Circumnavigation

(This column was first published in the September 3, 2001 Buffalo News.)

Earlier this summer during one of those extremely hot weeks, I rode my moped around Lake Ontario. I had wanted to do so for many years.

My interest in this circumnavigation first arose when I began following the Seaway Trail several years ago. Since then I had ridden from the Pennsylvania line near Westfield along Lake Erie to Buffalo, on down the Niagara River to Youngstown and along Lake Ontario as far as Point Breeze. This trip would extend my trip along the Seaway Trail to the Thousand Islands.

But I didn't travel in the same direction. I began this excursion in Lewiston, crossed the bridge to Queenston, and circled the lake clockwise. That was a good choice because I got the difficult part out of the way first.

Fortunately I carried with me an excellent book, Harvey Boltzman's 'Round Lake Ontario: A Bicyclist's Tour Guide, which provides not only a detailed route but all kinds of additional information about lodging, services, attractions and side trips. Anyone planning such a trip should carry it.

My first day took me from Lewiston west to Hamilton and on around east through Toronto. Although my proximity to the lake made the ride comfortably cool, it was not nearly so comfortable riding in Canadian traffic. Even by car I have always found this trip a challenge. By bicycle or moped I rate it death-defying.

I followed Route 81 through St. Catherines and Grimsby to Hamilton and then Route 2 and other city streets through Toronto. None of them provide any allowance for bikes and I found myself being constantly squeezed by speeding cars passing inches from my left elbow. I had visions of myself hurtling into a roadside ditch or crushed against a parked car. If I were to follow this part of my route again I would do so between 2:00 and 6:00 a.m.

But that was the tough part of the trip. I stayed overnight just east of Toronto and arose the next morning, my nerves having finally settled during a good night's sleep, to set out on the rest of the voyage. I soon realized that my first difficult day was well worth the effort. From Toronto all the way home was a delightful four day ramble.

It wasn't, however, entirely without mishap. As I rode along a country road south of Brighton, Ontario, my moped suddenly jerked to a halt. Foolishly, I had failed to fill my oil tank and it had run dry.

As I stood beside my inoperable machine wondering what to do, a pick-up truck pulled up beside me. The driver asked if I was having trouble and, when I explained my problem, offered to take me and my bike to a small engine repair shop. He drove me to the shop, introduced me to the owner and, refusing any payment, sped off. Foolishly I didn't even learn his name.

Nor did I learn the name of the repairman who ordered the special oil I required from a friend across town and filled my tank. He refused any payment except for the oil. (I recall only the name of his shop -- C. W. Enterprises.)

I still cannot believe my good fortune and the kindness of these exemplary yet I believe typical Canadian good neighbors.

There is more to tell about the lovely lake vistas, the remarkable free ferry ride across the Bay of Quinte, the spectacular passage across the Thousand Islands, the lovely scene from the height above Henderson Harbor or the pleasant ride the rest of the way back to Buffalo.

Those stories await another time.-- Gerry Rising