[I had to post this a day late – camping with no wifi or phone signal or juice]
Tour the Falls
I made it to the town of Niagara Falls on Friday but didn’t have any gas in the tank to actually go see them – they were another 5 miles or so from my bargain hotel. Also I was itching to see the NBA Finals (bummer no sweep) and to crash after a long day. So first thing Saturday I saddled up to go check out the American side.
Niagara Falls is incredible – just the sheer power of that much water tipping over a cliff is an awesome spectacle. But I admit I had a hard time holding the “awe” with so many people and so many nearby tourist traps. I wish that stuff didn’t bother me but it does. So I appreciated it as I could, and headed down the road to Buffalo along the Niagara River – which is spectacular itself as it pours from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario.
It seems that every bike route I took today was blocked – I had so many stops and starts and backtracking. Traveling by bike you are distinctly aware of being a 3rd class citizen. You will often get a half mile down a path to be met with a sign that says the trail is closed with no hint of how to get around it. Or worse, there is a “detour” that directions you somewhere, only to peter out to no further signs and again you’re left guessing. I digress.
To get around this thing I had to unload my bags, pass them over, then Haul my bike over. No way I’m going 10 miles off course to protect me from a new sidewalk.
My route through Buffalo took me through the entire spectrum of the local population. The bike paths were often used by local fishermen and fisher women on the Niagara.
Then the route cut across town through dilapidated factories, poor neighborhoods, which gave to middle-class neighborhoods, then burbs, then rural hamlets and finally lakeside estates. Seeing them all, in quick succession made me very aware of race and class what a huge gulf we have between those at the bottom and those at the top.
When you’re traveling sometimes the things that are different are easier to see than the things that are missing and I noticed a couple of things today that took awhile to sink in. First, NY has very little roadside litter. I thought CA did pretty good on this count but on the route I travelled, NY is cleaner. Go figure. The other one is that on both Lake Ontario and especially Lake Erie, access to the shoreline is very limited. The access points for the beaches are often 15 miles apart and all the land in between is privately held – right up to the shore. So, if you look at my route map on Strava it looks like I’m always by the Lake, but I didn’t actually see it that often. I count this as an old world screw up. When this land was subdivided, people weren’t thinking about the right to shoreline access. By the time CA was being developed, people were challenging the idea of private access to natural treasures such as these.
I ended my day at a lovely lakeside camp (although there was a chain link fench keeping us from the shore!). I got to meet Dave and his two kids; Paris and Storm, from PA. They had tons of questions about my ride, and Dave shared some of his experience growing up and working in New Zealand. It’s great to see a dad taking such an active role teaching and experiencing life together. They were playing a game trying to figure out my story – and each one of them had a piece of it.