Niagara Falls, 1994Composed ten years later, March 16, 2004
I visited Niagara Falls one summer, in the mid nineties, after several days of bicycling from Washington DC. I had crossed over to Canada by the Peace Bridge in Buffalo. Seeing the international crowds by the falls was refreshing after the back roads of Pennsylvania and western New York. Plus, Ontario was flat.
I was en route to the thumb of Michigan. I was carrying a tent and cooking equipment. I ate in no restaurants and slept in no hotels. I didn't have a credit card. But I had a T 1000, Cannondale's top-of-the-line touring bike, which I had bought the previous winter; I had been pedalling 200 miles a week for some weeks; and I had taken a few shake-down trips to places like the western terminus of the C & O Canal, 183 miles upstream from Washington.
I camped mainly in established sites in state and provincial parks. It was perhaps a mistake, since I was surrounded by people in cars whose camping interests were different from mine. But it was good to have a shower and a picnic table.
Once I free-camped in a forest in Pennsylvania. At dark, some folks with flashlights started poking around. I never figured out what they were doing. I called out to them, and their beams must have made all of the reflectors on my bike and bags light up; but they didn't say anything.
I picked my route each morning by considering how far I was likely to be able to travel that day. (I averaged 75 miles.) It was quite by chance that I found myself in a region where I was passing Amish buggies on the road. Earlier in the spring, I had taken a bicycling tour of solar homes around DC. We had to ride almost a hundred miles to see not-that-many houses—houses whose owners had to drive everywhere. And here the Amish people were without electricity and without cars and were not making a big deal about it.
By some accounts, I visited three countries on this trip. The third was Cattaraugus, apparently part of the Seneca Nation of Indians. A referendum was coming up there; many signs said “Vote No to Casino Gambling.”
My top speed was over 40 m.p.h. My slowest was about three. These were achieved on two sides of the same mountain. Somewhere in Ontario, somebody giving me directions warned me that there was a hill coming up. “That's okay” I said, “I've crossed the Appalachians.”