Friday, August 23, 2019

The Kindness of Bikers

On Tuesday we traveled from Lockport to Tonawanda.

Then we pondered our next move. Our goal on this trip was Buffalo--the western terminus of the original Erie Canal.

But when the Erie was reconfigured in the early 20th century, to accomodate big barges, the shallow old canal was filled in, and vessels were re-routed onto the Niagara River.

The current often--though not always--runs fast. Would we be able to navigate it?

Squint and imagine: this bike path used to be the Erie Canal!
Nope. We'd had heavy rain overnight, and Wednesday morning the current was running 18 to 20 knots.

We may be crazy, but we're not stupid. Dragonfly needed to stay tied to the dock.

We still wanted to get to Buffalo. Solution? Bike trip!

Conveniently enough, a very nice bike trail from Tonawanda to Buffalo follows the route of the Old Erie Canal for much of the way (originally, the canal was right next to the river). So we set out on a sparkling cool morning, pumping hard and pumped for adventure.

Deep Water Ahead, Captain!

After a few miles, adventure found us. The previous night's heavy rain had flooded a cross street, washing a couple cars askew across the road . . . and also turning the bike path back into a canal for about 100 feet.

We watched nervously as a biker ahead of us churned--fearlessly? recklessly?--into the water. It rose to the bottom of his derailleur, but no more. So we squished into the water after him.

The inevitable jokes about "not sinking the bikes today" ensued.

Detour Next

Spoiler alert: We made it to Buffalo Harbor!
We rolled on smoothly for a few more miles and then came obstacle #2: a barrier with a sign that read, "Bike Path Closed Ahead."

No info on why the path was closed, or the best way to detour around.

As we poked at our phones, trying to figure out an alternate route, fate intervened--or rather, a local cyclist by the name of Bill.

Our bike-path equivalent of a river pilot was wearing a lime-green high-visibility muscle shirt and riding a carbon-fiber Trek, his curly white hair streaming from under his helmet. He was headed downtown to score some baseball tickets.

The Brotherhood of the Bikers

I love a town with a bike ferry!
"I know the way, if you'd like to follow me," he offered, and we were off . . . merging into a bike lane on a high-speed road, then back to a different bike path studded with "volcanoes" (sharp 18-inch-high cones of asphalt heaved up by frost).

Then a jog onto a road through a warehouse district, a turn into a park, and next thing you know, there we were, in Buffalo Harbor.

I've written before about the "Brotherhood of Boaters"--how the folks you meet while boatingcan be so generous and kind, confirming the hopeful notion that people are basically good.

That approach to life isn't limited to boaters, obviously. We were so grateful to Bill for taking the time to be our Buffalo guide!

And after a fun day touring all around the Buffalo harbor, which has an awesome "bike ferry" that takes you out to a barrier island with still more bike trails, we were also grateful for Bill's suggestion to put our bikes on the #25 bus for the ride back to Tonawanda.

These walls are all that's left of a warehouse that once stood at the western end of the old Erie Canal.

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