Thursday, July 5, 2007

Hamilton / Stoney Creek, Ontario

We are well, and continuing to make progress. We are in the town of Stoney Creek, which I think is part of the greater city of Hamilton, Ontario. We are currently at about mile 1865 of the UGRR route. Total miles biked so far: about 2055 miles.

Here's our update of the last few days:

Tuesday, July 3: We went from Fort Erie to the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. Total miles that day was about 41.... a lighter day than usual. This was a really fun route, as we biked the entire length of the Niagara River, from where it forms at Lake Erie (at Buffalo, NY / Fort Erie, ON), all the way to its mouth where it empties into Lake Ontario. All along the way, we could look across the river at the U.S., as the river forms the border along that section. The first part of the river is very quiet, but then the current quickens and clouds of mist appear in the distance..... Niagara Falls. Until that point, the roads and bike paths were almost empty, but at the Falls, the chaos and the crowds of tourists suddenly appeared, and we had to walk our bikes through the main viewing sections. Fun to see the falls again, took all the obligatory pictures. Then we continued on our way, eventually reaching Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) that afternoon.

NOTL is one of those towns that has huge numbers of historic buildings and homes, and has focused on preserving them. Very quaint, flowers everywhere, a very tourist-oriented downtown section, but nice. We stayed in a very nice bed & breakfast there, and had an enjoyable time talking with the hosts there and with the other guests. We also got some interesting education about the history of the town and the dubious role that the United States is seen having played in that region during the War of 1812. In that war, the U.S. was fighting the British, and Canada was of course still a colony of the British Empire then, so quite a bit of fighting occurred here. The U.S. captured the fort and the town and held it for some number of months, and then burned it as they left. Later, British/Canadian forces defeated the U.S. forces to keep them from seizing Ontario territory. Interesting reading all of this with the local flavor. It would be interesting to see how this is all treated at Fort Niagara, less than a mile away across the river on the U.S. side!

Wednesday, July 4. Just as the Canadians celebrated their independence day a few days ago, now the U.S. does! This is the day that we chose to take as an off day, staying in NOTL, and when my cousin Fred and his wife Danette came from Rochester, NY to spend the day with us. We had a great time! We wandered the town together, toured a fort, and saw a play ("The Philanderer") that was being done as part of the Shaw (i.e. George Bernard Shaw) Festival. Very entertaining and well done. We also found a couple of UGRR-related sites in the town, actually, two homes of African Americans who came north into Canada and who settled in NOTL. Fred and Danette left that evening after a very full day, and we really appreciated their coming over and the spending the time with us!

Thursday, July 5 (today): Today we have done about 50 miles, traveling from NOTL to Stoney Creek. We look at today as the start of the final phase of this trip. Today we headed in toward the heart of Canada, away from the border, the start of the final push toward Owen Sound. The day started out with sunny skies, but soon the rain clouds came, and we rode through as much rain this morning as we've experienced on any other day during this entire trip. Thank goodness that it was not too cold, but still the rain jackets were a big help. Along the way we saw many nurseries (where all those flowers in NOTL come from!) and tremendous numbers of fruit farms..... Cherries are what are primarily in season right now, and they are fantastic - roadside stands everywhere. Unbelievably, the next major crop will be peaches.... there are tons of peach trees here. (We thought those were limited to the south.)

The other major physical feature we encountered today was the Niagara Escarpment. We keep hearing about this, everyone commonly refers to "The Escarpment". Now we understand better. Most of Ontario seems to be located at an elevation several hundred feet above the level of the Lakes. When travelling from the towns on the shoreline to points inland, there is a very steep, well-defined plateau that you must climb to get there. The hills we will encounter on the remainder of this trip are essentially going to be those resulting from our route going down, then back up, the escarpment. Tonight, we've descended down the escarpment to get to Stoney Creek, where we will stay the night. Tomorrow morning, we will have to navigate back up the escarpment to continue our route.

I cannot close without describing some personal interactions we had today. First, upon leaving NOTL, we had a very nice closing conversation with one of the people, Dave, who had stayed in the B&B with us. We really enjoyed our conversations with him, and as he lives in Dundas, a town we go thru tomorrow, maybe we will see him there. Then, as we got close to Stoney Creek this afternoon, we hit a detour due to road construction. We were stopped on the side of the road when a very nice man called out to help. He is heading tomorrow, it turns out, for a 17 day canoe trip in Thunder Bay, in the upper area of Lake Superior -- quite an undertaking -- and seemed to appreciate our trip quite a bit as well. Then, a few minutes later, we were biking closer to Stoney Creek when the rains came again. We happened to be biking by a house and the couple who lived there invited us in out of the rain.... bikes went in their garage, and they treated us to drinks, cookies, cheese, smoked bacon, and some delightful conversation. And some additional helpful local directions! Mary and Peter, thank you again for your hospitality!!!

OK, that's it for now. Beginning tomorrow, we will be hitting more rural areas in Ontario, so not sure what the ability to get computer access will be. But all is going very well, we are overcoming the little obstacles (rain, escarpment, detours, etc.), continuing to enjoy the route, and starting to get really excited about seeing our destination and what sounds like the beautiful surrounding areas come into view! By the way, we do have one objective beyond Owen Sound now.... Joan's Aunt and Uncle are currently at their cottage in Wiarton, about 20-30 miles beyond Owen Sound. We cannot get this far and not visit them! So, that is in our plan before we finally call it quits and head for the bus station.

1 comment:

Tamara Smith said...

Joan and Mike,
As always, I have enjoyed reading about your ride, and I picture you on your bikes, and riding in the rain, and chatting with people you meet... it all sounds very appealing... until I think about all the hard work involved!!
Thanks for taking time to write about your adventures, as it seems as I read, that you are not so far away.
With affection, and hopes of continued safety and happiness,