C2C Day 47: Canastota, NY, to Little Falls, NY – 91.90km, 313m (Cum: 5,390.00km, 2,5698m)

As well as being the location for the Boxing Hall of Fame, Canastota (Pop: 4,600) was also the location for the Biograph Company, active between 1895 and 1916, the first company devoted to film production and projection in the USA.  I am constantly surprised at the way in which small out-of-the-way places like Canastota have made a contribution influencing our lives so many years later.

We were following the Erie Canal for only a short while today. As we have worked our way east, the standard of maintenance of the canal has dropped as the original has been by-passed by a larger replacement. At times, it looks like the Cromford Canal, clogged with weed or fallen trees, or covered in green algae, a sorry sight:

What we have seen very little of is actual boats travelling along the canal, even when wide and navigable. When we were following the Canal du Midi in France to train for this trip, there was a constant flow of pleasure cruises hired out by holiday companies in the same way you can hire  a barge in the UK. The future of the Erie Canal would be better secured if only someone with similar initiative would do the same, with consequent benefit to towns and businesses along the course of the canal.

When we left the canal, we passed mile after mile of large houses, testifying to the wealth of this part of New York. These dwellings were not part of a town, just an urban sprawl. It’s a shame that the state has been allowed to be spoilt like this, in my opinion. This is a typical example of a house standing in acres of grass (hardly anyone  actually grows anything, they just mow the grass every week). You’d probably build at least twenty houses on this plot in England:

Today was both a short day of only 55 miles but also a day interrupted by rain so we took refuge in the Oneida Historical Museum in Utica (‘Ootika’) where we met the director Brian (I’m never sure whether these posts are paid; Brian was in his forties and ‘at work’ on a Friday so I assume he is). He is a regular cyclist and let slip that he’s done an Ironman two weeks ago. (Well, we’ve cycled 5000 kilometres; how long was your Ironman again?) We have rather had our fill of canal museums and this made a change, being concerned in part with what we call the War of Independence (The Revolutionary War), which like it or not, we lost. There was a battle near Utica called Oriskany in 1777 one of the bloodiest of the war; the Americans lost 50% of their troops, the British 15%, but this was not a victory as the British left most of the fighting to the Iroquois who subsequently fell out causing the loss of a valuable ally and ultimately the whole campaign. There was a cannonball on display from the French and  Indian War of 1756. Unfortunately the rest of the museum was less inspiring and failed to explain the history of Utica (based on textiles) so it only gets a GV rating of Two.

Our search for a decent bakery continues without a great deal of success. Dinner-time coincided with Utica, but the fact that we passed two bakeries that were not just closed but closed down altogether suggests that if the US is eating bread, it is not fresh from the local bakery. On our way out, we saw an Italian Bakery so we called. In Italy, you are never short of something to eat at lunchtime (although, of course, by actual lunchtime, the bakery will have closed for lunch) because you can buy sumptuous focaccia with sun-dried tomatoes and soaked in olive oil, or savoury tarts or pasties filled with spinach, eggs, onions. But not in an American bakery where ‘pastry’ means calorie-crammed sweet pastries, buns, cakes and biscotti. That’s not what we wanted so we moved on.

We saw another Italian Bakery in Frankfort and tried our luck again. We met Rick Vitti whose family has run it since 1961 when it used to be a German bakery. He looked at me blankly when I described the savoury delights on sale in Italy, but despite his grandparents being Italian immigrants, he’d never actually been to Italy, or indeed out the country. He was selling cannoli and pustry. I’d heard of cannoli, but didn’t know what they were (Sicilian tubes of fried pastry dough filled with ricotta). I’d never even heard of a pustry, and this turned out to be a small pie filled with chocolate fondant. OK, it still wasn’t savoury but it was delicious. Val asked for a cinnamon twist, but Rick advised her not to have one on display as they were made yesterday; he fetched some fresh from out the back. This explains why he’s still in business while others have closed down.

Earlier in the tour, I ordered some pie and was asked if I wanted it ‘a la mode’. I hadn’t a clue what this meant either, but I was told that it is generally accepted as meaning ‘with ice cream’.

Little Falls is a great little place. It’s the sort of town that when you’re standing in the queue for Old Sal’s Home-made Ice Cream (two scoops for less than $2), someone will introduce you to the local judge.

The hotel is opposite the town’s Historical Museum which was due to close at four so we headed there straight away and met our second cycling museum director of the day. He gave us a quick guided tour of the highlights.

Little Falls started out as a Mohawk village because the drop in the river meant that all boats and their cargo had to be carried around the ‘falls’. The settlement developed into a village when it became a fur trading post between the local Mohawk tribe and French trappers coming down from Canada. Eventually it grew into ‘the Cheese Capital of the World’. The fame of  cheese in Herkimer County meant that the USA’s first cheese exchange (if you can imagine a cheese exchange) was sited in Little Falls. It fixed the price of cheese for the whole country, thereby influencing the cheese prices in Europe, hence the title. An GV rating of Four (which takes account of a recommendation for ice cream and dinner).

Little Falls also doubles as a film location. Earlier this year, A Quiet Place was released starring Emily Blunt. This well-received sci-fi horror – 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and they’re inevitably making a sequel – was based on the ingenious premise that aliens have taken over the world, they are blind but have hyper-sensitive hearing so attack anything that makes a sound. It was filmed on Little Fall’s Main Street.

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C2C Day 46: Waterloo, NY, to Canastota, NY – 119.60km, 455m (Cum: 5,298.10km, 25,385m)

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This is what a casino looks like at 07.10 in the morning when all the punters have gone home. I was told that it cost 144 million dollars to build, but is not making as much money as the owners hoped so they went to New York State and asked for a tax break. Their plea was not met with sympathy.

As well as offering gambling, the casino also offered the facilities of a spa. I’ve never been to a spa and some of the opportunities available have opened my eyes to what I’ve been missing. The massages include ‘Vinotherapy Signature’ with ‘Anti-Oxidant Mourvedre Oil Treatment Enhancement’, and I don’t really want to think what’s involved in a ‘Couples Classic Swedish’. Alternatively, I could go for a Gentleman’s Lambrusco facial with Vitamin C Brightening. What have I been doing wasting my time cycling these last seven weeks?

Although we were nominally in Waterloo, the town itself was six miles away, but I would have liked to have visited it as it contains ‘One of the Top Five Main Streets in America’ according to a recent survey of architects. However it was a 67 (actually 75 by the time we’d finished) mile day and it was our time to organise Happy Hour, so we had to pass on the 12 mile diversion, just as we did on a deviation to Seneca Falls, home of the It’s A Wonderful Life Museum, the town supposedly being Frank Capra’s inspiration for Bedford Falls. They have a festival every December (obviously) and this year no fewer than four of the original cast will be in attendance including Zuzu in the person of Karolyn Grimes, the actress who played her in the 1946 film. Wow.

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It was a strange sort of day in that we continued to follow the Erie Canal trail but for most of the day, the canal wasn’t in sight. Over the years, the course of the canal has changed as it has increased in size so we were often shadowing not much more than a mound. We did go off route to track down what remains of a one-time 31 arch aqueduct only to find that it could be found only down a footpath two miles away. We did come across this at Nine-Mile Creek, claimed as the only working Aqueduct in New York State, ‘and possibly the country’. Built in  1841, it carried traffic for 76 years until a larger canal was built elsewhere:

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We cycled through one of the big cities on the path of the canal, Syracuse (‘Sirracuse’). You could tell that it was a university city because of the immediate improvement in cycle tracks and lanes. We came across this Loch Ness Monster which includes a seat and its tail on the other side of the path.

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Just as Rochester was known for handling flour, Syracuse was known as the Salt City and supplied the whole of the US with salt from the brine springs in the area. It was ideally placed therefore to benefit from the advent of the canal and became prosperous on the back of it.

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This photo shows three banks erected on Clinton Square. These were typical of many buildings in the city including this one which bears similarity to the Flat Iron building in New York:

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There are many canal museums along the way and it is difficult to choose which to visit so we opted for Syracuse’s, housed in the only remaining weigh-house. Canal boats were weighed empty every three years or so and then laden each time they passed through Syracuse so as to determine the toll payable. Irish and German immigrants were attracted to the city bringing with them brewing skills such that in 1880 there were 40 breweries, producing 300,00 barrels per year by 1896. Also featured was an exhibit devoted to Elizabeth Cotton who was left-handed and played the guitar upside down (the guitar, not her). There’s hope for me yet. A GV rating of Four.

The one museum we were looking forward to most was towards the end of the day in Chittananga, the All Things OZ Museum, dedicated to The Wonderful Wizard of that name – L Frank Baum, author of the book was born in this town in 1856 (What does the ‘L’ stand for? Well done, the boy at the back, it’s Lyman). There was a problem, the museum only opened, staffed by volunteers, on a Wednesday and Saturday but an appointment might be possible. The telephone number given went to an answer-phone message which provided another number with no response. But that didn’t put us off; it was only a couple of km away after all.

We confirmed that the museum was definitely closed but found that the pavements of Chittananga are paved with yellow bricks. The town holds a three-day Oz-Stravaganza festival every year; apparently there are still Munchkins alive today just as there are survivors from It’s a Wonderful Life.

Useless Trivia Department: L Frank Baum got the idea for the name of the Emerald City from his filing cabinets, one of which was for documents A to N, the other for those from O to Z.

Here is young starlet Val as she uncannily channels her inner Judy Garland on her way to meet the Scarecrow who needs a brain (no suggestions as to who should play this part, if you please):

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Tonight we are in Canastota, home of the Boxing Hall of Fame, which interests me not a lot. However, once a year, they have a ceremony to induce new Famous Boxers and the great and the good of the boxing world stay at the Days Inn. Their photos decorate the lobby. This hotel has been home, for one night at least, to Mohammed Ali, his trainer Angelo Dundee as well as the Raging Bull himself, Jake Lamotta, Lennox Lewis, Barry McGuigan and Roberto Duran. Tonight, I might be sleeping in a bed once occupied by one of these pugilists, and if there’s a big hollow in the mattress, I’ll know it was a heavyweight.

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C2C Day 45: Brockport, NY, to Waterloo, NY – 128.20km, 330m (Cum: 5,178.50km, 24,930m)

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):

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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?:

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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.

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C2C Day 45: Niagara Falls, Ontario, to Brockport, New York State – 120.30km, 475m (Cum: 5,050.30km, 24,600m)

As night falls, the Falls themselves are lit up in technicolour, as if their appearance requires improvement by illumination in fluorescent blue and pink, as a preliminary to a nightly ten-minute firework display. This is admittedly stunning but entirely unnecessary unless your view of Niagara Falls is simply as an extension of the earthly pleasures lining Clifton Hill, which themselves exist to ensure that Niagara is not just a day-trip but part of a Holiday Experience.

Well, try as they might they couldn’t ruin the thrill of taking a boat trip across and almost under the Falls, a pleasure which remains undiluted. We joined the queue early in the day to avoid the crowds, a successful ploy as we smugly confirmed to ourselves watching lines of late-comers coiling and stretching around the concourse in the afternoon.

The whole operation is incredibly slick and militarily precise. There are two tours operating in synchronicity with one another, one from the American side, one from the Canadian, four boats in all, each holding 700 and making a trip of 25 minutes. As one boat returns and the hordes pour off, an equal number of eager replacements take their place, all sporting their plastic issue rain-capes, pink for Canada, blue for the US. At $25 (Canadian) a time (£15), the operators are coining it continuously and endlessly, as these trips continue into the night too.

There are two waterfalls, the American and the Horseshoe (actually three, but no-one cares about that one). Every boat visits the American first as a warm-up for the second, because although the first is spectacular, it is not as wondrous as the Horseshoe and its visual impact is lessened by the boulders lying at its foot.

It is incredible to watch afterwards as the boat then proceeds towards the Horseshoe Falls and makes three sallies into the spume created by the thousands of gallons of water before allowing the boat to fall back under the current.

From the point of view of the passenger, the dousing from the spray intensifies from an splattering to a deluge as the experience turns from the visual to the physical, the world’s greatest natural shower. It is huge fun and there is nothing of its like on the planet.

Later in the day, we wandered along the rim of the esplanade bordering the escarpment until we finally reached the point at which, metres away, the Niagara threw its average 85,000 cubic feet (2,400 cubic metres) of water per second over the edge and into the abyss below. Another awesome spectacle of natural power to add to the beauty of Glacier National Park, the memory of these two unforgettable sights book-ending our trip, for we are now only nine days away from Boston and passed our 5,000th kilometre today.

We left Canada not by the Rainbow Bridge almost opposite our hotel but by the Lewiston-Queenston bridge seven miles further downstream. From a cyclist’s point of view this was a strange experience because the official route took us to a roundabout then directly left into a hotel car park, round the corner of the hotel and along a path which led directly to a bike supervisor’s office – which was shut. This meant we had to cross the stream of incoming traffic from the States in order to take our place amongst the outgoing vehicles.

The Customs Official actually asked me, ‘Have you anything to declare?’ I have often wondered if, in this situation, I could summon the courage to utter the words of Oscar Wilde, ‘Nothing but my genius’. I took one look at the lemon-juice face of the official making the enquiry and decided against it.

The re-entry to the States was a lot more theatrical than our exit, along a three-lane highway into the sun:

above the canyon of the Niagara River below us – the hydro-electric plant open since 1914 is claimed to be the first large-scale hydro-electric power generator. At this point, I will mention that the Niagara Falls used to be 11 miles further down-river but erosion pushed it back to its present position. That erosion has been slowed by hydro-electric projects but is perpetual nevertheless.

The next three days will see us cycling along the Erie Canal bike path which we joined at Lockport where an excellent Visitor’s Centre greeted us, together with an equally impressive museum which we were allowed to visit free since their video wasn’t working (a GV rating of Five). We were given a short lecture on the history of the canal by a historian whose levels of enthusiasm reached heights only previously attained by Peter Snow. Essentially, in the early 1800’s, the US needed a means of transporting its goods west and the only feasible method available at that time was by water. It was realised that a canal which ran west from the Hudson River to Lake Erie could then link up with  the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.

The canal, running to 363 miles, was constructed in just five years opening in 1825. When they reached Lockport, the lowest point of the Niagara escarpment, they constructed a five-lock staircase to move boats 60 feet vertically higher before cutting through the rock to Lake Erie. I’ve seen five lock staircases before, e.g. Five Lock Rise in Bingley, but what made the Lockport locks different is that there was one set for boats going up and one set for boats going down, to double the capacity. I imagine the up and down escalators in Debenhams work on roughly the same principle.

The rest of the day was spent on the canal path (average gradient: 1%!) which sounds easy but, since the path was covered in gravel, there was actually quite a lot of resistance to overcome, and some gave up and took the road. We contented ourselves with occasional forays off route into towns like Albion which was lined with 19th Century buildings:

and with murals such as this curiosity:

A passerby explained that nearby there was a school for training Santas. Now I’ve heard everything. How difficult can it be to say, ‘Ho Ho Ho’?

Before we reached Brockport, we passed this sculpture, billed as The Big Apple (New York, geddit?).

Well, seldom have I been more disappointed by a public piece of art, to which the sculptor had not only put his name but also claimed to have spent 18 months on it. It’s the wrong shape and the colouring is wholly unconvincing. All in all, it’s just a rotten apple.

C2C Day 44: Simcoe, ON, to Niagara, ON 124.20km, 159.50m (Cum: 4,930.30km, 24,007.00m)

The information contained in this instalment will be even less reliable than usual because the hotel we are staying at has a policy of charging $17 for internet use, and I have a policy of not paying for internet use when staying in hotels. Earlier in the tour, Mike Gardner commented that a hotel in one of the photos was advertising ‘Clean Rooms’ as if anyone would expect dirty rooms otherwise, and my response was that I couldn’t understand also why hotels would advertise ‘Free Wifi’ because who would choose to pay for it? Well, not me. I have had no opportunity, however, to check whether anything I say is factually correct, and if by any chance this blog appears before Tuesday night, it will be because I have parked myself outside somewhere which does offer free Wifi. (My principles do not prevent me from taking advantage of someone else’s).

I had been looking forward to seeing Niagara Falls ever since we received the itinerary for this tour. We have been here before, about ten years ago when Kate was studying in Victoria, but the experience then of witnessing at first hand the mighty Falls was a truly memorable one and would bear endless repetition.

Most of today was spent cycling along the sort of varied rural mix of woodland and fields of corn that we have become used to in Ontario, but without the sort of cafes that a cyclist is entitled to expect to see on his or her travels. However we are in Canada and whenever there are no small independent cafes, there is always a Tim Horton’s, sort-of Canada’s response to Starbucks but with added doughnuts. The standard of coffee in Tim Horton’s is commonly referred to by Canadians themselves as ‘fine’, which means that it’ll do when there’s nothing else available.

As I was queueing, I saw these doughnuts advertised as Canada Day Doughnuts:

I wished the person who served me ‘Happy Canada Day. He looked at me bemused and told me it was not Canada Day, that was on 1st July. Tim Horton’s nevertheless sell Canada Day doughnuts for the whole of the month, I suppose in the same way that Bronner’s celebrate Christmas for 264 days of the year.

About ten miles out, the road ended and was replaced by five miles of cycleway as we hit the Old Welland Canal:

A panel told us that it was opened in 1829 to allow (floating) traffic between the Erie Canal and New York. Frustratingly it left all sorts of questions unanswered such as what happened to its 40 locks, whether it was as wide as it is today and when it ceased to carry traded goods. We were grateful for the peaceful change though.

That peace was shattered as soon as we turned off the canal and headed along Lundy’s Lane, the main artery leading into Niagara Falls. On the previous occasion, we had caught a bus from Toronto and I hadn’t realised that Niagara Falls is also a city of 18,000 citizens. The traffic and density of people increased as we neared the centre.

Fortunately there were two attractions to lighten the gloom. The first was the Flying Saucer Restaurant with its snazzy Art Deco sign:

and, well, its flying saucer shape.

Then there was the commemoration of the Battle of Lundy’s Lane:

One of the bits of history that we’re not told in the UK, and there’s no reason why not, is that the USA sided with the French in 1812 to try to make life difficult for the British who happened to be fighting Napoleon at the time. Fortunately, Napoleon came a cropper in Moscow and this allowed England to divert sufficient of its forces to see off the attack on its Canadian territories.

A Canadian heroine of this episode is one Laura Secord who learned of an impending attack by US forces on Niagara. She walked 12 miles through the night in difficult terrain to warn the British and Canadian troops. As a result, fewer than 50 Allied troops attacked and saw off 542 US troops, capturing their colonel into the bargain.

The cemetery where many of the slain are buried is on Lundy’s Lane. I loved the way that the commemorative plaque, so as not to insult valuable US tourists, described the humiliation as a ‘draw’ because ‘the Americans withdrew voluntarily’. Yeah, sure. Who said history is written by the victors? (If I had internet access I’d tell you. Since all of the above has not been checked, it may in fact be complete baloney, but it’s a good story anyway).

As we neared our hotel, my eager anticipation of what awaited us became gradually deflated as we passed through a gauntlet of hell comprising casinos, funfairs, fast food outlets, tacky souvenir shops, the complete opposite of the wonder of nature that are the Niagara Falls. Our Hotel is next to the ‘Spongebob Squarepants 4-D Ride (The Great Jelly Rescue!)’. Now I love Spongebob as much as the next man, probably more if the truth be known, but Spongebob has no place anywhere near the Niagara Falls.

When we visited ten years ago, Kate advised us that the Canada side of the Falls were much the preferable because they were devoid of the tat that characterised the US side. Well, I’ve got news for you, Kate. That ain’t the case anymore. On the one side, you have Clifton Hill which looks like this:

while the majestic Falls keep on doing what comes naturally on the other:

There cannot be a starker illustration of the crassness of humankind’s desire to cheapen and exploit the gifts given freely to us by Nature than this. It is horrible, and it has completely ruined what should have been a thrilling experience for us. Although we shall undertake the boat trip past the Falls tomorrow, we are already looking forward to getting out of Niagara on Tuesday and on to the Erie Canal where we as cyclists belong.

The view that you can see above is actually from our hotel. The tour leader has pulled out all the stops (probably blown the budget too) and got us all rooms with Falls views by booking 18 months in advance, before anyone else could get hold of them.

As I trudged the 400 metres to the car park to get our luggage, I passed two Hard Rock Cafes before I came upon this:

It is the carcass of an old Planet Hollywood restaurant, which if memory serves was the failed attempt by Bruce Willis, Arnie Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone to do for film what Hard Rock has done for rock music. Their enterprise failed, the stops have been pulled, but the millions poured into this horror-show are still evident for all to see as the building rots away, unloved and forgotten.

If this were not bad enough, I walked past the hulk of the building and noticed four rusting cars, one of which was instantly familiar:

Yes, it’s the jeep Jim Carrey drives in Ace Ventura 2: When Nature Calls. This may be the very vehicle which features in Kate and my favourite scene where Jim Carrey drives the jeep at full speed towards a line of parked cars, overturns it twice and yet still manages to park it perfectly in the narrow gap the right way up, sticking his head out the window and yelling, ‘Like a Glove!’. (You really have to see it). This always cracks Kate and me up, and whenever I complete an awkward parking manoeuvre successfully, I always turn to her and say, ‘Like a Glove’. Never fails to amuse. But to see that jeep (probably not the exact same but that’s not the point) consigned to slow deterioration into decrepitude just because of some Hollywood stars’ failed attempt to make even more gazillion dollars is a tragedy almost equal to what can be found round the corner on Clifton Hill.

I wonder if I could persuade Val to allow me to put in a bid and bring it back to England where it would fit in nicely in our back garden.

C2C Day 44: Port Stanley, ON, to Simcoe, ON – 116.60km, 402.00m (Cum: 4,806.10km, 23,848.00m)

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We had intended a late start today because the hotel refused to serve breakfast till 08.30, the sort of time sensible people get up on a Saturday morning – even though we were virtually the only ones in the place. Our plans were thwarted by a combination of the 5 o’clock Club and the hotel’s ancient pipework which cranked into action at 04.54 under the strain from several people pursuing their ablutionary options. There was no point in waiting 3 1/2 hours so we gave in to the inevitable.

Yesterday, as we cycled into Port Stanley, I was hailed by a resident as we passed his house and was warned about an impending thunder-storm. A few minutes later, we were in the Visitors’ Centre and I turned around and there was the same man standing behind me. I was beginning to think we had a stalker but, whether he had followed us or not, he wanted to tell us about the bridge that was down on today’s route in the next town, Port Bruce. This didn’t seem to be weather-related but simply a matter of bad design, which was probably no comfort to the van driver on the bridge at the time of its collapse.

I passed this information on to the group at yesterday’s Happy Hour, but proceeded to forget my own advice and, seven miles into today’s ride, found myself confronted by a closed road in Port Bruce with five others. We were just about to resign ourselves to cycling back out of the town to find the official detour when we heard a shout from below on the river. A local man with a boat who’d just ferried his two sons from the other side was willing to give all of us and our bikes a lift back to the other side. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. Just as we’d disembarked, some more of our group appeared on the other side, but our hero was having none of it. Having done his good deed for the day, he steamed off into the distance.

Fortunately this blog’s intrepid on-the-spot photographer was there to capture the drama with these exclusive photographs:

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20180728_090510A little further on and we descended into Port Burwell, chiefly notable for the presence of a Cold War submarine by the side of the river:

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The town has a marine and military museum and they wanted a tank to display, but Canada didn’t have one spare. They did have a spare sub, which the town bought for $6 million (according to a local – I find that part of the story hard to believe, frankly). It’s a bit of a white elephant and, as you can see, it looks like the museum can’t afford even to maintain the paintwork. They charge $25 (about £15) to look round, but if they’d halved it, I think curiosity would have got the better of us.

Today’s route followed a similar pattern to yesterday’s in that we spent most of the day shadowing the Lake without actually being able to see any of it. The countryside was notable for the variety of crops grown, including syurprisingly tobacco. About 90% of Canada’s tobacco is produced in this area, but the crop is in decline because of the health concerns attendant on smoking. Farmers are actually being paid not to grow it.

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We also passed fields of what looked like fennel but turned out to be what asparagus looks like after the shoots have been harvested. A third mystery plant was completely covered by a covering of black cloth; this was ginseng.

Yesterday, we passed a pick-it-yourself blueberry farm of the type that was once so common in the UK. Not sure why it fell out of fashion; maybe people kept eating the profits. I was surprised at the size of the bushes, head-height. I must be doing something wrong because mine back home are not knee-high – though I was assured that these are thirty year old plants:

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Today, we must have seen around 100 wind turbines, more than in the whole of the last seven weeks. The Canadians are very environmentally conscious on the evidence we have seen; there are numerous solar farms too. Given the ever-presence of wind, there is no reason why Montana and North Dakota should not make its contribution, but we have seen more anti-turbine posters than turbines themselves in the US.

Our experiment with no cash continues although Val was searching desperately and unsuccessfully for a cash machine when we came across this double-decker London bus selling ice-cream but strictly on a non-credit card basis:

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We did some shopping in a Walmart which is to be found in Canada notwithstanding it being a staple US Supermarket. When we walked in. we were met with a surprise because it looked very much like an ASDA back home. This is not perhaps surprising given that Walmart own ASDA, for the moment anyway, but the familiar red and yellow signs are not a feature south of the border, nor is the presence of the ‘George’ clothing brand, surely imported from the UK.

Another similarity with the UK, and dissimilarity with the US, is the widespread acceptance of contactless payments, or ‘Tap’ as it’s called here, which makes life so much easier. In the US, not only do we have to use the pin number, we also have to sign the receipt too, which seems a bit pointless. I still can’t fathom why contactless has not been more widely accepted in the US when they are at the forefront of so much technological innovation.

Tomorrow, we arrive at last in Niagara Falls.

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