Friday, October 1, 2010

Thoughts on Canada so far - the ride from Buffalo, NY to Toronto - via Niagara Falls.

So, we crossed into Canada some weeks ago from Buffalo, NY and the immediate difference was remarkable.

Getting out of the US was merely a matter of rolling through a gate on the US side and riding over the bridge over the river. I didn't expect entry to Canada to prove problematic, but I we were more than a bit anxious about the process of exiting the US. I even wore undies even, just in case. But again I was underwhelmed by the routine. Were it not for our oversized bikes that wouldn't fit through the prison-style turnstile, we wouldn't have even needed to interact with any of the devil's agents at all on that side of the river. So we just passed through a gate and rode over the bridge and had a pleasant time with the polite Canadian universal-soldieresque border beaurocrats. Had we not been interested in going through Canadian Immigration etc, there was nothing on their side of the bridge top prevent you from just cruising on out across the riverside park to freedom rather than almost voluntarily submitting to processing. The Canadian Border officials were friendly enough - though when I remarked that I'd never seen border bureaucrat in bullet-proof vests before - he just looked at me kinda curiously. And then asked if we were carrying any handguns in our panniers. Again another underwhelmingly easy post 9/11situation. Thanks Obama for thinning out the paranoia of the previous regime.

Something surprisingly surprising was that Canada is waaaay more expensive than the US (which was already budget-blowingly more so than Mexico) Whereas we we occasionally obliged to pay almost ninety dollars, inc tax, for a room (Key West at $88, San Fran at $77inc and a whopping -though discounted- $117inc for Washington DC) even average rooms here go for over $100, PLUS TAX... And while Canadians on the whole are wonderfully friendly, a couple of times now we've been blatently informed that the tip hasn't been added to the bill – so get with it and drop at least another 15% - on top of the already high taxes. 

From the boarded-up low-rent mostly-black slums between the Buffalo Airport and the Peace Bridge over the river, we passed into a lovely, polite and manicured river-front community, all the way up to Niagara falls 30-odd K north.

Here's what the bikes looked like when we arrived in Niagara Falls, 35km into the Canadian leg of the trip. The stainless bottles are still in Atlanta awaiting new lids - so we have plastic bottles, the new seats aren't on yet, and I have a small pack-towel hanging on my bars that I'd found on the Allegheny Passage. 

David's bike.

Gaby's bike - fully equipped with folded cardboard box and GAP bag of bubble-wrap...
A little further down the road however I had a stupid-attack - foolishly pumping up the tyres from a truck-stop compressor (a first in 7000km but) and soon after my front tyre blew out, along with the inner tube. oops. As Gaby said - at least that justified carrying the spare tyre and tubes all that way from home...

My old Selle Italia seat too wasn't feeling all that great, after maybe 9000km of use, so soon after we crossed the border I got around to installing a seat that had arrrived a few days previously. As you can see here, the rubber top had come adrift from the plastic base, at the back - though the front was only still hanging on for the grace of a liberally applied dose of silicon applied back in ?Cambodia? We've now got Terry Liberator Gel jobbies - purchases online form GottaRideBikes [not a particularly reliable retailer in hindsight]

Something I'm particularly fond of, eqpt-wise is the funky new [drum-roll please] cup holder, which  I purchased from a trailside bike shop back on the Allegheny Passage somewhere East of Pittsburgh. It's just soooo coool ! 

After a few days relaxing in Niagara Falls, getting fat at the all-you-can-eat buffet at the Niagara Falls, we spent a further few days in a pleasant campsite while waiting for Gaby's mum to arrive in Toronto for a three-week road-trip...

In Jordan ON, just uphill from the campsite, we stopped to chat with some lovely folk out enjoying their front yard

Not everything here in Canada is a sweetness, love, sunlight and daffodils, however... Here is a wind-swept monstrous blight we encountered on the lake somewhere near Burlington, ON

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