|Newsletter - 2023 Archive|
Niagara 200 - Permanent #237
I found the “Niagara Ramble 200” on the Randonneurs Ontario website and changed it to start at Niagara Falls. I started at sunrise. The first rays of sunshine were lighting the mist from the American Falls. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. As I rode past the Horseshoe Falls the road was wet. Then it started raining. I looked up but all I could see was blue sky. The rain was, of course, generated by the mist from the falls. All I had to do was get past them to find dry skies and dry roads. It was a crisp cool morning. Officially it was 9C but I’m not sure where that was measured, it felt a lot colder and my bike computer was showing 5C.
I didn’t have the energy to unpack my bike after returning from Paris-Brest-Paris. You can read that story here. COVID-19 prevented me from finishing PBP and robbed me of my energy for weeks. I had only just resumed exercise a few days before leaving for Ontario. My first attempts at exercise were weak and exhausting. Now I was ready, I assembled my bike the day I arrived in Ontario and started riding. Two days before this ride, I did a 100 km tempo ride to Lake Erie. I felt strong again. This is how I should have felt on PBP.
After the falls I rode south along the Niagara River, past the International Control Dam. Both Canada and the USA use the water to generate electricity. A treaty specifies the minimum flow over the falls to maintain their natural beauty. The minimum is higher during the tourist season and lower at night and the off-season.
The ride continued along the Welland River. Morning mist was gently rising from the glassy surface. The route along the river was interrupted by a road closure, which forced me to detour. I detoured on a quiet country road, past fields of soybeans and corn. Past hay fields and fields lying fallow. There were wooded areas and marshes with bullrushes. The ditches were lined with wildflowers; blues, purples and yellows in a field of green.
The course followed the Welland Canal for a few kilometers. The Welland Canals is where “ships climb the mountain”. The canal is a vital shipping link that carries ships over the Niagara Escarpment, bypassing Niagara Falls.
From the canal the course meandered west to climb what appeared to be the only hill on an otherwise flat plain. It was mostly farmland dotted with the occasional village featuring stately old brick houses. In places the soybeans and corn gave way to country mansions with manicured lawns and long driveways.
The route swung north and plummeted down the Niagara Escarpment to the town of Grimsby. After a short ride through Grimsby, it was back up the Escarpment for a hilly ride east to the Welland Canal. I followed the canal back down the hill to its entrance at Port Weller on Lake Ontario.
As I continued east, Soybeans and corn were replaced with orchards, vineyards and nutteries. Roadside signs promoted apples, peaches, nectarines, plums and grapes. The many wineries advertised tastings and wine sales.
Before long I was riding through historic Niagara-on-the-Lake. Elegant homes lined the lakeshore. There was a park and beach with views across Lake Ontario. Toronto’s skyline was visible on the opposite shore, 50 km away. At the Niagara River, Fort Niagara guarded the American side from the British, while Fort George defended the Canadian side from the Americans during the War of 1812.
One last climb up the Niagara Escarpment, past the Sir Adam Beck hydroelectric generating stations. When the first generating station went into operation in 1922, it was the largest hydro station in the world. The generating stations have large reservoirs that are filled at night, when the Niagara Treaty allows more water to be diverted from Niagara Falls, and emptied during the day when power is most needed.
From the hydro station, all that was left was a short, flat ride back to the start in Niagara Falls. I had made good time; I finished strong. It was good to be back on the bike.