Tag Archives: Rainbow Bridge

18 Jul

Over the River Again

Observations and pictures from my 44th two-wheeled trip to the Great State of New York:

1. Award-winning management “consultanting” …

2. At One Niagara Center was a massive air conditioning unit right next to a wide-open door. As my father would say, were they trying to air condition all of Western New York?

3. Last I checked, Ferry was a one-way street, but that didn’t seem to matter to two cyclists who were going in the opposite direction against traffic.

4. At 19th Street was a fatso who wasn’t wearing underwear and whose blubber was oozing out well beyond the short skirt she had on. There are times I wish I wasn’t so observant and that was one of them. As my father would say, she needs to start shopping for clothing at New York Tent and Awning.

5. Scenes in Hyde Park:

6. Pickleball. It’s not just a St. Catharines thing.

7. Spotted off Military Road was an older guy with a “MAGA” hat. Part of me wanted to get off my bike and shake his hand.

8. I was proud to ring up a $17.10 bill at southern Ontario’s favorite Walmart just to spite Justin.

9. Dear Walmart: Please consider adding an express lane or two. You know, the way most large department stores do.

10. On Buffalo Avenue, someone driving by in a pickup truck pointed at me and yelled, “There he is!” Whatever.

11. Also on Buffalo Avenue, another cyclist passed me going the wrong way, though at least, unlike what would have happened in the Old Country, he did get out of my way and didn’t curse at me.

11a. Did I mention recently that I don’t miss the Old Country?

12. A bench on the Shoreline Trail in need of some maintenance:

13. A piano for the LGBT community?

14. If you’ve always wanted to take a tour of a helicopter …

15. While crossing the Rainbow Bridge, a guy in an SUV from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania asked me if they charged me a toll and was astonished when I told him I had to pay a whole buck. For the record, I don’t mind fair and reasonable user fees. Just as long as it’s going toward bridge maintenance and not lining government coffers.

16. Waiting at Canadian customs, a guy from New Jersey was cursing up a storm, angry that the officer was asking too many questions of the person in front of him. Dude, that’s not the attitude you bring to an international border crossing. Especially when you’re a foreign national.

17. There are teenagers in Bombay working in call centers who have a better grasp of the English language than the CBSA officer who served me.

21 Apr

Across the River Again

Pictures and observations from my 42nd two-wheeled visit to the Great State of New York:

1. As I was heading south along the canal trail this morning, the bridges at Carlton, Queenston and Glendale were all up, with the Homer Bridge at Queenston up long before the approaching ship even came into view. I respect the Seaway and what it means to our region, but they need to be ordered to be a better neighbor. Seconds count in an emergency situation and one of these days, it’s going to cost someone their life, if such a tragedy hasn’t happened already.

2. Going up the escarpment at Taylor Road, I thought I heard an ice cream truck behind me, only to find out it was a car with its muffler pipe dragging on the ground.

3. Turning off Mountain Road to the trail that connects to Stanley Avenue, I spotted this backpack next to the garbage can with a number of its owner’s possessions inside.

3a. The fact that it was still there on my return trip with those same possessions visible from the outside is further proof as to how far away I am from the SPRM.

4. What’s the big deal about having certified vehicles? Even I, as a non-driver, can certify that you have a vehicle.

5. At U.S. Customs, I was served by the same officer I had in December who was so taken aback that I had a NEXUS card.

5a. Given the number of times I’ve gone over the river on two wheels, I’m surprised it’s the first time I’ve recognized an officer from a past crossing.

6. The new Hyatt Place on Rainbow Boulevard. It wasn’t that long ago that they were driving piles and now it looks nearly ready to open. Once again, on both sides of the river in this part of the world, when shovels hit the ground, work gets done quickly, unlike the case in the SPRM.

7. The former Days Inn on 1st Street is now the Wyndham Garden Hotel. I’ve never been inside the Days Inn, but from the outside, it seemed like a bit of a dive, so for their sake, I hope they did more than change the name.

7a. If you haven’t been over the river recently, there are a couple of new hotels not far from the falls. They’ve still got a long way to go to catch up with their Canadian neighbors, but they seem to be figuring out that there are benefits to keeping American tourists on the U.S. side.

8. For the benefit of anyone looking to take the #40 bus to Buffalo, a shot of the Portage Road Transportation Center, the route’s northern terminus, one block north of the Tops. Or “Tahps,” as many on that side of the river say.

9. Parking fail:

9a. If you’re asking yourself what the problem is, that’s a Metro bus stop.

10. Off Porter Road is this graveyard for end-of-life Niagara Falls Police Department vehicles:

10a. I wonder if they were certified vehicles?

11. There was a serious traffic jam at the Tim Hortons on Military Road complete with horns honking as cars were trying to get into the drive-thru from two different directions.

12. While inside said Tim Hortons, a supervisor who looked like he had celebrated his 18th birthday only a few months ago was on his break. Most of the clerks behind the counter, however, looked like they had celebrated their 18th birthday only a few weeks ago. Which probably explains the reason for his “promotion.”

13. The Big K, formerly K-Mart, on Military Road. Last of a dying breed.

14. A communist casino?

15. Here, I suspect students, among other things, learn how to sell their product or service to prospective customers in order to earn money. If this was the SPRM, students would learn techniques for bleeding money out of the government.

16. Apple juice?

17. Scenes along the newly refurbished Shoreline Trail connecting LaSalle Waterfront Park to Niagara Falls State Park:

18. Shots from Niagara Falls State Park, including some from the observation deck, which was free today. Normally, there’s a $1 charge. That’s a U.S. dollar, not a Canadian dollarette.

19. Once again, before heading back to Canada, I paid my bridge toll with nickels and dimes, more of the latter on account of the massive increase from 50 cents to a whole buck. No doubt, they start playing a certain Nana Mouskouri tune when they see me coming:

20. Someone still needs to explain to me why I, as a Canadian citizen who has lived his entire life in Canada, have to wait 45 minutes in line at customs, while these so-called “refugees” get to walk across the border and have the RCMP act as bellboys.

21. There’s never a good time to have car trouble, but a pair of travelerettes from New York got an especially big dose of misfortune when smoke started pouring out of their engine while in line at Canadian customs.

03 Dec

A December Cross-Border Cycling Adventure

Pictures and observations from my 40th two-wheeled trip to the Great State of New York:

1. Holiday gifts “avaible” now:

1a. The same error was made on the other side as well. As they say, two wrongs don’t make a right.

2. Flashing on the overhead signs at the US Customs inspection plaza at the Rainbow Bridge were new reminders to take off hats and sunglasses, turn off cell phones and to have your documents ready. It all seems like common sense, but these days, common sense isn’t all that common.

3. The CBP officer who served me seemed a little taken aback when I presented my NEXUS card as opposed to a passport. I suppose I couldn’t blame him, since being a NEXUS cardholder on two wheels who doesn’t drive undoubtedly puts me among a very distinct minority.

4. Spotted at One Niagara Center was a souvenir Niagara Falls license plate with the name “Gavin” on it. I know at least one reader will appreciate that reference.

5. There was warmer air outside than what was coming out of the hand dryer in the washroom at One Niagara Center.

6. Progress on the new Hyatt going up near the bridge:

7. A sign spotted outside a Unitarian church on Main Street giving some sage advice for parents who spend more time on their phones than with their children:

8. A New York State legislator is referred to as an “assemblyman” and not an “assemblyperson”? Heavens to Murgatroyd, what is this world coming to?

9. Nothing quite screams “Niagara Falls, New York” like this scene:

10. An exciting opportunity awaits an enterprising entrepreneur who is looking to invest in the limitless potential of one of North America’s great tourist destinations:

11. Street art. Right across from the courthouse.

12. Seeing street signs like this that don’t give the indicator as to whether it is a street or an avenue reminds me of Transcona, now a suburb of Winnipeg but formerly a separate city, which for years, was littered with such signs. Perhaps only I care enough to remember that.

12a. In the background are more of those exciting opportunities for enterprising entrepreneurs.

13. The new Amtrak station in Niagara Falls:

14. One of many homeowners on Lewiston Road who dumped all his leaves and assorted yard waste into the middle of the street:

15. Scenes along Center Street in Lewiston:

16. Scenes in the Lewiston honorary international peace garden:

17. None of the three employees working at the Orange Cat had a nose ring. Don’t tell me they’re going all normal now.

18. I’m sure the Orange Cat’s muffins are fabulous, but the overweight woman who hobbled in and put an undue amount of stress on the rustic old chair she was sitting in really didn’t need any of them. But from how loudly she smacked her lips, even the people waiting in line out the door could attest to how thoroughly she enjoyed hers.

19. Seated across from the Muffin Lady was someone who began doing some odd neck contortions as she was working on her laptop. It reminded me of a former colleague who would inexplicably stand up during meetings and start making all sorts of weird gyrations. He was only part of our group for a short time, but he made a lasting impression.

19a. Among the certifications this former colleague made a point of bragging about holding was the MCSE designation. Though it officially stands for Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer, another former colleague termed it Must Call Someone with Experience.

20. Seemingly half of Western New York was on hand as Santa was airlifted in by helicopter in the middle of Academy Park.

21. Is there a part of Lewiston that is non-historic?

22. On my way back up the escarpment on Route 18, I spotted a New York license plate with the first three letters “DJT.” Make America Great Again!

23. While at the Duty Free store at the Lewiston Bridge, I got a couple of strange looks from Canada-bound motorists. Perhaps they were unaware that cyclists are indeed allowed on that bridge.

24. While crossing said bridge, the driver of a U.S.-bound Jeep with SPRM plates was madly waving at me as if he knew me. As I’ve said before, that place does keep following me around.

24a. I spotted a Bison Transport truck on the 405 and another on the Garden City Skyway on my return trip. Again, the SPRM keeps following me around.

24b. You do realize that it’s been more than 40 months since I defected from that place.

25. After breezing through the dedicated NEXUS lane (yes, cyclists can use it), I pulled up behind a car from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania at the toll gate ready to donate another 50 cents to the coffers of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission. The attendant, however, stuck his head out of the booth, waved me through and declined the toll. Maybe it was part of a new promotion where every 40th trip is free. Shrug.

27 Oct

Nuggets from the Road in the Great State of New York

Observations from my 39th two-wheeled trip to the Great State of New York:

1. I remain surprised at the appalling lack of regard some people have for their own safety. Such as the kid who blindly strolled across a busy St. Paul Avenue and the scruffy hobo carrying the Union Jack over his shoulder who decided that walking on Portage Road near Five Corners was a better idea than using the sidewalk.

2. If you lost some jewellery in Niagara Falls, check the left-hand turning lane on Portage Road at Five Corners.

3. Dear crossing guard on Victoria Avenue: It’s all right for you to go back to the curb as soon as the person you stopped traffic for gets to the other side of the street. You don’t have to stand in the middle of traffic and wave at us.

4. While stopping to take a picture of this sign welcoming me to the Great State of New York, blasting out of the loudspeakers at One Niagara Center was a song called “Shattered Dreams,” the title of my fifth book.

5. More sign overkill brought to you by the NYSDOT:

6. Do they make ceramics there or is their factory housed in a ceramic building?

7. I’m sorry for the poor soul who dropped a $5 bill on Buffalo Avenue, but rest assured it was and will be put to good use. Same goes for the poor soul who lost a quarter a half mile to the east.

8. Someone parked at a lot on Buffalo Avenue had a bumper sticker which read, “Locally Hated.” Is this something one should be proud of?

9. Near the North Grand Island Bridge, I spotted someone wearing a big, heavy fur-lined parka. As a long-lost friend once said to me, the farther south you go, the wimpier they get about cold.

10. Even though it was her first day on the job, the clerk who served me at the Tim Hortons on Niagara Falls Boulevard was far more courteous than many others whom I’ve had recently.

11. The obese man who took a seat in front of me should have had a “WIDE LOAD” sign strapped across his back. One thing’s for sure, he certainly didn’t need the pastry that he polished off in a flash.

12. While I was there, it was snowing in the Old Country, snow that would later result in many crashes on bridges in and around Winnipeg. The last time I was at that Tim Hortons, Southern Manitoba was under a blizzard warning. Coincidence? You be the judge.

13. Someone driving a pickup truck from Hayes Door sure seemed to be in one powerful hurry as he peeled into the lot headed for the drive-thru.

14. How exactly do you melt pepperoni?

15. A shot of the Wegmans, where an Ontario truck driver hauling refrigerated hydrogen clipped the pole in the foreground earlier this week, causing nearby businesses to close for most of the day as Hazmat crews responded to the scene.

15a. Unlike what would have happened in the Old Country, police in the Town of Niagara deemed it a reportable offense and issued the driver a citation.

16. The Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls, USA. Which isn’t actually in Niagara Falls. Details, details.

17. This Kansas plate reminded me of the Jesse Ventura line in Predator, “This place makes Cambodia look like Kansas.”

18. A Tops store, one of the most telling indicators that you’re in WNY:

19. An American would define this as “worldwide coverage”:

20. It beats Democrat services:

21. Something about the American flag at a memorial for a rabid fan of an NFL team doesn’t seem quite right anymore:

22. If you’re the guest of honor, you’re gone. You don’t need to ask.

23. Snacks may be welcome, but what about customers?

24. Make America Great Again:

24a. How can any patriotic American, particularly a Trump supporter, still be displaying NFL paraphernalia?

25. Um, whatever …

26. My face must now be so familiar that the people inside the Niagara USA Visitor Center didn’t even ask if I needed any help. Or maybe they just didn’t want me asking any questions they couldn’t answer, since I seem to be more knowledgeable on navigating WNY on two wheels than any of them are.

27. I’m still not sure how the mentally challenged man pedaling the wrong way on Thorold Stone Road who blindly pulled out into the middle of traffic managed to avoid being killed.

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

On the Road in the Great State of New York

Observations from my 37th two-wheeled trip to the Great State of New York:

1. Would you expect them to be promoting an unlicensed mechanic?

2. With terrorism running rampant these days, is it really appropriate to be using the term “grenade” in promoting protein bars?

3. Outside the Project SHARE office on Stanley Avenue was a scruffy old bum with a better bike than mine puffing on a cigarette. He lacks money for food and/or shelter, but he’s got money for smokes. But as I’ve been told, I’m just an ignorant person who doesn’t know the real issues behind poverty. Right.

4. Scenes on the Robert Moses Recreation Trail:

4a. Yes, it’s still called the Robert Moses Recreation Trail even though Moses’ name has been removed from the adjacent parkway now known as the Niagara Scenic Parkway.

5. Scenes at Whirlpool State Park:

6. Also at Whirlpool State Park was a guide leading a tour group making a stop on their way to Niagara Falls State Park. She was seriously overweight and wheezing as she was waddling along trying to keep up with the group. Given the physical requirements for the job, one would think a tour guide would have to be at least slightly fit. Or at least a little less unfit. More on that topic later.

7. Would you want to be in this car dangling over the Whirlpool Gorge?

8. With the park adjacent to two bike paths, you’d think there would be a bike rack there. But there wasn’t. Sigh.

9. There also weren’t any paper towels or hand dryers in the washroom. But at least there was soap and running water. And the washroom was actually open, which it isn’t for most of the year.

10. It was nice of the state to pay tribute to their Canadian neighbors with this shelter. It’s not just a shelter, but a shelter, eh.

10a. I’ll pause for a moment while you groan.

11. Passing this street, I couldn’t help but recall a line from Peppermint Patty in a Peanuts movie, “Lafayette, we are here!”

11a. Below the street sign is a New York reference marker, one of which appears every tenth of a mile on each highway in the state. Someone thinks that makes sense.

12. Scenes around Reservoir State Park:

13. It was nice of Andrew to ensure that these stretching aids were placed along the pathway. He thinks of everything.

14. FedEx. When it’s just got to get there.

15. I noticed this Dollar General, but what about other USFL teams?

16. Would you expect him to specialize in non-medical oncology?

17. There was serious room for improvement in the friendliness of the clerk who served me at the Tim Hortons on Military Road in the Town of Niagara.

18. After moaning and groaning about their satellite radio provider, calling them “a bunch of screwies,” the seniors seated across from me were planning their southerly migration to Arizona. Yet for someone like me, having grown up in the frozen wilderness of the SPRM, this part of the world feels like a winter paradise.

19. I nearly jumped out of my chair when one of them started talking about the “Old Country.” I dare say she wasn’t talking about the SPRM.

20. There was a poster on the wall facing me promoting Tim Hortons’ Childrens’ Camps, one of which is in Pinawa, MB. I can’t imagine how many people come in there and scratch their heads wondering where that Pinawa place must be.

21. Given its proximity to the busy shopping district, I was surprised that there was only one Ontario plate in the parking lot.

21a. The Military Road shopping district, which includes the fashion outlet mall, a Wal-Mart Supercenter, K-Mart, Wegmans and the Tops/Target plaza nearby gets more traffic than the falls on that side of the river.

22. Of the eight others in the place, three were seriously obese, a recurring and disturbing theme I would notice throughout the day. One of those obese patrons was a young girl no older than 10.

22a. One of the seniors seated nearby who was one of the heavyweights said she was going home to bake herself a banana cream pie. She needed another banana cream pie like I need another hole in my head.

23. Being on Military Road, it was only fitting that someone from the U.S. Air Force walked in.

23a. I can just imagine how many SJWs out there would be triggered by simply being near Military Road.

24. Scenes from Hyde Park:

25. I never promised you a rose garden:

26. A truck from “Buffalo Exterminating” passed me on Walnut Avenue. Why would you want to exterminate Buffalo?

27. Please tell me this isn’t for gay dogs:

28. I spotted two Mexican plates during the day. Given how this area attracts tourists from all over the world, that people are visiting from Mexico isn’t surprising but that they drove all that way is.

29. I also spotted two “642” plates and at the Niagara USA Visitor Center, my Garmin handheld GPS told me that my elevation was 642 feet above sea level. Once again, I was not alone. You may understand. You may not.

30. In the washroom at the Niagara USA Visitor Center, someone in a stall flushed the toilet, then walked out without washing his hands. For a moment there, I thought I was back in the Old Country, where such things hardly stand out like they do here.

31. A piano for gays only?

32. Many hamburgers and hot dogs, but only one sausage:

33. The attendant I had today at the Rainbow Bridge didn’t seem the slightest bit annoyed by the collection of nickels and dimes I paid my 50-cent toll with, unlike the one I had the last time I went over the river.

34. In light of how the Liberal government is failing to defend our borders and allowing illegal migrants to cross at will, as a law-abiding citizen born and raised in Canada, I seriously resent waiting in line and being grilled by a CBSA officer for exercising a constitutional right.

34a. Can we please stop calling them “refugees” or “asylum seekers”?

35. With my “compliements” …

36. Um, whatever …

37. What do people see at the NOTL outlet mall? When I stopped there to use the washroom on my return trip, the food court was absolutely packed and I wasn’t even there during the noon hour.

23 May

Cycling Across the Niagara Bridges – A Reference Guide

Since coming to St. Catharines almost two years ago, I have acquired a significant amount of first-hand experience crossing the border on two wheels. Having even been asked by CBSA officers and tourism officials on both sides of the border on the procedures to cross on a bike, I have put together a guide for your reference:

Queenston-Lewiston Bridge (known by Americans as the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge)

With the non-intuitive process, I already did a little write-up on crossing this bridge, and I’ll point you to that blog entry here.

Given the heavy truck traffic on this bridge, I would highly recommend not using this bridge during the week and waiting until the weekend when the traffic is lighter.

When crossing from Canada to the U.S., there is a sign instructing cyclists to report to the toll captain before proceeding, but when I was last across, I asked the toll captain if I had to wait for him if no one was around. He said you don’t have to wait for anyone, and as long as you know the procedure, you can proceed.

Whirlpool Bridge

This bridge, connecting the downtown areas of Niagara Falls, Ontario and New York, is only for NEXUS card holders. I had to tell the CBSA officer who interviewed me for my NEXUS card the other day that, as per the NFBC’s website, cyclists are prohibited on this bridge, though there are no signs at the bridge expressly saying so.

Rainbow Bridge

This bridge at Niagara Falls is by far the best for a cyclist to use due to the fact that commercial trucks are prohibited and that it connects residential streets rather than Interstate-equivalent freeways. There are no longer any NEXUS lanes, but simply proceed with the cars and pay your 50-cent toll upon leaving the U.S.

For those looking for an extended journey, there is a stop for the #40 NFTA bus, which links Niagara Falls to Buffalo, at the first light past customs. Most NFTA buses have bike racks, and for $2 US, you can extend your range substantially. For more information, consult NFTA’s website.

Peace Bridge

On this bridge, connecting Fort Erie to Buffalo, cyclists must walk across in either direction. Unlike the NFBC, the bridge authority provides details and maps on their website, and I urge anyone crossing there to visit the site or watch the following video from the bridge authority:



I personally have not crossed into Canada on this bridge on two wheels, but I have walked over in the opposite direction. Do not proceed with the cars and instead approach the building on foot, press the buzzer and wait. Leave your bike outside at the rack provided and enter the building when prompted by a CBP officer. Inside, you will be processed and the officer will wave a handheld radiation detector around you as part of the inspection.

Once cleared, proceed through the parking lot, under the bridge and onto Busti Avenue. Downtown Buffalo will be to the south, and to the north, you can head toward the Shoreline Trail that follows the river north into Tonawanda, going under the South Grand Island Bridge and through Nia-Wanda Park.

26 Sep

A Run for the Border

Yesterday, I made my first cross-border cycling trip since coming to St. Catharines. Many of you who know me might be asking what took me so long.

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At the crack of dawn, I headed southeast towards Niagara Falls and the Rainbow Bridge, where I planned to cross over into the U.S. I had been in the U.S. on two wheels in each of the last three years, but every time, my bike was stored away on a tour bus as we headed south from Winnipeg. This time, I would get there on my own power.

Since details are oddly hard to come by online, I was a little nervous about the procedure. At sites I’ve reviewed, everyone says cyclists can cross at the Rainbow Bridge with no problems, but they fail to mention whether you line up with the pedestrians or cross with the cars. I was later told that you can go with the pedestrians, but since signage at each of the other bridges clearly differentiate between cyclists and pedestrians, I decided to go with the cars. There were no problems in either direction using this approach and it proved to be the right choice. Unlike the Peace Bridge to the south and the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge to the north, commercial trucks are not allowed on this bridge, which makes it a little less intimidating for a cyclist. Furthermore, the Rainbow Bridge connects regular streets, not freeways, so it is clearly the preferred option for two-wheeled travellers like me.

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At the U.S. border station, the two lanes on the right are for buses and the others are for cars and cyclists. I got in line and was served promptly by a friendly border guard who even addressed me by name.

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I was through in no time and shortly began exploring western New York for the first time on two wheels.

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New York has a number of dedicated bike routes throughout the state and the route that ends at Niagara Falls is, fittingly for me, number 5. For those inclined to traverse the state, a detailed map is available at the Niagara USA Visitor Center.

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While stopping to get this picture, I could hear music blaring outside the Niagara Center so loudly that it sounded like there was a ghetto blaster right on the sidewalk. It was not a positive first impression and it would only get worse as I made my way through the city.

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Those of you who know me will not be surprised that the acquisition of pictures of highway signs was the primary motivation in my choice of routes. The first such route was NY 384 that follows to the southeast towards Grand Island.

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Seneca Niagara Casino.

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Though this may only interest me, this is an oddity I found throughout my travels on this day. On every state or U.S. highway I was on, without exception, a reassurance marker would be followed by another either in the same block or the next block. This is something I have never found in any province or state I have been in before and only officials at NYSDOT can explain the logic behind it.

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Niagara Falls, Canada is a world-renowned tourist destination. Niagara Falls, USA is an aging, dilapidated industrial town. The pictures don’t even tell the whole story. For anyone considering a visit to the area, there is no reason to cross the border unless, like me, you have ulterior motives that go beyond the more garden-variety tourist attractions.

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I point out this particular shot since it was in early July that I was taking a similar shot in Saint Paul of U.S. Highway 61. Less than three months later, I was at New York State Route 61. It was another stark reminder of just how far I have come since I left the SPRM.

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I took this shot at A Street. Not to be confused with B Street. Or C Street. Such imagination from city planners.

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A state historical marker from 1936. From the look of things, not much has improved in this area since that time.

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The only “wonder” about Niagara Falls, USA is that enterprising Americans have not done more to clean up the city and make it a more attractive tourist destination.

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One reader will understand why I stopped for this shot. The rest of you won’t.

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Sadly, this was all too indicative of what you’ll find on this side of the border in Niagara Falls.

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Someone with a little car trouble.

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After getting plenty of shots of NY 384, I returned to the area around the Rainbow Bridge before heading north along Main Street/NY 104.

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Smokin’ Joe’s Indian Trading Post. I can’t make up stuff like this. It ranks right up there with Big John’s Mine Shaft Tavern in Sioux Narrows.

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If they tried to build this sign assembly any higher, they would need to get clearance from the airport. I can imagine the confused looks from tourists as they approach this intersection and the planners at NYSDOT might well be advised to adopt the adage, “Less is more.”

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A helpful sign at the entrance to the Robert Moses Parkway. I’ll keep this valuable information in mind in case I ever think about bringing my horse.

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The U.S. Post Office.

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This particular shot has a story behind it. Immediately to my right was a group of scruffy-looking characters hanging out on a porch. The sight of this gringo coming around taking pictures of highway signs evidently aroused their curiosity and they all followed me out to the corner as I got some more shots around the nearby intersection. For all I know, they’re still scratching their heads wondering what I was doing there.

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The signs greeting visitors after crossing the Whirlpool Bridge. This bridge is only for cars and NEXUS card holders.

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I continued north towards DeVeaux Woods State Park. There is a marked change on the other side of the railway underpass and one for the better. Upscale, well-kept homes line the streets with lush greenery in abundance. From what my neighbor tells me and from checking out Lewiston on Google Earth, I suspect this is what I will find more of if I confine future trips across the border to the northern reaches of the state.

Interestingly, seconds after taking this shot, someone with New York plates stopped me and asked for directions. Once again, despite never having been in this area before, I was able to answer her questions accurately.

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I got some more strange looks from that cyclist who passed by as I took this shot on NY 31. Unlike the last group, however, he continued on his way and didn’t try to follow me around.

Rather than continuing north to the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge, I turned around and headed back for the Rainbow Bridge. I was getting hungry and kept looking around for a Subway, but in retrospect, I was lucky not to have found one as I’m not sure I would have felt safe leaving my bike anywhere in the downtown area. Oddly, after checking online, the only Subway locations in the city are by I-190 near the outlet mall.

I made one last stop at the Visitor Center near the bridge, but not before being accosted by a couple of guys running a hot dog/hamburger stand next door. I don’t respond well to high-pressure sales and I would have sooner gone without food for the whole day rather than buy anything from them.

At the Visitor Center, I noticed there was only one person working there and she was tied up with a couple who had a long laundry list of items to cover. So I waited. And waited. And waited. When another mob of people came in, I just left. By contrast, the Ontario travel information center is fully staffed and they eagerly pounce on you when you get anywhere near the desk.

On the bridge, tolls are collected from Canada-bound travellers, including cyclists. The fare for cars is $3.50 US/$3.75 CDN, but cyclists are only charged 50 cents. I gave the guy two quarters and continued across the bridge to the Canadian border station. I was pleased to be greeted in the Canadian language rather than with a “Bonjour” and I almost said “Winnipeg” when the guard asked me where I lived, but I caught myself in time and responded with “St. Catharines.” Old habits die hard. He asked whether or not I had picked up any shipments or bought anything during my stay in the U.S. and after I said I didn’t, he sent me on my way.

Despite the overwhelmingly negative impression of Niagara Falls, NY, no doubt I will be crossing the border on two wheels again. I shot 183 pictures on the day, mostly of New York State highway signs, and there’s so many more out there for me to capture. As I’ve said before, no one squeezes more out of a travel dollar than I do and this outing was no exception.