Today was the first day of our week-long tour around Lake Ontario. It was also the longest (180km) and featured the biggest climb (up the Niagara escarpment). Less than 24 hours after Tough Mudder, What could go wrong?
We started off fairly early – although not as early as we’d planned – at 6:30. It was still dark when we left, which meant we were treated to some lovely views of Toronto as the sun rose behind us and reflected off the skyscrapers downtown.
The first couple of hours were uneventful; we made good time and chatted with a number of fellow cyclists who all seemed curious as to what we were up to. That is, at least, until we got chatting with a guy as we approached Oakville. He asked us where we were off to and, after informing us that he lived in the neighbourhood, asked if we had forgotten anything that we needed to pick up/replace. We chuckled and said no thanks, at which point he started listing off things we might need. Waterproofs? No thanks. Energy gels? Nope. Down sleeping bag? And that’s when it clicked for me – I had completely forgotten to pack a sleeping bag! Idiot.
Moments later I was on the phone with Caralin and, bless her, she jumped straight the car and drove the 50km to meet uswithout a word of complaint. What a saint! At least it gave us an excuse for second breakfast (#hobbit) while we waited.
The next 100km or so was as uneventful as the pre-sleeping bag portion. Eventually we hit the climb up the Niagara escarpment – not a massive climb but big enough, and with tired legs and 30lbs of gear on the back of the bike.
The climb itself wasn’t actually that bad but there was a moment of drama/blinding rage near the top – as I approached the top of the climb and prepared to turn left onto a bike path, I signalled left and after checking to make sure the car behind me wasn’t preparing to pass, began to pull into the middle of the road (while still signalling). The driver of the car apparently didn’t want to wait for me to turn, as he chose that moment to floor it and pass me – as I was in the middle of turning left.
Happily he didn’t make contact with me but it was close as he passed me by, and I was very conscious that it could easily have been a fatal moment. Let’s just say I wasn’t happy. Ok, I lost it – yelling at him with all of the little air I had left in my lungs as he sped on by. I think the family walking up the sidewalk nearby was a little startled by some of the language that erupted from me. I mean, who passes someone who is signalling to turn left – especially someone who is already beginning to turn?! He didn’t seem to care – he didn’t pause or brake for an instant. Ah well… I felt better for it.
Before too much longer we arrived at Niagara Falls. After not returning to the Falls for 50 years since visiting them as a teenager, Father has now been there twice this year. We took a minor detour to take a couple of photos, then headed to the border. As expected, we got held up there as we had to get new stamps in our passports, but before too long we were on our way into New York State.
Oh hi, Niagara. #lakeontariotour #cycling #cyclingphotos
A photo posted by Dave Fleet (@dave_fleet) on
Immediately after leaving the border crossing we had to turn left across a decent-sized intersection. I’d pulled ahead a bit and crossed with no issues, but ten seconds or so later I heard a screech of brakes and a horn sound behind me. I looked back and there was Father, in the middle of the intersection, with an irate driver stopped a few feet from his bike. He let me know that he’d turned on a green light, but forgot that people coming in the other direction had a green light too. Sigh. In all fairness, I always find crossing into the States by road disconcerting – for some reason it talks a while to adjust when you get going again.
We made it through the rest of Niagara Falls with no issues, despite a few impressively wide and deep potholes (which I dubbed ‘American-sized’). Before too long we were out amongst the small towns on the way to our final destination.
A few things that immediately struck me about small-town New York State:
- The people here are lovely and friendly. Lots of waves and smiles.
- The scenery is equally lovely once you’re outside the outskirts of Niagara Falls. Lots of farmland replete with orchards and crop fields. We stopped at one farm store for a lovely basket of peaches (which didn’t last the day).
- If you didn’t know better, you’d be hard-pressed to know there’s an election going on. Very few election signs. I haven’t seen a single Clinton sign yet.
- Patriotism is everywhere too. Today was the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks so it wasn’t surprising to see that – especially in New York State – but it was striking how many houses had flags of some type or another hanging outside.
Two there you have it. We’re now at our campground – a small state park called Four Mile Creek – with 186km of the 900km tour under our belts. It seems nice (albeit remote) and the sound of the nearby lake is very relaxing.
Our next leg is another long one, although shorter than today – 150km to just the other side of Rochester. Hopefully a little less drama awaits us on the way there.