Highlights from my 49th two-wheeled trip to the Great State of New York:
1. While being questioned at US Customs, the CBP officer looked down at my pants and exclaimed, “You’re wearing the same pants we are!” The unusual revelation even attracted the attention of the officer in the next booth, who asked if I was with the CBSA. In any event, I get the feeling the U.S. government paid a lot more for the pants the officers were wearing than I did for mine at the thrift store.
2. Though I’m not sure why one would need it, for the benefit of tourists headed over the river, the Niagara USA Visitor Center offers a luggage storage service for $10.
3. It’s plainly obvious that staff at the Niagara USA Visitor Center say “hello” to guests only because they’re ordered to.
4. Passing a solvent plant on Buffalo Avenue, I spotted, of all things, a fox:
5. Farther east on Buffalo Avenue was a Snoopy aficionado with a doghouse out front. Loyal readers may recall that I spotted a similar homemade Snoopy display hanging from a tree outside a house in North Tonawanda four years ago.
6. Not that I’m big on Arby’s, but I’m sure old-style signs like this are indeed rare:
7. The level of courteousness at the Tim Hortons on Niagara Falls Boulevard as well as the Walmart on Military Road could use a major improvement. It was especially bad at Walmart, where the cashier, the nationwide winner of the Slowest Cashier of the Year Award, was grumpy and hardly said a word.
8. Walmart seemingly goes out of its way to recruit employees who are more than 75 pounds overweight.
9. Parking fail:
10. At the Rainbow Bridge toll gate, two cars lined up in a lane with a big red “CLOSED” sign overhead, while I went around to an open lane. Only when someone came out to tell them the lane was closed did they turn to follow me. More examples of people who just shouldn’t be driving.
Highlights from today’s bus-bike adventure to and from Welland:
1. Demolition work proceeding on the former Sears store at the Pen Center:
2. Passing a pair of joggers going up the escarpment on Glenridge, I instantly knew I wasn’t in Winnipeg because they were on the sidewalk and not on the road.
3. Two thumbs down to Virtue Signaling University, known to most as Brock, for flying the abhorrent UN flag near their main entrance.
4. At Turner’s Corners, the yellow light didn’t just mean “go faster” to the bus driver I had, it meant “go a lot faster.” Hopefully next time, he’ll learn from the experience and not approach a traffic light at such a high speed in order to allow himself the ability to stop safely before the intersection.
5. The new Niagara College stop on regional transit is certainly popular, but not so much for the others. This morning, I was the only one left on the bus after all the students got off.
6. Off-color scenes in Welland:
7. The level of misery and despair in much of Welland is hard to put into words or even capture digitally with a camera. You have to see it with your own eyes to appreciate it. Yet despite such glum economic prospects, they keep voting for the same socialist parties that put them in that ditch. As they say, when you’re in a hole, stop digging.
8. Somewhat related, I spotted a number of these signs throughout the Rose City. After raiding the pockets of their members to campaign for political parties hostile to job-creating businesses, Unifor suddenly feigns concern for the soon-to-be-unemployed people it helped put out of work.
9. All that’s missing in this shot is a yellow sticker that reads, “WIDE LOAD.” And no, she didn’t need the goodies she ordered from Tim Hortons.
10. Customers who left their mark on the window display:
11. While at the Tim Hortons, another cyclist came in, left his bike in the vestibule, went up to a table, pulled a can of Minute Maid orange juice out of his pocket, then grabbed a napkin from the counter before taking a seat in one of the comfy chairs by the television. Um, they like you to actually buy something for the privilege of using their facilities.
11a. Not only did he not lock up his bike, but he didn’t even employ Niagara Bike Security (turning it upside down). For sure, I knew I wasn’t in Winnipeg.
12. In both of my visits to the Welland Transit Terminal, I got quite the stare-down from onlookers, no doubt wondering who this stranger was in their midst. After all, everyone seems to know each other there and I’m not sure anyone is really outside the family.
13. The Express Donuts across the street really seems to be a hangout for the, shall we say, fringe elements of the community. I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to walk in, but I could probably get enough material for an entire book there.
14. Maybe this was juice in the sink. Or maybe it wasn’t.
15. While waiting for the St. Catharines-bound regional transit bus, a wide-bodied scruffy old guy with a long, straggly beard and a big, booming voice walked up to the counter and told the clerk how much he liked a woman bus driver named Angela. He said he thought she was really pretty, but real reason he liked her became clear when he mentioned she had given him a $20 bill once, then a $10 bill on another occasion. People with money do tend to be attractive to bums like him, regardless of looks. Then he told the clerk about the three Christmas presents he got: a 60 oz. of vodka from his neighbor, $20 from his sister and $10 from someone else. Before leaving, he asked the clerk to say hi to Christina for him. As I said, everyone seems to know each other there.
16. Also while waiting, another guy went up to the clerk and asked what the route number was. Apparently she was just supposed to know what bus he wanted.
17. At the Pen Center, a couple who were among those who think buses are mobile tourist information booths flagged down the bus and tied us up for several minutes as they asked the driver to do what they should have done online before leaving the house. Yes, that is one of my pet peeves.
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.
Observations from a busy three days on the road earlier this week:
1. The rainbow-colored bench at the Beamsville stop is again AWOL and someone isn’t too happy about it. Posted inside the new shelter is a sign “Wanted: Safe return of rainbow bench. Reward.” I’ll say this for the LGBT community, they are determined.
2. Also spotted at Beamsville was a truck from Industrial Commercial Environmental with the big letters ICE plastered on the side. Taking that truck over the river would undoubtedly send illegals scattering like rats.
3. Facing the QEW in Stoney Creek is an office for Manpower, a company that obviously has not fully embraced gender inclusivity.
4. Call it a hunch, but I get the feeling this student driver still has some learning to do:
5. The Tim Hortons at the Burlington GO station is now officially open, capping off an epic five-year construction cycle that had to have involved Manitoba contractors.
6. Spotted on the UP Express train to Pearson was the Toronto Equine Hospital. Couldn’t they just call it a horsepital?
7. On the Lakeshore West train was a new automated announcement, “Friendly reminder: Keep your feet off the seats. The person sitting there after you will appreciate it.”
8. Parking fail:
9. Seated across the aisle from me on Tuesday’s bus ride to Burlington was a heavyweight who was badly hooked on his smokes. Soon after taking his seat, his snoring was loud enough to wake up the dead, but he managed to wake up in enough time to crack open a Pepsi before his stop at Stoney Creek, where he again lit up within seconds of his feet hitting the pavement.
10. The sign at the Dixie Mall in Mississauga pointing hungry customers away from the food court:
11. Proficiency in the English language is obviously not a requirement for anyone working at the Tim Hortons in Markham where I had my lunch. I had an easier time understanding the clerk at the Subway in Gatineau and I’m anything but fluent in Quebecese.
12. The Kennedy Square mall in Brampton had a distinct odor that suggested it was an exterminator’s preferred client. Maybe even his only client.
13. But domestic objects are OK.
14. It cause me inconvenience none …
15. And so is you …
16. Dress “royaley” …
17. Especially on Tuesday, I lost count of the number of trucks I saw from the SPRM. The most popular carrier was Bison Transport, whose offices were only a ten-minute bike ride away from my last house there.
18. Inside the King City ONRoute. Sure beats those Manitoba rest areas that have nothing more than a rickety old outhouse.
19. At the snow-covered Barrie waterfront:
20. As Yosemite Sam once said, ya better say your prayers, ya flea-bitten varmint … I’m-a-gonna blow ya to smithereenies!
21. This reminds me of the burrito place I spotted in Toronto’s East Chinatown recently …
22. At the Port of Collingwood:
23. It’s nice to know they have a special theater for the LGBT community in Collingwood …
24. A tribute to Shania’s twin?
25. View from the basilica in downtown Guelph:
26. In Elmira, I found Dan Snyder’s grave and got a shot of the Woolwich Memorial Center, which houses the Dan Snyder Memorial Arena. Both shots will be used in a future book on the history of the Atlanta Thrashers, the team that, as a former Manitoba taxpayer, I was forced to purchase for Mark Chipman.
1. Admit it. You never even heard of Gord Downie before he was diagnosed with brain cancer and being subsequently forced by your inconsiderate neighbor to listen to his last concert. Yet upon his passing, he is being hailed as some kind of Canadian icon. Don’t get me wrong. I’m sorry he passed away. But his death is no more or less significant than anyone else’s in this country.
2. Much more newsworthy, in my opinion, was the passing of original Jet Dunc Rousseau. My condolences to his family and to his former teammates.
3. Dear Sportsnet: During the very infrequent occasions in which I tune in to a hockey game, I want to, get this, watch a hockey game. Not a three-hour tribute to someone who played in a rock band I never heard of before. And I certainly don’t need to see crocodile tears from our adolescent prime minister leading off the broadcast. Or at any other time during the broadcast.
3a. Where, pray tell, were those crocodile tears from said adolescent prime minister when those people were mowed down in Edmonton?
4. I fail to be surprised that Mayor Sendzik is planning to spend every last dime of the $4-million hydro dividends the city will be getting. No need to put the money in reserve, he says. Spend, spend, spend. Just like a true Liberal.
4a. We need a new mayor. Badly. And not a hard-line leftist.
5. A poll came across my Twitter feed yesterday asking who is the dumbest person in America. There were some worthy contenders on the list, but I chose NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who is proudly spearheading the league’s death spiral. With its popularity and ratings in a self-induced free fall, the once-mighty and seemingly infallible sports colossus is slowly circling the drain. All I have to say is thanks for the memories.
6. Out before sunrise this morning, I spotted three cyclists without helmets, lights or brains.
7. Happy “Anniversery”:
8. As opposed to dirty food …
9. Happy “Hallooween”:
10. I couldn’t resist this shot of a pizza joint named for a former USFL team. For those unfamiliar with USFL history, Buffalo Bills legend Jim Kelly starred for the Houston Gamblers for two years and would have done the same with Donald Trump’s New Jersey Generals if the league had not gone under.
10a. Shameless plug: Fallen Generals features a comprehensive history of the Generals, including the aborted 1986 season that would have seen Kelly suit up for New Jersey.
10b. Shameless plug 2: Coming in a few months time will be my first mystery. Set in Winnipeg, it will feature a potty-mouth lesbian detective matching wits with a deranged, self-absorbed sicko who believes the world is out to get him.
11. At the Tim Hortons in Chippawa, I was served by a crusty old fartess whose commitment to customer service could have used some improvement.
12. I think I was the only one there who wasn’t known by one of the staff or patrons. I suppose it was like the Cheers bar where everyone knows your name.
12a. There were more flies inside the restaurant than patrons.
13. Don’t ask me why, but that place seems to be a hangout for bikers, and I don’t mean cyclists.
14. Someone in the washroom walked out without washing his hands. It does happen here, but unlike some other part of the world where yours truly once called home, it stands out.
15. Parking fail:
16. It’s a bike rack, not a dog rack …
17. Even though it’s mid-October, parking at Table Rock today was running at $20. For tour buses, it was $65. It remains sad to see how they shake down tourists here, particularly given the importance of tourism to the region.
18. This Holiday Inn, one of the closest hotels to the falls, offers free parking to registered guests, yet the Hilton by the Winnipeg airport charges for parking. I don’t get it.
1. My former MP, Steven Fletcher, touched a very raw nerve with me this week when he announced that his so-called “Gift of Life Act” will be coming up for a vote in three weeks time. If passed, this would give the Manitoba government the legal right to presume upon your death that you consent to being an organ donor.
Let me be clear. I support organ donation. Voluntary organ donation. No politician, party or government has any moral authority whatsoever to harvest your organs without your express consent. No answer is just that, no answer.
Even though it does not affect me since I no longer live in the SPRM, I suspect the reason my dander is up about it is because it is being championed by a so-called conservative whom I know personally and once respected.
1a. For those who think this bill is a good idea, consider the example of an accused rapist who tells the judge, “She didn’t say anything, so I presumed she was OK with it.” Do you think that defence should allow the scumbag to get off?
1b. One of the reasons Fletcher broke ranks with the Manitoba PCs was because representing his constituents supposedly took precedence over the interests of his party. Yet I rather doubt the impetus behind this bill came from a groundswell of support from any constituents who wrote to his office or attended one of his Fletcher Forums. In this case, he is most likely only representing himself.
2. This week, the million-dollar donation IceDogs owners Bill and Denise Burke were to have made toward the construction of the Meridian Center officially came off the table. Yes, the city screwed up royally. It was a case of small-town politics at its worst. But as much as they are being portrayed as victims, the Burkes are not blameless in this sordid affair. When first having problems with city staff, rather than approach the mayor, they instead chose to air their dirty laundry in public. To their credit, when everything came to light, council and Mayor Sendzik acted decisively to address all the problems behind the scenes, yet the Burkes were still unmoved. All told, over the last year, they have come across looking very petty.
2a. If the Burkes really wanted to do something for the community, how about naming the team for the city whose taxpayers are putting up the bulk of the $50 million for the arena their team is the anchor tenant of? But I guess that’s asking too much.
2b. Since council is now free to rename IceDogs Way, the street upon which the Meridian Center sits, I propose calling it “St. Catharines Way.” It’s one way the Burkes can be forced to publicly acknowledge the city.
3. This week, this non-driver got yet another promotional mailing from CAA Niagara. When I shamed them on Twitter, they offered to take me off their list if I gave them my address, but I figured they should look it up themselves. After all, they added me to their list, they can do the work to get me off it. And if they can’t be bothered, far be it from me to stop them from flushing their money down the toilet.
4. I also got a promotional email from Bell recently patting themselves on the back for all the great things they’re doing for me. Call me a skeptic, but I get the feeling I’m being primed for another rate increase.
5. I am a frequent user of some highly credible open-source freeware such as the LibreOffice Writer and GIMP, the graphics manipulation program. But just because it’s open source doesn’t make it good. Consider the case of LibreOffice Base, the Access knockoff, that I had some experience with this week. On the surface, it has a lot to offer, but getting data in and out of it is clunky and it crashed more often in one day than Access has for me in several years.
6. Clear the track for Eddie “Shak” …
7. The apostrophe king of Vineland …
8. And on the other side of the street is “House across the street from the school:”
9. At the Tim Hortons/Vineland Seniors Center this morning, I was served by a clerk whose disdain for her job couldn’t have been more obvious if she put a flashing blue light on her head.
10. Seated nearby at said Tim Hortons was someone who said he lived in a townhouse near the “lie-berry.” Oy.
11. Maybe it was just me, but the tea I had at said Tim Hortons tasted like it was made with dishwater. Methinks the time to replace their water filters came and went several months ago.
12. I appreciated the fresh coat of asphalt on North Service Road between Jordan Road and Vineland. I appreciated that the project was completed the same year in which it began even more. Once again, this is not the Old Country.
13. Did the brainiacs who renumbered all the St. Catharines Transit routes consider that there is now a route 406, the same number as one of the main highways running through town? And that said route 406 doesn’t actually go on the 406?