US Blues

Getting up to go to the bathroom during the night, I thought I saw an opossum. I gave it a wide berth and, looking back at it with better light, realized it was a skunk. Later in the night I met it again, this time exploring a fire ring.

The Canadian side of Niagara Falls was heavily commercialized. The strip we were on was hotels and fast foods.

Note zip line in foreground of video
Niagara River

We crossed the border to road construction, then someone crossing the street toward me and trying, for likely nefarious purposes, to get me to stop and talk. Next were streetwalkers at work at 7:30 on a Monday morning. That was all in my first 10 minutes in the country.

The first half of today’s ride was urban and suburban riding. The best thing I can say about it is that it was over by picnic. After picnic we were out in the country and it looked like the driftless area of southwest Wisconsin – quiet roads and steep hills; 7 mph up one side, 45 down the other.

The sky was cloudy all day, with chances of rain in the forecast. This never materialized. Arriving in Geneseo, we stopped at a coffee shop. When I got back on my bike I noted very little air in my rear tire. I rode gently to campus, walking the last bit. The cause of the leak appeared to be the rim tape slipping again. While replacing the tube I replaced the rim tape as well. Another tube to patch on the weekend. I just used my last new tube. At least this new tube appears to have a functioning valve stem after several faulty ones in this batch.

I didn’t wash my bike clothes in the shower, as they appeared to have no chance of drying. As I fixed my tire the sun came out. I washed the clothes and they are drying now. It will be a race against sunset.

The rider who left the tour with a detached retina is back after surgery and with vision nearly intact. He says he expects it to continue to improve. The rider who was not vaccinated rejoined us. My neighbor (who I had never met but lives within a mile of me) also rejoined us. Several new riders joined. Some of them have done this before, as they were greeted warmly by other riders.

New York and New England are left between us and the Atlantic Ocean. This week will feel a lot like home with the Adirondacks and Finger Lakes.

Rest Day in Niagara Falls, Ontario

Two imperial pints of red ale and a medium margherita pizza (10 slices, they said – I didn’t count) went a long way to erasing the bad taste in my mouth from Michigan, as well as a long week of riding with threats of bad weather (which weren’t often delivered). A medium pizza for a 135 pound person, you say? Hey, I need all the calories I can get. Four years ago I lost 15 pounds on this ride. I didn’t regain them, so I don’t have many pounds to lose. The Datameister said I got noticeably slower as the ride went on four years ago, as I lost strength. Nothing like a several thousand calorie dinner to help prevent that. So far, I continue to get faster as the day progresses, so I don’t think I’m getting weaker. Last I checked, I hadn’t lost weight. I don’t normally weigh myself, but there was a scale outside my office in the hospital this spring and I’ve come across two in public bathrooms lately.

Returning to the campsite after dinner, it seems to be cooling down. There is a rock band playing covers. I stood to listen for a few minutes but can hear fine from my campsite.

I went to bed before it got dark. At 4:15AM the dew came. It was slightly damp on the walk to the bathroom, wet on the walk back. It cooled off slightly at 5 and I partly covered myself with a sheet. I stayed in bed until after sunrise!

Breakfast is in a Tim Horton’s. A breakfast combo includes a donut. Wifi is free and the coffee is hot enough that I “have to” sit here for awhile. This is the same Tim Horton’s where I spent the afternoon four years ago in order to listen to a live webcast of a concert by the Madison Area Youth Chamber Orchestra (MAYCO).

After breakfast I’ll do laundry, since the laundry room doesn’t open until 8 AM. I’ll clean and lube the bike. After that I have no pressing issues for the day. Is this what being retired is like?

Cannabis store across from the campground. Or is that what retirement is like;)?

Seeing other riders walking through the campground or out on the street on our rest days is like meeting fellow members of a secret society. Others don’t know the bond we share or why we would recognize a random person on the street.

The campground bathrooms are gloriously air-conditioned. They are a welcome respite from the heat and humidity – and you can get dry after a shower. On the other hand, it is disconcerting to hear blaring pop music from a 24 hour radio station piped in – nothing like getting up to pee in the middle of the night and being assaulted by throbbing electronic percussion and auto-tuned generic voices singing emotionally overwrought ballads. Thankfully the laundry room is also air-conditioned and carries only the sounds of the washers and dryers. The dewpoint is 74 degrees (28 c) and the temperature a much-cooler 84 (29 c).

I was able to get one short story to download during my time at the restaurant, so I read for a while Saturday night. If I remember, I may be able to open the book at lunch and get one more story to download.

The tenting area is pretty nice here – grass and trees, a fair amount of shade. There are night lights (dim, yellow lights) to help you find your way back in the dark. Each nightlight is on a post with multiple electrical outlets. I don’t know if the Trail Boss paid for electricity, or if everyone gets it here. There are privacy fences that serve as secure bike locking stations.

My camp neighbor

Niagara Falls

See 2018 post for link to Three Stooges bit about Niagara Falls.

Still no internet connection. There is supposed to be wifi at this campground but it is not strong enough to connect to the internet; therefore, I’m not sure what purpose it serves.

Horses in the mist. Port Dover, Ontario at dawn.

The morning was a beautiful ride along the north shore of Lake Erie on a quiet residential street with the lake to our right and cottages to our left. Most were quite modest. We came to a few mobile home parks and a couple of campgrounds – one with a sign saying “No pets. No tents”. I guess they want to keep the riffraff out.

The first 35 miles were over before we knew it. Riding along a residential street instead of a highway, there was no stress. It  was like going for a ride in the neighborhood – just one that went on for 35 miles.We eventually returned to a highway, but even the highways were low-stress today. It was a relaxing and easy day of 77 miles after 190 miles in the previous two days.

We crossed the Welland Ship Canal via ferry – a pontoon boat able to carry 4 bikes and riders at a time. Per the crew, a boat took out the bridge 30-some years ago, As part of the settlement, the boat owner agreed to pay for ferry service for 40 years. What happens then, I don’t know. Someone probably thought 40 years sounded like forever.

We are ensconced in a KOA campground a few miles from the falls. We will ride across the falls Monday. I washed my bike clothes today and hope they will dry – along with yesterday’s that didn’t dry and the previous day’s that I had no opportunity to wash until today. With two days to dry, I should be good. It continues to be hot and humid, but might be slightly less so today. 90 degrees (32 c) with dewpoint of 70, now that I have internet.

The Trail Boss has been telling us he secured a much better location in the campground for us than we had four years ago. While setting up, a freight train roared past just on the other side of the fence about 50 feet from us. Unless that’s the only train of the day, I don’t think this is an improvement. If it is, we do have a pretty nice spot in a back corner of the property.

There are two swimming pools in the campground. They are full enough that you might be able to swim without getting wet. We are on our own until 5 PM Sunday so I need to find somewhere for dinner without being able to search the internet. I know there is a Tim Horton’s near here that had internet service 4 years ago, so  I may go there to try to upload all of these posts and eat something while looking for a more suitable dinner spot…or it may be my breakfast spot tomorrow if I can find dinner the old-fashioned way – by walking or riding down the street and looking. Either way, you should see these posts before the weekend is over and I should be able to text my family to tell them I am still alive after being incommunicado for three days (so far).

The campground has a beer garden with Moosehead on tap. I am writing this in the beer garden after drying my stuff, putting up the tent, showering, washing and hanging bike clothes. I was hoping the internet would work here, since it doesn’t from the campsite. No such luck. There are a few riders still trickling in.

There is a cannabis store directly across the street. A local rider tells me there is also a brothel across the street. And all I want is a place for dinner.

Sports bar/pizza place to the rescue. I am briefly back in touch with the outside world.

99 Miles of Highway to Ride

99 miles to ride
Ride one more
To lower the score
98 miles of highway to ride. (To the tune of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”, in case that was not obvious)

After 90 fast miles yesterday I was in no hurry today. 100 miles is 100 miles at any speed. Two days without wifi service and no cell phone service because I’m in Canada means you may see a flurry of posts on Sunday.

Electronically, life is primitive. I don’t have access to WordPress without internet so I’m writing in Word and will copy/paste later. My keyboard isn’t working so I’m typing on a phone screen. I have no access to email or text messages. I can’t read my e-book, as it was a sample from the library, so I could stream it but not download it.

Rain is in the forecast daily. We’re getting lucky. No rain yesterday, a little overnight, none today. Temperature was 31 c (about 88 F) when I passed a bank sign today. Dewpoint is > 70 F, so it’s pretty steamy. There were dark skies in the distance a few times, distant rumbles of thunder, occasional cool damp breezes that seemed about to bring rain, but it never materialized. Right now the sky is dark again, but seems to be passing by.

After riding through the usual corn, soybean, and occasional harvested wheat fields, as we rode along Lake Erie (usually just  out of sight) we saw blueberries, peaches, asparagus, and tobacco. For the last few miles there were vineyards and numerous wineries, and one field of ginseng.

Breakfast was in a restaurant that smelled strongly of mildew. No one lingered. At about 30 miles we rode into Port Stanley, a cute little town that would have been worthy of a few hours, had I a few hours to spend. The place where I had second breakfast (just over the drawbridge) four years ago was closed but I found a coffee shop a block later. A cortado and a lemon tart hit the spot. The wifi was too slow to upload yesterday’s post but I saw a few texts.

Leaving town was via a short and steep (12%) climb. Picnic was at a maritime museum with an old submarine on display. I’d never thought about Canadian submarines. The last few miles included several short, steep climbs so we would earn our finish. The steepest was 14%, per the people with Garmins.

We are camped in the Norfolk Conservation Area, which looks like an RV campground for permanent residents. The shower room was so steamy it made the hot and humid weather feel refreshing; and getting dry was next to impossible. Using the shower required a bit of care so as not to fall through the floor – it had a large crack that is not yet a hole. We are being shuttled into town in vans for dinner. With this many of us, that will take a while.

After dinner we returned to camp. The temperature is already at the dewpoint at 7 PM. The grass is wet. The laundry I hung four hours ago is no drier than it was then. I packed it in a plastic bag and will probably re-wash it tomorrow and hang it again. The laundry includes my towel, so I will be drying off with a wet towel after Saturday’s shower. The tent rainfly is already wet with dew. I expect it will be wet enough tomorrow morning that, when we arrive in camp Saturday, I will pour water out of its storage bag. Sunday in Niagara Falls (or Saturday if I’m lucky or fast) will be for the rest of the laundry.

Saturday we ride about 5.5 miles to breakfast, with a steep hill to start the day in the dark. BTW, my keyboard just needed charging – I may have left it turned on, as a charge usually lasts a very long time. Sleeping will be interesting with a low of 70 degrees and dewpoint likely the same; that is, provided the dewpoint drops to 70, as both dewpoint and temp appear to be above that now – lacking internet access I can only guess.

We lost another rider to COVID-19. I thought being vaccinated was a requirement to come on the trip but one rider tried to get into Canada with a negative PCR test instead of proof of vaccination. She was turned back at the border. Anti-vaxxer?

We had a night in a high school with student murals on the walls. A gallery appears below. Click on an image to enlarge.