120 miles per gallon

I got 120 miles per gallon this weekend. Well, if you imagine 3 bottles of water, 5 bottles of Gatorade and a Chocolate Shake being the rough equivalent of a gallon…

Lightning Display
I went camping for Memorial Day. I went and visited a friend in Angola, NY, right on the lake shore. I rode down on Sunday and came home on Tuesday. It was just a bit over 60 miles each way, so it was more than 120 miles.

I pulled the fully loaded trailer behind my trike as well as the loaded panniers on it. The only thing I left out was the solar panel. I didn’t plan on using much power and I could always have charged up off AC there, if I needed anyway, but the battery came along and kept the cell phone running the whole way. I charged it a couple times off it during the weekend.

Warning: This post is really long. So long that the server chokes when I tried to edit it. I had to turn off some plugins to work on it. So, if you dare…

South Grand Island BridgesThe route was mostly bike paths along the lake and Niagara River. I started out wandering the backroads of Niagara County pretty much as I would have driven. I came into North Tonawanda and cut across into Erie County and took Creekside into the city of Tonawanda. From there, I got on the bike trails along the river and followed them to the Riverwalk trail into Buffalo.

Where the trail dumps you off onto Niagara Street, I never found the way back to the trail until after Porter Avenue. I later found out this was no great loss. But I almost inadvertantly got into the lane to take me onto the 190 Expressway. Someone yelled something out their window about whether I really wanted to go that way. I was pretty sure I was headed the right way, but they distracted me at the exact point so that I missed the trail to the right and really did end up on the ramp. I never did find the trail there, but when I came back Tuesday, saw where it was. They literally distracted me at the perfect time to make me miss it.

So, I went a couple blocks around the whole Peace Bridge area and went down Porter where I knew the path was. Of course, the street was closed for construction, but I knew enough to go along in front of the pumping station and through the park to get back on track. Soon I was coming out in the Marine Drive area and into the Erie Basin Marina.

As I rode through there, I saw the markings on the ground and realized that the Buffalo Marathon was being held that morning. By now the race had passed that area and I had no trouble, but I thought about going over to the finish line and seeing if they were still using Ham Radio for logistics.

But my plan was to get lunch at The Hatch, so I turned into the marina. When I got there, I remembered that the Sunday morning ride the bike club I belong to meets there. Sure enough, they were just getting back from their ride and I stopped and chatted with them for a bit. Then a quick lunch at the snack bar.

I got going again after reapplying sunscreen. I was really getting red after starting off with a sunburn from last Tuesday. My legs were worst. Who knew you were supposed to rub the sunscreen in after you sprayed it on… or maybe I just sweated it off.

Anyway, I headed out and decided I didn’t really care to go see the start/finish line of the marathon, and headed south. Past the Naval Park, through the plaza in front of HSBC Arena and out South Park to Ohio Street. It took me quickly out of downtown and towards the outer harbor area. I rode until I reached where the street goes under the Skyway and crosses Furhman Blvd. There is a bike path there along the shore and I took that as far as it would take me. Somewhere past Tift Nature Preserve, the path ended with no warning. It just dumped you onto the sidewalk – no curb cuts, nothing. I rode for a block, dodging a mailbox to reach a corner where I could go into the street without risking scraping the bottom of my bike on a curb.

Factory HousesFrom there, it was a thankfully short – maybe a mile or so – on the Hamburg Turnpike, a six-lane madhouse of a road past industrial sites and old steel mills. Just one block of houses that looked out of place in contrast to the big steel mills sitting behind them. I ran this gauntlet, even in the parts where there was no shoulder. Fortunately, on a Sunday afternoon, it wasn’t too busy.

Not far after that, there was another section of bike path that took me past the Ford Stamping plant and dropped me off in Lackawana. A few blocks further, my route turned out Hoover Road, a two-lane with little traffic that quickly took me into more country-like settings. Hoover ended and brought me to Lakeshore Rd. which like its name says, follows the lake shore. Sections of it were called Lakeshore, while other parts where they had straightened out some of the curves and modernized the road, became Old Lakeshore. I followed Old Lakeshore and it always brought me back to Lakeshore eventually.

One other thing it did was go up and down like a roller coaster. It was scenic and might have been fun if I wasn’t getting tired and pulling a 50 pound trailer behind me. Every little creek (pronounced ‘crick’ in this case) meant the road went down into a dip and them back up the other side. The downs were fun, but I was tired enough that all I wanted to do was coast them. The ups were long, tiring grinds. Not bad enough to really suffer, but bad enough to hate.

On the way home, I skipped the scenic roller coaster and stuck to the main drag, traffic and all. It was much more level, except for one construction zone where it went down to one lane each way. I just took my spot in the lane and let anyone behind me seethe.

But that got me there. My friend’s street ends on Lakeshore so eventually I got there.

I didn’t feel too bad. I wasn’t too exhausted from the ride, in fact I felt good and we pretty much did everything we would have, had I driven there. It sure felt good to get a shower, though.

I camped there two nights in the backyard. The idea was to test out my gear by using it, but she already had a tent set up in the back yard from a sleepover her daughter had the night before. So I crashed there. I have already used my tent, so I know how it works. The only thing new I didn’t try out was a new Thremarest sleeping pad. No biggie.

We had a good Memorial Day, complete with a parade so short we missed it and a cookout in the backyard. Couldn’t ask for more, a good day with good friends.

I got up Tuesday morning and left early, before 7 AM. It was supposed to be a hot day (it lived up to that prediction) and I hoped to beat much of the commuter traffic into Buffalo along Route 5. Instead of taking the roller coaster on Lakeshore, I climbed the one short hill up to Route 5 and turned north there. It’s a four lane, but always seemed to have decent shoulders to bail out on if needed. I was able to ride the white line or stay just to the left of it most of the time. Traffic was light enough that everyone just used the left lane and let me be.

I stopped for a bite to eat at a McDonalds in Derby. I pulled into the left turn lane at a traffic signal. The restaraunt was at the corner, but no entrance on the side street, so I made the left turn a little late into the Mickey D’s driveway. As I was doing that someone comes out of one of the driveways and cuts off someone in the left through lane, nearly crashing. Only the other driver swerving into the right lane saved an accident. It happened way out in front of me and I saw the whole thing, but I couldn’t help wonder if I had been a distraction to the driver that made that poorly executed left turn.

I had a light breakfast, just an OJ and Egg McMuffin. While I was sitting there, I saw a Evans Police car go by, a couple times. One time, he drove by and made a U-turn at the signal. Hmmm… did an irate driver complain about some weird bike thing and call them? I didn’t do a thing wrong, but you never know. Some cops know the vehicle and traffic laws pretty well when it comes to cars but are sorely misinformed about how they apply to pedal-powered vehicles. I didn’t want to have to educate one. But by the time I left, they were nowhere around, so I never found out.

Skyline & WindmillsThe route back on Route 5 wasn’t bad. It did avoid the dips and climbs and I saw some different places. I’d driven along that road at least once, but you see so much more on a bike. I stopped across the street from a park on the lake shore because there was an awesome view of the Buffalo skyline with the windmills in Hamburg next to it. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a fog that morning and the photos were less than spectacular. As I was walking back to my bike, parked on the sidewalk, my friend drove by on her way to work and honked her horn as if to say “do you need help?” I made a camera motion and she understood!

I retraced my tracks for the most part going back. I was in no hurry and stopped whenever I felt like it. I missed the entrance to one bike path, and did a U-turn to pick it up. Ran the gauntlet again in front of the steel mills. (Still not too busy.) Made my way back to the path that dumped me off on the sidewalk and found it blocked by some construction crew. I snuck by them and found them pulling wires for some lighting that was being installed.

Grain Silos
I took a part of the path that I had skipped on the way down through the outskirts of Tifft Nature Preserve and rode by a lake (maybe just a swamp, but we’ve had a lot of rain.) full of geese. It saved me about a block of road. As I came into downtown Buffalo, I took a few minutes to explore the new Commercial Slip area and saw the new Buffalo Water Taxi. Until I saw it all, I hadn’t realized how it really ties the area all together into something that is more than the individual pieces. HSBC Arena, the Seymour Knox Plaza, the Light Rail terminus, the Commercial Slip, then the Naval Park and the Erie Basin Marina all become one contiguous area just begging to be explored if you’re a tourist. They’ve really got something going there and I don’t think the average Joe in Buffalo realizes it.

Sign

I was wrong. See comments.

The Commercial Slip is nice, but I really think they are overselling the claim that it’s part of the Erie Canal. You could just as easily say Cleveland’s waterfront was part of the Erie Canal, because boats that came through the canal might go there. It’s wonderful for what it is, a restoration of an old period docks and commercial shipping district, but other than some old Governor pouring some water out of a pitcher into the lake there, the only thing it had to do with the Erie Canal was the commerce from the canal made it viable. The actual canal met the Niagara River in Tonawanda. The only thing connecting it to Buffalo is some breakwalls. My point is, they don’t need to steal the thunder from the Erie Canal – leave that for the Tonawandas and places along the actual canal. There’s plenty to promote in the Buffalo site, just don’t claim it was part of the canal unless you can tell me the Erie Canal used to go down Delaware Avenue, but has been filled in.

I stopped again at The Hatch. It was too early for lunch, but I used the restrooms and sat for a while enjoying a Gatorade. Another biker walked by and it was an old friend that I had once done a 200 mile ride with. We sat and talked for nearly an hour.

After that, I began retracing my route along the Riverwalk. Coming from this direction, I found some of the sections I had missed going the other way. The section around the Peace Bridge. Found it ended right where the woman had distracted me. The section along Niagara Street before Rich Products. I should have skipped it again. It was full of root heaves, sections with chain link fence on one side and concrete covered with graffiti on the other. Perfect place to get mugged. And every block, a street to cross where you were supposed to stop. At one point, it corralled you between two railings, then came to an abrupt Tee overlooking the street. To the left, stairs. To the right, a ramp. But it was so narrow, I couldn’t turn the bike, let alone the trailer. Despite knowing I couldn’t turn, but trying to maneuver, I mashed my big chainring against the railing, bending it. I had to dismount the bike to pick it up and turn it around the corner. Same thing with the trailer. You would have had a hard time getting a regular bike through there. Like I said, I should have just stayed out on Niagara Street. So for the rest of the ride home, I couldn’t use the big ring. Not that I needed it much with the trailer. Fortunately, I had changed that ring and still have the original.

I finally got out of Buffalo and onto the bikeway towards Tonawanda. I passed a couple who were loaded tourists – panniers on their bikes and obviously traveling. I talked to them for a bit and found they were going to Syracuse taking the Erie Canalway Trail. They were staying the night in Lockport. The woman was nice enough, but didn’t seem too forthcoming with details, so I didn’t pry further, but I was curious about their trip and wished I could have learned more. I’d certainly offer to help if they needed anything. But they looked like they were getting along just fine and I can understand them not wanting to tell a stranger too many details about their plans.

I lost sight of them when I reached the south end of Isleview Park. I had to stop to take advantage of the rest rooms there. I half expected to see them stopped at one of the restaraunts in Niawanda Park, but didn’t see them again. I stopped though and had lunch again at Mississippi Mudds.

I put my rain pants on before I took off again. My legs were bright red and I had sunburn over sunburn already. I already had a long sleeve t-shirt on to spare my arms. I made it most of the way home before I took them off again, deciding sunburn was better than sunstroke.

In what seemed a few feet down the path, I looked over and saw my brother standing there on a bike. I was already going by him but yelled out his name and pulled to the side of the path. He came over and we talked for a few minutes. He lives in the Riverside/Black Rock area of Buffalo and was out getting some exercise. Small world.

Again, more retracing of the route down. I went back out the Creekside paths into Amherst. This time I stayed on the path longer and instead of crossing into North Tonawanda, stayed on the Erie county side and followed N. Tonwanada Creek Rd. I dabbled with some sections of the bike path along there, but other than finding a little bit of shade, it was easier on the road. I stuck it out all the way to the bridge at New Road and made the entrance into Niagara County and celebrated by stopping at Uncle G’s for a ice cream cone – double Orange Sherbet. That helped me cool off a bit and I rested in the shade there while I ate. I also decided to ditch the pants and take my chances the rest of the way home. The helmet also came off and the cloth hat went on. Sorry, I needed the shade more than a styrofoam brainbucket.

The rest of the ride into Lockport was uneventful, long, hot and uneventful, until I actually reached Lockport. I decided I didn’t want to go down State Road and up High Street because the hill on High Street is steep. I decided that I would instead go over Summit Street and down Transit Street, then turn on High Street already at the top of the hill. It was a good plan. The ride down Summit has a downhill and a slight uphill and Transit is downhill all the way. But when I got to Transit, the street was closed and I couldn’t go down it. Of course, this totally messed up all the traffic on normally busy Transit and I had to continue on Lincoln so I could go out of my way down Pine Street. It was stop and go traffic all the way. Cars were turning off Transit and merging at a Y where there is only a yield sign. Way more traffic than the street usually has. When I got to Pine, there was a police officer directing traffic at the corner. Since it was nearly a parking lot, I had to take the lane and ride along between cars. He didn’t blink an eye as he waved me through. It was like he didn’t care what weird vehicle came along, it was hot and he was stuck directing traffic instead of sitting in his air conditioned patrol car.

But once on Pine Street, at least traffic was moving. I could get some speed as it has a slight downhill, but it also had little traffic coming the other way, so cars could pass me. One more cop at Gaffney and I was home free. Only a few more blocks and I rode into my driveway. The road turned out to be closed because of a sinkhole. It’s still closed today and no one knows what caused it. Probably another leaky water main.

Posted in Cycle Tour, Cycling
5 comments on “120 miles per gallon
  1. Matt Gritz says:

    “The section around the Peace Bridge … You would have had a hard time getting a regular bike through there”

    I’ve ridden this section a couple times. That whole bit is downright scary. The only place in Buffalo since I started running all over the city with the cross country team in high school where I’ve been legitimately worried about running into someone in a bad mood. I have to laugh because I wasn’t really paying attention to location as I was reading until I saw the bit about the railings. Then I instantly knew where you were. That bit is absolutely ridiculous. I’ve always picked up my bike and set it down on the other side of the railing. Can’t imagine what it’s like with the trailer.

  2. Mark Gritz says:

    The Commercial Slip is the original terminus of the Erie Canal, dating back to the days of the mule barges. Mules couldn’t pull along the current of the river, so the canal ran parallel to the river through Tonawanda and Black Rock. After the introduction of powered transport,the canal was re-configured at the turn of the last Century (The same time the modern locks were installed in Lockport). The remnants of the old canal bed serve usefully as Niawanda/Isleview park in Tonawanda, and the I-190 expressway in Buffalo.

    So, I am not claiming the Canal used to run down Delaware Ave, but it did run down the thruway. Somewhere along the Riverwalk in Tonawanda near the power plant, there is a historical marker and, just off the path, an exposed portion of the old canal walls.

  3. Al Gritzmacher says:

    Wow, that’s almost impossible to know from what’s there today. They’ve really obliterated history, just as they did the canal when they built the 190, then.

    I did wonder how mule-driven barges might get up the Niagara River. I was assuming the breakwall that is there today extended all the way to Tonawanda.

    I wonder if Bird Island is really an island, or the canal channel made it into one?

    Next time I ride that way, I’ll pay more attention and see if I can spot that marker.

    A canal down Delaware Ave. would have been cool, though!

  4. Mark Gritz says:

    If you spend some time at the Tonawanda Canal Harbor, there are several very detailed historical plaques with photos of the former configuration of the Tonawanda canal, and how the canal, the creek, and the river were all managed. Look in the plaza on the south side, kitty-corner from the McDonalds.

    Squaw Island is natural, but the Bird Island pier is man-made. I don’t know if it is part of the original course of the canal or not, but there would have been locks there as there is now, because there is a slight rapids under the Peace Bridge.

  5. Matt Gritz says:

    The marker is a few hundred feet north of the south GI bridges, where the trail runs along River Road before (If you’re heading north) cutting back into the park and along the water.

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