Monday, May 26, 2014

The Trip Home

It felt strange to say goodbye to everyone and scatter to the winds. There was a lot of cleaning and packing and waiting...and then we were saying goodbye as we dropped everyone off. No one flew out on the last day; everyone but me was dropped at a motel. I was dropped off last--to pick up my rental car.

Since the car was new to me, of course I had to figure out how to operate everything. On top of that, I was speed challenged. For the first several miles, I could not go the speed limit; it just felt too fast. Pretty soon, though, I was ticking along down the New York Thruway, marveling at how I was back in the real world again. The on-and-off torrential rain (so thick at times that I could not see the traffic ahead of me, only the gray swirl of water vapor) somehow seemed appropriate. 

When I left the Thruway, I followed the western shore of Seneca Lake (one of New York's finger lakes) all the way to Ithaca. Such stunning scenery and long hills; that seemed appropriate, too. (Hmm...maybe there will be a Finger Lakes bike tour in my future.) When I realized I was obsessively checking the car's odometer for each upcoming turn, I smiled. I guess it's a good habit; I didn't take any wrong turns. 

My tent--all by its lonesome self. 

It took me all of five minutes to set up my tent. On either side of me, families were setting up camp for the Memorial Day weekend. Hours later, after much pounding of tent stakes and loud debates about various setup options, these families were still setting up. Struck me as excessive and exhausting.

The next day, I was packed up, showered, and on the road by 7:00am. Well trained by now. Good thing, too, because it happened to be Commencement weekend at my alma mater. I quickly visited some old haunts and then sped out of town before the throngs descended.

On to East spend the night with my sister and niece. Since they hosted me the night before I flew to Mobile to start the tour, it seemed appropriate to spend a night after the tour reconnecting and debriefing. One odd thing: The morning I left, there was a possum sitting on top of a wire fence two doors down from my sister's--for hours--in broad daylight. I saw possums in every state on the tour--mostly dead as roadkill. I think possums and turkey vultures might take over the world--but that's for another post.

Finally...a day when I knew where I was going, without having to consult any maps or GPS! The driving to Portland, Maine, part went fine. Then, plans went awry. Dale was driving my car (with the bike rack on the roof) to pick me up at the car-rental place--when it died. Yup--electrics gone, power steering gone--dead. It was the alternator. Good thing I have a large support team; Steve drove Dale's truck to retrieve me, my bike, and my gear, and then we retrieved Dale as well. (A few days and over $500 later, I had a working car again.)

Once home, the gear cleanup and re-entry began. I had a huge box of mail to go through. I had cats to squeeze, and take on walks. While reconnecting with my life, I could let sore body parts heal.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Total Miles Bicycled

on UGRR tour, April 13 - May 23 (and not counting training miles beforehand)

Niagara Falls on the U.S. Side

I woke at 4:30 this morning. I wonder how long it will take to shift my daily schedule. 

Before things were open or many people were out and about, I rode down to the falls on the U.S. side to take pictures. 

I rode a whopping 2.5 miles today. Later today, I pick up a rental car and start to head home. 

I'll write some final, wrap-up posts after I'm home. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Done! Reached Canada and Niagara Falls (Day 40)

Okay, so technically this trip does not end until noon tomorrow, but I feel done as far as the riding goes. 

We had route options today. We could ride completely in the United States, or we could cross into Canada for a bunch of the riding (and a few extra miles). In both cases we would end up in Niagara Falls, New York, for the night. 

Even though I am tired and we've done a lot of miles this last week, I chose to do the Canadian route. It looked a lot more interesting than the route through New York, and it looked like it would have far less traffic. It seemed like something I should not miss. 

The day started out sunny, but quickly changed to overcast. Once again, there were great shore views of Lake Erie. 

When I got to Buffalo, I took a detour off the regular route to visit a couple of sites with UGRR significance. Below is the Michigan Street Baptist Church. 

In 1816, Buffalo had a population of 400. Sixteen of those residents were black, and nine of those were slaves. The congregation of the Michigan Street Baptist Church formed in 1836; the church building was completed in 1849. This building is the oldest building in Buffalo built and continuously owned and occupied by the city's black residents. I especially liked the building's windows, so I took this shot of the side as well. 

This is how the building looked in 1900:

The church's congregation openly and boldly participated in antislavery activities. Before the Civil War, escaping slaves were hidden in the basement until it was safe to help them escape to freedom in Canada. Apparently the areas in the basement where escaping slaves were concealed are still visible today. I wouldn't know; I did not get to go inside the church. 

Next to the church is a plaque honoring Mary Talbert (1866-1923):

Talbert graduated from Oberlin College, was an active member of the Michigan Street Baptist Church, and was an anti-lynching activist. Talbert was the sixth president of the National Association of Colored Women, inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame, and was the first African American woman to earn the prestigious NAACP Spingarn Award. 

Behind the Michigan Street Baptist Church is a walkway with benches and informational plaques that leads to the Nash House. 

This was the home of Reverend J. Edward Nash, his wife, and child. Nash's parents had been born as slaves. At the age of 24, Nash became the pastor of the Michigan Street Baptist Church and served as its pastor for 61 years (1892-1953). Nash and the church were actively involved with Civil Rights advocacy and action throughout their histories. 

The home is a treasure trove of Nash's personal writings and the family's furnishings and household items. 

While Talbert and Nash were not directly related to the UGRR, they were such key figures in improving the quality of life for African Americans in the decades following the Civil War, I thought I'd include mention of them. 

When I left the Nash House to make my way back on route, I noticed this building in the distance. It looks like it has two Statues of Liberty on its roof. 

Right after taking the picture above, dense fog rolled in. I was cycling on a bike path on the Buffalo side of the Niagara River, but the visibility wasn't great. 

Crossing the Peace Bridge to Canada with Tony...

The cycling on the Canada side was great! Interesting residential homes on the left, the Niagara River on the right. We made use of a handy picnic table to eat our lunch. 

The approach to Niagara Falls became ever more dramatic, starting with views of the rising mist. At this point, we were on a spectacular bike trail that closely follows the water and has its own bridges and boardwalks. 

Does anyone know what this is? We saw two of them. They're huge. Maybe they have something to do with power generation?

More shots approaching the falls...

There is a "stranded skow" out there. 

The "stranded skow" is also visible below. 

In the photo below, a huge tour boat full of people all dressed in blue and green mist ponchos, is sitting at the base of the falls. 

Below is the view of the falls from the Rainbow Bridge, crossing back into the United States. 

Today's route, part 1:

Part 2. The jog in my path at miles 37-38 is the Michigan Ave spur I took to the Michigan Street Baptist Church and Nash House. The jog after mile 42 was me getting turned around and then back on track. 

Part 3:

Tonight we are staying at the Wanderfalls Hostel in Niagara Falls, New York. We had our celebratory supper out:

[photo credit: Barb Ward]

Tomorrow we are free in the morning to explore the falls some more before we say our goodbyes and begin to scatter...