Lake Ontario Loop

Lake Ontario Loop

Sunday, June 7, 2015


Thanks for following our adventure around Lake Ontario.  We enjoyed the Canadian side of the lake because our route kept us close to or on the waterfront. The New York side was mostly rural country roads through farm lands with an occasional water side ride.  We are sorry to report that our trip had to be cut short by a few days and we did not return to Buffalo.  Don't worry we are both OK.  Joe is at home and Jeff will soon be in Falls Church.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Henderson Harbor

We left Clayton looking for a breakfast place but did not find any until we reached Cape Vincent, a small town on the St. Lawrence River about 12 miles away.  While nothing else was open at 7 a.m. we cycled past the town’s waterfront and its historical museum located in an old stone building. 

Much of our day’s journey was out of sight of the water.  When possible we took side routes to the waters or entered the several state parks along the route.  One of our side trips was to the town of Sackets Harbor.  While we had marked this town as a possible place to visit, neither of us could remember why, nor did our notes give any hints.  We were pleasantly surprised by what we found. 

Sackets Harbor was founded in 1801 by Augustus Sacket, a land speculator from New York City. He hoped that this location would foster trade across Lake Ontario with Kingston, Ontario.

As we entered the town we saw lots of old brick buildings, some in bad condition, others restored.  Some of these buildings pre-dated the War of 1812.  At the town’s visitors center we learned that the US Navy had a major shipyard and its headquarters for the Great Lakes. The Army also constructed a fortbarracks and supporting infrastructure to defend the village and navy shipyard. By the fall of 1814, this was the third-largest population center in the entire state. Soon after the war, the Army strengthened its defenses on the northern frontier by constructing Madison Barracks.  We learned that the old buildings we first saw as we entered the town were the Madison Barracks.  The Madison Barracks have been designated as a Historic District and they are slowly being redeveloped as a planned commercial/residential area.

The receptionist at the visitor’s center also told us that Zebulon Pike is buried in Sackets Harbor and President Ulysses S. Grant served two tours of duty at Madison Barracks.  However, there was no mention of George Washington sleeping here.

We were also impressed by the town’s lively commercial district. We saw many small shops and restaurants as we cycled through before stopping at the Sackets Harbor Brewery for lunch and a beer.  Besides brewing their beer, the sandwich rolls and chips were also made on site. It was a wonderful place for lunch.

From Sackets Harbor we only had a short (10 mile) ride to Henderson Harbor for our nights lodging.  Our motel is on the grounds of the Aspinwall Homestead that was built in 1806, and currently serves as the motel’s office.  The Homestead was visited by Stonewall Jackson and artist Frederick Remington, and was used by runaway slaves traveling to Canada via the Underground Railroad system.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Clayton, NY

We had a pleasant ride up the Thousand Islands Parkway as the morning mist lifted off the ponds and river.  To get to the United States we had to cross 2 very long high arched bridges on very narrow walkways.  It was so narrow we had to walk our bikes but found that we didn’t have room for us and our pannier laden bikes.  We wondered what would happen if we met anyone coming from the opposite direction.  We probably walked over a mile and it probably took an hour to do so.  If we had to do it over, we would have crossed at Wolf Island.  The Wolf Island route was recommended to us many times by cyclists we met along the way.  In hindsight, we should have asked about our chosen route.

After arriving in New York, we immediately turned on our cell phones and called home.   It was nice to regain access to technology that we have become so dependent upon.

Next we headed east to the town of Alexandria Bay where we took a 2 hour boat tour through the Thousand Islands.  The tour took us past “Millionaire’s Row” of magnificent homes built during the gilded age.  Many of the boat houses were more grandiose than even the fanciest houses back home.  After this tour we stopped off at the Boldt Castle.  This castle was built by George C. Boldt who became wealthy as the proprietor of many famous hotels, including the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.  He purchased 6 islands and chose Hart (later renamed Heart) Island to build a castle for his wife, Louise.  Louise died before it was completed so George stopped work and refused to return to the island.  From 1904 to 1977 the Castle deteriorated from lack of maintenance and vandalism.  In 1977 the Thousand Island Bridge Authority took over the property and started its restoration.  The finished sections are truly magnificent.  The island also has a child’s play house (castle) that is so large it could provide housing and recreation for a school house full of children.

Afterwards we began our westward journey toward Buffalo.  East of Clayton, we stopped at a small batch distiller and sampled some of its bourbon. Neither of us drinks hard liquor and since were on bicycles, we tasted sparingly. In Clayton we stopped at the Antique Boat Museum.  Most (if not all) were wooden boats.  One of the buildings contained just speed boats that were massive and powered by very large engines.  We preferred the craftsmanship of the pleasure boats and the boat restoration facility.  Our motel for the night was just a few miles from there and has a peaceful riverfront setting.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


The temperature started a little warmer today, but we were still bundled up for a while.  We had a short ride to Glenora were we boarded a ferry for a 15 minute trip across the Bay of Quinte.  From there we headed into Loyalist country were those loyal to the British Crown settled during our colonial days.  Many towns, structures, and monuments are designated “loyalist…”  For example, we stopped along the waterfront and read a monument commemorating the frigate Royal George’s escape from the aggressive Americans to the south.
We cycled through Kingston, a city with a population of 120,000.  It took about 2 hours to go through this large urban area.  Just outside of the city proper, we came to Fort Henry.  The fort is strategically on an elevated point near the mouth of the Cataraqui River where it flows into the St. Lawrence River at the east end of Lake Ontario.
The original fort was constructed during the War of 1812 to protect the Kingston Royal Naval Dockyard (the site of the present-day Royal Military College of Canada) on Point Frederick from a possible American attack and monitor maritime traffic on the St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario. The original fort was replaced by a much larger construction in the 1830s and was restored in the 1930s.  When we arrived a bus load of teenagers were going into the fort carrying overnight bags  The fort features overnight group accommodations for a unique experience in a 19th Century British Fort by providing lodging in a large Barracks room.

The rest of our day was mostly cycling towards our destination of Gananoque. The waterfront town Gananoque has a population of 5,000 year-round residents but a large number of summer residents. As such, visitors enjoy many interesting restaurants and attractions.   One of these attractions are boat tours through the St. Lawrence River’s Thousand Islands (yes thousand islands dressing came from here).  We had dinner in one of those unique restaurants overlooking the water as we relaxed after a long day on our bikes.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Picton, ON

We left Cobourg early and only had a choice of McDonalds or Tim Hortons for breakfast.  Not really a choice but it was the best we could do?  Canadians must not be breakfast eaters.  Before leaving town we cycled by their “historic” jail that was less historic and more a commercial tourist stop.  For a good part of the morning we cycled on country roads, only occasionally getting dumped on a 2-lane highway with a wide shoulder.  We passed several nature sanctuaries and stopped at the Keelers Memorial before arriving at our first town—Colborne.  The town had a town square and many businesses that looked like one of them should have been a restaurant.  We even asked several high school age kids if the town had a café and were asked in response, “what is a café?” 

As noon approached, Jeff made a quick right turn and headed down a dead end street towards a marina.  When Joe finally caught him, Jeff explained that he saw a small sign that a café was at the marina.  It was there, it was open, and the food was good.  The owner told us that she first opened the adjacent motel, then bought the marina, and just recently opened the café.

After lunch we continued along the lake before heading inland where we passed over the Murray Canal on a swing bridge.  This part of our day we were mostly on the highway but traffic was light.    We passed through the towns of Wellington and Bloomfield, 2 arts communities.  These towns had art studios, craft shops, galleries and quilt murals painted on many of their buildings.  We found that we were on the “arts” trail.  Besides cycling the Waterfront trail, we were on the wine trail until we reached Toronto.  Today, after we left Colborne we were on the apple trail and then another section of the wine trail.  No matter what your interest, Canada has a route marked for you to follow.

Our lodging in Picton is at the Merrill Inn, a place with more class than both of us put together.  Yesterday we tried making reservations at nearly a dozen local lodgings and found that they were all booked up.  The Merrill Inn had an opening, and by its price, it was no wonder.  After tonight, we will be sleeping at roadside shelters.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Cobourg, ON

Today we had several significant changes in our adventure.  First, we moved out of the urban environment that we been in since our trip began.  Our rural cycling brought less trails and some of the trails we cycled were very rough in comparison to those in the cities.  We even experienced one trail that was a single tract.  Second, the weather changed.  We went from temperatures in the 80s to the low 50s.  This morning we had to dig deep in our panniers to find warm clothing. 

What hasn’t changed is the abundance of lilac bushes that are in full bloom.  They are everywhere and many are very large and put forth a sweet smell that fills the air.  The other constant is the abundance of red-winged black birds.  However, these birds continue to be camera shy and have avoided our attempts to get a good picture. 

After we left Whitby we cycled 40 miles before we arrived in the next town, Port Hope.  The town is named for Colonel Henry Hope, the one time lieutenant governor of the Province of Quebec.  An interesting side note about the town is its having the largest volume of historic low-level radioactive wastes in Canada. These wastes were created as a result of the refining process used to extract radium from uranium ore. Radium was used in "glow-in-the-dark" paint.

We arrived in Port Hope “aglow” with thoughts about food.  We soon found Basel’s Deli and stopped for lunch.  This was the first “mom and pop” type restaurant that we found on this journey and well worth the wait.  We had great sandwiches, hot tea, and cookies before heading toward the Canadian Firefighters Museum.

After a tour that included some early 1900 fire engines we headed to our motel in Cobourg, about 5 miles further along the trail. Perhaps this is a good time to define our route’s structure.  We are following the “Waterfront Trail” that is a compilation of marked trails, side streets, and highways. Between Port Hope and Cobourg was the first time that we were on a highway. It had only 2 lanes but was busy.  However, it had very wide shoulders marked for cyclists.  The Waterfront Trail is very well marked and documented on the internet and in a book.  The trail goes along the Canadian side of the lake and up the St. Lawrence River

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Port Whitby, Day 2

To go or not to go was the question that hung over us all morning.  The temperatures dropped into the 40's and the forecast predicted rain and thunder showers all day and into the evening. After much deliberation and discussions of past decisions to "go" that turned out to be stupid decisions, we decided to stay.  While the forecast for today remains "doom and gloom" it barely rained this morning and just begun to rain as we slide into the afternoon.  With 20/20 hindsight, we should have cycled today.  We could have gotten to our next destination without getting drowned in cold rain.  But then, we are older and smarter...

Our motel is very nice and we have a large room, however, there is nothing nearby.  Joe is working on revising our route maps and Jeff is getting near the end of his thick novel.  It is going to be a long day.  Luckily, we can have our dinner delivered.  Hopefully, tomorrow's cycling will be interesting and our blog worth reading.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Port Whitby

We cut our mileage short today because of the threatening storms.  As we write this in the comfort of a nice (and dry) motel, it is pouring outside.   Sometimes we can do the smart thing.

We left Toronto early and headed south east along the lake.  The weather was moderate, but like previous days, got colder as we cycled lakeside resulting in many jacket on/off exercises.  We encountered lots of cyclists, runners, and walkers on the trails.  When the trails ended we were on residential streets with very nice homes.  One community we past through was sponsoring a yard sale and perhaps 100 homes had out things for sale.  Since both of our wives like yard sales we were thankful that this was a men’s only adventure. 

We past through many parks along the trail but the most interesting one was a national park called The Guild.  The park is located along the Scarborough Bluffs. Guild Park was site of the innovative Guild of All Arts, founded in 1932. The park’s 88 acres includes a Sculpture Garden featuring works by notable Canadian artists including Sorel Etrog, Emanuel Hahn, Francis Loring, E.B. White and Florence Wyle, as well as architectural remnants saved from dozens of Toronto’s heritage buildings demolished in the 1960s and 1970s. 

Since the storms may last into tomorrow morning we have yet to finalize our plans and may just hang out for awhile.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Toronto, Canada

We got an early start and left the hotel as soon as day light took hold, but long before the motel’s restaurant offered breakfast.  About half an hour down the road we stopped at a Tim Horton’s, a Canadian Dunkin Donuts, for breakfast.  While not memorable, it provided the basic fats, protein, carbs, and coffee; and was our only option.  We had a long day ahead of us and wanted something in our bellies.  We soon past another dozen wineries, but none were open at that hour…which was probably good.

The weather was strange today.  When we were cycling next to the lake, it was cold.  However, when our route took us a few blocks away we were warm.  We got tried of putting on and then taking off our jackets.  However we looked like the only ones that were cold.  Other folks wore just short-sleeved jerseys.  We must have stood out as tourists from the south.

The closer we got to Toronto, the more cyclists we saw.  Many asked questions of our journey and several offered us route suggestions.  Because we faced a 70 mile day with the threat of afternoon rain, we mostly pushed to complete our ride and did not smell too many roses.  In Port Credit we passed through a lake side park were several families were grilling their lunch meal.  The smells made us hungry for hotdogs and brought back memories of a similar day when cycled down the Mississippi. At that time we were very hungry but did not find any place for lunch. As we passed through a community park we found a hotdog vendor with a line of folks waiting for lunch.  Today, we had the same experience when we passed a marina hosting a boat show and found a busy hotdog vendor and our lunch. 

Arriving in Toronto had its own challenges.  First, the city is very large and it took a long time to cycle through it.  Second, there was a lot of downtown road work that impacted our route and required many detours.

Finally, the highlight of our day was dinner.  We ate at an Italian restaurant that made its own pasta.  We were in heaven and even ate decedent deserts that we justified as our reward for a long hard day.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Jordan Station, Canada

We got an early start out of the motel as we headed towards Niagara Falls and breakfast.  It took about an hour to reach the falls and a little more time before we found a place to eat.  The falls were beautifully and dynamic, resulting in lots of pictures.  While we were there, the sky got black and we expected to get soaked.  We put on our rain gear and got ready for the worst.  However, as we cycled towards the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake the skies cleared so we stopped at the botanical gardens and took a walking tour.  The main attraction there was a butterfly house, which unfortunately, did not open for another hour. 

Like yesterday we were back on the trails.  However, we found that the roads had very little traffic and we could cycle on them without concern.  We soon entered the wine region and passed 6 wineries until we found one that was open.  Reif Estate Winnery opened in 1982 in an 1870’s coach house. After tasting several of their wines, we figured that we had room in our panniers to carry a few bottles. We ignored the dozens of other wineries that were along our route but did stop at Fort George; we needed a little history in our diet.  The fort was built in the late 18th century to protect the British Colony from those “aggressive” Americans to the south.  The fort has been restored and is now a national historic site.

We stopped for lunch in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  The town had many interesting restaurants to choose from and offered many small town charms that made it interesting.  After leaving town we stopped at the Sunnybrook Winery and did more tasting and purchased more wine…wondering why our panniers got heavy. 

On the last leg of our ride we came to a canal that had a very large ore ship waiting in the lock.  The lock also intersected with the road that we were on and its drawbridge was rising as we approach.  We had to wait about 30 minutes while the ship passed.  As the ship moved through the lock, hundreds of sea gulls were disturbed and bombing us every time they took off.  It was not a pleasant experience.

Our motel in Jordan Station is much nicer than yesterdays.  Besides having much more room, it also has a telephone, internet connection, and a restaurant.  Hopefully, the rest of our lodgings will be at least this nice.

Niagara Falls, Canada (5/27)

Our day started at Joe’s home near Poughkeepsie, NY with a wonderful breakfast prepared by Nancy, Joe’s wife.  However, our cycling trip did not really start until we drove 360 miles west to Buffalo, NY.   In Buffalo, we parked Joe’s van at his mother-in-law’s home. While a book could be written about this 103 year old sweet woman, let me just say she is a real dynamo and we wished that we could have spent more time with her.

About 1:30 in the afternoon, we got our bikes and gear organized and we headed towards the Peace Bridge that links the United States to Canada.  Mostly we cycled through residential areas but near the bridge we went through commercial districts.  Most of the ride was on bike trails though parks and along waterways.  It was very delightful and the weather pleasant

After crossing into Canada, we needed to find a place for dinner before we got to our hotel which had no dining places nearby.  We decided to stop at the first interesting place we found.  Of course we had not established any criteria, but knew that it would become apparent or we would not eat.  We passed several places that looked like they were closed or should be closed (permanently).  It was after 5 p.m. and things did not look so good.    
Then we saw a place called “He Is Not Here” which had an outdoor patio and a place for our bikes.  We parked our bikes next to one that was already there and walked onto the patio.  There we asked one of the customers if the restaurant had table service or did we need to go inside to order.  She told us to sit down and get comfortable and she went in to get a waitress for us.  When she returned it got interesting. She asked us lots of questions and made some questionable innuendos.  Then she introduced us to her friend who looked to be in her 60s and mellowed out from to much beer.  This woman was the owner of the other bicycle parked by ours.  She was wondering how she was going to get home on her bicycle after all she had to drink.  Another friend arrived and joined in our group conservation.  Her language was totally uninhibited.  We had an interesting introduction to Canadian women.

We had a local draft beers and sandwiches before heading to our motel, 5 miles away.  At 7 p.m. we arrived at our motel, seconds before the sky opened up with lots of rain.   Our motel room was tiny, and with 2 bikes in the room we did not have much room to move around.  However, it was the only motel within many miles and we were dry.