Posted on 9/19/02
August 4, 2002
Detroit, MI, USA to Truck Stop 56, Canada
Movin’ on is never easy. This morning we woke up with no clue as to how we would get across the Ambassador Bridge and into Canada. We lay in bed and looked for a company or person with a truck that would move us. When we mentioned Valette, who had said that she would take us in her van Dobson House owner, Cary said that she didn’t think it would work. Valette has health problems including Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and would have a tough time taking the seats out of the van. I volunteered to take them out but Cary reminded us that when she got back from dropping us she would have to put them back in.
Breakfast was a treat, the specialty of the house, Eggs Sardu, a New Orleans recipe sort of like Eggs Benedict for vegetarians. (Look for the recipe at “Cookin’ with Cat”) Daniel, Cary’s 7 year old son was home. They both sat and talked with us, while we ate. He has an egg collection. Lots of glass, Paper Mache and tumbled rocks. Proud, he brought many of them to the table like show and tell. Cary told us that when Daniel was two years old he asked if he could have an egg. She told him he would have to be careful or it would break. He carried it around for days, carefully cradled in his hands. Of course it eventually met the Humpty Dumpty fate so they began finding harder to break look alikes. He is a bright young guy. Life has to be interesting, living in a B&B.
(Movie: International Freight 0:36)
Cary told us that Valette had read our web-site. She was so excited about it that she called at 10:30 last night to tell her about it. Cary thought that Valette wanted to take us across into Canada. When she called her it was a deal. She came over and as part of the payment Cary made breakfast for her while we got the bags and bikes into her van.
(Movie: Goodbye Dobson House 0:36)
All this took time. It was 11:00 AM by the time we took pictures and played around with Daniel. We waved a final goodbye and Valette wheeled the van down to the Ambassador Bridge. Crossing was virtually a formality that included paying $2.75 Canadian to a nice young guy who was curious about the bikes and bags. Next we moved ahead and into another gate with the arm down. This was Canadian Immigration. A cute young blonde girl asked where we were from. When we told her California Valette said, “Yea, and can you believe that they rode their bicycles from there?”
Too bad the camera ran out of battery, the girl had lots of questions, most of which had nothing to do with immigration. She was pretty curious about our Odyssey and Valette supplied a lot of the answers. She had read a lot of WorldRiders2.
We weren’t asked to show any ID much less our Passports. It was so informal, we were surprised. Valette told us that going into Canada was easy, since last September 11 it was really tough when you’re coming back into the States.
(Movie: Border Patrol 0:18)
Well, the rubber was off the road so we took advantage of Valette’s knowledge of the place for a couple more miles. She took us to the tourism office then to Scotiabank where we got Canadian money from the ATM. The exchange rate is $1.52 Canadian for each $1.00 US. Valette says that we will find food and lots of other things pretty cheap due to Take the EH train” because they say it so often. Then he would say, the National Anthem for the US should be “Take the HUH train.” We loaded up, talked to lots of other people and finally rolled out onto the street by 1:00 PM.
(Movie: It's Official 1:37)
It was a back track to the road, old HWY 46 or North Talbot Road. We had been in a Rubber off the Road mode for about 5 miles. That makes a total of 58 ½ miles that have gotten away from us since we started back on April 12 in Oxnard. Well we have cycled the rest of the way, over 3,000 miles, now.
Hunger and thirst brought us to a service station. We bought cold water and Gatorade. The clerk was from Korea, originally. He was very curious and kept saying, “You’re kidding, right, you didn’t really ride all the way from California, right?” For food he recommended a coffee shop next door. Cat checked the menu and felt they had sandwiches that we wouldn’t like. We chose to ride across the street only to find that the Road Kill Café was closed. Back across we went, only to find that the girl hadn’t understood Cat’s question. Yes, she did have a turkey sandwich it just wasn’t advertised on the menu.
The sandwich was on good bread cut thick. We enjoyed a conversation with a guy, gal and young man. They asked a lot of questions and enjoyed us. We asked where they were from. They were locals from right here in Windsor.
Time flew, it was now 2:00 PM and hotter than Hades. The guy in the Mini Mart had shown us a map and told us exactly how to get to North Talbot. Once we turned the corner, it was flat with a slight tail wind. The tail wind was blowing about 8 miles per hour. We had to get to 10-12 MPH to get a breeze in our faces. When we stopped or slowed it was hot beyond belief.
It was 40 kilometers to Comer. We had seen an ad for This Old House B&B. It was a wonderful looking brick on the corner. Our call had gone unanswered and now we found no one at home. The service station guy across the street said they had just left an hour ago. Tomorrow is a Civic Holiday in Canada and they may have decided not to have guests today? Cat walked around the house. There was a pool in the back yard that looked like everyone had been swimming then just left?
Tired and thirsty, we stopped at another Mini Mart. The guy was very funny. When Cat told him where we were going he said, “No Shit!” Then he kept saying “Jesus, you gotta be kiddin’”
Onward, we had called a B&B in Tilsbury again to an answering machine. There was a motel there. I called and the lady said they had a room and it would be $55.00. Simple math told us that it would only be about $35.00 US. It was a truck stop and they had a restaurant that served wine. We pressed on waiting for a call from Katherine’s B&B that wouldn’t come. As we rolled into Tilsbury we took a side street that we were told would lead to the B&B. Once we got a few blocks away from Main Street we gave up because we would have to walk back for dinner.
In fact, all of the stores and restaurants, and there weren’t that many, were closed. Our fate was sealed, we would spend the night at Truck Stop 56, the Cedar Inn. We were at 60 KM and had to back track to 56. We started the day and ended it by backtracking.
The lady was really nice. She is Middle Eastern but had lived in England so had a wonderful accent. The room was adequate but she noted that the bathroom hadn’t been cleaned. She and her teenaged son knocked it out in no time.
Cat went down and had a glass of wine. I unpacked the computers and started charging batteries. I joined her and had a bottle of cold water. Betty, the cook and server, told us she would put the drinks on our dinner bill. Dinner was pretty good, I had the special Lasagna and Cat had Turkey Dinner. She said it was like going to Thanksgiving at a church dinner. The best part of the evening was Betty. She is tiny, short and thin but full of energy and questions. She lives in Comber and works to have something to do. She does a great job.
August 5, 2002
Truck Stop 56, Canada to Rodney, Canada
The wind was wafting the flags around at Truck Stop 56 as we went to the restaurant for breakfast. Betty wasn’t there. The nice young girl who served us wasn’t as personable or curious. There was a driver who had his young daughter with him who struck up a conversation. He does long haul work and was out for a couple of days so she came along, a break for her and for Mom, too. She is probably 6 or 7 years old and quite talkative.
An older guy seated alone got into the conversation then dominated it. He had played hockey as a young man and went to Los Angeles in 1949 to join a fledgling team. He made more money picking oranges than playing hockey while he was there. The team failed so back to Canada for him. Said he met Admiral Bull Halsey there, in a bar?
Don’t get me wrong, he was a nice guy just full of stories and needing a place to tell them. By the time we were ready to leave we had a pretty good idea of all his jobs during the years. He was a little sensitive about how the rich get things for free. He had read about how The Kennedy’s would call Aspen and arrange with friends or Corporate supporters to have a place, no a palace to stay in when they skied, and pay nothing for it. I reminded him of a saying that the Admiral knew well, “Rank has its privileges.”
One thing he did set us straight on was our miss conception of distance. Somehow I had calculated about 60 miles to Hamilton and we were targeting it. He said, “No sir, Hamilton is 130 kilometers, that’s about 82 miles.” Back in the room, I checked the map and sure enough, he was right. We had to change our target to a small place called Dutton.
The sky was dark, ominous looking, as we rode back into Tilsbury. We were having a hard time deciding which road to take so we polled a group at the service station. There was no clear consensus there either. I had just seen a hand made poster on a street light in Detroit that said the best way to hide truth is through consensus. The station owner said, “You may be in for some weather today by the looks of things.”
As if on cue, big drops began to spatter down on the pavement. We chose Hwy 2 and rode off in the gathering wind and rain. The wind would be blowing the rain into our faces, of course.
Once our cloths were fairly wet the rain diminished to a drizzle then a mist and then stopped. In fact the sun came out and we were dry by the time we reached Chatham, 33 kilometers up Hwy 2. We stopped for early lunch, fearing that we would see little food or other services along the way.
We parked next to a three wheeler at the side of the building. A very old guy was positioned in a seat so that he could keep an eye on it. The place was a bakery. We had soup and sandwich. The very old guy seemed to just stare at his bike and into space. I said hello to him as I passed but he gave no response, just continued to stare.
Cat made a call on the cell phone seeking a B&B in Niagara. The couple at the next table had a suggestion then asked where we were going. Jack and Marilyn Tucky were curious about our trip but sprinkled stories of their travels amongst the queries. Jacks comments did help us make the decision to ride country roads then slip down to Hwy 3 later.
As we drifted down from Chatham and across the Expressway 401 we found a Tourist Office in a yellow railroad car that was open. As we pulled in the girl came out and locked the door. She was just taking a toilet break so we took a pie break at the same restaurant she was headed for. When we returned she wasn’t very helpful. She knew exactly what was in the guide and it showed nothing in Dutton. She said that all B&Bs were in the guide. Her car, parked outside, had a sign advertising a B&B in nearby Ridgetown. When Cat tried to find it in the guide she couldn’t. The girl was a little dismayed that we doubted her and said, “Some people don’t put their B&Bs in the guide because then the Government knows about them and they have to pay taxes. We asked for a phone book of Dutton but it was in a different county. Frustrated, we rode on into the unknown.
It was real country. Cat was disappointed that we were still in corn and soy bean fields. We did have a flock of small birds fly up off the telephone wire and circle, split into two flocks then merge again and land just ahead of us on the wire, again. This phenomenon continued as we past their roosts, three more times then they got tired of the game and flew south.
The corn wasn’t as high as an elephant’s eye but it was filled with ears sprouting silk. We decided it was the same corn and same soy beans just a different middle of no where.
We had called a place, The Mac Intyre Hotel, in Dutton, seeking a room. He said that the Tourist Guide was a little deceiving, they were actually just a bar. He did tell us that there were two B&Bs in Dutton. He was busy cleaning the bar and wanted to get out of the place as it was a holiday. He knew we would find them in the phone book. Yes, it is a holiday, Civic Day? A day for merchants to relax. It would cause some anxiety for us.
The road took some strange turns and would dead end only to resume a half mile away. There were no signs, we just had to play it by ear. At one such spot Cat stopped and called out to a woman who was curry combing here calf. She and her husband stopped their tasks and came to the driveway. They did confirm that the next left was the correct road. Cat asked about B&Bs in Dutton. They knew nothing about any their but did tell us about one fairly close by, a farmhouse in the countryside. We told them that we would prefer something in town so we could get dinner. He said there was one in Rodney, he thought.
They are Tom and Ruth Rudowsky, a genuine country couple. They have a couple of horses, several calves and two donkeys. In fact he had a signs advertising several things including German Shepard pups in the yard. (Later we would be told of one that had said, stop in and see my wife’s little brown ass, her donkey, of course.)
Tom said, “If you want, you can stay in our trailer. It is parked around back and we’re not using it.”
Ruth chimed in, “It’s clean and you could wash up in the house.”
We really thought about it but decided to ride a few more miles. The Farmhouse B&B slipped by and we thought about it but wanted to make Dutton if possible. About a mile further a red pickup cruised by and stopped ahead of us. It was Tom, he had remembered the name of the B&B in Rodney, The Lions Gate.
Rodney is another one street Main Street town. We knew that we were finished for today if we could get a room here. A call to Lions Gate confirmed our stay. We located an LCBO (Liquor Store) and stopped for a bottle of wine. In a quandary, we found a local and French. The clerks were really nice, allowed Cat the use of their toilette and told us that it was about a mile out of town to Lions Gate. There is no restaurant near so they suggested that we eat at Patsy’s Diner before we go to the B&B. It was only 5:30, too early to eat and we wanted a shower. One of the ladies, Gwen suggested that we go to Patsy’s, order and she would bring it out to us. She lives near Lions Gate and gets off work at a little after 6:00. What a kind gesture. This is another example of small town thinking. It seems like everyone tries to help.
Lions Gate is fairly new construction. It has a Castle look and sets down a long drive off the road. The Inn Keepers, Dave and Pam met us and seemed excited to have us with them. Within moments we were like family. The house was designed by their Daughter. Dave and his brother built it from the ground up. They are rightfully proud of it.
(Movie: Into the Inn 0:42)
There are stained glass windows on each side of the entry. One has Sir George, the other Lady Catherine below the figures on them. As Pam gave us the tour she explained that her name is Catherine Pam and his is George David. Their families have always called them by their middle names. She is as proud of the furnishings as Dave is of the construction.
(Movie: Tour of Lions Gate 0:50)
Gwen delivered while Cat was in the shower. We set the food aside to be micro waved later. Pam is in the midst of preparing for 12 guests, her maximum. They are coming for school reunion. She is also preparing for skits. She is going to be a cheerleader and she will wear a fifties poodle skirt. He’ll be in Levis and tee shirt. It brought back memories to me but I’m sure they are more a product of the sixties.
We nuked and began eating our Patsy’s dinner with LCBO wine. Dave has a little gravely voice. He has had throat cancer. They looked into each others eyes when she told us they had almost lost him. She is a nurse and has done Med Legal exams for rape and abuse victims like our friend Aura in San Francisco. She is now a grief counselor and Hospice worker. Both she and Dave are locals. They have lived their lives here and seem to love the place and each other, a lot.
Dave entertained us with stories while Pam went across the street to be fitted for her cheer leading costume. She returned with friend and seamstress Louise. They went down stairs then came up and sat with us while we ate. When Pam told her about us Louise wanted to come meet us. She is outgoing and our first meeting with a French Canadian. We love the sound of her English speaking voice with French accent. She took on the Village Council on an issue and wasn’t satisfied so she ran for, was elected and served 3 terms as Council Person. She and Dave have a friendly banter going most of the time. He said, “If she says black I argue white, etc, etc.”
Louise stayed, the five of us talked and laughed until almost 11:00 PM. Great fun!
August 6, 2002
Rodney, Canada to Alymer, Canada
After a great sleep we were treated to a terrific breakfast cooked and served by the home team, Dave and Pam. They laugh so easily and seem to enjoy their roles as Inn Keepers. This is a dream come true for them. She still does some “on call” work but he retired after 35 years with Ford Motor Company. He, too, does some consulting work and told us that Ford has a factory nearby that employs 35, 000 workers.
After some fun video shots, we were off, another late start but worth the time spent with Pam and Dave. She was headed for a hair appointment or we may have never gotten away.
Dave helped us decide to stay on the small back road until it ends. We stopped for Gatorade, I stayed with the bikes. A little old lady with a thick accent wanted to know where we were going. I told her then asked where she was from. She became less interested in talking but did tell us she was from Russia.
There was virtually no traffic and the weather and country scenes were beautiful. Sun, birds singing, crops getting tall and green and cattle in the fields. The late start and fear that it could be a long way to the next food had us seated in the Tea Room in Dutton by 12:00 noon. There were 2 sisters with their Mom. They were inquisitive, she was docile. They laughed, talked with us and a gal in shorts who came in and sat next to them. Mom said little or nothing and stared off into the distance. Was she just quiet or doomed to a life without memory?
As we were leaving they gathered around and asked about our adventure. The gal in shorts said “Well you’re probably glad to be getting out of boring Dutton.”
I said, “I didn’t know that the town had two names?”
She looked perplexed and asked what I meant. I played with her about Boring and Dutton. She smiled and told us that it is a quiet, at times boring little town. We are really finding small town folks to be kind and generous. Out on the street one of the sisters offered to help us find our route. We already knew we were just going back out the way we came in so we could only thank her. The gal in shorts walked by and as I said goodbye she shouted out “My daughter traveled all over Europe, she back packed.”
Rounding a small corner, I dropped off the edge of the pavement and Cat followed. We were rolling about 20 KmPH and both rode out the bumps and rocks without falling. Once stopped we laughed yet at the same time worried about what might have been and what affect the bumps would have on our bikes.
By 3:30 we were in St. Thomas at a Nut Store, licking ice cream cones. The clerks told us we could go either direction at the fork in the road out front. They suggested the by-pass until they realized that we were on bikes. Then they cautioned us that it was shift change at the Ford Factory Dave where Dave used to work.
They were right, it was treacherous riding. We were falling short of our goal again today, too. The road had been bumpy with lots of small hills. We had set off hoping to get to Tillsonburg, about 95 kilometers. By the time we rode up the big hill into Aylmer we knew that we were done for the day.
Aylmer is picturesque. The Main Street speaks of a different time. I went into the Coldwell Banker real estate office and talked with agent, Herbert Hildebrandt about a place to stay. He was not very helpful but he was correct. There was only one small motel and we soon found that it was fully booked due to the Fair. By the way, they pronounce Aylmer like Elmer. (It reminded me of our pal Elmer “Ole” Olson.)
Another attempt in a restaurant drew a blank, too. The blond gal there was from Germany. She told us that they were the only real restaurant in town and they close at 6:00 PM unless we make a reservation. While I talked with her Cat went across the street to ask about a B&B at a Pizza place. When I joined her she was on the phone and had found that Selma’s Cabins were also full but the woman there had a house and would rent a room there.
In an unusual move, Cat struck off toward the house while I went looking for the LCBO and a bottle of their French wine. I discovered that Aylmer is another Mennonite community. There was a horse and buggy parked behind the grocery store. In fact they had 6 parking stalls reserved for horse and buggy. Besides the size of the spaces you could tell by the amount of spent fuel in the form of piles of Horse dung left in the spots.
Following Cat’s directions, I rode back down the way we had come into town then off to the left. Thinking I may have gone too far, I stopped and asked a couple of guys who were raking a driveway. They shrugged when I asked about Selma’s Cabins. When I asked a direct question one answered with a very familiar sounding accent. They were from Jamaica, imported farm workers. I could have stayed and listened to their voices all day but had to press on. They thought that I had passed the place so I backtracked. It was definitely a backtracking kind of day. Approaching the Highway I flagged down a bus. He set me straight, I had to go back and beyond the Jamaican guys another 2 Km.
I flew down the hill past the driveway and was glad that they weren’t there. I didn’t want to embarrass them then as I climbed the other side I wished that they had been there so they wouldn’t send the next cyclist on a wild goose chase.
Cat was standing in front of a house on the corner as I rolled to a stop sign. It was called Stonehaven, a completely furnished 3 bedroom 2 bath home and we would have it all to ourselves. It was stone on the exterior and the interior was very cabin cute. It is 1 ½ Km further down the road to Selma’s Cabins. The reason Cat had to hurry was that the owner, Brenda, had to take her two teenaged twin daughters to soccer practice.
The floors were hand hewn hardwood. The place had been built by Brenda’s Grandfather. She would normally rent it to a family but because we were in dire straights she let us have one of the bedrooms. The bath was another treat. A claw foot tub in a room where the ceiling sloped so quickly we couldn’t stand in the tub. A hot bath really felt good.
Since the place had a full kitchen we could have cooked some of the meager supplies we had on board but they didn’t sound interesting and Cat had promised the girl at the Pizza place that we would be back. We took a cab back into town. The fare was less than a ride around the block in Detroit and the lady driver was really nice.
Peter’s Pizza has been in business for over 40 years. That is according to Mario the Pizza Maker. We called him Peter and he corrected us, Peter Geraci is his Father. He and the nice gal that helped us find Stonehaven are brother and sister. Her name is Toni Stafford, she married out side the Sicilian lineage but then so did Mario. Their parents now live in Sicily most of the year and they take turns visiting them. When Toni heard that we were from California she said, “We go to California almost every year, to Camarillo, California because we have two uncles and a cousin who have restaurants there.
(Movie: Peter's Pizza and Oxnard 1:15)
What a small world. One of their Uncles and Aunts is Ottavio and Noella Belvedere. They own Ottavio’s Restaurant in Camarillo. I helped them buy houses for both of their sons. We also know of Armando’s and Little Tony’s Restaurants in Oxnard. We now had a whole new familia, in Aylmer. The food was great and what fun we had.
(Movie: Rollin' Dough 0:48) The Weather Woman from nearby London TV drove up and parked her pickup truck across the street. Most of the guys in the place ran to the window and drooled, as much over the pickup truck as her. She was a tiny tight body with big boobs and the truck was a hot new Ford F150 custom cab, black with black leather.
(Movie: Il Puppets 0:32)
It was hard to drag ourselves away. They stay open until midnight and they wanted us to stick around. We would have been sleeping in a booth before long so we called our friendly lady cab driver.
August 7, 2002
Alymer, Canada to Simcoe, Canada
We rode the 1 ½ Km to Selma’s Cabins to pay for the night and have our included breakfast. What a wonderful place it is. The main part of the building was constructed in 1934. It is of log and rough timbers. Surrounded by woods and ponds, it is serene and feels artsy. We met Paul for just an instant. He comes in and bakes fresh bread every morning then tends to repairs and construction needs of the old buildings. Brenda oversees the main operation. They have a gift shop, pottery studio and restaurant that will serve lunch to more than 200 on normal days.
(Movie: Brenda's Tour 1:07)
Brenda told us that the guests in the Cabin, three women, called her at midnight and told her they couldn’t stay. They asked her to come and help them to their car. The reason they were leaving was that it was too dark. They were afraid of the dark. When Brenda arrived at the cabin she saw their car parked directly in front. They were afraid to even take the few steps to the car, alone. City girls, we all assumed. They asked her if that had ever happened before and she said she had to answer them truthfully, “NEVER!”
Breakfast was a delight. We pushed off in the midst of well wishes and headed down another unexplored route, for us. When we came to a four way stop we were lost at which direction to take. A car pulled up so we asked. They pulled over out of the way of a huge harvesting machine coming down the road then got out of the car and told us the best route. They were astounded by our story and we were interested in theirs. They were Mother and Son, Tobacco Farmers from just down the road. They talked little about their operation and we said nothing about our disdain for Tobacco and what it does to people’s health. They were really very nice folks.
After we took a picture and got our direction straightened out the Father walked up, he thought they had been having car problems. He too was a very nice guy. I think they have been here for several generations. What a difference a generation makes. They were and still are hard working farmers but their crop has become the target of huge lawsuits and is now thought of as a very addictive drug. For Glen, his Mother Mary and Dad, Andre Debrabandere it is just a crop.
(Movie: Tobacco in Canada?? 0:21)
We hadn’t gone more than 2 Km when Cat had the urge to go. There was no place in sight and I urged her to hold on until the next little town, about 10 Km away. She began to become insistent that she had to stop. She has been stopped up for several days and when she said she had to stop, NOW, I knew she meant, now! With no trees or bushes in sight she went down a small embankment and squatted. I kept the lookout. She started to stand up and I yelled, “Keep your tail down there’s a car and truck coming.” Boy did we get a laugh about that. (Sorry , photo not available.)
Onward, over hill and dale. We had planned on getting as close as possible to Niagara Falls as possible today but were beginning to grind down. The road was hilly and the heat was a factor, too. In Delhi (locals pronounce it Del High) we stopped for Gatorade and ran into Ben Swindall. He offered to drive back to the Tourist Info Center and get information on the next little towns we would pass through. As we waited Cat began to talk with a boy who told her that he knew all about bikes and worked on them. He was cute as a button so I took a video. He sort of clammed up as the camera rolled but he was still a good interview. He reminded us of Grandson Patrick back in Camarillo, California.
(Movie: Bobby Fixes Bikes 0:29)
While Cat talked with the boy I approached the driver of a
Puralator truck pulled into the parking lot. I asked if they were a water purification or Parcel Delivery Company. The driver, Jim Ward, filled out the form and was going to take the package when he decided to call the manager to get the cost. I was mailing the finished CD of Sioux Falls to Detroit to Wally our Web Manager. The bad news, he should have filled out a commercial form as the package was going out of the Country. He also warned me that the package may be examined, even opened and the CD checked for content. Boy, the USA is pretty paranoid these days. Jim told me that he didn’t have the form but got the address of Norfolk Office Supply in Simcoe. They are the Puralator retailer there.
Ben drove back in with a hand full of brochures. We thanked him then rolled on, deciding to call it a day in Simcoe just 20 Km down Highway 3. The surface of the road is rough with those pesky weathering cracks that shake your teeth as you hit them, one after another.
We talked about finding a B&B, they are a real bargain here and we like the person to person connections we find there. As we rolled into Simcoe we made a quick decision to get a room at the Best Western Motel. It was after 5:00 PM and the Office Supply would close at 5:30. The next decision was one we rarely make. Cat would check us in to the Motel while I rushed to the Office Supply.
I wanted to get there and get back to the room because I had another broken spoke, probably from our double jump off the pavement yesterday. My bike has so much weight that even the bone jarring cracks in the road may be the culprit.
As the lady accepted the package for mailing a guy with his young daughter asked how far I was riding. He liked the story and told me he owned the Bike Shop next door. I told him about my broken spoke and he said, “Come over when you’re finished here, I’ll get one of the guys on it for you.”
The shop is called Independent Bikes & Boards. Todd Jackson is the owner and the shop is in the basement of a sporting goods store. Tim, the tech who would change the spoke came up and tested the weight of the bike. Of course we had to take the rear bags off just to get it down the stairs. As usual, in bike shops, I was a novelty but it turns out that Tim is an anomaly of a different bike. He has just landed a spot on a Bicycle Racing Team. He won a race in Montana last week and was picked up by the team. He is a bright young guy who has also just completed University and has received his credential to teach. He will report to a Team Camp next week in Scottsdale, Arizona. Most of the racing will be Mountain Bike but he is also going to train for road racing, too. He said, “I really want to make it in racing but if it doesn’t work out, I can always come home and teach!”
While I was re-loading the bags Cat called on our cell phones. The connection was bad. She was looking for me. I tried to give her directions then asked her to wait at the intersection of Highway 3 and Norfolk. She got the point across that the motel didn’t have rooms so we were staying at a B&B. She was way up the hill, above Norfolk Street. I told her to go back to the bottom of the hill and wait there. She was having a problem with that because the road is a Highway number and there is no street name shown.
This was the nightmare we must avoid. When we get separated it is really difficult. Our phones are only good in to Quebec. What will we do in Europe and Africa?
I loaded up and pedaled hard back to the intersection. There she was, looking worried, and forlorn, standing at the curbside. We were both happy to get back together and promised not to split up again without a specific meeting place. Our original place was cancelled because Best Western was sold out for the night. They called around to the other Motels but all were in the same, sold out, condition. Cat asked them to call a B&B on the list that Ben had gotten for us. Viola, we were staying at the Country Doll House tonight. The bad news, it is 4 Km out of town.
We rode based upon the directions the lady had given Cat and were finally there at 6:00 PM. The couple, Jim and Marg Robillard were excited to see us. They had just sent 12 travelers down the road this morning and when they got Cat’s call they were relaxing. They hadn’t even gotten all of the rooms ready because they didn’t have any guests booked for the evening. We would have them and the house to ourselves.
Jim pulled the car out of the garage and we parked the bikes inside. Marg helped carry bags up stairs while Jim took care of Granddaughter Megan. The house is old and the work they have completed makes it a showplace. The Doll House? Well, Marg has been collecting dolls for years and they are sitting, standing or lying around, everywhere.
Jim told us that the house was Marg’s deal. He is retired but does work on the house and has recently taken a part time job driving truck. He retired as a Technical Manager of an electronics firm. He likes the driving because it pays and it gives him something to do. He also does volunteer work teaching electrical safety to children. They know how to keep busy.
Megan was shy and didn’t talk much with us. Jim washed her at the laundry sink in the utility hall and they went to lie down. He has to get up at midnight to take a run on the truck. Marg volunteered to drive us into town, she even gave us three choices of restaurants that they recommend. We chose The Authentic Barrel Pizza & Pasta. It was just a great place for us. The owner, Tom Daikos is Greek, our server, Shu is Chinese, all in an Italian Restaurant.
Shu is a treat, she was just married yesterday. When we asked why they weren’t on a honeymoon she laughed and told us they had been together for several years. We told her that we could relate to that. “We are planning on a trip somewhere, someday,” she said.
Tom sat with us and told us about his life. He came here to Canada from Greece to complete studies for his degree in Electronics. As he studied he thought about a restaurant so he called his brother and convinced him to come to Canada. They thought about a Greek Restaurant but felt that Simcoe was too small for it. He said, “Italian is more popular here and everyone knows that Greeks cook better Italian than Italians do!”
Marg had demanded that we call her when we finished. She had to stay up until midnight to get Jim up and out before she would lay down. What nice people.
August 8, 2002
Simcoe to Niagara
Marg out did herself with the breakfast. She is so proud of the house, the work they have completed on it and her care for guests. Somehow she presented what she called cheese omelets. They were puffy, round and two inches thick. Cat says that she actually bakes them. I’ll leave the technical stuff on cooking for a segment of “Cookin’ With Cat.” Megan lay on the couch in the adjacent room and watched TV or snoozed as we ate. Marg would slip in, check on her then announce with Grandparental pride that she was so cute and she was sleeping.
It was 9:30 by the time we took a picture in front of the house then rolled off down the country lane. It must have been a 12 Km ride before we finally turned south and re-united with busy Highway 3. The road was its typical rough ride and little or no shoulder to ride on. Without stopping we pushed 32 Km into Cayuga and up to the door of a little Tourist Info Office. Katie, the young girl attending the shop was very helpful. She made a couple of calls to get info on Niagara Falls. Thanks to her we did get the telephone number for Niagara Tourist Info.
We wanted a Tim Horton but the only sweets in Cayuga were across the street at a Mini Mart. I had a donut and we loaded up on Gatorade. Katie assured us that we would find a restaurant about 15 Km ahead in Canborough so we pressed onward.
There was no town at Canborough only an intersection. We were to take a small road, Highway 63, across to Highway 20 from there. It was confusing. We chose to go right and traveled about 2 Km before deciding to ask for directions a t a farm house. I went to the porch and knocked, Cat stayed on her bike in the driveway. It took 3 pretty loud knockings before I finally got a lady to come to the door. She stood inside the glass storm door as I posed the question, whether we were on Highway 63 or not.
“You have to go back to the intersection and take the left turn then when the road forks you should turn to the right. That is Highway 63.” She glanced out and saw Cat then became a little less fearful of my visit to her door. I held out our card and she reached out through the space as she cautiously held the storm door open an inch or two. As I walked down the stairs she stepped out onto the porch and asked, “Why are you doing that, going around the world? Do you have children? Don’t you miss them and your home?”
I did my best to answer but it is tough if the one asking can’t grasp the why. Finally, as we mounted back up she called out, “Good luck to you and be careful.”
Back to the fork, we laughed at Yogi Berra’s quote, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it. Turning the corner we found only more country side, no sign of a town. We followed the cautious ladies directions and took the next fork to the right. Still no town but there was a grain elevator with a gift store out front. The place was called Minor Bros. Feed and Bakery. The gal seated behind the counter looked out of place. She had big hair, reddish big hair. She answered the phone and took care of the gift store.
Once Mary got over the scope of our Odyssey she told us that yes, there was a nice little restaurant and we could get to it by just continuing on through the Feed and Bakery driveway.
The drive was gravel and there were trucks pulling in, unloading grain or picking up flour. Out the circle drive and across Highway 63 was a small café in what looked like a trailer. The sign said, “Way More Café, Way More and Way better.” The food was all fried. I chose chicken and cheese, it was like a foot long bun with globs of cheese and pieces of deep fried chicken. Cat ate a couple of bites. When I went back for a second soft drink I said, “You get Way More and its Way Better and you Weigh More when you’re finished, too.” She laughed and we chatted about life in a small town and our trip into the big world.
I used the cell phone to call Niagara Tourist Info and talked with Natalie. She gave me the number for the area Hotel Booking Office. I called it and waited impatiently on hold for about 5 minutes as the battery drained. Back to Natalie, she was understanding and agreed to call a few Hotels then call us back with possible rooms available.
We rode on and when we hadn’t heard from her for 20 minutes I called her back. She told me that the Hilton had a really good deal, $559.00 for a room with view of the falls. That sounded pretty expensive. When I asked if that was typical for a night at the falls she said, “That’s for both nights and it includes dinner one night and breakfast both days.”
“Is that US or Canadian dollars,” I asked.
“No, no, that’s Canadian, I asked Eva and she verified, Canadian and a really good deal.”
It was a good deal, I called Eva and gave her our credit card number then we plowed onward in the thickening traffic on the shoulder less road. Lundy Street led us directly into town. Asking just once, we turned the corner and there was the Hilton. It is at least 30 stories tall.
We rolled the bikes right into the lobby and I checked us in. The desk clerk offered us an upgrade to a room with better view for only $40 per night additional. I took the deal, this is a once in a lifetime experience.
We took the bikes up 29 floors in the elevator. Spectacular, that is the only word I can think of to describe the moment when we pulled the drape back and stood speechless. No wonder they call this one of the 7 natural wonders of the world! The only disappointment was that a new high rise was under construction between us and the falls. We figured that that must be why they offer such a good deal. Several people had told us that it would be at least $400 a night for a view during high season.
It had been a hot, hard day’s ride. We soaked in the tub and soaked up a little wine then went on up to the restaurant at the top for our included dinner. Cat’s Caesar salad was the best, her duck wasn’t. Salmon for me and of course it was great. So was the view. To think, both were included in the cost of the room.
Back in our view platform #2906 we watched as day light faded and the lights began to show on the Falls. Red, White and Blue projected onto their faces. As tired as we were it was tough to pull ourselves away from the window and finally draw the drapes.
August 9, 2002
It was easy to lounge around the room and enjoy the look of millions of gallons of water flowing over the cliff, creating a misty cloud that rose up almost to our 29th floor vantage point. At first we sort of resented the construction, the big cranes and clutter between us and the falls. We put up with it knowing what a good deal we had. Now, it had become almost as interesting as the huge scene of moving water. Two of the cranes are level with or maybe even higher than our 29th floor room. It is amazing to see the monsters move at the will of just one person as it lifts and moves material to the site of construction.
(Movie: The Falls 0:30)
Mpeg 051 The Falls mpeg 052 Awesome Falls
019 Maid of the Mist 020 In the Mist
021 Over the Falls
Normally we shy completely away from tourist traps. This is, in many ways just that, yet there is a sense of huge importance that overcomes the crowds and glitz. As you walk the promenade the mist thickens and drives you back from the precipice and constant roar.
(Movie: Awesome Falls 0:23) We made a plan to take in as many of the various activities offered as possible in our short day here. The first adventure would be “Behind the Falls.”
You must line up to buy a ticket then wait, our delay would be 40 minutes, then fall into another line to take the plunge under. We patiently did our time in the ticket line then decided that we should run back to the room for the second battery. No sense not getting the best picture due to lack of power. It is probably a half mile walk from the falls to the Hilton. Cat waited while I did the 29 floors. As we walked back down she asked where the Camera was. Oh, God, I left it on the bed in the room. Now we were getting close to our appointed time. I hustled back up the hill and elevator and back. It was hot, humid and I dripped sweat. We made it but not without some
of the same kind of tension that we had left business behind to avoid.
The tour starts with the second line. We are herded forward then pressed into an elevator at maximum capacity. The operator is a young guy who made a joke but nobody laughed then he said, “Have a good visit,” and again received no attention.
Out the door and down a ramp, in line of course, and into a room with a maze of pipe to control admittance. This is where they pass out the yellow plastic slickers. Everyone puts them on immediately then stands and sweats, waiting for their turn to enter the tunnel. There is a constant roar, reminding us where we are and why we’re there.
(Movie: Dressed for the Falls 0:16)
Finally, our turn to enter the tunnel. It is cooler there but just as crowded. The line shuffles along then comes to a fork in the tunnel and dilemma. Nobody can decide whether to go right or left. There is a line jammed against the opposite wall, waiting to go back up. It’s close, confining and brings out a touch of claustrophobia in the toughest of us. And then there is that roar which now makes it hard to talk with each other. Finally our turn, we step to the opening and there it is, a thick curtain of blue white water and fine mist that drifts back and covers our yellow slickers. That is a moment then your tire of it. There is a fence lest any fool should attempt a running leap.
The next line is one passing all of the others lined up to get out of this damp concrete hallway filled with the crushing roaring sound. I think the tunnel to the right takes another line of humanity to the mid Portal. Once you finally get your turn at it, it feels much the same as the other. Yet, you know that you are directly under the weight of all those millions of gallons. I began to calculate, a pints a pound the world around, two pints on a quart, four quarts in a gallon. That, if the limerick is correct, would amount to eight million pounds per minute? Why worry, if the tunnel failed you wouldn’t have time for worry.
(Movie: Behind the Falls 0:27)
Backtrack to the first Portal, because the line has now completely filled that tunnel. All of that pack of humanity patiently waiting their turn to escape the damp and deafening. It seemed hours but probably only took 10 minutes and we were back in the hot humid air and sunshine. It felt good to be back on Terra Firma.
We walked that half mile back up the hill to a wood fired Pizza lunch then off to our next exciting adventure, the Imax feature, Niagara, what else? It is a smaltzy story of the Falls that begins with the mythical story of a Native American girl forced to marry an old man. She runs away and is seen over the centuries in and around the falls. Then they tell of a Father and two kids, brother and sister, who have engine trouble and eventually float down river to the falls. The girls escapes the current, the Father and brother go over the monster. Father is lost forever, at least I don’t remember mention of him again. The boy survives and the Indian Maiden is seen in the mist as they pull him to shore. Well, the photography is spectacular. I think I liked it a lot better than the tunnel. I could see a fire exit in the theatre at all times.
The film also tells of the many attempts at going over the falls in a barrel or home grown bathysphere of some sort. As you exit there is a display of some of the strange crafts that have made the plunge. One tells of the adventurer who survived the big fall successfully only to be caught in a whirl pool for 29 hours. Unfortunately he only had 7 hours air on board. Why would anybody want to do something like that? Hey, I guess we can relate, we hear that question too, about our Odyssey, from time to time.
Off we go, back down the hill and then down another elevator to the river below the Falls. There we make our appointed time with “The Maid of the Mist” for a ride up river and almost under the falls. The boat is packed to the max, of course. I feel a little reserved about the trip. Cat is a boat person so she loves it. We now don our blue plastic slickers and wait as the roar and mist thicken. It feels like you are going right into the thunderous cascade. The boat even felt like it was under the control of the current a time or two.
(Movie: Falls and Rainbow Bridge 0:24)
(Movie: Into the Falls 0:27)
(Movie: Rainbow on the Falls 0:24)
(Movie: St. Catherine 0:15)
(Movie: Blue Ghosts 0:42)
All of these are great experiences but I for one am glad we’re done. They are, in my opinion, a must do, once in your lifetime. No real reason to have to go through that a second time. To sit in the room or on the promenade and view the Falls, this I could do for long periods of time. However, being in the herd of people kind of got to me. Let’s hope that I’m not becoming reclusive from hours of
sitting on a bike seat in the countryside.
As we emerged into the bright sunshine Constable M. K. (Morris) Rumbolt of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stood nearby in his bright red jacket, uniform. We had to have a picture with him. I was once again reminded of my youth sitting in front of our radio, listening to Sgt. Preston of The Royal Canadian Mounties and his wonder dog, King.
(Movie: Cattle on the Water 0:17)
We walked to the Rainbow Bridge that connects Niagara Falls, Canada with Niagara Falls, New York then up Lundy Lane,
(Movie: Lundy Lane 0:16) the same street we rode in on. There are 3 or 4 blocks of the most typical tourist trap stuff between the bridge and the street we turned on to find the Hilton. You know, Hard Rock Café, Wax Museum, and Ripley’s Believe it or Not, etc.
(Movie: Last Chance 0:21)
We found a drug store on a side street and refilled toiletry needs then went back to our sanctuary above the Falls. Neither of us felt like going out so we ordered Chinese food in. It was great. Just the two of us, the construction swing shift workers and the Falls. It was tough but we forced ourselves to stay awake until 10:00 PM. The skies came alive with a Fire Works display that would do those Yanks and their 4th of July proud if this were the other side of the river.
(Movie: Above the Falls 0:23)
(Movie: Star Spangled Falls 0:51)
August 10, 2002
Niagara, Canada to Toronto, Canada
There was that 8 ½ X 11 paper, slipped under the door as we slept. When I picked it up we were shocked. The bill was more than $9,00 Canadian. I called the front desk and told the girl that we had been quoted $559. She said that they often quote in US Dollars when they know that the guest is from the US. That was impossible, of course, because they had never seen me when I booked on the phone. I decided to wait until 9:00 AM and try to talk with Natalie at the Tourist Info Center.
We didn’t let the sticker shock take from the joy of our final “included” breakfast and view of the Falls from the top floor. Bikes loaded, we slid down the elevator and I went to the desk to argue our story. I had an ace in the hole, I had talked with Natalie and she confirmed that she too had asked Eva if she was quoting Canadian Dollars. The girl was adamant at first then called Natalie then said that she would have to get the Manager to make a decision then suddenly agreed and charged us the $559 Canadian.
Whew, that was over $200 that we will need. We love to have a nice place when we take a day off. This was to be a great memory but the price and confusion could have soured it. Thanks to Natalie we had our room and a great deal, too.
The travel counter had informed us that we were riding 51 Km to Niagara on the Lake. We set off through city traffic down along the river. It soon became a quiet street then a bike path that came and went a few times but all in all a very nice ride. It was tempting and we had to draw from reserve strength to keep from stopping at the wineries in the Niagara Region.
It was HOT. Good to ride in the shade, when we could. Much of the trail close to Niagara on the Lake is through parks. People were barbequing, playing baseball or just laying under a tree. Nearing town we passed by the back of Historic Fort George then looped back toward the water. We made record time so we chose the beautiful Queens Landing Hotel for lunch.
When we walked through the bar and out onto the patio the tall young man seating people informed us that he only had seats without shade. I suggested that he seat us then move us to a shady seat when one is available. He sort of snapped back that he had only seats in the sun. Cat intervened and we were seated in the sun. I went to call the Boat to find where they dock. The girl asked me to call back. Cat had moved into the shade when I returned. She had just made the move when a table vacated. Andrew, the tall young guy didn’t seem too happy about the change but we had already had too much sun.
We began to try to decide whether to have wine with lunch or not. I called again and the girl gave me the bad news. The boat dock's at Queenston not Queens Landing. We would have to ride back about 15 Km. Too late, the wine was already resting on the table with cork out. We had a wonderful lunch, got to know the servers, both girls ride bicycles and were interested. Andrew came around, even apologized for being a bit impatient. Cat had a feeling that he may have judged us by the way we were dressed or smelled?
We found these words of wisdom on the wine list;
“At my very advanced age I find that it is good for the health to have wine daily. Therefore I consume one bottle everyday…except days when I don’t feel well, on which days I consume two bottles.”
- A Bishop of Seville
The wine was fine, the ride back up the hill brought home the fact that we should never, ever drink wine then ride. It was still hotter than hot. Of course we had to stop at a winery. They have a wonderful little wine region along the Niagara. Peller Estate drew us in. No, we didn’t taste but we did buy a bottle for a later time. There were a lot of bicycles flowing in and out. Kris, a tall good looking blonde stood at the entry handing out information and directing traffic. She was blown away by the load on our bikes then the map on Cat’s back. Sue, who manages the retail section and tours introduced us to Barbara. She organizes Niagara Bicycle Tours. It was fun being surrounded by cyclists who were in awe of our effort.
It was tough to roll back out into the sun and heat. Finally, Queenston
and the hill. We only had to climb back up a little then down, really down and
onto a coarse sandy, littered beach. I came upon a family who were camping for
the day. Their youngest son really wanted to know where we were going. The Dad
told me that they all cycle together. I have lost their names. Maybe they will
read this and send us and e-mail?
Our Boat, The Sea Flight, stood ready and Cat’s bike was on board. We had to undress them so the crew could carry and stow them on the aft deck. This little hour and a half ride was supposed to save us almost a day’s ride had we cycled back around the west shore of Lake Ontario. It was cool,
almost too cold in the cabin. The ship looked 20 or 30 years old. I found a plaque that said, “Built in 1996, in Russia.” That explained the look and the look of the crew. Three of them were from Russia. It was fun talking with them about my experience in the USSR in 1989. The youngest, bushy haired guy said, “You are talking of my former Country, now gone.”
The Sea Flight docks in the shadow of the Radisson Hotel. We had arranged a room so that we wouldn’t be wandering around the streets of Toronto. When we checked in the girl told us the bad news, they only had a regular bed. I complained, I had booked a king bed. The girl was so apologetic that she offered us a full breakfast for the two days we would be there and she would have us moved to an upgraded king room in the morning. We had little choice, it was dark and we were tired.
The room was pretty bad. The bed was short, my feet hung off the end. The furniture was worn and rough looking. We laughed and decided that this was just practice for the third world.
Dinner next door was okay but there was a festival on the next pier. We could see the show but the windows were closed so we couldn’t hear the music they were making. Fatigue ruled, we took a short walk over the bridge to the festival then back to our dungeon room and sleep. The room over looked the street. We thought the traffic would bother us but with lights out, we were out.