Niagara/Erie Pannier Trip Report 2022
by Lee Gartley.
Total distance 564km. Climbed 2876meters of elevation
June 12 Brantford
This tour got started right away. As soon as our group of 14 cyclists checked in to the comfortable Best Western in Brantford, a short pre-ride tour gave an opportunity to see a bit of Brantford and the beautiful Grand River, and stopped at an ice cream shop. Good start.
The informative talk by our leaders, Linda and Geoff, assured us that safe cycling practices would be followed, no one would be left behind or “dropped” and “Ride with GPS” routes were provided for download.
We walked to Kelsey’s for supper, where old friendships were renewed, and new friendships were forged.
June 13 Brantford to Port Dover
After our complementary hotel breakfast, we cycled to Bell Homestead in the town of Brantford. Here, Alexander Graham Bell developed the fundamentals of the telephone.
Then onto the smooth, paved Toronto-Hamilton-Buffalo Rail and the Lynn Valley Trails. No steep hills, the gentle ups and downs were built for trains in a by-gone time. This took us through the Carolinian forest, a complex eco-zone with an extremely high biodiversity, located between Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Lake Ontario.
We rambled through a deep green tranquility under a canopy of leafy branches. Fragrant flowering trees line all the rail trails on the entire route. White flowering bushes, mock orange, among others, have been planted, (I assume). The trail planners have done an excellent job in designing the bike path network.
Later, the pavement was replaced by stone grit and mud.
There were a few soft areas where wider 32mm tires are better, however bikes with skinny tires went through ok.
We rode through farmland, and past tobacco kilns, and huge silos.
At Shadow Lake we stopped to see the amazing view from on top of a very high trestle bridge.
Waterford or Simcoe are good options for a lunch stop. We ate lunch in Simcoe after a detour to a bike shop for a minor repair (free of charge)( Boyko Source for Sports)
Near Port Dover, we slowly cruised through a park with an antique car ‘Show and Shine’ and enjoyed the 1950’s golden oldies music they had blasting.
We stopped by charming little Lynn waterfall, a preview for the big Falls.
Finally, we arrived at Port Dover, a quaint seaside town, with restaurants, lighthouse and pier, and a beautiful sandy beach, where swim-suit and bikini clad people enjoyed the water.
Lake Erie looks like the ocean.
Our home for two nights is the impeccable Erie Beach hotel, with an expanse of soft, green lawn, and meticulous gardens.
We could choose from a selection of takeout restaurants, and have supper on the beach.
Or eat at the restaurant at the hotel-they are famous for their perch. (It was excellent).
June 14 Port Dover to Turkey Point to Port Rowan or Long Point
Breakfast was a bit of a scavenger hunt, Tim Horton was closed due to staffing shortages, unless you used the App. But for a good old-fashioned breakfast special, the ”Dairy Bar” had a full choice of items , don’t be deceived by its name.
The two routes to choose from, Long Point (93km) or Turkey Point & Port Rowan (82km), both were along the same quiet paved road along Lake Erie shore, with rolling hills, including two, short, 16% grade hills.
Along the way we saw….
Wineries: Burning Kiln, Frisky Beaver, Blueberry Winery. We didn’t stop, but could buy these products locally in the restaurants.
Ginseng: entire fields covered in shade screens, it takes 4-5 years for the crop to mature and then only the root is used.
Homes: a mixture of old and new, quaint cottages and magnificent mansions and everything in between.
And of course, the beautiful Lake Erie has some very nice beaches.
We stopped at Turkey Point. It was hard to resist the
waves breaking on the shoreline, the soft, white sand. Take off your shoes and socks. Walk in the water and sand to cool and rejuvenate your feet!
Next onto Port Rowan.
Once a shipbuilding hub, fishery, and manufacturer of windows and doors, now there is just tourism.
We bought lunch at the deli on Main Street and ate at the Lions Club Park right on the shore lined with faded but previously colorful boathouses.
On the way back we had beer and lunch at the Marshview Patio. It was hard to find as the sign says “Eco-challenge, Zip-line”, with “Patio” in the small print. The food was good as was the view of the marsh.
Interestingly the marsh was used for bombing practice in WWII.
We took a slightly different route back traveling on “Spooky Hollow Road”. Under a dense canopy of trees we barreled down a very long steep hill and grinded back up again, in a very dark and green tree tunnel. It was good to have front and back lights on to be seen by traffic.
June15 Port Dover to Port Colborne
This was the longest distance of the tour, 111km, and hottest day.
When the Niagara/Erie Pannier tour was first posted, it was immensely popular and filled up quickly. A second group was added. It started a day earlier and went in the opposite direction to avoid hotel overlap and also filled up.
Today we had a happy rendezvous with the members of the Group Two Niagara/Erie Pannier Ride. Since we had been battling strong headwinds all the way, we figured they must be enjoying a strong tailwind. That would have to be verified by them.
Lunch was in Dunnville at “The Minga”, a highly recommended totally vegan place. If you want meat, go eat at the New Amsterdam Restaurant.
You can’t visit Dunneville without seeing “Muddy” the catfish.
Because it was a long distance we stopped again later for beer and food at the patio of Mohawk Variety on the shore of Lake Erie to cool down in the breeze off the lake and rest a bit.
When we got to our destination, the GoodNite Inn, with pool, hot cyclists immediately jumped in.
Supper was at San Marco Ristorante in Port Colborne, big servings, delicious pasta.
June 16 Port Colburn to Niagara Falls.
The smooth flat Friendship Trail goes through Ridgeway and on to the end of Lake Erie.
Near Fort Erie we got an impressive view of the city of Buffalo skyline on the distant shore.
At Old Fort Erie we checked out the fortifications and chatted with the soldiers in period costumes.
Along the Niagara River is the Niagara Parkway. We were trying to beat an oncoming storm, riding hard into a big headwind. Finally we turned off the Parkway onto a bike path close to the water‘s edge with wooden bridges right over the rushing water. We relaxed, took pics of the rapids and big turbulent waves and the city of Niagara Falls.
However if you stay on the Parkway there is Tim Hortons in Chippewa if you’re dying for a coffee break.
Close to the Falls is the iron scow, 600 meters from the brink. It ran aground on 1918 prompting a daring rescue of the crew. This involved shooting a line from a cannon across the river. The line got tangled, William “Red” Hill climbed out over the line, clung to the lines by his legs and on his second attempt untangled it. A suspended cable carried the 2 crewmen to shore. Since then the wreck had not moved for over 100 years. This year it shifted a few metres towards the Falls making the headline news all across Canada.
We got to the magnificent Niagara Falls. It never fails to impress with the wondrous thundering of the water, and the white mist roiling up from the bottom of the foaming, churning pit. The pale blue water plummets over the edge as it has for millennia.
The last kilometer, up a very steep Murray St., halfway I had to walk up.
Finally at the Rodeway Inn, our home for two nights, huge raindrops started pelting down. We beat the storm.
In the evening there were fireworks over the Falls.
The iconic “Maid of the Mist” is still out there.
June 17. Wine country & Niagara-on-the Lake
We cycled a loop around Niagara region including a section of the Welland canal.
We passed by lift bridges, (be careful not to fall off), orchards, vineyards, gardens and markets. Not as many tourists around in early June compared to harvest season.
Lunch was at the Ironwood Cider House, cider was definitely worth trying.
In the historic town Niagara-on-the-Lake we coasted down vintage Main St. We viewed the gracious old homes in the old neighborhoods.
At Marylyn Bell Park the plaque honours her swim across Lake Ontario in 1954 at age 16 and also the other people who have done it since.
On the Niagara Parkway we cycled up the big hill at the Brock monument.
Only the very energetic (not me) walked up the remaining steps to the see Brock’s statue and the spectacular view from the top.
We stopped at the Whirlpool where the river spins. Amazing.
You can take a cable car over the Whirlpool if you want.
Back to Rodeway Inn, this time I peddled all the way up the very steep Murray St. hill.
Supper time: The restaurants in Niagara Falls are expensive near the waterfall. We walked up Dunn Street and found an area with lots of choices, Thai/Pho, Mediterranean, Indian, Pizza, the prices were right, and food was good. Also, next to the Rodeway Inn is Zappi’s pizza which was very good.
June18 Niagara to Grimsby
It was another windy, cool, jacket morning as we bid farewell to Niagara Falls.
We made a quick visit to the Floral Clock then continued down the Niagara River and along the coast of Lake Ontario.
At Port Dalhousie wind-blown sand, blasted people on the beach as huge, wild, waves crashed on the shore.
Lake Ontario has bigger waves than the ocean at times.
Across the lake, like a mirage floating on top of the water, was the faint skyline of Toronto, identifiable by the spikey CN Tower, the restaurant glinting in the bright sunshine.
It was very strange to see the city of Toronto from this perspective.
Most enjoyable was the beautiful carrousel, described by the operator as a “rideable art form”. The cost for a ride was five cents (donated to charity). We all got on like kids. It was like stepping back in time.
We were almost at the Quality Inn when Rick got a flat. He walked to the hotel where all four guys helped change it.
All totaled we had 3 flats on the tour, but no worries with this team of capable tire changers.
Another good day.
Four men and a tire.
June 19 Grimsby to Brantford
The noisy service road directly beside the QEW is not too scenic, but got us efficiently to Confederation Park and Hamilton Beach. It is so amazing that Hamilton, associated with steel making and heavy industry has a lovely, long, sandy beach, accessible to the public with a wide multi-use paved path that continues through Burlington.
Kudos to both cities for their lovely waterfront.
Through Burlington and Hamilton to the Brantford Rail Trail, it was stop and go city riding.
On the trail in the forest we were sheltered from the wind and shaded from the sun. The dirt and stone-dust surface had a slight uphill grade for first 10 to 15 km and made us work a bit, then it leveled off.
In Brantford, a sharp turn off the trail, and we were immediately out of the forest and in the middle of a suburban neighborhood.
It’s amazing this natural, forested, route exists hidden, steps from civilization.
We made our way through the streets back to our Best Western from where we departed a week ago.
A huge “Thank You!” to Linda Graupner and Geoff Kennedy for bringing us out and getting us back happy, safe and sound.
Thanks to the following people for their photo contributions Sue Potvin, Marg Hurley, Marion Cousins, Elie Kazai, Carole Laflamme, Tim Musclow, Claudette Heiss, Lee Gartley, Rick Cousins, Keith Gartley