Niagara to Buffalo: Whoa.

7/19/22

Wow. Yesterday was quite a day. It was capped by discovering that my Warmshowers host’s place doesn’t have WiFi, so even getting this post out is quite a challenge; I hope I can do it before the library closes in a couple of hours. (His place, while incredibly charming inside and out as an apartment inside a huge old historic home, also has no air conditioning, and is up three flights of stairs. Oof.)

The day started when I checked out of my Niagara Falls hotel in a light drizzle. I knew I had twenty miles to bike during the day, and rain was forecast for much of the day. I hoped to avoid it as best I could. One factor I had on my side was time: I had to check out of the hotel at 11, and my host wouldn’t be ready to meet me until about 4:30. So I figured maybe I could find a covered area at a park along the way to wait out the rain if need be.

I was also planning to stop about halfway to Buffalo, in the little town of North Tonawanda, to visit a vegan grocery store (quite surprising to find in such a small town) and vegan coffee shop, as well as a carousel museum(!)

I was looking forward to a fun day.

After maybe 30 or 40 minutes of riding, mostly in light mist, I did find a park with an area of covered tables and benches. The shelter had a nice view of the river. I decided to rest there for a while until the rain let up. (My phone’s weather app kept changing its mind as to when that might be, and for how long.)

I enjoyed the downtime. I took the opportunity to do some dreaming into next year, brainstorming a few specifics to help my dream seem more concrete. (For example, what if I aim to fund 10-12 godfundees at $40-50K each? Would that mean 10-12 godfunders, too? Or might there be some overlap? Maybe 6-10 godfunders…? It felt good to start playing with numbers.)

I even pulled out my laptop and wrote down some of it. I also sat and thought deeply about my dream, and my fears about it, and some self-doubts. The thoughts turned emotional, and I started to cry about some of my fears and concerns. I have hardly cried at all this year, which seems a bit odd considering how challenging, and sometimes stressful, my travels have been.

In that moment, I let myself feel gratitude for the deserted, private natural place for me to just feel everything, let some tears fall, and not need to rush.

By the time I set out from that shelter, I had gone through a range of emotions and thoughts, and had written some things down and come up with some plans.

I felt refreshed and energized, and ready to brave the mist until the next shelter.

That shelter was another pretty one, and also private, and sure enough, the rain was coming down a little harder once I reached it. I was a little bit “thinked out,” so I just kind of sat quietly and wished the rain would let up.

Finally it did, and the sun started to come out. I was close to North Tonawanda by then, so I looked forward to my destinations.

The Vegan Grocery Store was incredible! It seemed such an odd sight in this small town with conservative political lawn signs, but the young woman inside was very friendly, saying that she and her husband had opened the shop because they had both grown up in town there, and were raising their child there now.

The shop was chock-full of all kinds of wonderful things, including some sweets imported from England! I stocked up on treats.

Sadly, as I left, I discovered that the carousel museum was set to close in only fifteen minutes! I rushed over there, with just ten minutes to spare. The woman in the gift shop kindly said she would not charge me admission, but she also made a point to mention that she could not therefore give me a token to ride the carousel. I understood, and instead enjoyed just a very brief glance around the museum. I do hope I can return sometime to get the full guided tour; the museum (which used to be a carousel factory!) seemed extensive, and I caught the tail end of the guided tour, which sounded very informative.

Then I went over to the vegan coffee shop, Little Black Heart, where I snagged the last brownie in the case, and the barista even gave me a discount since it was the last one! It weighed more than any brownie I’ve ever held, and induced quite the sugar coma later that evening when I savored it.

It was then time to press on south to Buffalo.

The bike path along the river was breathtaking. The light play in the sky was incredible, with sun breaks peeking out from behind the big puffy white clouds, and sometimes curtains of gray.

Unfortunately, however, those curtains of gray soon caught up with me, despite my weather app’s assurances that no more rain was to come that day.

It poured.

I mean, it poured.

First I took shelter under a tree, for about 15 minutes. It provided a surprising amount of protection from the rain, but certainly not 100%. I knew that time was marching on. After having messaged my host that I would arrive about 5:00, he had reminded me that he would be leaving for a community bike ride at 5:30. He had invited me to join him, but after the day of cycling, and starting to feel rather damp, I was thinking I would sit it out.

While I waited under the tree, I was very aware that time was ticking.

I decided to press on, even though the rain hadn’t stopped yet. It was no longer pelting, and I could see the curtain of gray slowly moving forward. I was willing to gamble that it was almost over.

I pedaled out from under the tree, into a long stretch with no shelter.

That’s when the sky really opened up.

I was pounded by huge raindrops. They were getting behind my glasses and stinging my eyes. My rain gear proved a weak match for nature’s force. Gahhh! These were not my preferred cycling conditions.

I finally reached a freeway overpass, and some blessed shelter. As I stood there and tried to use my phone—with no effect because the rain wouldn’t let the touchscreen sense my fingertips—I noticed another bedraggled cyclist. I struck up a conversation: turns out he was cycling straight across the US, from San Diego to Maine, over the course of two and a half months. That is hardcore!! I was very impressed. He said he lives in Denver, and we talked about my hope to bicycle around Denver and Boulder at some point. I wondered if I should try to make that happen in October. (Would it already be too cold for my taste by then? I bet the aspens would be spectacular…)

When the rain finally let up again, we went our separate ways. It was already 5:30, and my host called me to work out what we would do. I was thoroughly drenched; there was no way I was going to join the ride. He agreed to give me the code to his place so I could let myself in after he left, since he wouldn’t be returning until after 9:00. I was very grateful.

A passerby stopped me as soon as I got off the phone, to enthusiastically endorse my bike-and-trailer combo: “You got it, girlfriend!! I want to do that too!!”

I smiled, although my squishy shoes were reminding me of that miserable day when I rode for hours in a soaking rain from Ventura to Moorpark, California, back in December.

As I pushed off to finish the last four miles, I soon found that I was now also having mechanical trouble: my left-hand shifter didn’t let me shift into the low/default gear. I had to use the higher gear. I could somewhat compensate by using the right-hand (internal-hub) shifter, but my heart sank with yet one more new obstacle. Was there a Brompton dealer in Buffalo? I didn’t think so. (I later confirmed: no.) Probably another bike shop could handle it, though… but this was a lot to deal with after a very complex day, when I was still drenched.

I continued forward. At least the rain had finally stopped.

When I arrived at the house, I was thoroughly impressed with its appearance. In fact, I noticed many such huge, amazing Victorian houses in the neighborhood.

It was a challenge to carry everything—wet—up to the attic turret. It took at least four trips up the three flights of winding stairs.

But I made it, and I relaxed as best I could.

I got a phone call from a friend, and after a few hours, my host and his girlfriend returned from their ride. (They had entirely avoided the rain!)

It turns out that my host works for Reddy, the Buffalo bike-sharing company! What a small world, after my visit with Kevin McLaughlin of Zygg the other day in Toronto.

Today I had a few more obstacles, including plumbing issues and a maddening series of challenges finding Wifi. I finally found it here at the second library branch I tried; the first was closed on Tuesdays.

Meanwhile, I plan to board the train after midnight tonight for an overnight trip to Chicago, immediately followed by an afternoon train to Ann Arbor.

With all my internet challenges, I haven’t found a host in Ann Arbor yet. I’m doing my best to trust life, and to relax and appreciate each moment, rather than freaking out or getting cranky, though I admit I have not been entirely successful in that goal.

Life does keep offering me magic, though… yesterday after my crying jag and dreaming/planning session, I checked my phone to find that a new friend had just sent me a generous donation, “for a hotel or scrumptious vegan snacks.”

Wow.

People are amazing. We are all in this together, aren’t we?

(Oh, one more edit: I just now see that I did get a Warmshowers hosting offer in Ann Arbor! The magic happens when it happens. I just need to trust it.)

Thanks again to all of you for following me, and joining me, on my journey.

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