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Day 28: Cayuga, ON to Lockport, NY

What a day! I managed to pack so much into it that, looking back, it’s hard for me to believe it all happened in a single day. Not only that, but for the second day running I stayed within the 80-100 mile range!

Somehow, I managed to diligently get myself up promptly at 6 and sat down to breakfast before 7. And yet somehow it was already 7:45 by the time I hit the road. I just can’t get myself going in the morning.

At least the wind was more favorable today, so I made good time getting across the rest of Ontario. The first 24 miles were a winding route that meandered out toward Lake Erie. At the 24-mile mark almost exactly, I turned onto Blue Heron Way, a dirt path. Yes, I thought I had sworn off dirt paths after the incident in Wisconsin, but in this case it looked like the path would save me several miles. While the surface was generally ok, the width of the path varied considerably. In some places it was just a single-track.

After 4 miles on the path, I finally got to a point where a nice paved road was paralleling it, so I was more than happy to switch over to the road. (Google of course was telling me to stay on the dirt for another 5 miles.) Paved or unpaved, those next 5 miles brought me to the edge of Port Colborne, and two more miles brought me into downtown, where they were celebrating the annual Canal Days festival.

The significance of Port Colborne is that it’s located where the Welland Canal comes out of Lake Erie. What’s the Welland Canal, you ask? Well, presumably you didn’t think ships going between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario went over Niagara Falls. This is the route they take to avoid the falls. The original canal opened in the 1830s, though the current alignment dates to the 1930s.

Since it was only a little after 10 when I got to town and a little after 11 when I left, the festival hadn’t gotten into full swing for the day, but there were still some roads closed to motor vehicles and it was fun to walk along the canal and take it all in.

That’s a shot of the E. M. Cotter, the world’s oldest fire boat still in service, which was visiting from Buffalo for the occasion. In the background is Bridge #21, which was closed to motor vehicles and which I walked across to get over the canal. Here’s a view downstream from the bridge itself:

And here’s what one of the bridge towers looks like up close. The canal can accommodate some pretty large ships, so they really have to raise the bridge high to let them through. I asked a guard how long the whole procedure takes to raise the bridge, let a ship through, and lower the bridge, and she said 20 minutes. I’m glad I didn’t get stuck waiting for that!

On the other side of the bridge, I picked up the Friendship Trail, which is a nice, paved bike path that runs all the way from Port Colborne to the Niagara River. About 8 miles down the trail from Port Colborne, I stopped for a stretch break and a map check. On the map I noticed I was just a mile away from Brimstone Brewing, which itself was only about two or three blocks off the trail. They don’t open until noon on Saturdays, so my original plan had been to skip them, but thanks to stopping at the festival it was now already 11:45. Add 5 minutes to bike the remaining distance to the brewery and 5 minutes to stretch, and that basically put me at their opening time, so I got to hit one more brewery before crossing back to the US.

If you’re wondering about the unusual name and the cross in their logo, the building they’re in was a church until 2010, so the owners decided to be playful with the idea that they’re going to hell for opening a brewery in a former church. Beer-wise, the real winner here was the Enlightenment blonde ale, which is probably one of the best blondes I’ve had. Blonde ale isn’t usually a very interesting style; it’s more of a neutral beer that’s easy to drink on a summer day. But these guys added just a little bit more body than the typical blonde ale has, and in the process they got a whole lot more flavor. And yet it’s still perfectly easy drinking for a summer day.

If you want something a bit different, the Last Ride loganberry saison was nice. Not amazing, but I’d never had loganberry in a beer before! Also, Brimstone was nice enough to carry the Hopkins Tomb stout from Breakwall Brewing back in Port Colborne. Of course they weren’t open at 11am, so I figured I wouldn’t be able to try their beer, but instead I got to try one here, and it was quite good.

After the brewery, I continued on the Friendship Trail out to Lake Erie, where there was a nice little park with some kayakers.

Continuing on, the trail took me out to the beginning of the Niagara River, where I caught my first view of Buffalo.

Shortly afterwards, there was also a good view of the Peace Bridge, which connects Fort Erie to Buffalo.

Now, the official bike route continues down the Niagara River to Niagara Falls and crosses there so as to avoid Buffalo, but I’ve already been to Niagara Falls twice (this is the third waterfall I’ve now skipped on the grounds of having already been there twice), so instead I’ll just present you with this Three Stooges routine:

So I went for the Peace Bridge which, unlike the bridges to Michigan, has a pedestrian and bicycle walkway. Once I found the entrance to the walkway in the middle of a construction zone, it was easy to get over the bridge. At the top there’s a nice marker on the international boundary.

Incidentally, I noticed no border control whatsoever for pedestrians and cyclists leaving the Canadian side, so I’m not sure if you’re on your honor to register at a customs office or if they just let you into the country unannounced or what. On the US side I encountered a locked gate and a locked office door. It took a bit of looking around to see that there was an intercom button I was supposed to push. That called the customs agent who came out, let me into the office, swiped my passport, asked me if I was bringing anything back with me, and then unlocked the gate to let me into the US. It was an unusual system, but it sure went fast once I figured out what to do. It was also much, much faster than what the cars on the bridge were dealing with, considering they were backed up into Canada!

Not too far from the bridge was Community Beer Works, so I headed over there for lunch. Believe it or not, this was my first brewery visit anywhere in New York State outside of the Five Boroughs.

Community Beer has a fairly good selection and also does 6-beer flights, so I was able to taste a good portion of that selection. My favorite was the Stronger Rope NY farmhouse ale. Also good was the Rutherford B. Haze, a Belgian-style pale wheat ale. (Considering “pale wheat ale” is not a typical Belgian style, I don’t know what makes this beer Belgian-style. Maybe the yeast.)

I wound up taking a pretty long break at Community Beer, because now that I was in New York, I needed to figure out lodging. As I’ve mentioned before, Saturday nights in the summer are tough, especially last-minute. But I had originally planned to make Rochester on Saturday, and that was clearly not going to happen after I took things slower on Thursday. I did want to get past Buffalo, but there aren’t too many cities with lodging along the Erie Canal between Buffalo and Rochester. (There are plenty of cities with lodging along the Thruway, but that’s a much hillier route, and the Erie Canal also has a bike path.) There was one warmshowers host in Lockport, about 20 miles past Buffalo, but he was already booked hosting another cyclist. And the hotels in Lockport were either booked full or only had the most expensive rooms left. Eventually I just bit the bullet and booked an exorbitant suite. I’m not happy about spending this much money, but I figure if I do it once it’s not the end of the world. And it also wound up being my first night in a room with adequate air conditioning since Kalamazoo.

Looking ahead, I also sent out emails to prospective warmshowers hosts for Sunday and Monday, but even if they don’t pan out it should be easy for me to get a cheap AirBnB room on a weeknight farther away from Niagara Falls.

I think it was like 3:15 or 3:30 by the time I finally left Community Beer. At this point I was feeling a bit of beer fatigue, but I still wanted to check out someplace else before leaving Buffalo. Well, conveniently Black Bird Cider Works recently opened a tasting room on the north side of Buffalo, so I biked the 4 miles over to their Buffalo Cider Hall. Incidentally, this was my first visit to a cidery since Fargo, though one of the breweries in Windsor did make their own cider as well.

Turns out Black Bird makes some really good cider! My favorite by far was the spiced cider they brewed especially for the Erie County Fair, which begins on the 7th. They only had a limited quantity in the taproom (having sent most of the cider to the fair), but I told the bartender that if they had bottled it I would have bought a bottle and carried it all the way back to Massachusetts with me, it was that good. Assuming you go when they’re not brewing a special cider for the fair though, other really good ones included the Lakeside Loganberry, which was surprisingly sweet for a cider labeled semi-dry, and the Buffalo Bluegrass, a bourbon barrel-aged cider.

Across the courtyard from the cidery was Barrel + Brine, a fermentory of a different kind. Instead of making beer or wine or cider or mead, they specialize in fermented foods like kimchee, as well as kombucha. So I went over there to try out some of their stuff and wound up tasting a few different types of kombucha as well as pickled sausage. It’s definitely a cool concept and something different, and I’d go back.

Now it was after 5, and the bartender at Black Bird had recommended New York Beer Project on the south side of Lockport when I told him my destination for the evening, so I headed there next. After 5 miles or so on road (with a comfortable tailwind), I picked up the Canalway Bike Path, which runs along the Erie Canal. It’s a bit winding but very scenic, though there were also some bridges under construction where I had to cut out to the road to get around them.

NYBP itself was packed on a Saturday night. It seems like a really popular destination in and of itself! They also happen to make an incredible pineapple milkshake IPA. I was raving about it, the guy sitting next to me was raving about it, and we convinced a woman who came up to the bar to order it and she started raving about it too. The flavors are hit-you-over-the-head obvious, but not in an offensive way, and it just works really well. If milkshake IPAs aren’t your thing, try the Chocolate Raspberry Torte oatmeal stout, though I didn’t get much raspberry flavor from it.

After finishing my beer along with a large hamburger, I biked the last 5 miles to my hotel and retired for the night, too exhausted to finish this entry until the next morning. Next up is Rochester, which actually has the best beer scene in New York. I know nothing about the breweries there, so it should be interesting to explore!

Total distance: 83.5 miles
Average speed: 15.2 mph

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