Old MacDonald had a road,
And on his road he spread some salt,
With a bag of salt here,
And a bag of salt there,
Here salt there salt,
Everywhere salt, salt,
Old MacDonald had a road,
Old MacDonald had a road,
And on his road he spread some salt,
With a bag of salt here,
And a bag of salt there,
Here salt there salt,
Everywhere salt, salt,
Old MacDonald had a road,
Yesterday, as part of an epic 69-mile trek, I covered the Friendship Trail on two wheels from Port Colborne to Fort Erie for the first time. Knowing in advance that the entire journey from St. Catharines would be well beyond my range, I took Niagara Region Transit from the downtown bus terminal to Welland.
Every Niagara Region Transit bus is equipped with a bike rack and I found it easy to use. Instructions on the front direct you to pull down on the rack, where to place your front wheel and hook on the lever so your bike doesn’t end up as scrap metal as the driver speeds down the 406. Between St. Catharines and Welland, the bus only stops at the Pen Center, Brock University, the Seaway Mall and finally, at the Welland Transit Terminal, where I got off. The ride took less than 40 minutes and I was soon headed south towards Port Colborne. Niagara Region Transit does offer a link to Port Colborne, but those buses are not equipped with a bike rack, so cyclists like me have to get there on their own.
There were a couple of places where the “patway” was under construction south of Welland, but I went around them on side roads and was soon in Port Colborne.
The trail proceeds due east towards Fort Erie in a straight line along very Saskatchewanized terrain. Though you are not far from Lake Erie, you will see very little of it on the route. Instead, you see plenty of bush and farmland. For the benefit of my friends reading from the SPRM, it reminded me very much of Birds Hill Park.
Looking at the map before going, I had underestimated the total distance. It turned out to be a total of 28 km from Elizabeth Street in Port Colborne to Mather Park in Fort Erie, where pedestrians and cyclists can access the Peace Bridge and cross into the U.S.
In Fort Erie, there are a number of public beaches easily accessible off the trail where you can get a good view of the lake. This was one such beach where I stopped for some pictures and a little rest.
Along the route, there are plenty of benches where you can stop and rest, but much like the Niagara Parkway that I followed on my return trip, there are no bathrooms. When in Fort Erie, do your business there or forever hold your peace. Or hold something else.
Simply because of how far it was away from home, I don’t think I’ll be frequenting it that often, but for those a little closer or with transportation, it is a very nice, well-maintained trail that is another significant asset for cyclists in the region.
Here is a tale that will rhyme
About when I saw the IceDogs for the second time
Under the auspices of security, a guard rifles through your bags and devices
They just want you to pay the high concession prices
Never bought food at a hockey game, that’s a fact
It’s a streak I intend to keep intact
The work of the officials was not a delight
“I’m blind, I’m deaf, I want to be a ref,” was easily the line of the night
The biggest cheers came from a third-period fight
The guy to my left pounded on the glass with all his might
The light crowd was not happy, to say the least
As their team crept closer to the bottom of the East
Looks like a long year ahead for fans like me and you
They’ve played a dozen games and only won two
Last night, I was among the sellout crowd of 5,300 as the Niagara IceDogs played their first game at the Meridian Center. Not only was it my first IceDogs game, but it was the first time I had been at a junior hockey game since 2002 when the Brandon Wheat Kings played the Prince Albert Raiders in a playoff game at the Winnipeg Arena. My experiences with the junior ranks dates back to the 1980s with the Winnipeg Warriors, but I’m not sure sitting among 1,500 loosely interested spectators scattered throughout a cavernous 15,000-seat arena to watch a bad team go through it paces really counts. It would also be the first hockey game I’ve seen in person since the Devils battled the Wild at the Xcel Energy Center in downtown Saint Paul in December 2009. Yes, it’s been a while.
Adorned in my Manitoba Fighting Moose jersey, I made my way to the bus stop, where a car with an SPRM plate soon passed by. That may have been a bad omen for what was to come on the bus. The offer of free bus fare with an IceDogs ticket was well publicized by both the IceDogs and St. Catharines Transit, but when I showed my ticket to the driver, he acted like I was flashing a three-dollar bill at him. “What’s that,” he snapped in a very un-St. Catharines-like fashion as I boarded the #7 bus. Only when I explained that it was an IceDogs ticket did he recoil and take off. I hope that, in future, St. Catharines Transit does a better job of publicizing such offers internally.
After I sat down, the driver sped down Niagara Street like he was on the QEW and I got downtown in record time where I waited on one of the two pedestrian bridges leading from St. Paul Street to the Meridian Center.
I was hardly the first one to arrive and there was a real buzz around the area. In the understatement of the year, IceDogs hockey is a really big deal here. There certainly wasn’t anything close to this kind of atmosphere during the eight years I attended Fighting Moose games and it even exceeded anything I saw during my five years as a Winnipeg Jets season ticket holder in the 1980s. As I’ve said before, I could get used to this.
While waiting in line, I noticed someone standing nearby with a hat bearing the logo of the Mark Chipman Hockey Club and his seat was only a stone’s throw from mine. I hope that is not another bad omen.
When the doors opened shortly after 6:00, one hour before game time, a security guard was at a table assigned to rifle through bags and purses, much to the dismay of my fellow attendees. After the slow procession of anxious fans down two flights of stairs, I made my way through the entrance to the concourse.
It seemed spacious enough during Saturday’s grand opening, but the concourse was jam-packed during the intermissions. It was particularly bad near the washrooms and concession stands.
Not that I wanted to buy anything, since I don’t go to hockey games to eat, but I paid attention to the menu and prices. $8.50 for a regular beer and $9.50 for a premium beer. Don’t ask me what the difference is. Since we are in the heart of wine country, wine is available for $7.50. Coffee was $2.00, bottled Coke products were $3.50, hot dogs were $4.50 and popcorn was $5.50. I was disappointed that in today’s day and age, healthier alternatives were not available.
As regular readers may be aware, I am quite proud of never having purchased a food product at the Winnipeg Arena in over 300 games that I saw there. I suspect I will have a similar track record at the Meridian Center.
Just before the warmup started, the two linesmen skated out and took their positions opposite each other at the red line. As I noticed in those Wheat Kings playoff games many years ago, the two teams cannot be trusted to be on the ice together at any time without adult supervision.
In a nice touch, the IceDogs were wearing special jerseys with the design of a tuxedo out front in honor of the special occasion. They would keep those jerseys on through the pre-game introductions before donning their new third jersey that looks like a Chicago Blackhawks knockoff. I liked the new addition of the interlaced “STC” on the shoulder atop the crossed bones to recognize their and my home city.
The visitors on this night were the Belleville Bulls, who came in sporting a 6-1 record. The last time I had seen a team known as the Bulls was in 1979 when the Birmingham Bulls came into Winnipeg to play the Jets.
While checking out the Bulls’ roster, I noticed the name of Jake Marchment, the nephew of former Jets defenseman Bryan Marchment, one of the dirtiest players to ever lace up a pair of skates.
Prior to the start of the game, I was puzzled by the announcement that all SLR and DSLR cameras had to be registered and any unauthorized cameras would be removed. Beyond the issue of blocking another patron’s view of the play, I can’t understand the rationale behind this policy. They should be happy that you care enough to be there and take pictures of the action.
Leading up to the historic home opener, there was much ado about attracting “Andee” to sing the anthem. I was among many who had never heard of her and her performance was nothing spectacular. In addition, her choice to sing partially in Quebecese was both unnecessary and disrespectful. Having the organist play O Canada would have been a much better choice. To her credit, however, “Andee” was fully dressed, unlike what I had seen so often during the Fighting Moose era were the singer would parade around half-naked in front of a crowd of mostly 8-12-year-old boys.
Once the puck dropped for real, it would be the most fascinating game-night experience I had ever seen. The building largely lived up to its lofty advance billing, my seat was comfortable and the sight lines were excellent.
The IceDogs got on the board with two quick goals and I got an early indoctrination into the fans’ tradition of howling for each goal after the cheering had died down. By contrast, the announcement of each Bulls goal was met with a collective “WHO CARES!”
I noticed a smattering of empty seats throughout the building, but the place was mostly full and officially a sellout. The sound system worked well. Too well, in fact. It would be nice if they turned the volume down. I found it a little unsettling watching my home team not knowing any of the players, but I found the level of play to be quite good, full of end-to-end action. The kids make plenty of mistakes, but this is a developmental league and that’s to be expected at this level.
I was particularly interested in the demographic of the crowd. For the most part, it seemed to be a combination of seniors and middle-aged couples along with a smattering of children. Almost without exception, they were dedicated fans who were there to watch a game and not just because they had nothing better to do.
I noted with considerable interest the lack of zany promotions that I came to expect from the Fighting Moose. There were no rat cannons or “hurling of dead, frozen poultry carcasses,”™ just more garden-variety stuff like this score-to-win contest during the intermission.
I was impressed that, during the game, they only allowed people to return to their seats during stoppages in play and announcements to this effect were made regularly. I noticed that the ushers were eager to help direct fans to their seats, but they were also often in the way. Instead of standing off to the side, many were standing in the middle of aisle and I had to contort myself around one of them who was standing between me and my seat.
During a break in the action, I laughed when I saw an IBEW ad on the video board in which they boasted about taking care of the whole country while showing the Toronto skyline. Those of you who have spent your entire life within the inner orbit of the Center of the Universe won’t get it.
It wouldn’t be a hockey game without a 50/50 draw and this would be no exception. Unlike the case with the Fighting Moose where aggressive kids ran after you halfway across the rink, the tickets here are sold by adults who wait on the sidelines and make themselves available to you – the way it should be.
Of course, there was a fight, but little did I know about recent rule changes at this level that will make this spectacle increasingly uncommon. Players with more than 10 fights are automatically suspended for two games and the team will be fined if the player exceeds 15. In the IHL, I more expected a player who didn’t reach double figures to be disciplined. The Fighting Moose once traded for a player who had a bonus clause in his contract based on the number of penalty minutes he racked up.
During the third period, there was a lengthy delay as they consulted video review for a disputed non-goal. I was shocked that they used any form of replay at this level and it was more proof as to what a big deal OHL hockey is in this part of the world.
Oh, by the way, there was a game going on. After the quick start, I had a feeling the IceDogs were going to let the game get away, but they held on and a late empty-net goal sealed the eventual 7-4 win. Their record improved to 1-6. Memorial Cup, here we come.
Denmark native Mikkel Aagaard, with two goals and an assist, including the first goal at the Meridian Center, was named first star. The announcer dubbed him the “Danish Delight,” a moniker I hope does not stick.
After the game, during the mass crush of humanity leading to the exits, it was a nice gesture for them to give out commemorative pucks to mark the historic occasion of the first game at the Meridian Center. I was able to get one and it will soon be prominently displayed on my mantle.
I expect the Meridian Center will be seeing my shadow again in the not-too-distant future and I look forward to more equally memorable games.
Yesterday, I was one of many who attended the grand opening of the new Meridian Center in downtown St. Catharines. IceDogs season ticket holders and the politicians each had their own sneak preview in the preceding days, but this was the first time the general public had a chance to tour the facility.
I was among the first to arrive and I wasted no time in touring the seating area, as I would again after the ribbon-cutting ceremonies when they mercifully turned the lights on.
The concourses seem spacious enough, though a better judgment on this point will come on Thursday night at the IceDogs home opener.
Once again, I knew I was not alone.
Many of you may take things like this for granted, but as a veteran of the venerable Winnipeg Arena, I was impressed that there were individual urinals and not a trough. In addition, the sinks and soap dispensers actually worked.
I was pleased to see the city honoring its sporting past.
I was shocked that the IceDogs’ store was not open. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to sell some merchandise to a captive and awestruck audience.
Before heading down to ice level for the ceremonies, I poked my head and camera into one of the private boxes.
Mayor Bryan McMullan and MPP Jim Bradley were among the dignitaries to address the crowd. I was surprised when the mayor mentioned that the facility was located on the site where the original canal went through.
Following the speeches, three young women in strange garb walked up on stage and climbed up these bands of cloth hanging from the rafters. They clearly possess an uncanny talent for contorting themselves around cloth at high altitude, but their purpose here was unclear.
The retractable seats behind the goal. The row of orange seats reminded me of the Winnipeg Arena and its infamous ice-level orange chairs that sat atop creaky plywood floors loosely separating paying customers from the hordes of four-legged vermin that lived quite comfortably not far below the surface.
As impressed as I was with the facility, I was equally impressed with the friendliness of the staff who on hand to answer questions. It was another pleasant change for me coming from Winnipeg, where the Mark Chipman organization expects gratitude for the privilege of doing business with them. That is why, even though I no longer live there, my favorite NHL team is whoever the Chipman franchise is playing.
There is a part of me that laments leaving the history and tradition of older rinks behind, but the Meridian Center looks like a wonderful place to build new memories. I look forward to seeing my first game there on Thursday night at the IceDogs’ home opener.
Yesterday, for the first time, I crossed the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge on two wheels. It was a relatively painless experience, but the procedure is not all that straightforward and I found precious few details online when planning my trip. Since many of my fellow cyclists may have the same questions I did, for the benefit of the cycling community, following is a detailed and illustrated synopsis of the procedure:
1. Canada to U.S.A.
Even though the U.S.-bound lanes on are the south side, cyclists approach from the north via Portage Road.
There is clear signage from both directions on Portage Road and the nearby Niagara Parkway directing cyclists into the parking lot. Proceed around the barriers on the sidewalk towards the toll booth as shown:
Go past the toll booth towards the Toll Captain’s office.
The Toll Captain will give you instructions to proceed across the road past the orange cones and into the U.S.-bound lanes, see map below (click to enlarge):
As the Toll Captain instructs, proceed with the cars in the “Autos” lane. Note that the lane for commercial trucks will be on your right, so I would advise staying a little to the left of the white line. There are a total of five lanes on the bridge and the middle lane is reversible, so the cars may or may not have more than one lane to pass you.
Once on the U.S. side, proceed to one of the lanes designated for cars at the Lewiston Bridge Port of Entry. After being cleared, take the first exit on I-190 for NY 104, see map below:
On NY 104, you can proceed north towards Lewiston on NY 104 or south towards Niagara Falls. NY 104 is signed east and west, so Lewiston-bound traffic would use NY 104 east. Cyclists are prohibited on the adjacent Robert Moses Parkway.
2. U.S.A. to Canada
Fortunately, the procedure for Canada-bound cyclists is not as complicated.
Take the turnoff to Canada from Upper Mountain Road, just west of Military Road (NY 265), see map below:
As with the crossing in the U.S.-bound direction, proceed in the “Autos” lane. Commercial trucks and NEXUS card holders will be on your right.
Proceed directly to Canadian customs, then to the toll booth. Pay the 50-cent toll, then turn off to your right and through the parking lot to Portage Road.
Cyclists with any further questions can send me an e-mail using the link at the bottom of the page and I’ll do my best to answer them. The pictures used were my own and the maps are courtesy of Google.
After the hour-long drive from Fairview Mall, it was time to browse around and shoot pictures. I was a little embarrassed as everyone else hauled out their high-powered DSLR cameras and tripods while I grabbed my el cheapo point and shoot, but I was there for the experience more than the pictures.
A welcome reminder in the gift shop that I was not alone.
Historic Rockwood Station.
A subtle reminder of a former employer of mine.
From the outside, it doesn’t look like much, but there was a treasure trove of old railway and street cars inside. It completely dwarfed what I had seen in past visits to the Winnipeg Railway Museum.
As I, or should I say we, were walking through the cars, I couldn’t help but think of my former home city. These mothballed cars and a rail line would represent a massive improvement over what Winnipeg currently has, yet they continue to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at a bus “Rapid Transit” project that will be a running joke for decades to come.
One reader will appreciate this shot.
The line that takes you back to the main entrance runs approximately every 20 minutes.
As many of us remarked, the efforts of the people there are certainly a labor of love and their passion shines through throughout their impressive facility. This is a must-see destination for any railway enthusiast and I’m certainly glad I went.
This morning, for the first time in my new home city, I participated in the annual Terry Fox Run.
I was one of the early birds.
As those of you who know me would expect, I added the name of the late Carli Ward to the list of dedications. Long before her cancer diagnosis, Carli made the Terry Fox Run a habit and I’ve since continued the tradition in her memory.
This speaker was from Café Amoré, one of the sponsors.
At the starting line. I was impressed that they thought enough to stagger the departure times. In order to avoid the unruly free-for-all that normally takes place in Winnipeg, the cyclists went first, followed by the rollerbladers, runners and walkers. As they explained, it makes sense to have the faster participants leave ahead of the slower ones.
A scene along the route. Again, I was impressed that they had police blocking traffic. In Winnipeg, there is no traffic control and participants have to be on the lookout for passing vehicles.
There were people cheering the participants all along the route. It was a very nice touch that is unsurprisingly absent in Winnipeg.
Once again, cheers greeted participants at the finish line. It was another welcome reminder that I no longer live in the SPRM.
I heard runners who passed me boast about their times and the pace they were able to keep, but the Terry Fox Run is one event where the times are not important. What is important is that the run Terry was not able to finish continues year after year in city after city to raise funds and awareness for cancer research. There have been so many advances in detection and treatment, but the battle against cancer is far from over. That struggle that touches nearly every one of us is the reason so many dedicated volunteers work so hard to put the run together and why so many of us set aside time to be part of it.
My most recent scenic tour of my new home region comes south of Niagara Falls. For this particular outing, I eschewed Google’s recommendations and took Taylor Road past the outlet mall and up the escarpment to Mountain Road.
The climb up the escarpment was in two manageable stages and there were paved shoulders on both roads. In addition, the roads seemed well-maintained and were not littered with potholes, unlike what I’m accustomed to from my years in the SPRM.
I proceeded south on Dorchester Road, east on McLeod Road, then south on Portage Road past Marineland.
I then headed through the village of Chippawa. As the sign says, Chippawa is the home town of James Cameron, a famed Hollywood director who worked on many films including The Terminator, a true classic.
While taking some shots at the bridge over the Welland River, an older couple sitting on a nearby bench kindly pointed out the weasel. I talked to them briefly and they asked me if I moved to St. Catharines for school. Those of you who know me may pause for a moment to laugh hysterically.
After passing through Chippawa, I found the Niagara Parkway Trail and headed south. The sign said Fort Erie was 24 km away and that journey will have to wait for another day. Nonetheless, I did make it past Navy Island, cycling through scenery that reminded me of scenes from Gone with the Wind. I kept expecting to find Rhett Butler on his horse coming around the next bend.
Pictures don’t do the area justice.
I turned around here and headed back to the Falls, stopping for more pictures along the way.
This humble abode was for sale. $3.2 million or best offer takes it.
The Willoughby Historical Museum. Curiously, the sign on the door said it was closed for the season. Since when is early September out of season in one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations?
More homes along the route.
The historical marker for Navy Island at the south end of the island.
Clear water. It’s still a novelty to see, coming from the murky shores of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers.
Farther north on the trail, I stopped at the Chippawa Battlefield Park, site of another famous battle during the War of 1812, or more appropriately, the War of 1812-1815.
The northern shore of Navy Island. Interestingly, Navy Island was once mentioned as a prospective site for the United Nations headquarters following World War II.
The northern bridge connecting Grand Island to the mainland in New York State.
Robert Moses Parkway. This is why the Canadian side of Niagara Falls remains much more popular than its American counterpart as my neighbor, a native of Niagara Falls, NY, can attest.
Near Main Street in Chippawa, the trail cuts across the water towards the Falls.
The Niagara Falls skyline. That’s mist coming from the falls, not the aftermath of an arsonist, one of the ten most popular occupations in my former home city.
The dam as part of the hydroelectric generating station.
Another couple of skyline shots.
The mighty Niagara River.
At Dufferin Islands, or “Daufferin,” as my late grandfather would say.
I stopped by the Floral Showhouse, but I’ll save a trip inside for a future visit. The price of admission was a reasonable $5.65, but I was outraged to see that they want $5/hour for parking. There’s a difference between charging a fair price and gouging. This falls into the latter category.
The incline railway and adjacent Welcome Center.
Before heading inside to the Welcome Center, I had to hunt high and low before finding a rack to lock up my bike. Given the number of cyclists who traverse the Niagara Parkway, the lack of facilities for guests arriving on two wheels is a rather significant oversight that I hope is addressed in the near future.
Once again, I know I was not alone. You may understand. You may not.
I know one and perhaps only one reader will appreciate this.
Elements on the Falls. Any connection to a former pair of colleagues from my distant past is strictly unavoidable. Most readers, even my close friends, will not understand.
Tourists line the railing to get a good view of the falls.
Still others want a more up close and personal look.
Before leaving, I took a ride down Fallsview Boulevard and noticed a traffic jam in front of the Embassy Suites Hotel. I presume this is for the valet parking.
The Fallsview Casino, an ATM for the government.
I couldn’t help but stop to get a shot of this billboard. The farmer did not make my eggs today, a chicken did.
A reminder of a piece of my past. I wonder if it’s a fighting moose or just a regular moose. One reader will understand more than most.
Political incorrectness in its most egregious form.
It was an interesting outing and yet another positive experience. Once again, I only wish I had come here sooner.
Taking the lead of a friend and former colleague from the SPRM who recently paid me a visit in my new home, I decided to take a trek west and cover the section of the Waterfront Trail between St. Catharines and Grimsby.
On the way, I noted this sign with particular interest as I passed through Port Dalhousie. I was most impressed to see that the city has a Clean City Committee and organizes activities like this. It was yet another pleasant reminder as to why we packed all those boxes and came all this way. I would ordinarily be the kind of person to see this as a waste of resources, but a fresh perspective has certainly made me appreciate being in a community that cares about such things. I don’t think readers from my new home city can properly appreciate that perspective unless they have spent any significant time in the degenerate capital of the SPRM.
Incidentally, I still find myself pronouncing Dalhousie as dal-HOW-zee. Old habits from the SPRM die hard.
For the most part, the trail is well signed, but after leaving Port Dalhousie, it would be more appropriate to call it the QEW Trail instead of the Waterfront Trail since you end up seeing more of the QEW than you do of Lake Ontario.
Nonetheless, there are some nice views of the lake as you pass by Charles Daley Park on the way to Jordan Harbor.
At Jordan Road, the trail officially takes a detour into Jordan Village. I continued west on North Service Road, but I will check out the sights in Jordan Village in a future visit.
Behind the Ramada Beacon Harborside Resort is Jordan Harbor.
Even though the path of the QEW roughly follows the shore of Lake Ontario, this is one of the few places along the route where motorists can actually get a glimpse of the lake.
Hidden away behind some brush is the rusting remains of “La Grande Hermine,” or “Big Weasel” that has been in Jordan Harbor since 1997. The full story of this abandoned vessel can be found here.
Continuing west, I passed by the Lake House restaurant as the trail veers away from the lake.
Prudhomme’s antique store and factory outlet.
Prudhomme’s Landing Inn hasn’t seen too many landings recently. I don’t even think the buzzards bother to stop there anymore.
Despite passing mainly through farmland, there are oases like this when you need to stop for a break. There’s also another such area in Beamsville a few miles to the west. Despite the ancillary traffic it brings, there are advantages to having the trail near the QEW.
There’s more to Vineland than just a carpool parking lot.
Another roadside attraction.
I know one reader from the SPRM will appreciate this, even though I know it’s not spelled the same.
I’ve seen these signs before, but never one at such close proximity. I know I’ve mentioned it before in a previous entry, but I unreservedly endorse these measures to punish reckless drivers. I do hope that, unlike the way it is in the degenerate capital of the SPRM, driving like a maniac is indeed a reportable offense.
After putting on 19 miles, I reached Grimsby.
I didn’t want to venture too much farther on this morning, so I turned around at Bal Harbor Park, but not before a little break to snap some more pictures.
I imagine that second-floor patio gets a lot of use.
The water was clear and didn’t smell like a sewage lagoon. This just in.™ This is not the Red or Assiniboine River.
On the way back, I needed another break, so I stopped at Charles Daley Park, just west of Seventh Avenue Louth.
View of 15 Mile Creek.
Other views from the gazebo on the east side of the park.
I noted this sign with interest especially having seen the signs in the washrooms along the Niagara Parkway advising that foot washing in the sinks wasn’t allowed. As a newcomer to the area, I don’t quite understand the fascination with foot washing in this part of the world. Maybe I’ll figure it out in time.
Going west from St. Catharines doesn’t offer the same quality of scenery as it does in the other direction, but it was a relatively non-contentious route, the kind of which I could only dream about when I lived in the SPRM. It offers a good view of the escarpment, but you won’t be climbing it, so it offers some of the easiest miles in the region for a cyclist. As Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, “I’ll be back.”™