Bike trip June 2017, part 2


More narrow historic locks to the left, wider modern locks to the right

We had to see the famous “Flight of Five” locks for which this town is famous. We had learned a lot about locks and even stayed in a lock house on our last trip, and I find the system of transportation interesting. The Lockport locks were actually in use, the historic five alongside the newer locks, and we watched a tourist vessel go through the modern side. It was so cool to see the locks operate as we remembered walking in the dry lock spaces on the disused C&O canal. We also had seen historic, rather narrow locks operating in Carcassonne, France when we were there last year. Those seemed to be for tourists as well. We heard that Lockport does host some commercial boats, I think it was under 20 per year and I could not find details, but I’m impressed that locks have any modern commercial uses after becoming obsolete at least 70 years ago with the rise of railroads and highways. 

We biked into the city from the east along the Niagara river. The path was right next to the water for a while near the city borders. We could see Lake Erie. We were briefly on Unity Island, from which we could throw a stone into Canadian waters if we chose. We were near several bridges into Canada, and this old iron bridge (below) on the island. It was a nice place with fields and wildflowers, but unfortunately the path was closed so we had to go through a more trafficy urban area. The Buffalo neighborhood called Allentown had a colorful progressive vibe and was full of unique older houses with varied architectural styles. We stayed in a large apartment there for the night. We walked around and had a nice dinner at a Mexican bar/restaurant. Mr. Fantastic and the Fantastic dog set out on their own and found a dog park and an open mike comedy place which allowed Dogtastic to sit on Mr’s lap! 

Niagara Falls

We packed up the next day and headed to Niagara Falls. The cars were loaded with 12 bikes, 12 people, and a dog!

We stopped by the park next to the rapids upstream from the falls. Then we were there in the thick of it. I wasn’t excited to be heading to the tourist frenzy, but I was resigned to the plan. And I have to say, as uncomfortable as I am with large-scale, expensive tourist experiences, I concede that the Maid of the Mist was worth it. I have to report that it cost my family $95, or more than our daily budget in Thailand, for the 20-minute experience, but it was really neat. I’m particularly happy with my photos of the Falls from the boat.

And here are some from up top above the boat launch area:

After the boat ride, you can walk up these stairs (below) next to the Falls. I was mistaken in thinking 1.) we were walking back up all the way because 2.) we could and 3.) removing my raincoat because I was 4.)thinking it couldn’t be that wet. I got soaked and really couldn’t appreciate this view due to much spray and wet glasses! And then we took the elevator up.

The kids loved their raincoats and inflating them in the wind!


Erie Canal and Niagara Falls bike trip, June, 2017, part 1

It was fifteen miles on the Erie Canal, and then another fifteen, and another and so on with that old folk song ringing pleasantly in our ears (Pete Seeger version on link). The kids actually sang it after the first fifteen miles every day and we didn’t mind a bit! 

This trip was another dual family, 12 bike production by ourselves and the Wonderful family, with whom we have taken several similar trips over the years, eight trips over the past ten years to be exact. The kids have become more competent in biking as they age, though schedules have become more complex, so there was a late change to the schedule and I was not able to join in on the first few days. The group did the Erie Canalway Trail roughly from Lyons to Buffalo, NY, and then spent a morning at the US side of Niagara Falls. We were reluctant to do as much camping as previously due to one of the group becoming very ill with a tick-born disease on our last trip in 2015. We arranged to stay with a family friend east of Rochester, Red Rocks campground in Holley, a hotel in Lockport, and a rental apartment in Buffalo. It was about 125 miles biking in total. From Buffalo, we drove to Niagara for a trip to the Falls then parted ways.  My family went to Ithaca, NY and stayed at our cabin a couple of nights before heading back home. Below: roadside scenery and our bikes at the convention room at the hotel:

My story I was set to fly to Buffalo but it was not to be. After several delays in the terminal and out on the runway, my flight was cancelled. I was offered a flight that left almost 24 hours later-what?!-but was interested in making the 5- hour drive instead. With a few other passengers, I explored getting a taxi but things were not looking good. In the end, in another happy serendipitous travel event, I arrived in Buffalo via an all-nighter road trip in a rental car with a lovely young woman who was extremely motivated and willing to share driving and expenses. We were quoted by phone $600 (!!!?)from a popular rental company and after we recovered from that idea, we took a shuttle to a rental place and left with the vehicle for less than 1/3 that price. The whole experience made me feel great about trusting strangers and about the unexpected during travel and about humanity in general. And, how often does being over 40 feel like such an asset? It helped us get a better price for sure. Here we are just after we got the car:

Thank you, ML! I would not have done that all-night drive on my own! And, though a little sleep deprived and bedraggled, I returned the car and joined the gang. It was beautiful weather and there were many bridges and other things to see as we biked along. Check out the old swing bridge in the river below.

About this trail. It was not perfect, but there were excellent stretches. The locks were great, and there were some very nice parks and small historic towns along the way. On the downside, some stretches are not paved, there were often headwinds, we went on narrow shoulders on fairly busy roads at times, and signs such as the one above were rare so one could easily lose the trail. Below: enjoying a park east of Tonawanda, biking on a paved trail, bird sculptures on the Niagara River Corridor:The trail on Unity Island was closed for maintenance and so we had to bike through parts of industrial Buffalo. We used cellphones to navigate; in fact I wouldn’t recommend going on this trail without one. Overall, compared to the C&O trail we biked in 2015, the scenery was just as wonderful, it was less crowded, and many paths were better (more pavement, no large mud puddles) but the trailside amenities (campsites, signage) were scant. There were many beautifully landscaped parks and open spaces on the Erie, unlike the more shady and secluded C&O. These trails are all free to use and require maintenance, for which I’m sure budgets are tight, so I won’t complain, however I did want to compare these two Canal trails we have used. More to come. Below: a bridge with a counterweight and strange shape, biking close to traffic, kids on the trail near Buffalo city limits: