theengineer

The Engineer

The Life and Times of Donald F. Simmons


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Niagara Falls Cycle Trip

My brother and I spent the weekend doing our biggest bike trip to date, a trip around the Greater Niagara Circle Route, something we've been talking about doing since last year.

We started off catching the 9 AM GO train to St. Catherines from Exhibition Station. Last year the GO trains to the St. Catherines / Niagara Falls area didn't stop there and we had to go to Union, which was pain in the butt. Exhibition works much better as I can get there in 15 minutes flat. Also, last year the GO trains used a regular car on these runs to store bikes, so you had to leave them in the aisles and between the seats. Now they have two cars with the seats removed and bike racks in their place, plus the centre post in the doorways is removed, which makes it so much easier to get bikes on and off and to store them for the trip.

It's about 1.5 hours to St. Catherines, and with many checks of the map (no sense of direction) and the occasional dead end when we misread it, we set off along the Waterfront Trail towards Niagara-on-the-Lake, going right by the many winery's on the way as they held no interest to us. But Niagara-on-the-Lake had the barracks of Butler's Rangers, and Fort George, which was much more to our liking.

The weather was gloomy but had held off up to then, but after we had starting to explore the fort it started to rain. It wasn't much of a nuisance then, as we could just go from building to building checking things out and waiting for it to pass, which it did after about an hour. We then started down the Niagara River Trail towards Niagara Falls (which is a really good ride), but we did get rained on again for about a half-hour, causing us to wait it out under a tree in ponchos. After that it cleared up for the rest of the day, and we made our way past the Falls, and down the trail to Fort Erie (which we had checked out last year). We were staying in a Comfort Inn, which turned out to be right at the very edge of town, nestled so far back in the trees that we couldn't actually see the building, just the sign, till we were right on top of it. We cover about 98 km that day, which is a record for David and nearly one for me.

After a night's sleep and quick breakfast (free continental) we got on our way again, but some dark clouds rolled over and we took refuge at Fort Erie for about 30 minutes waiting to see if it would rain or not. It held off, so we decided to press on, and it did end up clearing off nearly completely. The trail from Fort Erie to Port Colburne is an old paved railbed, 27 km long and nearly perfectly straight the whole way, with the regular access road running straight north/south, farmer's fields, and backyards on either side. It was such an east ride it was almost unfair.

In Fort Colburne we had a proper greasy breakfast ( a HUGE plateful for $6) at this little greasy spoon run by this guy in the late 60s, did a little ride about the town, and headed up the Welland Canal trail, which is also great. We passed by some rowing races going on in the old canal, and one HUGE ship slowly entering a lock on the main canal. Would have loved to have stayed and watched it go thru entirely, but we weren't sure how long it would take us to reach the train station back in St. Catherines and decided to try that next time (turns out you can get the ship schedules on-line, so you can arrange to be at the locks at the right times in advance). Half-way up the canal we were in desperate need for ice cream, but the next little town only had an Indian restaurant. Next town was bigger so we rode up and down the streets till we found a place (will know where it is for next time). Continued up the canal, made it back to St. Catherines, and stopped for some dinner. Oddly enough, neither of us were hugely hungry, so we both just had some soup. After a few more mis-turns, found the train stations again and headed about home at 7:45 PM, arriving back at Exhibition 9:20 and then back home.

Total distance travelled over the two days, 191 km, the most I've ever travelled in two days. Kind of tired today, but not wrecked or even sore. Now that I know the route, and about how long it will take, I can see about seeing some more of the sights next time I do this ride. Really glad I did it.

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