railways down at Marty's place.

AMERICAN FLAGS SEEN: 125

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