Second Outing on the Seaway Trail

(This column was first published in the September 7, 1998 Buffalo News.)

    Last fall I rode my bicycle along the Seaway Trail from the Pennsylvania line to Lackawanna. This year I continue to follow that trail -- but now by moped.

    A moped is a motorized bicycle, the name deriving from the words motor and pedal. Mine is an old 1977 Italian model that resided unused in an Attica garage for over ten years. Its top speed is 20 mph which is just right for my kind of exploration. More importantly, it saves me from pumping up hills as the 18 gears on my regular bike are still not enough for my old varicose-mapped legs.

    The next part of my excursion takes me on a beautiful day in mid-August from Tonawanda down the Niagara River to Lake Ontario and along roads near the shore to Lakeside in Orleans County, a distance of almost 90 miles. Much of this route my wife and I have driven many times and I expect that most readers are familiar with it. But this experience is very different: 20 mph on a moped is not at all the same as 40 to 50 mph enclosed in a car -- when I can hold Doris down to those speeds. As just one example: on an automobile ride along this same route I might record two dozen bird species; on this more lesurely trip I see 47.

    Join me to replay this outing.

    We start at the River Road bridge across Tonawanda Creek where the Erie Canal enters the Niagara River. In the first half mile we pass yachts and sailboats worth millions of dollars; even so, this will be the least attractive part of our trip.

    Shortly we reach Gratwick Riverside Park. Here maple trees shrill with the calls of just-awakened starlings and our first cormorants fish just offshore.

    Soon we reach the Niagara Reservation and the rapids above the cascade. A woman with two young children stops us to ask directions to the waterfalls. I point her to the bridge to Goat Island and tell her she can see both American and Canadian Falls from there. "Oh," she says, "I didn't know there were two."

    The sidewalks of Main Street in the City of Niagara Falls are dressed with square wooden planters filled with sunny marigolds.

    Many leaves of the handsome old horse chestnuts on the abandoned DeVeaux Campus have turned brown from the exceptionally dry summer providing a hint of fall.

    A half dozen cliff swallows swoop out to investigate us from their mud nests under the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge. Just minutes later our world opens to that spectacular view of the Ontario Plain where the highway pitches over the escarpment and drops down to the Village of Lewiston.

    The Hornes' mailbox on Lower River Road is adorned with a beautifully carved red-headed woodpecker. We watch for its models in the big oak trees -- typical red-head habitat -- but see none this morning.

    Along the lower river, historical markers describe battles for Fort Niagara where the British defeat the French in 1759 and then us in 1813.

    At our approach hundreds of ring-billed gulls rise from a Lake Ontario bordering field and later several twittering goldfinches accompany us for a quarter mile.

    At Six Mile Creek we stop to watch wood ducks, a green heron, a kingfisher and three butterflies: a monarch, a viceroy and a much smaller pearl crescent, the butterflies' orange and black patterns enriched by the bright sunlight.

    Finally near Lakeview a harrier, to me our handsomest hawk, slowly patrols a meadow silently searching for mice.

    A wonderful day on a gallon of gas.