I forgot to show you this yesterday. It’s a 9,999 dot dot-to-dot on sale at the Lockport Visitor’s Centre for $6. Not a bad price but the winter evenings would have to be very long and dark before you undertook that, and they’ve rather given the game away with the end picture. You shouldn’t be able to guess good dot-to-dots until at least halfway through.
Today we were back on the canal until about ten miles from the end and whilst the towns did not hit the architectural heights of Albion, there was plenty of interest to occupy us in the way such that we were late for Happy Hour. We are evidently passing through an area of prosperity and the route is lined with fine houses which use the canal for swimming, canoeing and boating. There was a continual stream of runners, cyclists and walkers along the tow-path.
Although we were nominally staying in Brockport last night, we were on the outskirts and hadn’t seen anything of the place. We cycled through it on the way back to the canal. It followed the pattern of having its main street at ninety degrees to the canal, just as towns in Montana had been perpendicular to the railroad, because, in the same way, these towns wouldn’t have existed were it not for the prosperity brought to them by the canal which reduced the cost of transporting grain from the Mid-West to New York by around 85% in the 19th Century. 25% of America’s grain passed along the canal, and Rochester which we circled was known as the Flour Capital of the World (never knowingly undersold).
Brockport had its own set of stylish buildings and also a couple of murals such as this – it’s a mark of civilisation when a town has a bookshop (Belper may be the exception to this rule):
A few miles up the canal was Spencerport which had a museum. We sought it out more in hope than expectation, but we were in luck. Spencerport Depot Canal Museum was blessed with the energetic Bob, a man so in love with his job that he turned up to work early; the museum was open at 08.20. The Depot that the museum was housed in was the trolley-bus stop on the line built between Buffalo on Lake Erie and Rochester; the locals were so suspicious of it when it opened that they threw rocks at it. It ran from 1908 to 1931, and Bob told us that on hot days, when the tarmac melted, you could still see the rails underneath. As well as telling the story of the trolley bus, the museum exhibited such curios as a telephone exchange and an early washing machine.
The toilets displayed facts such as that the Erie Canal cost $7,143,379 to build and made its money back in 10 years. I think more toilets should display random facts in order that the general knowledge of the nation should thereby be increased.
It gets a GV rating of Four, two of which are for Bob himself (it didn’t actually have that much in it, apart from a jigsaw for which each visitor was encouraged to fit a piece).
Bob explained that until now, we had only seen lift bridges, which are raised to allow boats to pass under, on the canal because it was relatively flat:
From now on because of the elevation difference of 280 metres, we would be coming across a series of locks:
Halfway through the afternoon, we reached Palmyra. You could tell that Palmyra is a town out of the ordinary because at the first cross-roads, there were four churches on each corner, the only town in the US able to say this: Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist and Zion Episcopal (no, me neither). Here are two of them:
Palmyra was a hotbed of religious revivalism in the 19th Century and can claim to be the birthplace of the Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormonism), Joseph Smith’s family having a farm there. Palmyra is also where Winston Churchill’s mother’s parents were married. We visited one of five museums – The Historical Museum – and were given a personal guided tour by the curator. It was housed in an old hotel, lifted from a neighbouring street and re-sited. Each of the rooms were dedicated to a subject relating to items donated by local people. This decoration on the wall is comprised entirely of one woman’s hair over her life-time. I found it a bit creepy to be honest:
The last port of call was Lyons, obviously named after the city in France, but inevitably pronounced ‘Lions’. This is another town known for its murals but, not knowing where they were situated and there being no man mowing a lawn to hand, I hailed a girl who confirmed that she lived in Lyons. I asked her where the murals all were. She stopped dead in her tracks as if it had only just occurred to her that Lyons actually had any murals. “I’m sorry, I know we have some murals, but I honestly couldn’t tell you where they are”. This seems to be a recurrent theme of our travels. How can you live in a town and not notice murals like these?:
Lyons is not the only French name in these parts. We are staying outside Waterloo and cycled along the road to Marengo, two of Napoleon’s battles, but why name your town after the battle that saw the end of his career as a megalomaniac when the US was an ally of the French at this time? I have not been able to find the answer to this question.
We are staying at the Del Lago Resort and Casino which only opened last year and did not even exist when our booking was made. We stayed at a casino on Route 66 too and I find this one equally bizarre. As we arrived there was a constant stream of cars going into the casino and we had no choice but to eat at one of the restaurants which surround the main hall. This is vast, the size of six football pitches at least, full of slot machines flashing and buzzing as mesmerised gamblers sit in front of the screens throwing their money away. As we came down in the lift, a woman asked, ‘Are you lucky tonight?’ We explained that we were cyclists and the nearest we come to gambling is when trying to turn left on a busy road.