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Niagara Falls

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The sound of more than six million cubic feet (168,000 m3) of water per minute falling over Horseshoe Falls was deafening, with the mist filling the air leaving the sidewalks (and me) covered in a thin film of water. It was awe inspiring and yet another of my ‘must see’ sights was crossed off my list, as I reflected on just how far I’ve come. I thought followers might enjoy the background information I discovered and have included it here:

Niagara Falls is the collective name for the three waterfalls (Horseshoe Falls, America Falls, Bridal Veil Falls) that straddle the border between Canada and America, more specifically, between the province of Ontario and the state of New York.

Horseshoe Falls

The Horseshoe Falls lie mostly on the Canadian side and is the most powerful waterfall in North America, measured by both height (a vertical drop of about 188 feet (57 m) and flow rate. The international boundary line between Canada and America was originally drawn through Horseshoe Falls in 1819, but the boundary has long been in dispute due to natural erosion, which occurs at a rate of one foot (0.30 m) per year. This means that in approximately 50,000 years time the remaining 20 miles (32 km) to Lake Erie will have been undermined and the falls will cease to exist.

America Falls, with Bridal Veil Falls on the right

America Falls are entirely on the American side, along with Bridal Veil Falls which are separated by Luna Island, a small area used as a viewing platform to view the three waterfalls that make up Niagara Falls.

America Falls, with spectators on Luna Island

In the 1880s, the Niagara River became the first waterway in North America harnessed for large-scale generation of hydroelectricity. The Canadians and Americans have their own power plants on the river and today they collectively produce 4.4 gigawatts of electricity, which goes some way to providing the needs of both Ontario and New York.

The Niagara River

My original plan was to take a ride on “the maid of the mist” and see the falls up close, but I declined for two main reasons – firstly because with the water caused by the mist photography would have been unwise and secondly, spectators were packed like sardines on the boat decks, not my thing at all. Without doubt the best photos are taken from dry (or slightly wet) land anyway.

The Maid of the Mist beneath Horseshoe Falls

Accommodation options were scarce in Niagara Falls due to the high prices, so I reluctantly booked into the Hostelling International Niagara Falls Youth Hostel. Reluctantly, because in Canada they bear no resemblance to hostel prices charged in other countries and along with most campsites (who charge a cyclist with tent the same as a large RV or camper van) I think it is very poor value. However I had no other option and on the positive side, it did give me the chance to do washing and charge up my electronics.

Moving on, I decided to take the scenic route to Toronto, going by way of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Burlington. Following the shore of Lake Ontario, the weather was kind and the scenery worth the extra mileage. Just outside of St. Catharines I came across a rusty old wreck that used to be a restaurant in Montreal, before unpaid bills led to it being towed to it’s current location.

Replica “La Grande Hermine” abandoned and burned.

My progress was halted for a short time when I decided to go over the Burlington Canal lift bridge, the 6th bridge to cross the canal since 1832. It has a vertical lift of 110 feet, a span of 380 feet and when I arrived was being raised to allow a police boat to go underneath.

Burlington Canal Lift Bridge (photo courtesy of The Inland Mariners)

I have included an archive photograph of the bridge, as it was not possible for me to show it in profile from my location on the road.

Police boat, Burlington Canal

I stayed overnight in Oakville with a friend who moved out to Canada from my home town, and even cycled in the same club, the Huddersfield Star Wheelers. Jon has been following my blog and when he realised I was coming through Ontario threw open an invitation to me. It was lovely to share some time together.

Jon and his Union Jack

My next stop would be the short ride to Toronto and a stay with another blog follower I’d been looking forward to meeting for quite some time, Mike Yealland, who was a good friend of my Boocock family out here in Ontario. It was a nice period for me, as not having to camp for the last week meant I was getting a proper rest period.

The Toronto Skyline

I liked Toronto and Mike made sure I got the tour, organising my 3rd cousin (David Boocock) and colleague Jim to take me around while he prepared for the evenings entertainment, a BBQ for about 20 friends who were coming over on the Friday night. I loved the tour, in particular the area around the Distillery District where we enjoyed a snack and coffee from the rather unique café.

Outside the café in the distillery district area.

The red brick buildings (and architecture) reminded me of England, where they can be seen in many of our old towns and cities, but here in Canada they are very unique.

Like stepping back in time (except for the skyscraper)

Then there were the more modern buildings, like the R C Harris Water Treatment Plant constructed in the 1930’s which was declared a national historic civil engineering site in 1992.

Water Treatment Plant, The Beach, Toronto

Our next port of call were the Scarborough Bluffs, named by the wife of the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada. The bluffs reminded her of the limestone cliffs in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, and share the same fate – they are eroding at a rapid rate.

The Scarborough Bluffs, Toronto

(L to R) – me, David and Jim

It had been pretty special meeting one of my relatives here in Canada and we would meet up again the following evening, as Mike was arranging another BBQ for friends who were following my trip. David would then take me on towards Ajax to meet other family members the next morning.

Storytelling at Mike’s BBQ

Mike (and Vasta) had been wonderful hosts and it had been a chance to really wind down and relax, while meeting some of their friends. I was a little sad when it came time for me to leave and this always seems to be the case when I have been so well looked after.

Vasta and Mike

At the moment I feel good and I’m managing to keep my weight stable, thanks to my good friends. Although the cycling is getting more difficult, taking the extra rest time is paying off. I’m not on any kind of schedule any more and this is taking a lot of pressure off me, I just need to keep moving when I’m ready.

So it’s on to Ajax and a stay with David and Pat, I’ll tell you about that in my next blog. More soon…

Clive Sturdy
Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Hi Derek, great following your progress through Canada and America. Loved your photos of Chicago! Must be great learning new members of your family too. Currently back in the Pamir Lodge, Khorog having cycled the northern route from Dushanbe to Khorog with Noushin. Very proud of Noushin who made it over the 3252m pass with her lower end of the price range Giant bike with thin tyres! Yes the northern route was definitely harder! Resting up for a few days before continuing our route to Murghab (main route – not the Wakhan valley). Must admit it is much more pleasant cycling the Pamir Highway at this time of year, although the 4 x 4 vehicles are just as crazy as they were before! Good to be back on the bike again and this time we are progressing at a much more leisurely pace, meeting many more people and enjoying the scenery. I am lucky that Noushin can speak Tajik (same as Farsi in Iran) so a lot of people are welcoming us into their homes. Looking to enter Kyrgyzstan at the end of the month and then visa dependent head to Al Maty in Kazahkstan. It’s sooooo good to be back on the bike! Anyway I look forward to your next blog instalment. Stay safe and hope to catch up with you soon. All the best Derek. Greetings from Clive and Noushin.

Martin Noring
Thursday, August 21, 2014 at 1:16 pm

Hi Derek. I hosted you in Freiburg, Germany, a year ago and have been following you blog since then. I got really amazed by your pictures of Chicago! They were wonderful!
I admire your persistence Derek. You are a great adventurer, fighting for the good.
A year ago I moved back to Uppsala, Sweden, and have finally finished my degree. Some weeks ago, some friends and I went up to northen norway for a bike trip. As I know you are a big fan of mountains (so am I), I could say you would love to bike there. With mountains that stretches up above 1000 meters just by the sea, it is a truly spectacular biking place! Not to mention the fjords.

May the winds be always in you back

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