There’s Nothing Wrong with Ohio… Except the Snow and the Rain

After brushing my teeth with little Olivia and re-packing my panniers, I thanked my hosts and rode til noonish and into my tenth state, Ohio. 

 

Despite a few drizzly moments, it was faily nice by midday, and that’s when I relinquished my control over roadside restraurant cravings and stopped at a 50’s retro outdoor diner called the White Turkey Drive-In. When I pulled up with my loaded bike and doggie, I felt the burger-mongering crowd’s conversations screech to a halt as if someone had stopped the needle on the diner’s vintage record-playing jukebox.  I splurged on a root beer float, and Petunia sat on my lap and ate vanilla ice cream, and when one patron was willing to start the conversation, I gave my succinct travel story just slightly louder than necessary so that all who were obviously interested could hear. 

   

Making my way along the flat roads, I saw a loaded-up cyclist in the distance approaching from the opposite direction. As she got closer, I thought that this was perhaps the next cyclist Leo told me he’d be hosting. “Mariah?” I called to her from across the street. She looked surprised and crossed over to talk to me, and I explained how I’d been given the heads up that she was headed east and our paths might cross. She told me of the miseries of gravelley and dangerous Michigan riding (she’d taken a fall but was mostly uninjured), that she was relocating to Boston, and we bonded as solo women touring cyclists. Just like me, she was constantly getting the question from strangers, “You’re going alone? Aren’t you scared?” and she impressed me with her spot-on response, “This is why we need feminism!” Right on, sister.

   

There were several nice views of Lake Erie and of a little lighthouse on a rocky jetty. After a 65 mile day, the finale was riding through the little touristy resort town of Geneva on the Lake, and we pulled up to next WS host’s house, Rick. Our last host Leo had practically sent us there, as he knew Rick (though had never actually met him in person) via their WS connection. I was starting to feel a bit like a WarmShowers mooch, but it was so nice to stay dry with all of the rain, and best of all, I was meeting so many interesting and inspiring people (and Tunes was getting a good amount of dog socialization as well).

Rick greeted me in the driveway and helped me bring my bike and gear into an enclosed porch, and let me make myself at home while he went out for a little while. I was pretty sleepy but had quite a bit of writing and prepping to do, so I was happy to have some quiet time. As I set my sleeping bag out on the couch that he’d offered me for the night, I noticed I was not totally alone, though, so I escorted my strange bedfellow outside before finally settling in. Rick made me a nice big bowl of popcorn which was an appreciated munchie, and I finally passed out listening to the rain falling just before midnight.

 
In the morning, my host made me some yummy pancakes with real  maple syrup that his family made locally. A 65 year old retired Air Force self-described “grease monkey,” Rick had toured on the TransAm just a few years ago, and over breakfast, we had a lot of good laughs as we waxed nostalgic about the scary dogs of Kentucky, the blissful good health we enjoyed while touring, and how solo riding has its own kind of special joy. I was surprised to hear that people had often seemed surprised to learn that he was riding unaccompanied, regardless of his gender. “I like touring alone. I guess I just like being with myself that much.” Rick held my bike up while I re-loaded my gear and un-gunked and re-greased my chain. We were both pumped up from talking story about our travels. “You make me want to get back out there and tour again!” he said, and I told him that his un-met friend Leo just 65 miles away had offered to ride with him to DC in October. He seemed jazzed up about this prospect, and I hope they both get to go out and enjoy it again. 

 
Rick’s alternate route map:  


Leaving Geneva behind, I set out through more of northeastern Ohio, starting to feel the two previous long-mile days in my knees and neck a bit. During my travels, I got a voicemail from WS host Martha, who said that if I didn’t have a place to stay in Cleveland Heights, I was welcome to stay with her and her husband Joe, their Golden-doodle, Stella, and new German Shepherd puppy, Xena. This sounded perfect, as it was forecasted to be one more night of rain and I was ready for a short day, and camping in the city generally doesn’t is not a good idea. Singing the Drew Carey theme song all the way there (Cleveland rocks, Cleveland rocks….. OHIO!!), I arrived a couple of hours earlier than my hosts were expecting me, but not too early for the rain. I got drenched while stopped for a PBJ lunch, but managed to make it to a local library branch in cool castle-like building that had once been a mansion. No one seemed to notice or mind that I had Tunes with me, as I quietly sat down and started to write emails, edit photos, and blog on my phone and portable keyboard, with the sleeping pup curled up on my lap. They seemed like a pretty open and affirming place anyway.

 
When I arrived at Martha’s beautiful home in a pretty residential neighborhood, she invited me in and we exchanged introductions. Petunia let Stella say hello, but then promptly headed to our guest room to rest. The thunder earlier in the day had left her a bit unsettled and tired, and the bed that was ours for the night was exceptionally comfortable, so she was happy to make herself at home. Martha had picked up Lebanese food for dinner, including fattoush and a spinach pie, pita chips and hummus, and tabbouleh, plus baklava for dessert, and it was all so delicious. Martha told me that she’d been working with a dog trainer to get 8-month-old Xena prepared to be a search and rescue dog, and that the pup had gone for her first swim in a pond earlier that day. Docile and sweet Stella was also a working dog, certified as a therapy animal and was highly sought after by nursing homes and college campuses during exams. Maybe something for Tunes to aspire to in the future? Martha was also a cyclist and we talked bike trips a bit before I took cow out for a pleasant walk in the misty evening air, and we slept very soundly, safe and indoors once again. 

   
Another fascinating collection of books and a great dog and bike print!

Some art they had that reminded me of my neighbor back home in Jersey. Hi Wanda…. after a while, crocodile!  

 

I can’t say enough how amazing my WarmShowers hosts have been and how grateful I am for their hospitality, openness, and generosity. Of course it’s nice to have my housing and fooding and hygiene needs met, but I also learn so much from them. I kind of wish I was home to host interesting travelers on the Atlantic Coast route, but I imagine there will be plenty of time for that. For now, there’s lots of adventure ahead over the next two months. 

Song of the day: Ohio (Come Back to Texas) by Bowling for Soup.

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I Got 99 Miles and a Pinch (Flat) Ain’t One

Sunday was a big day for me. I rode my longest day ever while touring. Actually, I think it was just plain old my longest day on a bike. I got an early start from my churchyard campsite, ran a couple of early AM errands in town, and booked it along the very-flat Route 5 through the last few towns in New York. The rain alternated from drizzle to downpour with an average of just wet, and the scenery was mostly residential or vineyards and cherry trees, so I just hauled it at a fast clip. In a few places, I got a peek through the trees at the vastness of Lake Erie, but for the most part I kept my eyes on the road and scanned the shoulder for nails or rocks or any other tire-puncturing debris.

   
 I’d gotten the OK from a WS host named Leo to spend the night indoors in Erie, PA, so I’d be crossing state lines one more time. I kept my spirits up all day by listening to the radio and being a goofball. 

  
 
I just kept going and going, stopping only for quick lunch and for a few good Tunes breaks. I had plenty of time to reflect on the past 35 days since I left New Jersey. I’d cycled for 29 of them (5 days off in CT during the storms, and 1 day off in NH, though I guess I’ll count the days spent in Rochester since Anita and I did some recreational cycling). My top speed had been 45.2mph (the Poconos, I think), and I estimate I average about 9.5 miles per hour. On the flat roads I roll at about 13mph, though my bike computer no longer calculates the average since I pushed my rig uphill so slowly in a couple of places that even though it registered the distance was increasing with each laggard wheel revolution, the speed was <1mph, and it couldn’t handle that division. I’d changed saddle height and position three times, shed five pounds last I checked but gaIned muscle definition and tree trunk quads;  lost one pack cover and one glove but came by some low/no cost replacements.  I’d been bitten by one standard poodle on the hip and one black fly behind my ear, suffered one still suppurating leash friction/burn wound on my ankle when Tunes bolted away from a scary big-dog pack, cranked along with two faulty knees, aand squeezed out one entire tube of muscle-rub gel. I’d also  traveled through 9 states (sometimes reaching a different part of the state lines more than once, as I’d taken a circuitous route) and covered 1,500 miles, racking up over 6,000 total miles of bicycle touring with Tunes. I was keeping my quantitative and qualitative data analytics skills sharp as well, it seemed.

 Twenty miles from my destination, a road cyclist in a neon yellow jacket and matching helmet-bonnet that kept his head dry rode alongside me and said that I was riding up one particularly not-flat hilly spot at an impressive speed considering how burdened I was. I thanked him and told him I’d had a lot of practice in the past 1,500 miles. “It’s funny,” he said, “but just this morning, I was wondering what someone would wear if they were gonna be out riding in this rain all day long.”  “Well, I went with a useless jacket and plastic bags over my socks, and I’m still going.” I was on a quest, gunning for my first century day, the cycling bragspression for going 100 miles in a day.

The last two miles to Leo’s house were really uphill, of course, and I stayed on my bike but I practically crawled there and arrived around 6 PM. With a slightly competitive compulsion, I checked my bike computer as I pulled in the driveway. I’d pedaled 99.1 miles in a day. I re-checked my public school math, but that was the final answer. I thought about riding down the street to make it an official, even numbered century day, but my bum pain and my soggy doggy decided for me that close enough was enough. Leo and his black Lab-mix Buddy greeted me in the garage, and Petunia ran around the lawn with her new playmate in a zippy game of tag. Sufficiently drained, I stumbled into their abode, where Leo laid down his house rules for me. “Rule Number One is that you make yourself at home,” he said, and handed me a helpful list of other useful commandments for staying under his roof. His loving partner Bonnie served up a tasty meatload, veggie, and potato supper that I inhaled, and she even made dark chocolate brownies with fresh strawberries and whipped cream! It was heavenly. From the first time I talked with him on the phone, he sounded like a really laid-back and good natured guy, and Leo was truly the real deal. After surviving a massive heart attack a few years back, he decided to live life to maximum capacity and bicycle toured across country via a modified TransAm route with some friends. It was clear he cherished every day, and he loved to talk bike touring! This was fun, and I wanted to hear more of his stories, but with a belly full of food and 99 miles freshly under my belt, I could hardly sit down. I watched a few minutes of TV with them, an unusual activity for me (and an unusual show– Naked and Afraid? Whaaat?) and then excused myself to bed around 9ish. As I fell asleep, I heard a documentary about Glen Campbell and his Alzheimer’s diagnosis and how he lived with it, which reminded me of my Grandma Judy back home in CT. Bonnie told me his song I’m Not Gonna Miss You was his response to it. 

When I came to in the morning, Leo’s two year old granddaughter Olivia was there for family daycare. Cute as a button and curious about Tunes and me, she was definitely the pride of the household. When she saw me brushing my teeth, she dragged a stepstool over to the sink and emulated my hygienic efforts. Slightly self-conscious of my role model status,  I carefully coached her and congratulated her on her dental health. 

 
Every bit the doting grandparents, it was fun to spend the morning with my  new friends as they steered Olivia towards a half-eaten apple and laughed as she spread herself across the living room floor with Buddy and Tunes in puppy wonderment. “I used to  care about things lke messes,” Leo said after he related a story about Olivia’s crayon artwork on the walls, “but that stuff just doesn’t matter to me anymore.” 

We couldn’t get Bud to sit still long enough for a good group shot….   
 

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There But For Fortune Go You or I

Although the morning in Buffalo started out dry, the forecast indicated that a veritable deluge was upon us. But before the inevitable weather, Cliff whipped up the best egg and cheese omlette I’ve ever had, I dined with him and Carol outside on their plant and flower covered deck. Cliff spoke highly of city cycling, so after I bid them adieu, I cruised around leisurely for a while and found that there was hardly any traffic to battle. After exploring various neighborhoods for a while, I stopped into a tiny market and picked up some whole wheat bread to try out my host’s suggestion of centrifugal peanut butter and jelly: you frost two slices of bread to form sandwiches, re-stack the sandwiches back into the loaf bag, and whip it around like a centrifuge to mash them down neatly so that they compress and you can peel them off as you go. I set them up in a variety of ways to keep it interesting– some with almond butter and jelly, one on the top with sliced banana, one at the bottom with granola for extra crunchiness, one with the contents of a small honey packet I picked up from a small convenience store’s coffee and tea accessory station, and one with raisins. By the time I finish this trip, I could write a cookbook on peanut butter and jelly recipes. 

Of course, before long, it started raining. And boy, did it rain. As for my allegedly waterproof togs, well… not so much, but they say you get what you pay for. I wasn’t willing to sell a kidney to get one of those fancy, truly waterproof, breathable, high-viz cycling jackets ($300? Really?), and last year I balked but shelled out $65 for one from REI that ended up being a big disappointment and I ultimately returned it. So I contented myself with knowing that it wasn’t really that cold, as long as I kept moving. A sopping wet and windy 55º gets uncomfortable when you’re standing still and your heart rate settles back down to normal, though. 

Once again I did some unintentioanl off-route riding around and ended up going past a nice open-space park. Tunes did some rain running, and I tried to identify the source of a new squeak which seemed to be louder and differently located than the noise from a few weeks ago. Maybe it was the chain? The cranks? It was hard to say, but not difficult to hear. The map said there was a bike shop in the upcoming town of Hamburg, so I decided I’d stop in and have it looked at. But when I finally got back on route and arrived at the right address, I was chagrinned to see the dimmed storefront and “closed” sign on the door, even though the posted store hours indicated they should have been open. As if on cue, suddenly the sound of heavy rain roared around me, and the squish of lukewarm water in my biking shoes was calling for my attention. Blech indeed. I’d spotted a church a few blocks back with a big outdoor covered pavilion and a couple of tables, so I circled back to dry off there and evaluate my options. Their big front yard marquee read, “All are welcome at our table,” which seemed a suitable enough invitation.    

   
I wrung out my shoes and socks, threw on a warm wool layer, peeled off a peeb from my smoosh-sammie stack, and checked a radar app on my phone. The dark patches of rain with a few less dark patches of drizzle all along my route meant I’d be advancing like a waterlogged rook on a sodden chessboard. Out of curiosity, I checked out all of the maps ahead of me, all the way to Washington. If I wanted to get to the ACA end point of Anacortes, it was still about 3,400 miles away, and if I wanted to finish by the end of August, that meant I’d have to average 55 miles per day in July and August. Doable, but it meant few to no days of dilly-dallying, and with a paltry 28 miles traveled that day, I didn’t want to punk out and stop riding just because it was rainy and uncomfortable. Instead of ruminating on my options, I decided I’d let the answer to come to me organically, and I turned on the radio while I tried to shake some of the water off of my rig and clothes and covers. A midtempo neo-soul groove played and the mega-voiced chanteuse delivered upbeat lyrics that practically asked me to move, so the pavillion became our stage and we had an impromptu dance recital. 

 After making a few phone calls, writing about 2,000 words about the previous day in Canada, and playing fetch with Petunia, I was peckish again. The rain slowed enough to permit a quick jaunt to the local grocery store, Tops, and picked up some a bagged salad for my supper and some dog food for my buddy. I met Steven and Chelsea there, who were excited to talk to me about my adventure. Steven recommended going to a particular bakery in Seattle, I caught his reference, and we giggled about a video game called Portal (the cake is a lie!). Thanks for the good cheer, both of you!

  
I headed back to my temporary shelter and did a little more yoga and some writing to warm up. Eventually, a couple of cars pulled up behind the church, and when the second one came, a woman got out and brought a flowe arrangement inside, possibly to get ready for Sunday services the next morning. I approached and asked if she thought it would be okay if I camped out under the shelter overnight. The church pianist gave me her blessing and offered to find me somewhere indoors, but at that point, I was sort of settled in to my temporary bivouac and she seemed to understand. 

A little later, I was making another phone call when suddenly Tunes started to growl and I looked up to see a man with his head down, dressed in a black hoodie and black pants with a dark blue backpack coming towards the shelter. Thanks for the heads up, little cow. I greeted the stranger, and he seemed non-threatening,  and almost sheepishly admitted, “looks like we had the same idea,” as he plugged an old flip-phone into the available outlet below where mine was charging up. He came and sat on the table next to me, and as he got closer, so did an unfortunately noisome rankness that I recognized as the hybrid aroma of long-term homelessness and lack of self-care, with a hint of barroom floor.  

He said his name was Michael, and he seemed to have about three teeth between his gums, but as he spoke, I recognized something in him that seemed level and without guile. He sounded a bit like Eeyore as he pulled two cans of cheap beer from his backpack and offered me one. I declined, but he kept the second one at the ready. “I’m an alcoholic I guess. Well, a drunk, really. Alcoholics go to meetings. I’d be lucky to make it to 50.”  “And how old are you now?” I asked. “Forty-nine. My birthday’s in four weeks.”  “That’s a pretty bleak outlook.”  “Well, that’s the reality of it, I guess.” He shared his story of a difficult upbringing full of loss and tragedy in a very matter-of-fact fashion, and how he came to be living in a $40 Walmart tent down by the creek in his native Hamburg, NY for the last decade or so. “I guess it was just the depression or the anxiety, but I could never hold a job. I never wanted the things most other people wanted. I just wanted to be out in the woods.” His cell phone rang and he sighed when he saw the name of the caller on his screen. “I was gonna meet this friend of mine at the bar, but I guess I don’t have to go to the bar tonight,” seeming content to have someone to listen to him for a while. A voracious reader, Michael confessed to have read “Stephen King’s Under the Dome in 4 days, a lot of Terry Brooks, and I’ve read the Lord of the Rings series about 3 times.” He asked about my travels, and Tunes had softened by then and let him scratch her behind her ears. 

It was still raining and had started to get dark,when the inevitable question came: “So where are you gonna sleep tonight?” I did a silent calculation. Should I lie and say I was planning to move on? What if he was planning on staying there a lot longer? What if he wasn’t as harmless as I’ve assessed? I went with my gut feeling. “I got permission from the church to camp here and I told them I’d stop in tomorrow morning. There are plenty of lights on still, but I’m gonna settle in for the evening. You headed back to your camp?” He said he was. I felt slightly mean for saying it, but I was direct and added, “I hope you stay dry and have a good night. Just so you know, I’m a light sleeper, and will mace and possibly taser anyone who disrupts me at night, so if you need anything else up here, I’d wait til morning if I were you.” I didn’t want to seem like an easy mark, just in case, and I do sleep with a big old can of 30-foot range bear spray/mace, so I didn’t feel unsafe. It’s a strange balance between between remaining open and recognizing the humanity in every stranger you meet, and safeguarding your own person. But in the end, we shook hands, he wished me a less rainy trip, and he went back to his camp and I set mine. I slept unperturbed, and left at 5:30 the next morning in the mist, before the drizzle found me again. 

Song of the day: Joan Baez- There But For Fortune

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O Canada! 

We woke up in a fog, both literally and figuratively, but by 7:30 AM I’d flicked about 30 loogie-like yellow slugs off of the tent and its underlying footprint, packed up, and pedaled out. We rode a little ways into the town of Medina, where we met a cycling couple who were riding from Albany to “The Falls,” but I didn’t get chat long because I was on a mission to find a public restroom. They were traveling much lighter than I, so even though I suggested we might see each other again in Niagara, I figured they’d probably toast me in speed. Either way, I was determined to make it there and see the falls from the Canadian side.

At a breakfast chain shop a little ways out of town, I had a rest stop and a cup of coffee to go with my first PB&J for the day. A few guys wearing neon safety vests hopped ot of a construction vehicle and came over to talk to me. They couldn’t believe that I would ride alone, although as usual, I gestured towards the sleeping Tunes and maintained that I was, in fact, not alone at all. We eat together, she sleeps on top of me every night, we walk, ride, and take water breaks together, I play games with her every day (fetch or peekaboo with her squeaky raccoon), I keep her clean and tidy, pick up after her, laugh at all the silly things she does, and enjoy her snuggles, puppy kisses, and company. I wonder if riding really alone would be kind of boring, although plenty of people come up and talk to me even before they see Tunes in her carrier, so I imagine it would still be a social activity. Still, I’m glad she’s such a fantastic travel companion.

By 9, the fog had burned off and it was a gorgeous day, but it was predicted to get cloudy by the late afternoon. I’d never been to Niagara Falls before, and I was excited for this big landmark– especially because my route included a 30ish mile stint into Canada, where I had also never been. I was determined to make it while the weather was good, as the next two or three days were supposed to involve miserable amounts of rain. I hardly slowed my pace when screens of canal bugs clouded the path and adhered to my sticky sunblocked face like I was a sheet of fly paper. I was racing the clouds to the Falls, and the flat, mostly smooth rolled stone dust and gravel made it pretty easy riding, and I was stoked that the route had included these 90 miles of glorious rail-trails alongside these very small towns. The village of Gasport’s painted welcome sign read: “Population: Just Right.”  

 
Along the way, I rode through a town in which a 12 year old blonde-haired white boy sauntered down the main street in a hot pink t-shirt shirt and khaki shorts sagged and strategically belted to reveal his entire gray-undie-clad rear end. A recently popular rap song tinnily blared from a cell phone somewhere on his person. In his hand, he casually gripped a shining silver BB or cap gun. I was momentarily stunned and I circled back around, thinking that I might ask his permission to take his photograph, but I never did. I didn’t know how to explain to him why his actions were potentially fatal, but because of his skin color, he’d probably survive his walk. Just last year, Tamir Rice wasn’t even a teenager yet when he was killed on November 22 in a Cleveland, Ohio park. From The Daily Beast: “The 12-year-old boy was shot by a police officer after brandishing what turned out to be a BB gun. A call made to police beforehand described Rice as “a guy with a pistol” on a swing set, but said it was “probably fake.” When officers arrived at the scene, they say Rice reached for his toy, though did not point it at them, prompting a first-year policeman to fire two shots at Rice from a short distance.”

A little under 10 miles of my route went through the Tuscarora Indian reservation. There were some nice homes and pretty areas, but what defined the region were the multitude of “smoke shacks” hawking cartons of low-priced cigarettes and beer, marketed with images of iconic warrior Native men in feathered headdresses. I could practically smell the tobacco in the air. Two overweight shirtless preteen boys shouted at me from the trampoline on the lawn in front of their boarded-up trailer, “What up, punk?” My smile and wave were met with a hostile glare. 

I cleared the reservation and came to a big intersection where my map intructed me to take the first ramp towards Canada, but intstead, I saw orange barrels barricading the bridge, and a detour sign that pointed towards the highway, where bicycling was definitely a no-no. 

  
“How long as that ramp been closed?” I asked a couple of women in scrubs lunching at an outdoor picnic table at a medical services building just across the street from my would-be turn. “Ohhhh, gee, quite a while now. Hm, yeah, I don’t know how to get around it without taking the highway.”

I consulted my phone’s GPS to see if it showed an alternate route, but it insisted that highway ramp would be fine. Then I checked the Adventure Cycling website for map addenda, but there wasn’t anything noted. I thought this was kind of too big of a deal to not have any notes about, so I tried to check their temporary road closure forum, but it sent me to a page that asked me to download an app to access the forum, which seemed an obstreperous system, so I went old school and called ACA to see if I really had to double back or miss the Canadian side all together. Melissa in the mapping department said she hadn’t heard of any road closures near Niagara, so she’d look into it and call me back. It was lunchtime by then, so I got fancy and had a peanut butter banana mini bagel with some trail mix. As I inhaled the last bite, vowing that tomorrow I’d break it up and use my little packet of almond butter instead of peeb’, I got a callback with confirmation that I could head south on the NY side and cross into Canada at Rainbow Bridge, missing several miles of bike path on the CA side. Good enough. The route there was great anyway, with a dedicated and paved bike road, complete with lane divider lines and a barrier between the car route. But best of all were the cliffside views of the bright blue Niagara River.

        

I cruised along with the radio on a fun rock n’ roll station, and in between the jingling ads conflating love with new cars and lawyers all but promising to get you out of a DUI conviction, a weather report cauht my attention. The announcer said that the high temperature for tomorrow would be 17º and I half-flinched before remembering that I was tuned into a Toronto station and they were smart and using the metric system like most of the world. But in the next breath, he said that there would be nearly two inches of rain falling. It was clear that I’d reached the border!

   
  

Before I busted out my passport, I took a spin around the NY side of the falls, and soon realized I was being photographed by all of the other camera-wielding tourists. One photog introduced herself, and she was a charming woman from the South of England who resembled a tattooed Kate Winslet. She told me she’d studied photography in college, which was lucky for me! I had her take a few shots so I didn’t have to unpack the selfie stick my sister had given me for Christmas. 
 

  

It was a warm day, so Tunes was happy to hunker down in her dogpod and drink a lot of water for the most part, especially when we got stuck in traffic going over the Rainbow Bridge to customs.  

Once on the Canadian side, the long observation walkway was packed with people, and we walked down the lane, talking to lots and lots of people. We covered maybe one mile of sidewalk in an hour, but met many lovely people who were enamored of Petunia and intrigued by my adventurous set up. I stopped to pose for some photos with passersby, and had longer chats with other travelers and cyclists and folks who were genuinely curious about this adorable dog on a bicycle and her human. One Canadian woman who stopped to talk said she’d done a cross-country ride, “but we had a support vehichle. I’m too old to do it like you are. Plus, on the Canadian side, there  is so much empty space– the truck had to go a long distance to bring us food and water sometimes. I wish I could go like you, but I’m getting too old, it feels too hard.” I laughed and told her I was feeling older and rougher since my last trip, but she knew better and shook her head, “you say that now, but you’ve done two big trips- I  would keep going if I were you, as long as you can.” It struck me as immediately true.  A few nice folks offered to take a couple of pictures of us as well, and we were happy to return the photographic favor. 

  
   

Oops, busted trying to mitigate my neopolitan tan lines.     

Once we passed the commotion of the immediate tourist area, we began following the flat, paved Niagara Recreation Path that paralleled the river as it ran south. 

     

  

 

It was a serene ride with one stop for a sandwich and a granola bar, plus I treated myself to a hot cocoa packet mixed in with a day’s-warmed water bottle, and we had plenty of daylight left to hoof it back to our home country. When we got close to the crossing at the Peace Bridge, we met a woman named Lori Dawn and her dog Boomer who told us that just up ahead in Fort Erie was the annual Friendship Festival, a carnival celebrating the good relations between Canada and the United States of America since the end of the War of 1812. There were rides and fried foods and music, and we cruised around a little bit, but I hadn’t exchanged any currency and I thought it would be best to get back to the States to find somewhere to stay for the night, since I’d promised the customs officer that I was only in Canada for the day’s ride-through. So with a little help from folks who clarified the directions to the pedestrian walkway over the Peace Bridge, we crossed the border once again and made our way into Buffalo around 6 in the evening. We’d done it! We’d made our international debut and seen a major landmark on our route, and the timing and the weather couldn’t have been better for it! 

   

   
In Buffalo, we rode along the riverway and saw lots of folks hanging out, fishing, and I had a good laugh when I said good evening to a couple of women in lawn chairs  and one exclaimed, “Well daaaang, you got everything you need, ain’t you? Go on, girl!” “True story!” I called back over my shoulder, because it was. 
My bum was starting to feel the heat after an almost 80 mile, dual-country ride, so I checked Warm Showers to see if there were any hosts who might be willing to let me do a last minute stay on their lawn, and lo and behold, a man named Cliff answered my call. In about half an hour, he was welcoming me at the headquarters of Teen Treks, a youth cycling trips program he ran. Not only was there lawn space available, but there was a warm outdoor shower, an indoor restroom in the basement, and a playmate for Petunia– his own 8-month black Lab puppy, Howie. In the heart of a nice neighborhood in the city, it was urban camping at its finest. 

 Peekaboo Tunes:  

Private, cleverly rigged outdoor shower with my towel hanging to dry:Tunes and her new buddy after a vigorous game of tag:   

Cliff was a joy to talk to– a vivacious liberal with a great sense of humor and imagination, he’d traveled so much of the world on a bicycle (his favorite place was Cuba, which is now on my list of places to ride). He’d also turned his passion into a vocation, leading young people on bicycle tours to share this great way of traveling and learning. As a special treat, he fixed up an amazing chicken dinner with salad greens fresh from his garden, and some tortellini too. It was heavenly– even the little cow got some meat. The air was so comfortable that I slept with the tent door open, and early in the night Howie the puppy bounced over and stuck his nose in to give me a slobbery goodnight kiss. 

Between some of the challenging sights I saw, the thrill of riding through Canada and seeing Niagara Falls, hearing the  great news about the historic Supreme Court Decisions, and meeting so many neat people while experiencing a bit of bizarre celebrity, it had truly been an epic day.

Cliff and Carol:   
  

  Around Buffalo:

     

  

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It’s Not My Place in the Nine-to-Five World

The apple orchard was the perfect place to get some rest. Before clouds overtook the night sky, a sliver of the waxing crecent moon arced up over the fruit trees and provided just enough illumination to invite a little dance down the arboreal aisle. Feeling refreshed the next morning, we slipped out onto the trail early and made the easy ride to Sodus Point Beach Park, where we had a little breakfast and confirmed that we’d be meeting up with Anita in Rochester by the evening. I checked my GPS, and it suggested a route that was half the distance of the Adventure Cycling route, but the latter was far more appealing because it included about 20 miles of the Canalway Trail. Excitingly, this stretch would be familiar as well, as bicycle-lover Anita and I had rode around on it on a couple of occasions over the last two years when we’d been upstate on business. It was exciting to see it again! 

  

    

It was a comfortable, easy day, with the warm sunshine buffered by the cool air from Lake Ontario. I made a little stop in Palmyra at an historic looking house with an exterior meticulously covered in lake stones. Some signage indicated this had been the site of the home of Martin Harris, one of his first scribes of the Book of Mormon. Turned out that he mortgaged part of that farm to pay for the book’s publication, and he was one of the witnesses who claimed the book’s divine origins. There was a clean looking water fountain out front that I did not drink from and rolled onward.

 Finally, canal path! At the path’s entrance, the water looked like putrid pea soup.  
No matter– it was in the shade for the most part, and there were playgrounds and outdoor fitness/gym equipment that Tunes and I stopped to play on!

  
The flat, dusty gravel was a delight because we were completely safe from motor vehicles, and lots of other pedestrians waved and gawked and cheered us on. As we closed in on Rochester, the canal became more beautiful and also somewhat familiar.

   
 

Tunes took the opportunity to do what she does best:

  
And finally, we made it to the hotel where we’d been invited by bestest boss, dear friend, and wise mentor Anita. We hadn’t planned the timing where our paths crossed so that we could work together, but all of the best parts of this journey have been serendipitous that way.   


 
Over the next couple of days in Rochester, I wrote a report that summarized monthly service delivery and client outcomes for an organization that provides health, social and well-being services for elders and their caretakers; edited a couple of surveys and set them up to be administered automatically; and followed up on a few other projects in progress. I also availed myself of the clean bathtub and had two oatmeal baths to help soothe my sunburned and saddle-chapped skin, and pigged out at the free breakfast buffet. Even Tunes got eggs and bacon, and caught up on her summer reading– lucky dog! It was fun to couch-camp in such a roomy hotel with great company. 

  
  
We took a few short rides down the canal path and the Genesee River Trail, had an indulgent afternoon at the Lake Ontario Beach Park, ate craving-sating food, and even sat outside around a little hotel-provided fire pit one evening. It was such a great and productive visit, that I somewhat dragged my feet when it came time to leave on Thursday. 

   
       
But we eventually hopped back on the canal path, stopping to hear some live music along the way, narrowly avoided a snake speed bump, and ended up camping canal-side, anticipating our trek to Niagara Falls and our international debut into Canada tomorrow! We were already picking up radio stations from Toronto, and our day ended sserenely with a beautiful classical piece called Dusk by C. Armgstrong Gibbs. It is, of course, the song of the day.

   
  

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