Day 17: The Rainbow Connection

Aug. 29th: Niagara Falls (36 km +walking)

Today we decided it was finally time to visit The Falls. We had a vague idea that the recreation trail along the Niagara Parkway continued for some distance past Queenston but we weren’t really sure of the details. We decided to see if it would take us to Niagara Falls.

After leaving Queenston, we took the road up the hill and pulled off into the scenic outlook and were rewarded with this view down the river toward the lake. A woman also made Steve open up his kitty litter bucket so her husband could take pictures of how it was attached. They have bikes on their sailboat and she thought the buckets would be a good solution for grocery shopping. They sure do attract a lot of attention!

The Niagara River from Queenston Heights

At the roundabout at the top of the hill it was a little disconcerting to follow the trail because it takes you in behind and under the fenced area that leads to the border crossing at the Queenston-Lewiston bridge. The trail takes you right under the bridge which makes for an interesting view.

Under the Queenston-Lewiston bridge

The trail continued along the river, past the power station, golf course and various attractions until we were at the base of Clifton Hill, right in the heart of things.

Hotels and casinos in Niagara Falls

We had to ask about bike racks as they aren’t out in the open but we did find a number of racks in a small walled off area right by the Hornblower ticket booth and locked Momo and Appa up to continue our exploration on foot. Before heading up Clifton Hill, a view of the American and Bridal Veil Falls.

American and Bridal Veil Falls

Our first stop was the Niagara Brewing Company, which has a prime location right near the base of Clifton Hill. We enjoyed a pint and a pretzel on their lovely patio, then moved on.

Pints at Niagara Brewing Company, Niagara Falls

Frog friend outside the Rainforst Cafe on Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls

Businesses along Clifton Hill, Niagara Falls

After more food and beer on the Kelsey’s patio – huge and great for people watching – we walked back down to the river and over for a much closer look at the falls.

Horseshoe Falls with a tour boat at the base

View along the Niagara River, showing the American Falls, the Rainbow Bridge and the tour boats

Rainbow and tour boat at the Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls

Who can resist a rainbow shot?

Walking back to the bikes, we came across this statue dedicated to Nikola Tesla, “the genius who lit the world”. He designed the first hydroelectric plant at Niagara Falls, New York in 1895.

Nikola Tesla monument in Niagara Falls, Ontario

Riding back along the trail, we got a nice view of the Aero Car that travels over the Whirlpool. 2016 marks it’s 100th year in operation. We didn’t stop to ride – maybe another day.

The Whirlpool Aero Car crossing the Niagara River

Day 16: Boats, Beer and Ice Cream

Aug. 22: Welland Canal (50.5 km)

Today was a combination of errands and sightseeing. We needed groceries but rather than head to the nearest store, we decided to take in some sights and pick up supplies along the way.

We headed to St. Catharines and rode along the Welland Canals Trail. It’s a wide, flat, paved trail that runs right along the side of the canal.

Sign for the Welland Canals Parkway

While we didn’t see any ships in the locks, we did see the Federal Rhine just before we exited the trail. The crew waved and we waved back.

Bulk carrier Federal Rhine in the Welland Canal
Then it was time for ice cream. The Avondale Dairy Bar has been around since 1955 and they still make all their ice cream in house by hand. There was a line when we got there – and it was the middle of a Monday afternoon! I was almost tempted into getting a fresh peach sundae, partly because choosing a flavour from the huge list was a bit daunting, but we both ended up going for cones. Best ice cream ever.
The very popular Avondale Dairy Bar in Niagara

After ice cream, on to our next treat – a pint on the lovely new patio at Niagara Oast House Brewers. This time I did go for the peach – a pint of their peach wheat ale. Steve chose the Dunkel.

A pint on the Niagara Oast House patio

We bought a bottle of aged sour beer to go and rode home through the vineyards and orchards, stopping to buy some fresh peaches, corn and garlic on the way.

Grapes hanging on the vines in Niagara

Day 15: Exploring the Shire

Aug. 18th: Niagara-on-the-Lake

The goal today was to drop in on the Chamber of Commerce and pick up some information on what we should see while we’re here in Niagara. We got back on the Niagara Parkway Recreational Trail and followed it right into town. On the way in, you pass by Fort George and we could hear the fife and drum band playing.

Fort George

The trail ends at the small harbour on the Niagara River, just before it empties into Lake Ontario. I’d never been to this part of Niagara-on-the-Lake. We rode on, exploring a bit and were rewarded with Queen’s Royal Park, a beautiful spot right on the water.

Lake Ontario and the Gazebo from Queens Royal Park, Niagara on the Lake

Kayakers in the water off Queens Royal Park, Old Fort Niagara in the background

After the park, we rode on a bit further then headed into town. The Visitor’s Information Centre did not let us down. They provided us with a fantasticly detailed cycling map of the entire region, and a small pocket map with several cycling routes highlighted on it. Perfect for planning our future excursions.

Family of Deer near Fort George

Day 14: Golden Horseshoe

Aug. 17th: Toronto to Niagara-on-the-lake (ca 140 km)

It took a few days to get our leaky toilet fixed, but it rained a lot on the Tuesday anyway.

Our longest ride so far was about 92km, so what made us think we would be capable of 140km? A few things:

  • it wouldn’t be as HOT
  • very few hills
  • no gravel roads
  • lots of trail and bike lanes

Riding out of Toronto before 8 AM was a joy on the Martin Goodman trail, then Lakeshore Rd. We reached Port Credit ahead of schedule and stopped at the river to watch some kayak racing while having “second breakfast”.

Kayakers lined up for a race in Port Credit

Lakeshore Rd through Oakville has no bike lane, but it’s still very nice: tree-lined and with lots of mansions to gawp at. I’m not sure sure who, except for Batman, needs a four-car garage.

There’s main street Oakville, then, much later, you hit Oakville II: Bronte Village, then more of the same all the way to Burlington. All nice to ride through. We paused in Burlington’s Lakeside Park to admire the view.

At the lift bridge we waited with other riders for a boat to go through, talking to a couple of day-trippers who admired my Kitty Bins.

Waiting for the lift bridge in Burlington

We had driven this basic route before, on Tonka, our motorcycle, but after the bridge we rode Hamilton’s Waterfront Trail into unknown territory.

Waterfront trail in Hamilton

Wow. Who knew that Hamilton could look this good? You can ride all the way from the bridge to Stoney Creek, about 9km, entirely on trail by the water. It’s smooth and very wide, with great views. It also has Hutch’s on the Beach, a local beach-side dining institution since 1946. The fries were excellent.

Lunch at Hutch's on the waterfront

Into Grimsby and Lincoln it was partly service road next to QEW, and partly quiet residential streets, sometimes with views of the water. The service road has a nice, wide paved shoulder which only seems to disappear (inexplicably) when you get close to a strip mall.
We knew were were getting close when we noticed wild grape vines growing on the fence.

A wild grape vine growing on the fence new to the QEW near Lincoln

We were tired, but happy when we arrived in Port Dalhousie, where we had promised ourselves ice cream. I did a little dance when I saw that they had Tiger Tail.Ice cream at Candie's Ice Creamery in Port Dalhousie

Next door to the ice cream joint was a happy sign: Lock Street Brewing, opening soon.

Deb did a little dance when she saw the antique carousel in their Lakeside park. We had to ride, and the five cent ticket didn’t hurt our budget.

Vintage carousel in Port Dalhousie

Giraffe on the historic carousel in Port Dalhousie

Revitalized for the last leg, we passed a fender bender and were forced to the sidewalk to avoid some construction. Then we were enjoying the sights and smells of Niagara’s fruit orchards.

Peach trees in Niagara on the Lake

About 10km from our destination Deb’s legs started to cramp and we had to stop for some stretching. Fortunately, the muscles loosened up, and East and West line is a pleasant ride.

The last leg we know well: the Niagara Parkway Recreational Trail.

It wasn’t quite a 100 mile “century ride”, but it was probably as close as we’ll ever get.

The plan is now to do several day trips in the Niagara region.

Unpacking the bikes at the end of the ride

Day 13: Mink in the City

Aug. 10th: Brampton to Toronto (58 km)

Knowing it would be another scorcher we got up early. Before hitting the road though we took full advantage of the free breakfast offered by the hotel.

I planned a route that I hoped would get us to the Humber Trail without too much hassle, but outside of the wonderful cycle trails in Brampton, hassle is difficult to avoid. We were forced to take sidewalks a few times, which we are loathe to do, but there were no pedestrians, only other cyclists also avoiding the crowded streets. We never saw a bike lane.

It took much longer to get to the trail than I expected, partly because Indian Line was closed for construction which led to some back-and-forthing looking for another route. When we got onto the glorious trail, we celebrated with the last two “rickety uncles” that Deb had made as our road snack.

The West Humber and Humber trails are familiar to us, so it was a generally relaxing and pleasant final stage. I only had one tantrum due to construction closures.

Steve riding the leafy green Humber River Trail

Views of the Humber River, including cormorants on a log

An artist painting a canvas on the Humber River Trail

Funnily enough, we had our most exciting critter sighting on this day: a mink, at the mouth of the Humber.

Mink on the Humber River Trail

We made it back to home base, where we’ll spend a few days before riding to Niagara-on-the-Lake.

White wine on the terrace

Day 12: Roller Coaster Road

Aug. 9th: Dundalk to Brampton (92 kms)

Heat advisory again, bad air alerts again.

We weren’t sure where we were going to end up this day, but we agreed to start by going to Shelburne where we would get a good map of Dufferin County, hopefully as detailed as the ones we found in Grey/Bruce, with bicycle routes marked, etc. We took 2 line SW, which took us through the wind farms of the Grey Highlands, and then a short stretch of Hwy 89 (which wasn’t bad) into town.

Windmills old and new

Well, Shelburne had no signs for a Tourist office, so we tried the town hall. No dice. On a motorcycle trip in Quebec, Deb and I noticed that every little hamlet had a fantastic Tourist info building where they would find you accommodations and always had bushels of pamphlets. Is there really so little to do in central Ontario? Do restaurant, B&B, motel and attraction owners not think it would be a good idea to let people passing through town know that they exist?

Mural in Shelburne, ON

Of course, so long as you have Google Maps, and some battery life, you can pick a route. We went south on County Rd 11 to Orangeville.

Dundalk may be the highest inhabited point in Ontario, but Orangeville has hills. It was so hot we decided we deserved a long break during the peak heat hours. We stopped for lunch at the Barley Vine Rail Co. where we have enjoyed several patio lunches on motorbike rides to Port Elgin and Hanover. Lots of ice water, plus a pint.

A cold pint of beer from Elora Brewing

Deb started putting out feelers for a place to stay in, or near, town. We had planned to go farther, but the heat was brutal. We walked the main street, failing once again to find any kind of tourist information (in a town of about 28 000 souls). The B&B was full, the hotels all too expensive, and the motel had the most “terrible” reviews we had ever seen about a place on Trip Advisor.

Deb did locate a campground in Palgrave, 23 km away along the very busy Hwy 9. It sounded like a really nice place, but getting there was going to be tricky.

Deb walked to a grocery store while I watched the bikes, and we got back on the road around 5 PM, climbing the hill and heading east. Hwy 9 started out really good: very wide, newly paved shoulder. We could have ridden side-by-side. But at Heart Lake Rd, the shoulder narrowed and we were presented with two options: climb a big hill with a lot of cars and trucks passing us, or take the potentially hilly, but quieter road, which would mean a longer ride to Palgrave.

We chose Heart Lake Rd, which started with a hill, but immediately became a lovely, shady and scenic route, dotted with farms and pretty houses. We hoped one would have a B&B sign out front.

It was about 5 km before we reached a gravel sideroad that could have taken us back in the direction of the campground. Heart Lake Rd was too nice. We decided to continue south as we had about 3 hours of daylight left, and now that we were riding mostly in the shade of trees, the heat wasn’t so oppressive.

We stopped when we reached the Escarpment Side Road to admire the view. It was hazy, but we could see Toronto. Another rider was flaked out under a tree, having just climbed the escarpment. I was very glad to be going in the other direction.

20160810-19-view-from-Escarpment-Rd-pano

What a ride! I have no idea how far we cruised without pedaling, but it really was like a roller coaster. Breathtaking, but the only truly frightening part for me was when a guy zoomed past on a crotch-rocket. He must’ve been doing 200. It’s a 60 kph road.

Suddenly we were on the outskirts of Brampton, which is itself the outskirts of Toronto. We were now thinking that we’d try for Georgetown, but it started to get late. We Googled up a nearby hotel, rode some suburban streets until we found the Etobicoke Creek Trail, and finally checked into a Days Inn on Queen St. Not the kind of hotel we enjoy, and rather expensive, but we took full advantage of the coffee machine, the ice machine (we still had cans of beer from Kilannan Brewery), the shower, etc. We also got a room on the ground floor which allowed us to park our bikes in the room. We don’t like leaving Appa and Momo where we can’t see them, and so far we’d only had to do so once, in Tobermory, and that was in a gated backyard.

The Wi-Fi still sucked. Even at a Days Inn, in the city! Good enough to surf, not nearly good enough to work on images.

NOTE: The linked Google map isn’t quite right where it tracks our journey through Brampton.

Day 11: More Rail Trails, Please

Aug. 9th: Owen Sound to Dundalk (80 kms)

The CP Rail Trail runs the entirety of our route for this day, but it’s only stone dust up to about Chatsworth. After that it turns to loose gravel and dirt, not rideable for tour bikes. It was great while it lasted, but most of the side roads we took were pretty good too. Most, not all. There were stretches after we left the trail where it was tempting to get off and walk. On a loaded bike, cracked pavement can be worse than some gravel roads. Our arms and hands ached from the jarring ride. Then there was soft gravel, and steep hills, which really slow you down. When we reached decent pavement, we cheered out loud.

Near the north end of the Grey County CP Rail Trail

Scenery on the Grey County CP Rail Trail

We had lunch in a park in Markdale, the home of Chapman’s Ice Cream. Having visited Ben and Jerry’s factory in Vermont on a motorcycle trip, we thought there might be a tasting room, or even a tour. Nope. There’s just a huge sign warning away salespeople and solicitors. There was a place in town that looked nice for lunch, and it served cones, but the prices were pretty steep. Instead, we got a takeout veggie sub from Subway. It’s really a good, cheap way to get a lot of vegetables, plus mustard, which we’ve heard helps prevent leg cramps. Seriously. Look it up.

The water entering Rotary Park in Markdale

After Markdale, we took West Back line almost all the way to Dundalk, which we’ve been told is the highest town in Ontario (I just looked it up on Wikipedia, and it has the highest elevation of any populated place in southern Ontario at 526m). My rubbery leg muscles had me convinced. There we stopped for grocery supplies right next to our campground, which was next to the town pool and baseball diamond. We saw four RVs, but no office, and no tents. Finally we found a sign on some public washrooms explaining that visitors should simply pick a site and check in at the community pool.

Alpacas in a field

Deb found a lifeguard who gave us a key to the washroom/shower and once again we were the only tent in the entire campground. We did talk to a friendly guy who was sitting by his RV, but basically, we were all alone. The site had water and hydro, which was a nice change, and we ate while watching a little-league softball game. It was another quiet night under the stars as the expected thunderstorm amounted to yet another sprinkle that did less to wet our gear than the morning dew.

Day 10: Pokémon and Tourism

Aug. 8th: Owen Sound

We explored town and hunted pokémon as we made our way to a laundromat.

Tom Thomson blow up outside gallery in Owen Sound

Owen Sound waterfront

With bags full of clean, dry clothes, we were picked up by Deb’s parents, who drove over from Hanover.

They took us to Rockford to visit the Kilannan Brewery where we got out another of our favourite apps, Untappd. This was shaping up to be a bad day for our phone batteries.

Kilannan Brewing banner at the brewery in Rockford, ON

Next was a good, big lunch at the Harrison Park Inn. Finally, we dropped in on the Casselmans, friends of Deb’s parents who happen to live very close to the Traveller’s motel. We sat by their pool and chatted, enjoying the opportunity to avoid the sun for a whole afternoon.

We ate in our room and, as usual, passed out early.

Day 9: Friendly Strangers

Aug. 7th: White Bluff Campground to Owen Sound (89 km)

Sunrise through the tent door

We woke up with the sunrise visible between our feet through our tent door. What a surprise: another hot, sunny day. So far, we’d experienced one tiny shower during the first night on Manitoulin. Every predicted rain shower and thunderstorm had passed us by.

Intriguing sign in the washroom

A sign in the campground washrooms – we couldn’t quite figure out “the reason”

Breakfast was at the other Lion’s Head diner. We knew it was going to be good, as we arrived when it opened (8 AM), and it quickly filled with regulars. One gentleman introduced himself as a resident of the campground. He said he and his friends had been meeting once a week for twenty-seven years, and he praised the people of Lion’s Head. He was annoyed that the ladies had not sat at their usual table, so he sat with us for a while.

While enjoying the great roads in the morning a cyclist gave Deb a little scare by silently catching us up and saying hello. He was very curious about our trip, and rode and talked for awhile. He said he had a cottage on Colpoy’s Bay and offered to have a cold drink of water waiting for us. We eagerly agreed and he sped off.

Beautiful Bruce County Road 9

We had many kilometers to go, and we wondered if our new friend would be willing to wait around, watching for slowpokes like us. But after cruising down the hill into the little cottage town, he hailed us and brought out two glasses of water so cold we had to break a thin crust of ice in order to drink them. We made introductions. Henry was from Kitchener and the cottage had been in his family for a long time. While we were chatting his niece ran around us in a cape and mask. It was an idyllic location, but it was Sunday, and Henry’s two-week vacation was ending.Debbie and Henry in Colpoy's Bay

This encounter convinced us that we need to make calling cards. You never know who you’ll meet on the road, and lots of people are eager to talk to you when they see that you’re carrying a tent and sleeping bags on a bicycle.

Nothing against Wiarton, but riding through it is not fun. Once we got the descent/ascent over with, we were finally into new territory: Grey Road 1, right along the coast. A fantastic road. Lots of motorcycles, bicycles, and convertibles.

Both the people we met that day noted that there was great ice cream to be had in Big Bay. It turned out to be homemade at a small shop right on our route. I had pumpkin; Deb had coconut. A couple of Mennonite ladies bought jars of jam and a postcard, then continued their Sunday drive in their Jeep.

Ice cream stop in Big Bay

Outlook at the heights of Grey Road 1, with a display from the local women's institute

Just outside Owen Sound, some kind of bug got stuck in my helmet. I thought it was a bee, and felt the sting, but it never got itchy, and there wasn’t a lot of pain, just a little mark and some swelling. Most importantly, I didn’t swerve into traffic.

If you’ve been to Owen Sound, you know that it has hills. Big hills. Not what we wanted to face at the end of a long ride. Of course the cheap motel we had booked was at the top, and Grey Road 1 brings you in at the bottom.

Our room in the Traveller’s Motel was old, but clean, and it had a mini fridge and a microwave. We stored our bikes in the room, cleaned up, and walked back down the hill into town. Sunday night in Owen Sound is sleepy. Most places were closed, but we found a divey bar at the Coach Inn. They had cold beer and okay nachos. Plus, I got to watch some Olympic men’s basketball.

Inside the Pub at The Coach Inn, Owen Sound

The Wi-Fi was pretty crap, but it seems like ALL hotel Wi-Fi is crap. That’s why Deb and I are writing these blog posts in Toronto. We tried many times to do some posting on the road, but even if we could log into our site, uploading images was basically impossible.

Day 8: Hidden Gem

Aug. 6th: Gordon’s Park, Manitoulin Island to White Bluff Campground (59 km)

A Saturday in August means pretty much everything on the Bruce Peninsula is booked. We wanted to make Owen Sound in two days, so we couldn’t stop too close to Tobermory either. Fortunately, Deb had taken note of a private campground just north of Lion’s Head on our way up. She remembered part of the name and the rough location, so, with Google’s help she tracked it down and got us a reservation.

This time we were taking the first sailing of the ferry, so we were out early. We didn’t ride much on the island, but what we saw was great. I think we’ll be going back someday.View of a lighthouse and some islands, from Chi Cheemaun

We took the same route south as we did going north (there aren’t many options), and though it was just as sunny and hot, it’s more downhill and felt easier.

Road lunch

Not knowing what to expect of the White Bluff campground, I predicted it would be a noisy place but with nice grounds. When we arrived, the purple-haired woman who greeted us suggested we would be looking to party before deciding where to put us. Our reaction (Hell no, we’ll be going to bed early!) must have been convincing, because she found us worthy of the site right at the front of the park with a view of the bay and no neighbours except for the owners’ trailer. Lots of shade and a short walk to the campground dock where we went for a swim. Even the showers were good.

View of Georgian Bay from White Bluff Shores Campground

And though the main tenting area was busy with young campers, including some Bruce Trail hikers, it was silent after sundown. A great experience for only $25.

You might not think getting on the bikes again after a long ride and setting up a tent would be fun, but Isthmus Bay Road is beautiful and we needed to get some supplies in Lion’s Head. Riding our Brodies without gear felt like gliding and the Georgian Bay beers we bought went down beautifully back at the site.