The weatherman said this weekend was supposed to be nice, relatively speaking. Highs of 50 on Saturday, and 55 on Sunday. I decided on Friday that I was going to attempt one last grand adventure of the year. I pulled out my maps and tried looking for places I haven't yet been to this year, in the 25-50 mile range (thus making a round trip of 50-100 miles). It's getting tough. I made up a few sample routes, but nothing really jumped out at me as an absolute "must do" ride.
Then it hit me; I couldn't believe I had ignored it for so long. I live 42 miles away from Niagara Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world. Why on earth had I postponed this destination up until now? I decided: Sunday is the day. It'll be nice out and I can rest all Saturday long.
Saturday night comes and I was too excited to go to sleep. I kept drawing out routes all night long, unsure of which one I should take. I ultimately decided on a straight there-and-back route with no looping. I would take roads I was familiar with, along with bike paths until I get to Niagara County, at which point I would take River Road north, then a bike path along the Niagara River straight west until I get to the falls.
The morning started off bad. I shut off my alarm when it rung, and didn't wake up until an hour later. Due to the daylight saving time switch I wanted to get an early start so I would have plenty of time to make it home before dark. Once I was up I had issues revving my engine... it was one of those groggy mornings. Didn't get going until 8am.
I was frozen almost instantly. The temperature was in the 30's, a far cry from the 55 we would reach. Regardless I resisted the temptation to go back inside and put more clothes on; I would warm up after a few miles anyway, and I would just have to take off anything extra and carry it around. The morning was mostly uneventful.
I almost got creamed crossing Niagara Falls Boulevard heading into Ellicott Creek Park. The light turned red and some inattentive driver futzing on their smartphone ran it after I had already entered the intersection. Luckily I was paying far more attention than she was and I was able to stop before they hit me, but it was close. That put a damper on the morning, but it soon wore off and the smile returned to my face as I pedaled onward.
Unfortunately my planned route fell apart. The bike path along the river was closed with some "environmental cleanup project" signs along it. I didn't want to find out. The bike path goes right over the old Love Canal area so I wondered if that had anything to do with it. Regardless, I now had to come up with a backup plan. I decided to just follow roads where I could still see the Niagara River, and hope that took me in the general vicinity of where I wanted to go.
Sadly, that was a bad idea. I ended up on a road called Buffalo Road, which looked like it hadn't been paved in over 40 years. I'm not kidding, this road was atrocious, and I honestly felt like I was going to break a spoke or two going over the potholes. They were completely unavoidable. This went on for a good three or four miles before I got closer to the falls, and the road smoothed out.
I finally reached the falls, but had to dismount the bike on Goat Island (the island that intersects the two waterfalls), because there were just too many people around, and I didn't feel safe cycling inbetween them. Unfortunately I didn't bring my bike lock with me, so there was nowhere I felt like I could leave the bike. I ended up just walking the bike around the island with myself. I took a bunch of photographs:
It was awe-inspiring. You live near one of the worlds most renowned natural wonders, and you take it completely for granted. I haven't been here in years, and it's a damned shame, because it's so beautiful. I hung out for about 20 minutes just taking pictures and taking in the scenery. It's also interesting to note that almost everyone on the island was speaking a foreign language. I don't think I heard anyone speaking English. Just goes to show you how this place is special enough to draw people from all over the world... and yet here I am only visiting it once every 10 years or so.
Eventually I decided it was time to get going. I decided to try searching around for a better route out of Niagara Falls, because there was no way in hell I was taking Buffalo Road again. I ended up finding New York Bike Route 5, which took me all the way out to where my parents lived, so I took a break at their house for a half an hour at around mile 60 to refill on water and chat with my brother about how things are going.
The rest of the ride was uneventful. I made it home just as dusk was starting to set in. I packed my headlights in case I made it home after dusk, but I didn't need them. I briefly considered tacking on another 15 miles to the trip to make my 3rd century of the year, but ultimately when I reached home I decided it was time to pack things in at 85 miles. I felt good, no need to over-do it. What an awesome trip.
As I sit here, I realise that not only is this probably the last grand adventure I'll probably take this year, but it's probably also the last 50+ ride I'll ever make on my GT mountain bike. Next week my Long Haul Trucker is set to arrive, and by all accounts I'll end up liking the feel of a proper touring bike for long distance riding far more than a mountain bike. Kind of makes me sad, but it had one hell of a run. Odometer is at just about 4500 miles now, almost 3000 from this year alone. What a way to finish off an era, that's for sure.