By Sundance:Total distance: 169.9 km
We're no longer in Canada! Yeah! Last night just about sunset we crossed over the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls from Canada to the USA. Despite all our concerns that the immigration guys might turn us back because cycling across a continent sounds insane, and we don't have onward
tickets to Australia they were actually pretty enthusiastic about our trip and wished us luck along the way. So we've now crossed an international border by bicycle. That's a new experience for me. And we did get some funny looks from people in their cars as we were waiting in line on the bridge amidst the traffic.
Anyway, since yesterday was my last day in Canada, I feel like unloading a bit. The three years I lived in Canuckistan were rather lonely and unhappy for me (for reasons I won't be so
self-indulgent as to go into here), and I want to take this moment to make a few observations about the frozen white northern land, and its people.
Canadians are nice. They're friendly. They're helpful. But they can often be closed-minded and unimaginative. To illustrate the point, on our way out of Hamilton two days ago we stopped to buy travel insurance. You know, we're gonna be cycling about 7000km across a country with exorbitant medical fees. If one of us has an accident and needs to go to the hospital, medical insurance could be handy. So I ducked into a travel agent to get a quote. After figuring out how many days cover we'd need, and how our respective ages affected the cost, I was all ready to do the paperwork, when the travel agent asked me for my Canadian passport. Hilarity ensued. Not.
It turned out she'd assumed I was a Canadian citizen. Get a f***ing clue, Canada! Not everyone who lives in Canada is a Canadian citizen! And the insurance we could buy only covers Canadians, or foreigners travelling within Canada. I'm sorry to say I've run up against this sort of parochialism time and time again when living in Canada, trying to deal with phone companies, government services, and the like. For a country that prides itself on its openness to migrants and foreign workers this kind of insular failure to recognise that some people who reside in Canada were not born in Canada, are not Canadian citizens, and do not intend to live in Canada forever is just staggering. It may not sound like much, but that's three years of irritation encapsulated in a single incident.
I've made another interesting observation. When telling people about our bike bike trip, Canadians universally wish us well by telling us to “stay safe!”, where as Aussies, Irish and Americans tends to say something like “have fun” or “good luck”. So Steve F, if you're reading this, I'm sure you'll agree that they all just want everyone to have a good safe time, eh? ;-)
So over the last three years living in Canada I've come to think of it as ... somewhere I was. British Columbia should secede, because it's awesome, and I'd happily go back and stay there for a while. And while I've made some great friends in Canada whom I'll miss, Canada in general and especially Ontario (Yours To Disparage), just doesn't do it for me. I'll stop complaining now, because that's in the past. But I needed a little catharsis. Now the road beckons, and every kilometer we chew up gets us closer to California, Maui, and Australia.
I realised something else since setting out on this trip. For the first time in years, I keep catching myself with a huge smile on my face.
part 2 - America, F**k Yeah!
Well, the last two days have been vaguely productive. We haven't been covering as much distance as we would have liked to, Leaving Hamilton on Friday turned out to be a lot more convoluted than we had expected! You know how going through a city in a car slows you down? Yeah, turns out it slows you down on a bike, too. Didn't help that we were going through the rain... we did sort of just hang around in front of the motel we'd stayed in the previous night, hoping that it'd let up, but by 2pm, we had to accept that it was just not going to happen. So with resignation in our hearts and gumption in our minds, we donned our wet weather gear, and braved the elements. Night riding the first day, rain the second, we may as well get used to all our adversity right from the start, right?
Luckily, my fears that we were going to stack it in the rain turned out to be somewhat unfounded. Yes, the panniers do make the whole experience a little trickier, but it was still quite manageable, and we both stayed in high spirits. As previously mentioned, it took us bloody ages to get out of Hamilton, and by the time we arrived in Grimsby, it was dark, and about 9pm. Yeah. Oh well. We stopped at yet another English pub for a feed, which turned out to be pretty tasty, after much discussion about where to leave our numerous packs and paniers. While waiting for our food, we asked around about finding any campsites nearby, and the consensus seemed to be that the best option was in the next town, Jordan, which was another 16km or so onwards. One fellow, who looked and moved uncannily like my friend Bren back in Adelaide, gave us some directions that led to the service road that went along the freeway. It turned out to be a little bit of a kerfuffle to find, but find it we did, eventually, though it was 11pm by then. I was still going strong, as I had actually succumbed to the siren call of caffeine, and was therefore high as a kite. Slightly different story for Sundance, who was in somewhat lower spirits, though we managed.
Going along the service road turned out to be smooth sailing, which was nice, and we more or less kept track of where we were. At about 12:30, we arrived at a hotel where I asked directions across the freeway and into Jordan while Sundance took a ten-minute catnap. We then pushed on for the last supposedly 6.8km, which took us into the Jordan Valley campground. By the time we had set up our tents and were ready to go to sleep, it was 3am. Holy moly. It's amazing how easily time gets chewed up.
Still, we woke up at 9am, which was semi-reasonable. Mind you, again, by the time we had packed up and showered, it was midday. Turned out that our campground was a very cute and charming little place. The same also applied to the town of Jordan itself, as we saw once we had slogged our bikes up out of the valley. We stopped for a late breakfast at the Zooma Zooma Cafe (chicken paninis with wasabi mayo), and then made tracks. The first stretch of road was hellish, as we immediately got smacked in the face by a strong headwind, which was of course catching our panniers and slowing us down even more. Not to mention that the areas was a little bit hillier than what we had been used to. Still, once that was done, we were pretty well off, and going at a semi-decent pace. We decided to circumnavigate the city of St Catherine's, in the name of not getting bogged down there, and headed pretty much straight for Niagara. On the way, we stopped for a cheap-arse high-protein lunch at a place called Blazing Saddles, which just tickled us. Then we powered into Niagara itself, and upon briefly pausing to check our map, we found ourselves trapped by a decent-sized thunderstorm. Still, the sun came out quickly enough, and we got a few moments of sparkling rain before the weather more or less reverted to what it had been for most of the day, which was quite pleasant.
After a bit of debate, we decided to cross the border via the Rainbow Bridge, which, as Sundance already mentioned, turned out to be surprisingly painless. It was already dark, but luckily our hostel of choice wasn't too far to go by then. We also ran into a gaggle of helpful locals who pointed us down the right way, and we were received by a very lovely owner. We also discovered that the place had a kitchen with a gas stove! In the light of this, after chatting to two Aussie girls who happened to be staying in the hostel that night too, we headed to the nearest supermarket and got some groceries. We cooked dinner quite late at night, though it was a joy to cook with gas again after all this time! This morning, we made use of the gas again for some fried eggs and baked tomatoes. Heaven! And now we must really make tracks, as I suspect we have outstayed our welcome, considering we only paid for one night. There are better things to do than to still be hanging out in the dining room! Our destination for the next couple of days: Cleveland, Ohio.
part 3 - Oy oy oy. Oy oy-oy oy!
Buffalo cyclist... in the heart of America... Okay, we had a very short riding day today. A bit of sight-seeing from the US side of Niagara Falls (which, unlike the casino-infested Canadian side, is actually taken up largely by a state park, and is extremely pleasant ), some rain and headwinds, and a flat tyre all slowed us down. So we only made it to Buffalo, but never mind. Tomorrow we have a full day ahead of us, and a readily-accessible bike path along the shore of Lake Erie.