Don's Bike Across America
Astoria, Oregon to Portsmouth, New Hampshire
June 19 to August 7, 2006

Don's Blog: July 30: Back in the U.S. of A.

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After a brief stay in Ontario, Canada, we re-entered the United Sates today, in the shadow of the world famous Niagara Falls, yet another historic landmark we have visited along the way.

The cycling was almost all good in Canada, 220 miles worth. The roads were flat for the most part, and very well maintained. On Saturday, we covered 64 miles from London to the town of Brantford, best known as the home of ice hockey great Wayne Gretzky. Aside from that, the town was pretty quiet. My s.o. Charlotte and my sister Roberta met us in Brantford for a few days’ visit, and joined us at dinner in the evening. The dinner was like a scene from a Laurel and Hardy comedy, as the room they had us in was far too small for our group. A buffet line was set up, but people kept running into each other as they approached the line or tried to get back to their seats. Hungry cyclists are determined cyclists however, so somehow we managed to have our meals.

Today, Sunday, we made the 70-mile trip to Niagara Falls. Before the trek began, I felt if I could make it to the Falls, I would be “home free” to a certain extent, the last week of riding taking place in mostly familiar territory. Some of you know that for the last two years I have done the “FANY” ride, a 550-mile, seven-day trek across New York State. That ride began in Niagara Falls and traveled east toward Albany. We will be doing the same thing this upcoming week, although following a shorter, more direct route. Still, it is nice to reach a location I have been in before, the first time in the entire trek I can make that claim. When we approached the Falls from the outskirts of Ontario today, it was a small emotional moment, catching a first glimpse of the steam rising off the water.

After reaching the Falls, we stayed on the Canadian side for a while, as those Falls are bigger and even more impressive than on the American side. After lunch we ventured over the Rainbow Bridge and back into the U.S.A. after a short, 54-hour stay in Canada. We had dinner in the American side and walked down to the edge of the Falls there for a view afterward. We will enjoy a day off in Niagara before resuming the trek on Tuesday for the final week of riding through New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire.

I must say that at this time, after six weeks and 3,100 miles of cycling, I am ready to complete the journey, at least from a cycling standpoint. The mental fatigue is more of an issue now than the physical. Although I am still able to pedal mostly pain-free and at a reasonable pace, the distance seems to be passing slowly, and each day I count down the miles to the finish. Certainly the scenery is pleasant, but there is a sameness that sets in after a while. My mind needs a change of pace. That said, I will be sad to part ways with many of the people in the group, with whom I have developed nice friendships; so in that sense I don’t want the end of the trek to come too quickly. Perhaps a day off the bike, our first in nearly two weeks, will regenerate some of my enthusiasm for the final stretch.

Niagara Falls

According to Wikipedia, Niagara Falls is a set of massive waterfalls located on the Niagara River in eastern North America on the border between the United States and Canada. Niagara Falls comprises three separate waterfalls: the Horseshoe Falls (sometimes called the Canadian Falls), the American Falls, and the smaller, adjacent Bridal Veil Falls. While not exceptionally high, Niagara Falls is very wide. With more than six million cubic feet of water falling over the crestline every minute. It is the most powerful waterfall in North America and possibly the best-known in the world.

The Falls drop about 170 feet, although the American Falls have a clear drop of only 70 feet before reaching a jumble of fallen rocks which were deposited by a massive rock slide in 1954. The larger Canadian Falls are about 2,600 feet wide, while the American Falls are 1,060 feet wide.

Recent construction of several tall buildings (most of them hotels) on the Canadian side of the falls has caused the airflow over the falls to change direction. Students at the University of Guelph demonstrated, using scale models, that the air passes overtop of the new hotels, which causes a breeze to roll forward down the south sides of the buildings and spill down into the gorge under the falls, where it feeds into a whirlpool of moisture and air. The result is that the viewing areas on the Canadian side are now often obscured by a layer of mist from the falls. It will be very difficult to solve the problem.

In October 1829, Sam Patch, who called himself The Yankee Leaper, jumped over the Horseshoe Falls and became the first known person to survive the plunge. This began a long tradition of daredevils trying to go over the Falls and survive. In 1901, 63-year-old Annie Edson Taylor was the first person to go over the Falls in a barrel; she survived virtually unharmed. Since Taylor's historic ride, 14 other people have intentionally gone over the Falls in or on a device. Some have survived unharmed, but others have drowned or been severely injured. Survivors of such stunts face charges and stiff fines, as it is illegal, on both sides of the border, to attempt to go over the Falls.

The enormous energy of the Falls was long recognized as a potential source of power. The first known effort to harness the waters was in 1759, when Daniel Joncairs built a small canal above the Falls to power his sawmill. Augustus and Peter Porter purchased this area and all of American Falls in 1805 from the New York state government, and enlarged the original canal to provide hydraulic power for their gristmill and tannery. In 1853, the Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Mining Company was chartered, which eventually constructed the canals which would be used to generate electricity. In 1881, under the leadership of Jacob Schoellkopf, enough power was produced to send direct current to illuminate both the Falls themselves and nearby Niagara Falls village.

In August 2005, Ontario Power Generation, which is now responsible for the Sir Adam Beck stations, announced plans to build a new 6.5-mile tunnel to tap water from farther up the Niagara river than is possible with the existing arrangement. The project is expected to be completed in 2009.

Ships can bypass Niagara Falls by means of the Welland Canal, which in the 1960s was improved and incorporated into the Saint Lawrence Seaway. While the seaway diverted water traffic from nearby Buffalo and led to the demise of its steel and grain mills, other industries in the Niagara River valley flourished until the 1970s with the help of the electric power produced by the river. Since then the region has declined economically.

The twin cities of Niagara Falls, Ontario and Niagara Falls, New York are connected by three bridges, including the Rainbow Bridge, just downriver from the Falls, which affords the closest view of the Falls

Already a huge tourist attraction and favorite spot for honeymooners, Niagara Falls visits rose sharply in 1953 after the release of Niagara, a movie starring Marilyn Monroe. Later in the 20th century, the Falls was a featured location in 1980s movie Superman II, and was itself the subject of a popular IMAX movie.


As we depart Canada, a few facts about the country, which I found interesting.

Canada is the second largest and the northernmost sovereign country on Earth. Its economy has traditionally relied heavily on the abundance of natural resources and trade, particularly with the United States with whom it has a long, extensive relationship. Although the modern Canadian economy has become widely diversified, exploitation of natural resources remains an important driving force of many regional economies.

Canada is the world's second-largest country in total area, after Russia. However, it has an extremely low population density of 3.2 people per square kilometer. Eighty percent of Canadians live within 200 km of the United States along the International Boundary, where the country's most temperate climates are located. The name "Canada" is believed to have originated from a Huron-Iroquoian word, Kanata meaning "village" or "settlement" or "collection of huts"

On July 1, 1867 with the passing of the British North America Act, the British government granted a Constitution to a federation of four provinces formed from three of its North American colonies, Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. The former Province (colony) of Canada formed two provinces of the new Dominion of Canada, being partitioned into Quebec and Ontario along the old boundary between Lower and Upper Canada. The term Confederation refers to this act of union and is often used for the resulting federation.

Other British colonies and territories soon joined Confederation: by 1880 Canada included all of its present area except for Newfoundland and Labrador (which joined in 1949). Full control over the Dominion's affairs officially came in 1931 with the Statute of Westminster, and in 1982 with the patriation of Canada's constitution.

As tensions between English and French Canadians prevented agreement on the new capital, Queen Victoria chose the centrally-located Ottawa. This compromise was similar to one that resulted in the creation of Washington as the US capitol to appease Northerners and Southerners.

In the second half of the 20th century, some citizens of the mainly French-speaking province of Quebec sought independence in two referendums held in 1980 and 1995. In both referendums, the separatist cause, led by the Parti Quebecois, was defeated with 60% and 50.6% opposed to independence, respectively. Although the separatist movement has waned in recent years, many consider another referendum to be inevitable.

On July 7, 1969, French was made equal to English throughout the Canadian federal government. This started a process that led to Canada redefining itself as a bilingual and multicultural nation at the federal level.

Canada's national anthem is "O Canada". Although it was first performed on June 24, 1880, at a Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day banquet in Quebec City, it did not become Canada's official national anthem until July 1, 1980. "God Save the Queen" is now Canada's royal anthem. It is officially played in the presence of the Queen or other members of the royal family.