Tag Archives: Tonawanda

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.

11 May

An Improbable Visit to da ‘Burgh

On Monday, I had the pleasure of accompanying a good friend who was visiting from Winnipeg on a day trip to Pittsburgh. I had certainly heard enough about the city and its fanatical passion for its football team from a long-lost friend and former colleague whose ex-wife hailed from the area, but I never thought I would ever visit Pittsburgh in person.

Bright and early, we crossed the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge, known as the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge to the Americans, and entered the great state of New York.

Most people would have taken the QEW to the Peace Bridge, in part to avoid the $1 toll at Grand Island, but I did not object when my friend suggested the Lewiston crossing. Not only did I want to show him the bridge I had crossed several times on two wheels, but more importantly, I wanted to get some additional shots of I-190 that I wouldn’t have otherwise have been able to get. Shots that will be appearing on a website near you. Sooner or later. More likely the latter, given the backlog of pictures I’ve been accumulating recently.

The $1 toll was a small price to pay for shots like this. Here, we are approaching the toll booth just on the other side of the north bridge, one that I’ve walked over several times.

Past Grand Island into the Town of Tonawanda, not to be confused with the City of Tonawanda or the City of North Tonawanda, the latter being in a different county, there was a fair bit of traffic heading into Buffalo. This is undoubtedly another reason why people heading over the river use the Peace Bridge instead.

Passing under the Scajaquada Expressway. As I explained in the car, I finally learned how to pronounce it listening to a couple of guys talking while at the Tim Hortons in Sanborn a couple of years ago.

Approaching the Peace Bridge. You can watch the traffic on this stretch of I-190 from the Niagara Parkway in Fort Erie.

Past Buffalo and onto the Thruway, we stopped at the Lackawanna toll barrier. Entering the tolled section of the Thruway, travelers paying by cash pick up a ticket. When exiting, you hand that ticket to the attendant, who calculates the toll based on how far you’ve gone. Those with E-ZPass simply drive through, where sensors read the transponder upon entry and exit and deduct the appropriate charge from the user’s account. It’s kind of like a Presto card for drivers. You know, the Presto card that you can use throughout the GTHA, Ottawa and even Gatineau, but not here in Niagara. But I digress.

For the benefit of drivers who need a break along the way, rather than force them to exit and stop for an interim payment, the great state of New York provides many service areas along the Thruway like this one near Angola. Here, there is a food court, a staffed tourist information booth and a service station. Toto, we’re not in Manitoba anymore.

Past the Angola service area, there are these signs warning of a rough road ahead as the Thruway passes through the Seneca “Nation.”

The road is indeed quite rough, but as I understand, long-standing disputes between the state and this “nation,” which must give authorization for the state to work on tribal lands, is holding up what is a badly needed rebuild of this stretch of America’s longest Interstate highway. From its eastern terminus in Boston, it runs over 3,000 miles before ending in Seattle.

Just as I did when I passed by on the way to Erie in October 2015, I noticed this sign for the Big Indian Smoke Shop along with an Indian doing something much too similar to a Nazi salute. Upon closer inspection, the Indian is holding his palm up as if he’s looking for money, a familiar sighting for anyone who has walked the streets of downtown Winnipeg. A sighting I don’t miss, by the way.

Here is a sign notifying motorists that they’re in a correctional facility area and warning them not to pick up hitchhikers. Not that it’s a terribly good idea to pick up strangers under the best of circumstances, but in this case, it’s even more dangerous, as in the distance is the water tower for Chautauqua Institution, a jail with thick barbed-wire fencing right along the Thruway.

Here, we approach the Ripley toll barrier to pay our stipend before being allowed to leave the great state of New York. Unlike the case on the 407, however, the tolls are quite reasonable and the trip between Lackawanna and Ripley only sets you back $3.15. Though I had enough American money, they do apparently take Canadian dollarettes, discounted at a rate of 30%. Subject to change, I imagine.

Just past the Ripley toll barrier is the state line. Here, we are welcomed to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Inside the welcome center were washrooms, free Wi-Fi and a staffed tourist office. Normally in these places, the staff pounce on you as soon as you walk in the door, but the person in the office was content to sit and continue working while I browsed through the place.

At the main door is this sign giving “The Rules” as set forth by the Commonwealth. Some long reading material for those who care enough and have the time to go through it all.

Past the welcome center, there is this sign for North East. North East what, you may ask? It’s just North East. Well, North East Township to be exact.

Following a short break in nearby Erie, it was time to head south along I-79 toward Pittsburgh.

Just past the I-90 interchange is Bargain Road, a fitting sighting for a current and ex-Winnipegger traveling together. For the benefit of the uninformed, Winnipeg is the discount capital of North America.

Here, we pass I-80, another of the country’s longest Interstates. This one links New Jersey to San Francisco, roughly following the path of the old Lincoln Highway. As you can see from the foliage, this stretch of highway through the rolling hills of the western part of the Commonwealth is a beautiful and highly recommended drive.

We stopped again at Grove City, where I had lunch at this gas station/Subway.

Walking back to the outlet mall, just as I did when I last visited Erie, I noticed how pedestrian-unfriendly this part of the world was. There were hardly any sidewalks around and much of the ground wasn’t even flat, yet in the above shot, they made a big effort to put wheelchair ramps at the light. It had the look of something done just so some bureaucrats could say they had fulfilled ADA requirements.

I went inside the Stillers outlet store and picked up a little souvenir of the occasion before we continued on our journey south.

Here, a horse and buggy proceeds west along Route 208 as we waited to get back on I-79.

Approaching the PA Turnpike.

Seeing this sign, I couldn’t help but recall one of the favorite expressions of former Seattle Seahawks coach Chuck Knox. When he felt something was common sense, he would say it was “eighth-grade Sewickley.” Little did I ever think I would ever end up in the same area code as his hometown.

Here, we cross the Ohio River, or the Ahia in Pittsburghese. I found it odd that the signage was not bilingual.

We exited I-79 at I-376 and proceeded east to Pittsburgh. For the benefit of the uninformed, in this part of the world, the next exit is for Car-NEGGY, not CAR-nuh-gee.

Approaching the Mount Lebanon exit and heading into Pittsburgh.

Here, we enter the Fort Pitt Tunnel that goes through Mount Washington. I used to think that going underneath the Welland Canal was a big deal.

Oddly enough, on the other side of the Fort Pitt Tunnel is the Fort Pitt Bridge that crosses the Monongahela River. We took one of the downtown exits and found a place to park before getting out for a bit of exploration.

Naturally, this caught my attention. There are many such homages to Snoopy in downtown Saint Paul, MN, and they’re in much better shape than this one. Still, it’s better than nothing.

Welcome to da ‘Burgh.

Oy! Brahns paraphernalia in downtown Pittsburgh?!?

The entrance to Point State Park at the confluence of the Allegheny and aforementioned Monongahela and Ahia Rivers.

Cafe at the Point. Note how the chairs and tables are tied down. No doubt they would have a habit of walking away on their own without the restraints.

Looking back at the Wyndham Grand Hotel.

The Fort Pitt Museum, where only museum patrons can use their washrooms. The common folk instead have to use the public washrooms near the fountain.

The Fort Pitt Bridge.

Segway tours are offered. We would also spot hybrid boats from Just Ducky Tours rolling through downtown that give one-hour land and water tours of the area.

Along the shoreline.

Here, a flag from the Thirteen Colonies era flies proudly.

Mount Warshington, as they would say in Pittsburghese. Rather than go over it, we went through it.

The fountain.

Heinz Field, home of dem Stillers. Hir we go, Stillers, hir we go!

Fort Duquesne Bridge.

Leaving the park, we made a brief tour of downtown. This is Gateway Station, a terminal in the city’s light rail network that goes underneath both the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers. Within the downtown area anna Norside (North Side in English), it is a free fare zone.

This sign for a “chipped chopped” ham sandwich, another bit of unique Pittsburgh vernacular, just jumped out at me as I recalled how my long-lost former colleague mentioned that his then-father-in-law had once said, “Eyes had a chipped chopped sammitch and eyes full.”

Far too soon, it was time to leave and we took I-279 north across the Fort Duquesne Bridge and back to I-79.

Following a short break at a rest area near Grove City, I spotted this cross near the road. Given the state of political correctness these days, I’m surprised any reference to a Christian religion near a public highway is permitted. No doubt, some perpetually offended SJW is just waiting to raise hell with PennDOT after getting “triggered.”

We stopped again in Erie before continuing east on I-90 toward Buffalo.

This sign, with the “UPMC Hamot” and “University” lines having been put in by simply placing a metal plate over the old wording, caught my attention. When wording needs to be changed, it is a refreshing, common sense approach to do it that way rather than replace the entire sign as they do in the SPRM. But I’m not bitter.

Passing through North East, travelers get a nice view of the lake. Anyone looking for information on Niagara Falls can also reportedly get it here, though why one would even look for information on the Falls in North East Township is beyond me.

Leaving the Commonwealth and crossing into the great state of New York. The difference in the quality of pavement was palpable.

Here, we pass through the Ripley toll barrier, where the attendant was passing out tickets to motorists the way a business owner would hand out flyers on a busy street corner.

Maybe this only interests me, but the sign for Exit 59 uses the wrong shield for the intersecting NY 60. This is sadly commonplace in the great state of New York, particularly so on US 62.

Here, we re-enter the Seneca “Nation.” On the sign, they claim the state owes them over $675 million for a toll they unilaterally claim for every motorist who passes through their “sovereign lands since time immemorial.” Um, yeah, whatever. Perhaps the state should make a similar claim for members of this “nation” when they leave their “sovereign lands.” In the meantime, fix the damn road.

Apparently the Lackawanna toll booths are more special than the other toll booths along the Thruway.

Preparing to pay the $3.15, I noticed these signs for Canada on every toll booth. Canada-bound traffic is evidently quite commonplace in this part of the world.

With the setting sun, we made it back across the border and home without incident to put an end to what was a long, but very enjoyable day, one that I’ll continue enjoying in retrospect for quite some time.

07 Jul

Return to Tonawanda

This past weekend, I took my 12th tour of Western New York on two wheels since coming to St. Catharines. I covered 60.9 miles in a trip that took me through Niagara Falls and across Grand Island before returning through Niawanda Park in Tonawanda.

Leaving bright and early, there wasn’t much of a lineup at U.S. customs at the Rainbow Bridge, but I was a little worried when I saw the cars ahead of me getting a much higher level of scrutiny, no doubt on account of the Independence Day holiday. The guards normally stay inside their booths, but they were coming out to meet the cars and checking around the back before going inside to process the passports. Luckily, they let me through with little fanfare.

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From the bridge, I followed the trail that runs alongside the Robert Moses State Parkway from Niagara Falls State Park to the North Grand Island Bridge.

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I took advantage of the seasonally open washroom there before walking across the nearly mile-long bridge to the island. Grand Island itself has a lot to offer the cyclist, but on this day, I simply cut across the island on Grand Island Boulevard/NY 324.

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After crossing the South Grand Island Bridge, I took the trail that follows River Road/NY 266 through Niawanda Park, so named because it follows the Niagara River in Tonawanda. Surely they can do better.

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This journey was easily the highlight of the trip. Much like what I found encircling Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis, the trail is separated into bike and pedestrian sections and is just as scenic.

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On one side is the mighty Niagara River and Grand Island and on the other side is thick greenery.

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There are many places like this to rest and enjoy the view before continuing on towards North Tonawanda. Along the way, I spotted ample parking for those coming in a car and there were no less than three sets of public washrooms between the bridge and Seymour Street/NY 265. The only downside were some cracks in the pavement closer to the bridge.

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I didn’t take the time to go there, but on the way, you can see the boats docked at nearby Tonawanda Island.

I stopped for a rest at McDonald’s, which once again got my business because, unlike some other quick-serve restaurants, they welcome cyclists by providing a bike rack. Following the break, I continued back on a circuitous path towards the Rainbow Bridge through North Tonawanda.

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Longtime readers will understand why this sighting grabbed my attention.

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It wouldn’t be a proper trip without snapping some pictures for my road photos site and I was able to supplement my collection with shots like this, soon to appear on a Web site near you.

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Along Oliver Street are these painted horses. Such horses can be found at the nearby Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum, which the city takes great pride in as “Home of the Carrousel” is proudly proclaimed on each sign entering the city.

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When going through Wheatfield, I passed by this one-time Polarski & Son customer, who is obviously dissatisfied with their tree service. I sense some business for members of the legal profession in both parties’ future.

I stopped once again at the park by the North Grand Island Bridge, where a gentleman approached me. Mistaking me for someone he knows, he started asking when they were going to build the third bridge to the island, but all I could give him in response was a blank stare. After establishing that I wasn’t the person he thought I was, he began a little American political dissertation and I just let him talk, leaving my citizenship out of the mostly one-way conversation.

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Once I got back to the Rainbow Bridge, I paid my 50-cent toll and then waited for a half hour in line at Canadian customs, where a snarky officer all but insinuated that I was a disloyal slob for cross-border cycling. There are plenty of great cycling opportunities on the Canadian side of the border, which I continue to take advantage of, but that doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye to the many equally fine places to explore on the U.S. side well within reach.

I look forward to a return visit.