Fulton to Dexter, NY

I got started on the ride with Bruce this morning. Breakfast was on-route, about 18 miles in at a banquet hall called The Eis House. We filled the place up with cyclists, as even though we got there at different times, many of us took our time leaving, since it was such a warm and cozy place, and the buffet was excellent. When we finally got up the energy to leave, Bruce and I joined Colleen, Molly, and Marisa.

Just a few miles after leaving breakfast, it started raining, pretty hard and steady. It lasted until we reached the lunch stop, at mile 57 in the town of Sackett Harbor, on the shore of Lake Ontario. We were in a park that was the site of a U.S. Army barracks during the War of 1812; there were several museums and other historic attractions. Young volunteers were dressed in period clothes, and demonstrated the muskets and camp stove cooking of the time.

Bruce and I left lunch and headed through the main downtown area of Sackett Harbor, where we stopped at a small coffee shop. It was only about another eight miles before we got to our destination for the day, the Black Water Bay Campground in Dexter. There, I set up my new Wal-Mart tent for the first time without any trouble, even in the light rain that just started. The only complaints I have about it are that there is no vestibule to leave your shoes under outside the tent, and I have to be very careful when zipping the door not to catch the flap edges in the zipper.

The showers in this campground took quarters; you get 6 minutes of water for 50 cents. I joked that it would never be enough, and Peter said that I shouldn’t be so high-maintenance. The 6 minutes ended up being plenty, but when I came out, I joked, “That was the best $4.50 I’ve spent all week!”

I walked a mile or so into town with Matt Olson, where we found a bar called Coho’s, and inside we found (surprise, surprise) some others from our group, including Matt Sheehan, Richard, David Butler, and Molly and Marisa. We had a couple pitchers of Sam Adams, and once again enjoyed some of our favorites on the jukebox.

Dinner was barbecued chicken provided under a shelter at the campground. We had the weekly awards ceremony tonight, one day early this week. Keith recognized several of us as recipients of the “railroad spike award,” presumably better than a “tough as nails” award, for the various physical obstacles we all overcame. There was John Piser, a guy in his 60’s who, one day in Wyoming, got extremely exhausted and was lost until 10:00pm; David Butler and Brian Hall, who had dehydration issues; David Beraru, who suffered through the mountain passes of the first week on his recumbent bike, then returned in the third week with a regular road bike; Robert with his bad knee; and of course, me with my collar bone.

We made a camp fire after dinner. David Butler borrowed Ryan’s guitar and played while the rest of us sang along. We picked songs based on what anybody could remember the lyrics to, and what David knew how to play; he did a great job remembering songs and sometimes ad-libbing. It was mostly 60-era folk-type music at first–a lot of Simon & Garfunkle, Arlo Guthrie, and the like. As we started running out of material, it shifted to religious and patriotic songs. Many of us were wishing for some more modern selections, but it was a very fun experience nonetheless. We retired to our tents around 10:00pm as the rain started to pick up once again.

Sodus to Fulton, NY

It rained through most of the night, but cleared up by the time we left this morning. It was another relatively short day of 74 miles. The terrain is starting to get a little more hilly again, looking a little like hoome. Bruce and I got to the lunch stop at mil 44 around 10:00am. It was in a nice spot in the city of Oswego, on the bank of the Oswego Canal where the canal meets Lake Ontario.

We left lunch with Mike from Minnesota and Tauna, and stopped in town for a cup of coffee. We were back on the route at 11:30. The route had gone a good bit north to get to Oswego, then back south and backtracked a bit west to get to Fulton. Some people chose to go due east all day, skipping the lunch stop and Oswego altogether. We had some strong headwinds for the last five miles heading west into Fulton. Bruce and I stopped for a milkshake at the city visitor center, near a small lake.

On our way back through town towards Fulton High School, we passed a NASCAR-themed bar called Nasbar (get it?). There were a bunch of bicycles outside; I decided to stop in, while Bruce went on to the school. Robert, Brian, and Meg had taken the shortcut to Fulton and had been here since 11:30am. Molly and Marisa had done the full ride, been to the school and showered, and were doing their laundry (the laundromat was right next door to the bar). Scott, Kira, and a few others stopped in straight off the route as well. We enjoyed several drinks, and played a bunch of our favorite tunes on the jukebox. I finally made myself head to the school around 4:30, and got showered and ready for dinner.

We were shuttled in the vans to the local Golden Corral for dinner. After Tour Talk back at the school, I bought a new tire from Jeremy and installed it on my front wheel. The old tire that I had put on last night turned out to be not as good as I had thought, it had a slight bulge in it that I could feel throughout the ride today.

Some people were heading out into town again, which I thought I would have liked to do, but I decided I better do my laundry for the week. I was later glad that I did; now I will just have to do it one more time for the trip, some time next week. I got to bed a little after 10:00pm.

Albion to Sodus, NY

After breakfast in the school cafeteria, Bruce and I headed out under light sprinkles of rain. We caught up to Robert and helped him fix a flat around mile 15. A couple of miles later, the route took us on a bike path for about 30 miles, mostly along the Erie Canal, and skirting around the south side of the city of Rochester. Most sections of the path were very nice, including some paved sections, but there were a few sections nearest to the city where tree roots had buckled the pavement, making quite severe bumps. There were a lot of flat tires today, including another for Robert right as we got to the lunch stop at the end of the bike path.

Soon after lunch, we passed through the town of Fairport, where we stopped at a bike shop and saw Matt and James picking out new bikes. Matt ended up getting a Specialized Allez Sport, and James got a Trek 1500. Bruce, Robert, and I stopped later for milkshakes and coffee in the town of Williamson, which was around mile 70 for the day. Then, we quickly made the final seven miles to Sodus High School. Just as we arrived, I noticed a tear in the tread of my front tire, so I installed the original tire I had saved after I put the new pair of tires on in Wenatchee, WA. It seemed to be in pretty good condition.

Before we got showered, Robert, Molly, and I decided to ride back into town. We found a bar called Jug’s Tavern. It was only $1 for Genessee drafts. We were joined by Peter, Ryan, and few others, including Lori and Dean, two friends who met on some tour five years ago, and who now meet every year to take a week-long bike tour. The tavern had lots of interesting memorabilia on the walls, mostly pictures and posters of Elvis Presley. There was a snapshot of Elvis in his Army uniform in Germany; the snapshot was taken by a local man who had served with Elvis at the time. Also on the wall was a large $30,000 check, the kind they give when people win a big prize. They owner of the tavern Harry Hunser (a.k.a. Jug), was in a casino in Niagara Falls in April of this year for his 75th birthday, and won the $30,000 in a slot machine.

We had dinner at the school. Colleen and I had been talking lately about a card game called Scat. She had played it in college, and I remembered playing it with my family when I was young. Between the two of us, we rememberd how to play, and taught several other people, so we got a game going with Richard, Ted, David Butler, and Marisa. I ended up winning the pot, which was $5 in quarters (useful for the next laundry day).

When it came time for lights out in the gym where we were to sleep, we found that there were emergency lights that stayed on, and nobody knew how to turn them off, including the school’s custodian. This has happened a couple of times. I was pretty tired, though, and slept pretty well, anyway.

Niagara Falls, ON to Albion, NY

We rode into downtown Niagara Falls, and stopped for breakfast at the Minolta Tower, with its spectacular view of the falls. The falls were partially visible when I first arrived, shrouded in mist and fog, but as we ate, the fog built up even more until it completely blocked the view below. Leaving town, we rode across the Rainbow Bridge; the thick fog persisted here as well, as we encountered a near white-out on the bridge. We made the border crossing without any hassle.

The road was pretty rough and full of traffic as we worked our way out of the region surrounding the city of Niagara Falls. After that, we followed beautiful, smooth country roads along the Niagara River and the south shore of Lake Ontario. I rode mode of the day with Bruce; Colin joined us about halfway to lunch. The lunch stop was in a park right on the lakeshore, at the 50-mile mark for the day.

Matt Olson and Robert joined us for the remaining 25 miles to Albion. Bruce and I stopped in town for an ice cream snack. After I went on to Albion High School and got showered, I walked back into town to the public library to catch up on e-mail.

After dinner, I took my bike over to Jeremy and had him remove the stem riser, so I will now be riding my bike with the normal setup.

We took up a collection to help Matt Sheehan pay for a new bike, which he plans to shop for in Rochester this week. Until then, we is riding the spare staff bike, so he has not missed any miles of the tour.

Rest day in Niagara Falls, ON

I woke up around 8:00am, and I probably could have slept longer, but I heard Patti talking to some other people, and I wanted to say good-bye to her before she left in the airport shuttle.

Some bad news this morning. We found that three people had their bikes stolen last night. The first I heard about was (Aussie) Matt Sheehan; later I found that James (staff) was another victim, and the third was George, a rider who had only been with us for the past week. They all filed reports with the local police. George had a nice Litespeed; I assume he will be replacing it once he gets home. James had a Specialized Sequoia, and Matt had a Bianchi Brava that he had bought in Seattle. They had locked their bikes, but since fence and lamp post space near the school was limited, they just put their locked around their wheels and frames to prevent the bikes from being ridden away. This had been sufficient in the past, but this time the theives apparently carried the bikes off.

Matt’s story is somewhat amusing; as a long-distance runner, he is in very good physical condition, but did not have a lot of experience cycling. When he arrived in Seattle, he went downtown, and flagged down a cyclist on the street and asked him where to find a good bicycle shop. The man directed him to a nearby shop, where Matt entered and said “I need a bike to get me from here to Boston.” They selected the Bianchi Brava for him, a decent entry-level road bike. Then Matt asked “What sort of clothing do people wear for cycling?” The clerk pointed out some typical jerseys and shorts, so Matt said “OK, I’ll take a few of those.” They repeated the process for shoes and helmet. As he exited the store, Matt turned to the man one last time and said, “So, which way to Boston?”

Matt was doing his best to keep a positive attitude after the theft, but I could tell that he was really sad that his brand new trusty machine that had gotten his this far across the continent was gone. He joined Colleen, Meg, Jim, and I for breakfast at the Flying Saucer Restaurant, which is on Lundy’s Lane a couple blocks from our school. There was a big crowd waiting to be seated, but our party of five turned out to be an advantage, as they had a large table available for us right away. I ordered the Belgian waffles with blueberry topping, then decided to add the 99-cent breakfast special to it, which added two eggs, toast, and home fries. All were excellent.

Colleen and I decided to take a walk down to the falls. There, we saw Molly, Marisa, Colin, Jane, and Sue. We walked across the Rainbow Bridge to the U.S. side with Molly, Marisa, and Sue, then we did the Cave of the Winds tour (minus Sue; she wanted to head back to do laundry). We got soaking wet, but it was fun. Then we made the long walk back to the school; Colleen stopped with me so I could satisfy my coffee and donut craving at Tim Horton’s. We had just enough time to get a little cleaned up for dinner.

We walked back to Mick & Angelo’s. Our non-vegetarian choice was chicken parmesan; there were two huge pieces of breat meat and a large helping of spaghetti. The chicken tasted a little bland, but I finished the whole plate anyway. Then we headed back to the school for Tour Talk. There were a large number of new riders this week, the first time that the new people outnumbered the us coast-to-coast riders.

Port Dover to Niagara Falls, ON

The route was 71 miles today, with mostly sunny and pleasant weather. The ride had a very casual and social vibe today, as we rode in a larger-than-usual group, and just enjoyed the scenery and the conversation. The group included most of my usual partners–Colleen, Molly, Marisa, Meg, Patti, Bruce, Brian, and David Butler. There were also two new riders joining us for the week, Tammy from Michigan, and Theresa, Brian’s girlfriend from Oklahoma.

About 10 miles before the end, we had to make another ferry crossing. This time, it was just a man operating a small pontoon boat, for pedestrians and cyclists only. The service was free, and the operator explained that they had been doing the crossings this way since the bridge over the river was washed out in a flood in 1974. By this time, the group had split up again, and I was only riding with Tammy and Molly. We were joined on the ferry by a local cyclist returning from his weekly group ride, on his way home to Niagara Falls. After a couple miles, though, he took a different route in than we did.

When Brian and Theresa got to town, they rode straight to the falls, where he proposed to her. She was surprised, but said yes.

I had time to kill before dinner, so I located the local Wal-Mart and rode my bike there to buy a cheap tent to get me through the final two weeks of the trip, after my repeated tent pole problems. It was about two miles away, but I was able to strap the tent to my rack for the ride back to where we were staying, the Princess Margaret Public School. The tent was only $28 CDN. Back at the school, I started to open the tent to try it out, and Bruce noticed and told me that Patti had a tent she was willing to give away. She is done with her trip this week, and will be looking to buy a new tent at home, so just wanted to get rid of her old one so as to not have to bother carrying it home. So I went and talked to her, and got the tent from her, but she explained a few problems it has–one cracked pole, some leakage, the door zipper sometimes jams, and there are no stakes. I thought about returned my new tent to Wal-Mart, but decided to keep both just in case. I put my original tent in the long-term storage area of the baggage truck.

A large group of us, mostly those of us riding coast-to-coast, wanted to have dinner together, so we went to an Italian place on Lundy’s Lane called Mick & Angelo’s. Even though our tour-provided dinner would be here as well tomorrow, we chose it because it was nearby and could handle our large group. The food was generally good, although I was a little disappointed in the NY strip steak that I ordered.

Several people got rooms at a nearby Best Western hotel for the weekend, so after dinner, Meg and I caught a ride there with David and Patricia. We hung out in the lounge with them for a while, and were joined by Robert. Brian and Theresa stopped by for a few minutes, as did Keith and his girlfriend Ilene, who was visiting for a few days. David and Patricia turned in fairly early, so Robert, Meg, and I went to the outdoor lounge area for a little while. We enjoyed listening to and acoustic guitarist playing there for a while. It was almost 12:30am when Robert retired to his room, and Meg and I walked back to the school.

West Lorne to Port Dover, ON

My bike computer showed 47 degrees this morning, probably our coldest ride start to date. I got out my leg warmers for the first time. The Californians with us said that these conditions would cancel a planned ride back home. The Minnesotans stuck with their short sleeves.

It warmed up comfortably by lunch, which was in the town of Port Burwell on a Lake Erie beach. There was a sign pointing out over the water that said Cleveland – 144 km, Ashtabula – 80 km, and Erie – 81 km. So I figured that at this point, I was the closest to home that I will be during the whole tour, as we will be heading more north and east as we continue through Ontario.

On this 98-mile day, several people succeeded in riding a five-hour century, including Peter (who did it non-stop), Ryan, and Jeremy from the staff, and David Butler, who made it with just 21 seconds to spare. The terrain got a bit more hilly than yesterday. I rode most of the day with Bruce and Patti.

When we got to Port Dover, we went straight through town, down to the harbor area for ice cream. We ran into some other riders there, including Richard, Colleen, Molly, Marisa, David Butler, and his wife Patricia, who had come to visit us once again.

We stayed at the Port Dover Composite School, and had dinner and breakfast at United Grace Church just up the street. It was Road Relics night again; my entry was a hotel key card that I had found; I labeled it “Meet me in room 312 at 11:30pm.” I think it got a lot of laughs, but I did not win anything this time.

After dinner, several of us went to a bar in town called FortyTwoEighty. Then we noticed that another place up the street called Cap’n Bill’s was having a karaoke night, but it didn’t start until 10:00pm, so we went to yet another place across the street (I don’t remember that name of that one). Finally, a little after 10:00, we went over to Cap’n Bill’s. In honor of some of the harsh days of headwinds that we’ve had on the tour, I sang Frank Sinatra’s “Summer Wind.” Molly did “I Love Rock ‘n Roll” and Scott did “Take It Easy.”

Richmond, MI to West Lorne, ON

It was a quick and pleasant 20-mile ride to the border. I was riding with a group that included Molly, Marisa, Colleen, Kira, and Scott. We got to the river, in the town of Marine City, just in time to board the ferry to cross over into Canada. It was a small auto ferry, which took us across the St. Claire River to the town of Sombra in Ontario. I wore the Canadian flag socks that I bought yesterday; after the female border guard waved me through, she said “Nice socks.”

The winds picked up as we crossed the wide-open plains of Ontario. I felt like seeing how much I could push myself, just to get through the wind as soon as I could, so I took off on my own until I got to lunch in the town of Oakdale. I re-joined the group for our final 28 miles (for a total of 71 miles for the day) to get to our destination of West Lorne. As we got on our way, Molly and Marisa were reminiscing about listening to NPR news during the mornings at their home in DC, so we started playing a game where we could see how many NPR personalities we could name, while trying to imitate the voice of the personality as we said their name. I impressed them all by being the only one to remember Snigdha Prakash.

Once we arrived at West Elgin Secondary School in West Lorne, I showered, then loaded my laundry bag onto my bike rack again and headed to the local laundromat with Colleen. I had a small load this time, but wanted to get it out of the way so I wouldn’t have to worry about it over the weekend. While my clothes were drying, I really had a taste for a coffee and donut; there was a Donut Delite shop just around the corner, but there were out of good donuts for the day, so I just got the coffee. When I finished my laundry, I walked around town a bit more to kill time before dinner, but there was not much to see or do.

Dinner was at the school. After riding past cornfields for literally thousands of miles, we finally had some fresh-picked sweet corn on the cob. We had another Molly-organized event afterward, a swap meet. Some of us gathered our spare stuff, or anything that we were willing to barter with, and got together to see what kind of deals we could make. Nobody was interested in my Wal-Mart six-pack cooler. Matt Olson had one of his RAGBRAI jerseys available, so I decided to part with my Polish Post jersey to get it.

Frankenmuth to Richmond, MI

Another rainy morning as we got started on today’s 90-mile route. It stopped by the time we got to the lunch stop in Brown City, the self-proclaimed "Origin of the Mobile Home." The staff had cooked up some nice hot vegetarian chili and hot chocolate, in addition to the usual delicious sandwiches, salads, fruit, and snacks.

It stayed pretty chilly once the rain stopped. I had figured that I would either need my rain jacket, or once it stopped raining, it would be warm enough for just a jersey and arm warmers. So, I had not packed my vest, but this afternoon, I was wishing I had it.

I rode with Colleen all the way in from lunch. I was in a mood where I just wanted to put my head down, pedal hard, and get the miles out of the way today, so I kept up a pace between 18 and 21 mph, and Colleen just stayed tucked in behind me the whole way. At mile 80, we stopped at a pie shop that Keith had found when he mapped the route. The pie was excellent; I got Oreo Creme and Colleen got blueberry. We were a little disappointed that it was mainly just a take-out bakery, though; we were hoping for a nice place to sit and warm up with a cup of coffee.

As soon as we got to Richmond, we stopped at Hamilton’s Bicycles. They were very excited to see us; they said that they look forward to the Cycle America tour passing through every year. It was one of the best bike shops we have seen on the tour. I went a little crazy and ended up buying a jersey (the Tour de France polka-dotted climber’s jersey), a pair of Canadian flag socks, a headlamp, another mirror, and a bar-end mirror for Robert, as he has been looking for one. Then I took a ride to the other end of town looking for a grocery store, and ended up finding only a K-Mart. I bought some Dawn and a small brush to clean my drive train. I spent some time doing this after dinner, as many other people had to do, after the wet and sloppy conditions we had today. Then I took a walk up the street to a local gallery and shop with Bruce and Patti, and I bought a pair of earrings for my mom.

After dinner in the school cafeteria, Meg, Bruce, Robert, and I wanted to have a quick beer. I suggested walking to the east side of town, towards where the K-Mart was, because I thought I had seen a few establishments on my way earlier today. There turned out to be no place there to go for a drink, so we flagged down a nice local, who gave us a lift in the back of his pickup to a bar back on the east end of town, right across the street from the bike shop. We didn’t stay long, just had our one beer, then walked back to the school and went to bed.

Mt. Pleasant to Frankenmuth, MI

We went back over to Immanuel Lutheran Church for breakfast (awesome pancakes), then headed out for today’s 85-mile ride. Despite the lower mileage, today’s route felt like more of a grind than yesterday’s, as it was mostly flat, with a bit more headwinds and cross-winds. I rode all day with Jane, who has gotten quite strong during the trip, and is now impressively fast.

Lunch was under a pleasant picnic shelter in the town of St. Charles. Once we got to Frankenmuth (a Bavarian-style village), a group of us stopped in the local microbrewery for snacks and refreshments. Their Irish Stout was very good. I was going to go back there later in the evening, but I laid down for a little nap after dinner and ended up sleeping through the entire evening.

Just as I reached downtown Frankenmuth this afternoon, my bike computer turned over 2000 miles total for the trip. A couple other people who had ridden the entire route since Seattle said that they turned over 3000 miles at that same point.