Water, Water, Everywhere...
The last week's riding has been all about water. Well, mostly about water. OK, it's not really about water, but there was a lot of water around. Lakes, rivers, falls, harbors, canals and even a little rain all factored into the week.
Way back in Cleveland (that was 3 states and one foreign country ago), my college roommate, John Hartman, decided to join me for a little ride. John grew up in the Cleveland area and thought it would be 'fun' to ride with me from Cleveland back to his current home just outside of Rochester, NY. Six days and 350 miles later, you'll have to ask him if he still thinks it was a good idea.
Much of the week was spent along Lake Erie. We went from urban cycling, to small beach towns, to vineyards along the shore. The most memorable stop had to be in the small town of Geneva-on-the-Lake whose motto is 'A quaint little drinking town... with a little fishing problem.' After dinner that evening, as we were walking back to our motel, there was a woman coming out of a bar. She started talking to us, but we literally couldn't understand a single word she said. We thought she was extremely drunk and just avoided her and kept walking.
The next morning, we went to breakfast at a little diner. As we walked up, a woman was out front scattering bread crumbs on the sidewalk saying she was luring in the customers. That was just the beginning of the funniest breakfast I've ever had. The woman was our 'waitress' and I really knew we were in for a show when I ordered. I asked for what was listed on the menu as 'Connie's Favorite'. I asked her if she was Connie. 'No, I'm the fruit of her loins.' Her name was Stephanie and she was up from Florida for the summer 'keeping an eye on her inheritance' as the place was owned by her parents. She 'had 25 days left' and she 'only started counting with 99 days to go'. Mom wasn't there while we were, but her dad was working the grill and her brother was also in the kitchen which was just over the small counter from where we were sitting. All three of them played their part in our morning entertainment and they gave a constant running commentary on their town and the crazy locals who live there.
We found out from them that the woman we had met the night before was Margaret and that she really is crazy. But, surprisingly, it took a fair amount of describing before they could narrow in on exactly which local we'd met! We were wrong to assume she was drunk. 'She's a schizophrenic who's like that when she's off her meds.' Margaret also has a brother who won a $12 million lottery jackpot and never managed to get out of Geneva. 'Son, you've got $12M, but you're still picking up the same women you used to get with a welfare check. What the hell are you doin'?' Apparently, he also wrecked an expensive car and responded by buying two more of the same model to replace it. Which would be OK, but he doesn't have a valid driver's license. The local police, who all know him, keep pulling him over. So he's also spent a fair amount of time in jail.
The cafe staff certainly weren't afraid to give as good as they got from their customers. We were 'threatened' more than once with being chopped up and becoming part of the breakfast hash. 'Who would miss a couple of cyclists?' The restaurant motto was 'Eat. Pay. Leave.' which Stephanie printed in big black letters on the back of each bill. And all of this was only the part that I'm willing to put in print... believe me, there was lots more! John and I both agreed that we'd never laughed so much at breakfast. Oh, and the food was pretty good, too!
After Geneva-on-the-Lake, we spent a day cycling across the bit of Pennsylvania that borders Lake Erie and then into New York. Just before arriving in Buffalo, we found a small museum called the Pedaling History Bicycle Museum in Orchard Park. This place was fascinating as they had bicycles from the 1870's up to present day. There were lots of bikes with names like 'boneshaker' and 'high wheel'. There were bikes built for two, three, four and even five. There were tandems where the riders sat side-by-side. There was a bike from the 1890's still in its original shipping crate. There were Schwinns from the 1950's, bikes made by Harley-Davidson, a futuristic 'Spacelander', and on, and on, and on.
After an evening drinking beer and eating wings in Buffalo (what else are you going to do in Buffalo?), we crossed the Peace Bridge into Canada and rode along the banks of the Niagara River. From miles away, you could see mist rising from Niagara Falls like a plume of smoke from a fire. While it's hard not to let the rampant commercialism around the falls get to you, the falls themselves are spectacular. I can't imagine what it would have been like for someone 400 years ago to stumble upon this amazing display of nature and see the force of 4,000,000 cubic feet of water tumbling over a 200 foot cliff every minute.
After crossing back into the US, we joined the Erie Canal in Lockport, NY. Riding along the canal towpath was the antithesis of riding by Niagara Falls. The water flows slowly. There is little traffic on the canal or on the towpath. And the route is pancake flat, passing through small villages every 10-15 miles. It made for serene, easy riding.