Category Archives: Buffalo

20 Oct

Buffalo Again

Observations and a few pictures from my second visit to Buffalo within the last month and my 47th two-wheeled trip to the Great State of New York:

1. Crossing the Homer Bridge in virtual darkness first thing in the morning, I spotted a fellow cyclist on the other side of the street traveling in the opposite flow of traffic without a helmet, a light or a brain.

2. When approaching the booth at U.S. Customs at the Rainbow Bridge, a car pulled up right behind me instead of waiting behind the explicitly marked stop signs, drawing the ire of the officer in the booth, who came out, put up his hand and yelled “STOP!” at the offending driver. When they say stay behind the stop sign and wait until the vehicle ahead clears, they mean stay behind the stop sign and wait until the vehicle ahead clears.

2a. I would have loved to have been that proverbial fly on the wall for that driver’s inspection.

2b. As I’ve said before, my respect for the CBP increases with every visit.

3. Having just missed a bus, I made for the Portage Road Transportation Center to catch the next one. There, I purchased a day pass from the machine inside, which was particularly finicky about the $1 bills I was putting in. Several of them were rejected and I was lucky I had enough with me that the machine accepted. Had the need arisen, however, there was a change machine inside, which accepts bills as large as $20 and returns $5 bills.

4. The washroom at the Portage Road Transportation Center, in sharp contrast to the one at the Metropolitan Transportation Center in downtown Buffalo, was an absolute dump.

5. All the homies at the Portage Road Transportation Center waiting for the same #40 Buffalo-bound bus seemed to know each other, which made me stand out even more, since I was one of only two Caucasians within a one-mile radius.

6. Complimentary gum for “valued Metro bus customers.”

7. NFTA should seriously consider adding more buses on the #40 route as the bus was practically full in both directions.

8. Seated near the back door, I noted once again that it opened automatically and that departing passengers don’t need a battering ram to get it open. Unlike the case in a certain part of the world where I used to live.

9. Spotted near Sheridan Drive was a sign “Support America. Support Unions.” To that I would add, “Pick One.”

10. I listened with interest as a guy behind me named Bob, a waiter, told all his fellow passengers that he made $102 in tips from Tuesday’s lunch crowd and another $80 on Wednesday. After he told the person on the other end of the line about how his buddy left his number for a female patron and invited her to a party, he shared his story about the time when two old ladies came in and ordered a bottle of wine with their meal. Despite being a little tipsy, they drove home, but he was happy that they left him with a $20 tip on their $80 order. Then he went on to tell everyone about another one of his buddies who had fathered several children with multiple women, only one of whom was his wife. “You’ve got to protect yourself,” was what he told his MVP (Most Virile Parent) buddy, but better advice would have been to keep his pants zipped up or something even more radical like remaining faithful to his spouse. All told, I was seriously disappointed when this guy got off near Busti Avenue. There was undoubtedly much more to hear.

11. Scenes at the Metropolitan Transportation Center in downtown Buffalo. Unlike the case in a certain part of the world I once called home, it was relatively clean and not Ground Zero for bums and the like.

12. Just after stepping inside the washroom at the Metropolitan Transportation Center, a black guy came out of the handicapped stall without a shirt and went to admire himself in the mirror. Who exactly was he trying to impress in there?

13. While taking pictures around the McKinley Monument in Niagara Square, an older woman openly holding out her wallet with credit cards and bills plainly visible kept walking around and around the circle. Methinks some mental health issues were in play.

14. Bail bondsmen parked at Niagara Square for the convenience those patronizing the courthouse across the street. Or bondspeople.

15. Someone forgot to “inpect” his sign before putting it up. And paying for it.

16. I never realized what a major problem parking is in downtown Buffalo.

17. Kudos to the City of Buffalo for the number of bike racks they provide throughout the downtown area.

18. I couldn’t agree more, which is why I would urge my American friends to vote Republican in the coming midterm elections. Just like I urge my Canadian friends to vote Conservative.

19. People who walk across our border illegally are not “immigrants,” they’re criminals.

20. I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw this bottle of “Buffalo melted snow” at the Buffalo Niagara Welcome Center. As I said to one of the people behind the counter, you don’t know about snow. Or cold.

21. While talking to a fellow cyclist on North Division Street who was waiting for a bus, he told me that they were serving chicken at a nearby mission on Eagle Street if I was hungry. I know I’m cheap and don’t live extravagantly, but do I really look so haggard that someone would think to point me to a mission for a free meal?

22. While waiting for the #40 Falls-bound bus at the Metropolitan Transportation Center, a couple of guys came running out to flag down a departing #1 bus. In a scene eerily reminiscent of those I’ve seen far too often another part of the world I used to call home, the driver ignored them and kept going.

23. NFTA should seriously consider installing backup horns on their buses instead of forcing drivers to keep honking when they’re backing out.

24. At the stop on North Division Street, three Muslims got on waving a VISA card wondering where they should tap it. No transit system I know of takes credit cards on the bus. Cash, tokens or passes only. They seemed a little miffed over having to dig out cash once the driver explained that little detail, but they eventually managed to scrounge up enough. Then in spite of not being disabled in any way, they sat down in the priority seating and while there, tried to catch a few winks. How successful they were as the suspension-challenged low-floor bus made its way through the pothole-filled streets of Buffalo is anyone’s guess.

25. Being picked up or dropped off at the curb seems to be a genuine luxury when it comes to Metro buses.

26. On the GO bus back to St. Catharines, rather than tell the driver where he wanted to go, someone boarding at Niagara College instead flashed it to the driver on his phone.

26a. Niagara College is indeed a popular stop.

20 Sep

Back to Buffalo on Two Wheels

Observations and a few pictures from my third two-wheeled trip to Buffalo and my 38th such trip to the Great State of New York:

1. Before going across the Rainbow Bridge, I spotted some tourists waiting to cross a street having tremendous difficulty trying to figure out how to use the walk button. I hesitate to laugh, but it’s not exactly a complex piece of machinery that requires years of training to operate.

2. After clearing customs, I waited for the #40 bus on Third Street in front of the Sheraton where I noticed this ad on the bench. Would you expect them to put it on the ad if their food wasn’t delicious?

3. Metro is the only municipal transit system I’ve seen where the drivers use lap and shoulder belts.

4. There was no need for the driver to honk at the car from PA in front of her on the Niagara Scenic Parkway who wasn’t going fast enough for her liking. The state builds four-lane divided highways so that you can pass slower traffic. Besides, she was taking the left exit less than a mile away anyway.

5. There were automated stop announcements as well as an overhead display flashing the name of the upcoming stop, yet the driver also yelled out the name of the stop. Shrug.

5a. I nearly laughed out loud when we passed the Tops on Grand Island and she yelled “TAHPS” as if she was from Western PA.

6. I got off just past the Scajaquada Expressway and made my way down Potomac Aveue, then Delavan Avenue toward Delaware Park. En route, I passed by an abandoned gas station where this Trump sign was proudly on display in the window:

6a. I only wish Trump was our prime minister, especially after he kicked some serious butt at the UN the other day. Knowing of him from the USFL era, I was skeptical when he first took office, but he’s looking like the best president our southern neighbors have ever had.

7. At Main Street, I got a number of highway pictures like this one of the Scajaquada Expressway, which will be making their way to a website near you:

8. Scenes at Delaware Park:

9. It appeared that the trail encircling the park was one-way, like it is at Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, yet the area was bereft of signage to that effect. Perhaps it was one of things you’re just supposed to know.

10. Oy. I’m surprised the intersection ahead wasn’t painted in rainbow colors.

11. While I was waiting to cross Delaware Avenue, someone rolled down his window and asked me if this was Delaware Avenue, apparently oblivious to the sign at the intersection and the much larger sign on the Scajaquada that brought him there. You have to wonder how some people pass the written portion of their driver’s test.

12. Proceeding north on Delaware Avenue, I couldn’t resist stopping for a shot of this sign. I don’t eat pork, but I still thought it was funny.

13. As I went through the Village of Kenmore, it marked the 15th different municipality that I’ve been in with my bike in the Great State of New York.

14. Further proof that New York has got to be the most over-signed state in the US:

15. It wasn’t too far from here in the City of Tonawanda where I saw a house that had been featured on an episode of House Hunters. I also spotted another such house earlier in the day closer to Delaware Park.

16. When ordering tea in a US restaurant, you need specify “hot tea” if that is indeed what you want. Not that I cared much since I just needed the liquid and a place to rest for a while.

17. Behind the counter at the McDonald’s in Tonawanda was someone with a nose ring who exclaimed, “I’m so freaking hot today I feel like I’m melting.”

18. I was at that McDonald’s close to noon and the place was deserted. The once-iconic symbol of the golden arches truly is a dying brand, at least in the US. But they got my business because they had a bike rack, unlike their competitor across the street.

19. Applause to the clerk who was so kind and courteous with the customer who dropped his half-eaten meal as he was going to toss it in the trash.

20. A shot from Tonawanda Island:

21. The dedicated trail along River Road in North Tonawanda was nice, as was the wide paved shoulder through the Town of Wheatfield, but Niagara Falls has some work to do on its stretch of that roadway leading to Cayuga Drive.

22. Before returning to Canada, I stopped for a break at the Niagara USA Visitor Center, where I saw a tourist dragging a suitcase. Then as the #40 bus she was apparently hoping to catch kept going through the roundabout without stopping for her, I watched as she hurriedly ran back in the opposite direction, where she was thankfully able to catch it a block to the east.

The bus stop sign was removed after the stop was relocated, but the bench is still there, and an unsuspecting tourist could be forgiven for not knowing better. It might not be a bad idea to put a sign at the bench indicating where to catch the bus.

23 Aug

Return to Buffalo

Yesterday, I set out bright and early for what would be my 27th two-wheeled visit to the great state of New York since defecting from the SPRM just over two years ago. This day’s destination was a return trip to Buffalo after first visiting the city in May of last year.

Rather than tackle virtually the entire distance on my own, as I did last year, I crossed the Rainbow Bridge and caught a #40 Metro bus that took me into the heart of downtown Buffalo. Normally, the bus stops at the first light past the customs plaza, but on account of the congestion around the bridge at this time of year, I had to catch it a couple of blocks to the south at the Niagara USA Visitor Center. There is a sign to this effect at the stop, but no mention of an alternate location to catch it, so I had to rely on a printed schedule I had picked up at the visitor center on a previous trip. You can also download a PDF of the schedule from NFTA’s website.

The bus soon arrived and I loaded my bike on the front rack. The racks are slightly different than the ones some readers might be familiar with on the GO buses. First of all, the handle you have to squeeze to bring down the rack is quite finicky. On my return trip, the driver advised me to jiggle it around before squeezing the handle. Secondly, when loading your bike, rather than twist a handle to bring around a fixed metal bar to lock in your front wheel, there’s a spring-loaded bar you have to pull out to secure it. For a video on the procedure, check NFTA’s website.

Also on their website, NFTA states that about two-thirds of their buses are equipped with bike racks, but throughout my extensive travels in WNY, I have yet to see a Metro bus without one.

I then purchased a day pass for $5, but if you’re just going one way, the regular fare is $2. Note that they only accept U.S. currency. Sorry, no Canadian dollarettes.

daypass
Note that even when standing and waiting at a bus stop, you need to be attentive. If you show the slightest bit of disinterest, the driver will pass you by. NFTA operators are not in the business of reading your mind.

After taking my seat, the driver sped south across Grand Island and through Tonawanda, and I was quickly in downtown Buffalo. I swear they must recruit from the ranks of retired race car drivers. This isn’t Winnipeg Transit, where they often dawdle along.

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One of my first targets was the First Niagara Center, home of the Buffalo Sabres. Outside the arena was the Tops Alumni Plaza, where they honor Sabres greats from the past. The statue out front honors the French Connection line, but I was disappointed to see no mention of former Jets goaltender Joe Daley, who once played in Buffalo.

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Nearby, on the site of the former Buffalo Memorial Auditorium, more commonly referred to as “the Aud,” was a statue of Tim Horton. Though today, he is noted for the wildly successful chain of coffee and donut shops bearing his name, he was a former NHL defenseman who last played for the Sabres before his death in 1974 right here in St. Catharines. Drunk as a skunk, he died in a one-vehicle accident on the QEW near the Lake Street exit.

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The Tim Hortons location just across the street from the statue.

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Shots around the Canalside park. This is site of the former Aud and the concrete jungle in the background is the Buffalo Skyway and the adjacent interchange with I-190.

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Across Main Street. In the distance to the right is the building which houses the offices of The Buffalo News.

As you would expect, it wouldn’t be a bike trip for me without getting shots of some highways, so I went for a short ride around the downtown area. One of the spots I ended up at was Niagara Square, right in front of City Hall.

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I can still picture Scott Norwood, the former Birmingham Stallions kicker who also played for the Bills, who tearfully dedicated the entire 1991 season to the city of Buffalo at this very spot. Little could I have imagined that one day I would actually be standing here.

With still much ground to cover, I returned to the Erie Canal Harbor Station to catch a Metro train.

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At the station, I noticed this bike-sharing service, similar to what they have in Minneapolis, Hamilton and Toronto. Of late, I have been reading about Winnipeg’s thriving bike-sharing service, where nowadays, even one lock isn’t enough to keep your bike from being involuntarily shared with a scumbag. No, I don’t miss Winnipeg, if there are any readers left who still possess a shred of doubt.

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I wheeled my bike aboard at the wheelchair platform and went to the back to one of the two spots in each car designated for wheelchairs. Unlike the trains in Minneapolis, there are no racks, and you do have to hold on to your bike as it speeds through the tunnel between downtown and the University station.

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Inside the train.

The fare is the same as it is on Metro buses and there are machines where you can purchase tickets. It is free to ride above ground, but a paid fare is required farther north when it goes underground. As is the case with GO and in Minneapolis, it is policed largely on the honor system, though NFTA officers can ask to see your proof of payment. I still laugh when I think of how such a system would fail so miserably in Winnipeg.

52_universitystation
After a short ride, I took my bike into the spacious elevator and returned to street level. From there, I proceeded north along US 62 to NY 324/Sheridan Drive, stopping for many highway pictures en route. Following a brief break at the Walmart in Amherst, I continued west along Sheridan Drive towards the South Grand Island Bridge, where I planned to reconnect with the #40 bus.

73_amigonefuneralhome
I had to stop here for a shot of the Amigone Funeral Home in the Town of Tonawanda. Not to be confused with the City of Tonawanda. Or the City of North Tonawanda.

I suspect it’s an Italian family name pronounced something like “am-eh-go-nee,” but it can be interpreted very differently when preceding a funeral home. If you’re the guest of honor, you don’t need to ask. You’re gone.

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These giraffes tower over Adventure Landing, an amusement center.

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I stopped for another breather here outside the Town of Tonawanda Aquatic and Fitness Center. For the record, I really don’t care who the town supervisor is.

From there, I continued west and didn’t have long to wait before the #40 bus came and took me back to Niagara Falls. I got off near the Rainbow Bridge, paid my 50-cent toll and waited in a long line with all the other tourist traffic.

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The hour-long delay allowed me to get this shot from the bridge.

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After clearing customs, I made it back home without incident, having packed a long and intensive experience into a few hours.

03 May

Let’s Go Buffalo

Yesterday, I set off on an epic 67.4-mile biking adventure that took me to Buffalo for the first time, consuming much of the day in the process.

Knowing that Buffalo was a little beyond what I could handle in a single day, I loaded my bike on to a Niagara Regional Transit bus that runs from the St. Catharines downtown terminal to Target Plaza in Niagara Falls, giving me a 14-mile head start. From there, I took the scenic route along the Niagara Parkway to Fort Erie and the Peace Bridge.

02_nearpeacebridge

I followed the signs and walked my bike over the bridge for what would be the first of four crossings of the mighty Niagara River.

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Though there were no problems on the bridge, I was a little surprised there was no guard rail separating vehicle traffic from the sidewalk. I can see why there are so many signs urging cyclists to walk their bikes over the bridge. I hope this will be addressed with the planned makeover this bridge is getting.

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After going across I-190, I approached the border station, where you press a button and wait until a guard buzzes you into the building. Cyclists leave their bikes at the rack just outside the door and then go inside.

Everything went fine, but I was a little unnerved when the officer’s handheld radiation detector was going off. He came out from behind the counter and waved it around me, but after taking it inside, he saw it was malfunctioning and let me through. Because it’s not intuitively obvious, he pointed out a door to go through and instructed me to proceed through the parking lot, under the bridge and on to Busti Avenue.

10_reimer
Within minutes of setting foot in Buffalo, I again spotted this Reimer Express truck that passed me when I was walking over the bridge. For those who are unaware, Reimer is based in none other than the degenerate capital of the SPRM. One of my former colleagues, in fact, once worked there. What are the odds of seeing one of their trucks in Buffalo?

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From there, I continued south towards the heart of downtown.

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Across from the Adam’s Mark Hotel and WKBW, Channel 7.

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The train heading north on Main Street.

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By accident, I ended up across from Coca-Cola Field, home of the Buffalo Bisons, the AAA affiliate of the Center of the Universe Blue Jays. Apparently, there was a game this afternoon, which helped to dilute the otherwise seedy populace. Going on a weekend does have its advantages in terms of reduced traffic levels, but as they say, there is safety in numbers.

37_5_eb_clinton
The Buffalo and Erie County Public Library might have been a good place to visit, but I needed my bike to get back home. I suspect the bike sharing program they have in this area is much like the one they have in Winnipeg.

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After a lengthy tour of some residential areas that included many stops to take pictures of New York state highway signs, I stopped for a brief respite at George Washington Park. At left is I-190 that follows the Niagara River and at right is Niagara Street/NY 266.

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I continued north into a largely industrial area, where I spotted this state trooper cleverly camped out near I-190 and NY 325.

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Turning northeast, I followed this trail that follows NY 325 towards the South Grand Island Bridge in the Town of Tonawanda.

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Not to be confused with the City of Tonawanda.

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Loyal readers can probably guess why I stopped for this picture.

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Though I do have a fear of big bridges, needing to economize distance, I opted to take the short cut through Grand Island rather than the longer route through North Tonawanda. It also offered me the opportunity to get off my bicycle seat for a while. On a long outing like this, the seat can start to feel like a javelin.

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At least this bridge, along with the North Grand Island Bridge, has a guard rail separating I-190 traffic from pedestrians and cyclists. Interestingly, unlike the northern bridge, there is no sign on this bridge instructing cyclists to walk across the bridge and one cyclist actually passed me while I was walking.

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After cutting across Grand Island, I made my way back to Niagara Falls and the now-familiar route down Buffalo Avenue/NY 384 to the Rainbow Bridge. I stopped at the gift shop for a small, but noteworthy souvenir and a bathroom break, then repatriated myself and returned home without incident.

It was a long, but enjoyable experience, one that I’ll likely enjoy more on my next visit, now that I’ve been to Buffalo and am more familiar with the area.