May 15: Niagara Falls to Lackawanna, NY - The Great North American Sticky Bun Hunt - CycleBlaze

May 15: Niagara Falls to Lackawanna, NY

What interesting lives these Americans must lead...
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BEST THING to do with Buffalo is go there and get out as fast as you can, said Big John at Daisies Café. He was a big, ebullient man who declined to ride the unicycle propped against one wall.

"Hey, bring your bikes inside," he demanded as we began peeling off handlebar bags, computers and other everyday attractions to street thieves. It wasn't a reassuring area. "No problem."

John owned the café and nothing in life was much problem. "You make it in business here and you can make it anywhere," he said, not boasting but just telling the truth. "This area's been hit pretty hard this past twenny years. Steelworks closed here in Lackawanna two decades back and the place is still feeling it. They're trying to replace it with technological stuff, you know, minimum-wage assembly work, that sorta stuff, and that's starting to work, but...

"Buffalo, that was more chemicals and manufacturing. Then they had competition from China and India and you see what's happened. Port's almost closed and the Navy's not there in the same way."

Buffalo was heart-tearing, especially after the dripping prosperity of the riverside parkway on the Canadian side. Buffalo, the way Adventure Cycling takes you, is wide streets built for commerce that no longer have reason or heart. Warehouses crumble and factories are empty. Business after business is long closed. The X-ray company... abandoned. Parts manufacturers, specialist toolmakers... gone. There are empty lots where men once worked and a city's heart beat. The roads were rutted and holed. Depressed people in inexpensive clothing walked sullenly, although they broke into smiles when greeted. There was still something there.

"We're a pretty resilient community round these parts," John said. "Gotta be when you get snow six feet deep in winter. Then everyone turns to to help other folk out."

That morning the sun had shone once more on Niagara Falls. It spitefully stayed absent from everywhere else. It didn't feel like six feet of snow were about to fall but about half that didn't seem out of the question.

No, not the emblem of the town, someone's idea of patriotism.
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We cut the journey short and stopped the night in an Econolodge in the neighbouring suburb of Blasdell. Asking directions to it, to any hotel, has written a new law of nature. Leo's Law holds that directions are best asked of the dirtiest, scruffiest, least salubrious people you can find, for they always know. Conversely, local knowledge dives in inverse proportion to youth and exposed skin.


Down on its luck but...
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...there are glories in Lackawanna
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