The Garden City Refugee

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Over the River LX

May 13, 2023

Highlights and lowlights from my 60th two-wheeled trek to the Great State of New York:

1. While waiting for the regional bus at Fairview Mall, some guy from Mississauga was keeping the Burlington-bound GO bus, already late, waiting for several minutes while he tried to figure out how to buy a ticket at the machine. This seems to be a common theme of late and I don’t get why. These machines are designed for people of all abilities. Choose your starting point and destination, pay your fare and take the ticket. It’s not rocket science.

In any event, he should have allowed for more time and got there early enough to buy his ticket. Even if operating the machine fell within his intellectual capabilities, there could have been a long line. It’s public transit, not a taxi service.

2. After radical covidians have been so proud of promoting segregation and exclusion for the past two years, inclusion is apparently a thing again . . .

3. I was pleased to see that the Falls-bound regional bus was nearly full. At least the service is being used.

4. Passing by the Rona, I noticed there was a sign outside the store promoting Rona Week. Funny, but I didn’t think they’d be having Home Depot Week.

5. Boarding at Niagara College was a younger dude toting a canvas bag with NEW CALIFORNIA REPUBLIC stitched under the state flag who bore a striking resemblance to a former colleague who was noted for getting up during meetings at random intervals and doing all sorts of weird calisthenics.

6. As the bus approached the Morrison and Dorchester hub, there was an automated message asking riders to be prepared to show proof of payment. If you paid cash, the message stated, ask for a transfer ticket as your proof of payment. Since when has this become a thing? I haven’t seen a fare inspector on any regional or city bus and it’s not as though you can sneak on board without going past the driver.

7. As opposed to a fake breakfast . . .

8. I was a little nervous as I waited at U.S. customs for the first time since the start of the war and my anxiety rose still further when I saw the van with Ontario plates two cars ahead of me being directed into secondary. Did the geriatric dementia patient who occupies the office of president change his mind about letting the pure-blooded into the country? I wondered. Did the CDC (Centers for Drug Companies) put out a new directive? Am I about to be Title 19’d as two friends of mine were months earlier? But the inspection couldn’t have gone any smoother. All the officer asked me was where I was going, when I planned to come back and if I had any fruit in my backpack.

9. The new sign welcoming visitors to the Great State of New York. Though I normally frown on frivolously redoing signs, the old sign had become a little beat up.

10. Upon clearing customs on past cross-border trips, I often stopped at One Niagara Welcome Center, the sucker joint right by the bridge that is always blasting music from a local radio station, for a bathroom break. But now they don’t open until 9 am and they’ve also removed the bike rack.

11. Video showing the ride along the Shoreline Trail between the state park and LaSalle Waterfront Park. This trail is nestled between the Niagara Scenic Parkway and the Niagara River and travels underneath the North Grand Island Bridge.

12. I spotted a number of bike-rental stations like this one around town. Even in the middle of the ’hood, not more than a block away from an overpass named in honor of a teenager who was brutally murdered there, bikes can be left unattended, whereas in Winnipeg, they would be stolen or vandalized so fast your head would spin.

12a. A former colleague once told me how his friend’s bike was stolen from outside the Health Sciences Center, Winnipeg’s largest hospital. In broad daylight, someone brought a power saw, plugged it into a nearby outlet and cut the thick metal U-bar lock.

13. Video showing the walk across the North Grand Island Bridge in both directions:

14. For years, long before the war and long before they brought in cashless tolling on the Thruway, the toll on Grand Island was $1.00. Now it’s changed. Those with E-ZPass from outside New York are charged $1.09. Not $1.05 or $1.10. And those without E-ZPass will get billed $1.24. Not $1.20 or $1.25 or even $1.50. That’s just so . . . Winnipeg.

15. Video of the ride to and from the Western New York Welcome Center:

16. The alert viewer will notice the urgent care center right next to Walgreens. Conveniently located for those dumb enough to take any more of those genocidal poison injections.

17. Rumor has it that Fantasy Island is making a comeback, but from the looks of the place, it’s getting ready for the wrecker’s ball.

17a. Did you know that Fantasy Island used to advertise on billboards here in St. Catharines?

18. Spotted on Grand Island was a Trump/DeSantis 2024 bumper sticker and an ice cream shop flying a flag from Trump’s 2020 campaign in which he won the election, but was not awarded the office. This in lefty New York, a state that had been harsher on its own people during the war than many provinces in Canada, a country under the authoritarian rule of the Liberal Party of Canada, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Chinese Communist Party.

19. Scenes from the Western New York Welcome Center:


20. Mixed in with the sales pitch on the root beer I was about to purchase at the WNY Welcome Center, the clerk said she had a couple of spare pennies in a jar if I needed because Canadians didn’t use pennies anymore. Yet I didn’t mention until after this exchange that I was a Canadian. Perhaps there’s something subtle about my appearance that identifies my citizenship.

20a. The last time I was there, when I mentioned that I was from St. Catharines, the clerk (a different one) was aghast. “You came all the way from Canada?” she asked as if I had come from Bangladesh or something.

21. Seated around a round table at the WNY Welcome Center was a bunch of old fogies shooting the breeze who seemed a little puzzled by my appearance. But they didn’t let this foreigner’s presence cramp their style. One suggested they should package up the Great Wall into smaller pieces and ship it here. Another thought that Bud Light was trying to use their transgender spokesperson to entice people to join the military. Someone else asked one of them if he kept a journal. “If I did, I wouldn’t know where to find it,” was the reply.

22. Among the cars parked at the WNY Welcome Center was one from Minnesota, a state that saw my bike on three occasions back when I still lived in Winnipeg.

23. They’ve even got a replica fire hydrant in this “pet comfort area” in case visiting dogs aren’t sure where to piss:

24. I never knew driving on grass was a thing in WNY . . .

25. Video of the ride from LaSalle Waterfront Park to the Wheatfield town line. Most of the trail east of Cayuga Drive has been built since the start of the war.

26. The guy with a big backpack near the end of the video was filming for Apple Maps. So we were filming each other.

27. The former Four Points Sheraton on Buffalo Avenue has gone independent (likely not by choice) and is now the Niagara Riverside Resort.

28. The door to the Sunshine Café on Buffalo Avenue was left wide open. Evidently they welcome both humans and multi-legged guests.

29. Exiting the portable washroom in Griffon Park was a big burly dude who was scrubbing his hands with the hand sanitizer provided. Once again, this is not the Old Country, where far too many don’t bother with such things.

30. The 716 bike life . . .

31. Thanks, but I think I’ll take a pass . . .


32. It was nice of someone to leave a couple of quarters and a nickel behind at the post where I locked up my bike at 7-Eleven.

33. Spotted at a bench at LaSalle Waterfront Park was a DWAM with a bike with pink tires and pink spokes who put her life in mortal danger by taking off her mask to drink some water. No doubt she made a beeline for that Rite-Aid pharmacy and got a Covid test.

34. I found it interesting that the same state that runs the transit system in WNY, which brags about how its buses are fueled by natural gas, is banning gas stoves in newly constructed buildings.

35. Video walking around Terrapin Point in Niagara Falls State Park:

36. They think of everything, even charging stations for wheelchairs and scooters . . .

37. On my way out of the state park, I passed by three dudes filming a rap scene in the middle of the bush.

38. Once again, the staff at the Niagara USA Visitor Center does not exactly go out of its way to welcome visitors. Whereas in most tourist places, they fawn over you, there, they only acknowledge your presence because they’re told to. Which is especially surprising given that the US is traditionally a more entrepreneurial country and that the Canadian side is clearly the better option for anyone coming to Niagara Falls. Niagara Falls USA would be well advised to adopt the Avis slogan. We’re number two and we try harder.

39. A large part of me didn’t want to go back to Canada. Crossing the Rainbow Bridge, I felt like an East Berliner who had been given a day pass to the West.

40. While in line at Canadian customs, I smelled the distinct odor of vinegar.

41. On my return trip on the GO bus, I noticed they finally installed a ticket machine at 420 & Stanley. Now if they would only put in a machine on the same side of the street at the Niagara Falls Bus Terminal.

42. Boarding at 420 & Stanley was a woman with a thick Eastern European accent who was asking the driver how to get to Toronto. “I take train,” she said before taking a seat, but still visibly unsure of what the driver told her.

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