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Feathered Friends on the Road – Niagara Falls to Ottawa by Bike

Canada at last! Even the bus ride from Virginia Beach didn't seem too bad, despite the fact that the driver and her navigator kept getting lost and, consequently, kept having bitter arguments. Being lost meant being late, which meant there was no time for food stops and I was starving. When I asked the driver if I had time to get food, she berated me for not bringing food and blamed me for the whole predicament. I explained that I had already eaten the food I brought onboard with me, but in her bloodshot eyes that didn’t absolve me of guilt. Isn't the bus great?


Courtesy of Ontario Tourism. The CN Tower slices the skyline of Toronto.Toronto was fantastic despite the pollution. I stayed the first two days with my mom who was on her way through to Vancouver. Afterwards, I cycled out to Niagara Falls. In St. Catherine's they have a wooden carousel that costs a nickel a ride. I couldn't stop grinning the whole time: it had been ages since I have been on a merry-go-round. Of course, I also had to stop at the wineries. Ontario has some of the worst wines I have ever tasted and it is the only place I know of which charges for samples. Despite this, tourists and locals can't seem to get enough of the wine or the wineries.

The ride to Niagara was uneventful. But, on the ride back, a bird made a rough landing on my head as I was cycling, then proceeded to peck at my helmet. I quickly began to execute evasive maneuvers and swerved all over the road in hopes my feathery passenger would be too confused to stay on his perch. He soon gave up and flew off to rejoice over shooing me away.

Courtesy of Ontario Tourism. A seagull, boat and rainbow dance on the mists of majestic Niagra Falls.Next I headed to Ottawa. Getting to Ottawa proved to be much more difficult than I had thought possible. Allo Stop (a carpool/rideshare company, which I usually use in this part of the world) had been shut down by the bus companies, so I attempted to get a ride out with family friends who were passing through. I had arranged for a company to courier my bike ahead of me so I could ride back to Toronto. They had quoted Cdn.$36 over the phone, but when I reached the depot I was told the quote was invalid because the phone operator had made a mistake. All the info they needed, as well as the price, was on file. Despite this, they kept me waiting for over an hour while their Solutions Department mulled over what to do.

The "solution" was to charge me Cdn.$110 dollars to send the bike at my own risk. So I left my bike in Toronto and set out to wait at the subway station for my ride to Ottawa. While waiting, I met Sven Robinson (the local Member of Parliament for Burnaby where I go to university). He seemed very pleasant. My ride never showed, but I enjoyed talking with Sven. Ironically, I later learned, our family friend and Sven had had a political run-in while in India. Their mutual dislike was to the point that they had developed nasty nicknames for each other.

I went back to the hostel for another long night. The particular hostel I chose apparently tends to attract rowdy travelers who are heavy snorers. The previous night the snoring was so intense that I dreamed a bear was attacking me.

The next day I caught the train to Ottawa. Via Rail shipped my bike with the same courier company to Ottawa for Cdn.$16.


Courtesy of Ontario Tourism. Tourists stop to take photos along Ottawa’s scenic Rideau Canal.On the return journey, I followed the beautiful Rideau Canal to Smith Falls, home of the Hershey’s Chocolate Factory. After a mouth- watering tour, I went to the gift store to buy an obscene amount of chocolate for an incredibly low price. They even threw in free samples just in case I didn't have enough.

Now I am in beautiful Perth, Ontario. (Not to be confused with Perth, Australia where I used to live.) Rural Ontario is a delight. The terrain varies from flat farmland to hilly cottage country where the road meanders trying to avoid the multitude of lakes.

Soon (if the predicted thunderstorms don't get me) I will be back in Toronto to wait for a plane to Europe.

Next month, watch for Tyson "Adventure" Brooks’ update from the road as he flies to Europe and cycles his bike through Amsterdam.

When You Go:

For more information on visiting Ontario, visit the Ontario government's Web site at www.ontariotravel.net or call them at 800-ONTARIO. You can also visit the Ontario Ministry of Tourism's Web site at www.tourism.gov.on.ca.

Contact the Niagara Parks Commission at 905-356-2241 or visit their Web site at www.tourismniagra.com.

Via Rail can be reached at 800-561-8630.