Bike Tour 2013 - Opposites Attract Tour


Jim and Tom's 16th Bike Tour

Prologue

Welcome to Jim and Tom's Opposites Attract Tour. Since opposite magnetic poles attract one another, we often say opposites attract. On this tour there are opposites such as rain and sunshine, tailwinds and headwinds, cloudy skies and clear skies, hills and flatland, USA and Canada, a happy face and a clown face, a good looking guy and a scary guy, and finally, good cops and bad cops. Meaning, this is one attractive tour.

Saturday, July 27, 81 miles (Tom), 86 miles (Jim), Avg 12.4 mph, 6h31m riding time, 4560 climbing ft.
Mercer, PA - Corry, PA

Day 1 Map

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Start

We wake up at 6:00am and start riding about 7:15am, but quickly discover that Jim's bike computer is not working. Jim bought a new set of wheels for this tour and the bike shop didn't transfer the little magnet from a spoke of the old front wheel to the new wheel. So, we head back to Jim's place, find the old wheel, and transfer the magnet. Time to start again only now it's 7:40am.

This time we get about 7 miles into our first day and Jim gets a flat tire on the back wheel. So far, this isn't working out too well. After the flat is fixed it's time to ride some more.

On the other hand, the temps are in the 60s with no wind, and it's cloudy. The riding is really quite pleasant as we are rolling through the rolling countryside on deep back roads. We ride through a green tunnel and there are several nice downhills. I guess it's no big deal having a little mechanical problem.

We get on PA 965 in Jackson Center and come to a downhill on this nice road. Of course, after a downhill often comes a big uphill. The uphills are fun too.

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Rottweiler Place

This place raises Rottweiler dogs and is just too inviting for us to refuse. The painted rock is also interesting, and there's a wood fence (not visible) that has a picture of a big Rotteweiler drawn on it. After our stop we ride toward Sandy Creek Valley and see a sign that says, "Keep America Free, Fire Obama." We also come across the following creative piece of art.

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Smile

This looks like a drunken smile face to us. We like it. The property we are on is part of a very large yard, and just across the street is a small house with a small yard. What does it mean? It means opposites attract!

Soon we come to a very nice downhill to Sandy Creek Valley where we join US 62.

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Polk

Jim and I arrive in the town of Polk, where, as you can tell, the party just never stops.

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Day 1 Hill

There's a big climb out of Sandy Creek Valley and the picture here just doesn't do justice to this hill we just climbed. Plus, Jim almost bites the dust as a van just misses him when he zones out and starts crossing the road too soon. Remember, Jim is really old, but his mother always told him to look both ways before crossing the street.

The traffic is picking up a bit as we ride into Franklin. We see a license plate that says, "Death by Taxes" as we traverse a very steep downhill that goes into Franklin. When we reach the central business district we come to a park.

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Franklin

Here's the fountain in the park in Franklin where we stop for a rest. In the fountain there's a statue of a dead person that was paid for by taxes.

We also visited this fountain on the Ups And Downs Tour in 2008 (look here).

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Franklin Fountain

Here is a full view of this nice ornate fountain in a pretty park, paid for with taxes.

All of a sudden it starts to rain lightly, so we decide to grab some lunch at the French Creek Cafe and sit out the rain. We have a very nice lunch on a main street of Franklin which has a well preserved downtown area located in an all around pretty city.

After lunch the rain has stopped and we ride to the Justus Bike Path. Here we stop at the Country Pedalers bike shop and Jim pumps up his tires and buys a frame pump for his bike. Next, we ride the bike path along the Allegheny River. About 2.5 miles down the path, Jim gets another flat tire on his rear wheel.

This time we look at the wheel very closely and notice that the flat came from the wheel side (not the road side) and that the rim tape was not completely covering one of the spoke holes. Jim uses my bike and takes this wheel back to the Country Pedalers and gets some new rim tape installed and a new tube. This also means that Jim rides 5 more miles than I do today.

We have been at this location before too (look here).

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Pumpjack

A pumpjack is also known by other names: nodding donkey, pumping unit, horsehead pump, rocking horse, beam pump, dinosaur, sucker rod pump (SRP), grasshopper pump, Big Texan, thirsty bird, and jack pump).

Many claim the oil industry began right here and this pumpjack along this bike trail is a monument to those beginnings.

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Allegheny River

We ride by the clean, calm, and majestic Allegheny River. This bike path takes us to Oil City.

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Oil City

This oil derrick replica is also a tribute to the beginnings of the modern day oil industry in Oil City. This area is filled with old oil pumpjacks and other infrastructure from that era.

We ride PA 8 out of Oil City and head to Oil Creek State Park. We climb some steep hills looking for a bike path but take a wrong turn and end up climbing out of the park. When we figure out we missed the bike path, the only option is to join PA 8 again. This becomes a nice long one mile downhill, with a good shoulder (though a tad narrow at one point), that takes us to Titusville. We stop here on a city bench for a snack.

Church Run Road takes us out of Titusville and to PA 89. We have a nice tailwind now with light traffic (all pickup trucks). Some people are outside enjoying picnics. There are some climbs and some nice downhills.

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Cows

Here are a few of Tom's favorite girl friends. Tom is such a good looking guy that a few cows are rushing over to get a better look.

This road is nice but not excellent. After 15 miles or so we come to a bike path where we pass an Amish buggy on our way to Spartansburg.

After Spartansburg, we head north on PA 77 and some punk yells something about our clothes, but we can't understand him. Young punks that drive by fast and yell something at us just don't understand that most likely we will not understand what they are saying. Therefore, it's hard for us to be offended.

This is a nice road with some hills and a nice downhill into Corry, PA. We've been just missing rain all day and as we arrive at our destination it starts raining. By 10:00pm it becomes a downpour. This is a very attractive day.

Sunday, July 28, 73 miles, Avg 13.2 mph, 5h31m riding time, 2500 climbing ft. and 3300 downhill ft.
Corry, PA - Angola, NY

Day 2 Map

We get up at 6:30am and have some breakfast. We are out the door and riding by about 7:30am with temps in the low 60s and clouds overhead we are ready to roll.

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Corry, PA

First, we bid a fond farewell to Corry, PA just before riding out of town.

At the north end of town we find Sciota Road and head towards N.Y. This is a pretty road that's in good shape with a few climbs. After crossing into N.Y. there is a nice downhill into the town of Clymer. We head north on Clymer-Sherman Road and see a sign that say "Oil and Chips" (in Minnesota we call this 'seal coating') but never encounter any of those dreaded little stones. Instead this is a nice new smooth road.

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Purple Martin House

This purple martin house actually has purple martins in it.

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They're a tad blurry but the purple martins are there.

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Sunflowers

We also start seeing some sunflowers that brighten our day. What a happy face.

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Amish Sign

We haven't seen any Amish people yet today, but we must be near a colony.

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Scarecrows

Here are some nice scarecrows and one scary guy.

While Jim and I are admiring the scarecrows a dog is barking at us from a nearby yard. The owner comes out, while talking on the phone, to investigate and we say, we like the scarecrows." He says back, "it's the lady's idea."

We cross under I-86 and find another nice downhill into Sherman where we stop so I can buy a caramel roll. While enjoying the roll, a friendly local woman comes up to us with a flyer that is advertising "Pedal for the Pilgrimage", which is a ride that will happen here in September. I tell her I'm from Minneapolis but Jim offers to post it in his local bicycle shop.

After out rest we head east out of Sherman on NY 430. This is a pretty road with a number of rolling hills.

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NY Hills

Jim and I were in these parts a couple of years ago and the hills still look the same (look here). 430 takes us to Mayville, a city we visited a couple of years ago.

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Mayville Courthouse

Here is the picturesque Mayville Courthouse.

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Big Hill

We head WNW on Portage Road (designated bike route 17) and here our nice tailwind has turned into a crosswind. This hill just outside of Mayville looks like fun. And, the hill is fun with a nice velvet smooth shoulder. The top of the hill is at elevation 1500 ft. and the bottom of the hill is at 700 ft. as we cross the Portage Escarpment and enter Westfield. Our descent marks another pair of opposites. The hilly portion of our trip is over and the remainder is much flatter as we travel along lake plains.

As we enter the city of Westfield we see some impressive looking homes.

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Westfield

The main drag of Westfield is picturesque. We ride along the main drag to McKinley Ave.

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Grapes

McKinley goes under I-90 and leads us to grape country. Soon we reach NY 5 that follows the Lake Erie Shore. We head NE on 5 (designated bike route 517) and, as expected, the terrain is much flatter now around the lake. We have been on this road a couple of times before and it's a nice bike friendly road. Occasionally there are dips down to streams that flow into Lake Erie.

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Lake Erie State Park

We catch a nice view of Lake Erie from Lake Erie State Park. We ride through the Town of Dunkirk that encompasses the City of Dunkirk.

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Lunch in Dunkirk

When we arrive in the City of Dunkirk, NY we stop for a leisurely al fresco lunch at Demitri's on the Lake with a nice view of the harbor, and a pleasant breeze blowing across the deck. Several motorcycle riders are here for lunch but they all seem preoccupied with using their smartphones. This place is too pretty to be spending all that time staring at a phone if you ask us.

Our next stop is Silver Creek (we've been here before, look here)

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Silver Creek

We have seen this fountain in Silver Creek a couple of times before. It's a local hangout for teenagers. When we leave Silver Creek a car turning onto 5 gets too close to Jim and he's forced to slow down quickly and I almost rear end his bike. Close call averted.

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Kitsch

We never get tired of this place (that we have seen twice before, look here).

At the Cattaraugus River the road construction project is not bike friendly. We have to ride on a narrow sidewalk that has concrete slabs with horizontal metal rods sticking out of them. Then we enter the Seneca Nation Indian Reservation where there are lots of places selling real cheap cigarettes. The rest of today's trip is on a nice smooth designated bike lane that takes us to Angola. Another great and attractive riding day!

Monday, July 29, 73 miles, Avg 11.5 mph, 6h21m riding time, 1500 climbing ft. and 1540 downhill ft.
Angola, NY - Dunnville, Ontario

Day 3 Map

We rise and shine at 6:00am and see light rain outside. We saved some of our food from dinner last night and also bought some cereal. Now we realize that eating this food will be difficult as we have no utensils. Crafting ways to eat breakfast passes the time as the rain slowly stops and leaves wet roads behind. The temp is 59 and, of course, it's still cloudy. We start riding about 7:50am.

We get back on 5 and head northeast with a nice tailwind. Soon we jog left and get on Lake Shore Road.

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Lighthouse

Along Lake Shore we come across this nice lighthouse in Wendt Beach County Park. There are also many soccer fields here that we pass by.

This route has many trees which reduces the tailwind aiding our ride. The entire Lake Shore Road is lined with either parks or residential homes with several large mansions on Lake Erie, and of course, more modest homes on the other side of the road. The traffic is quite light even though this is rush hour. However, the traffic picks up as we get closer to Buffalo.

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Buffalo Across Lake Erie

The Buffalo skyline and some wind generators appear from across Lake Erie as we approach 5 again. This neighborhood is called Clifton Heights.

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And again a little later on

We rejoin 5 at the 'squish point' which means we missed a turn. On our last trip through here (see "A Tale of Two Bike Tours"), two trucks could have squished us together at this point (look here). This time the route had us turn before this point but we missed it. I hope this is the last time I ever bike through this spot.

After we join 5 again we pick up our nice tailwind once more. The gusts are 15-20 mph or more. Finally get off 5 and go through Lackawanna on some neighborhood roads. Make our way through an older neighborhood with some kids playing in a park and then ride over a channel.

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A Channel in Buffalo.

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Grain Elevators

A short distance later we see these nice old grain elevators.

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Tifft Nature Preserve

And, a short distance later we stop at a cattail marsh, which is part of the the Tifft Nature Preserve. Next, we ride Ohio Street and cross over the Buffalo River. I decide it's time for a cappuccino and we search for a Starbucks. This involves zigging and zagging through downtown Buffalo (and passing by the beautiful Buffalo City Hall) until we finally find the Starbucks. After I re-energize on some caffeine, we head to the Peace Bridge.

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Peace Bridge

Crossing the Peace Bridge this time was a bit different than our previous crossing. We actually saw signs telling bicycles to follow a somewhat convoluted path that leads us to the other side of the bridge. Thus we are now riding on the sidewalk against the oncoming traffic. (Look here to see the last time we crossed the Peace Bridge).

When we get to the Canadian side, there are more signs for bicycles. The curious part is that there is a 6 ft. wide gap in the concrete barriers that exposes a sidewalk leading down to the Niagara River - which is where we are heading. It would have been easy to just skip customs all together. We decide against taking this route as we want to obey the rules and go through customs. It seems like an obvious hole in their security though.

The first booth we come to tells us we have to go into some building and get processed. We stand in line for 15 minutes, or so, and not a single person is processed. Jim steps outside the building and talks to a friendly customs agent who tells him we can go through a different door and someone will help us. The first guy we talk to tells us we have to go back to where we came, but someone behind the desk says that he can help us. This is very fortunate as we make it out of there in about two minutes. He's the good cop.

When we leave it also seems weird as we have no proof that we ever went through Canadian customs. Oh well, time to ride on, though we will always wonder if we could have just skipped customs altogether.

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Dowtown Buffalo

We ride to Queen St. and then to the Niagara River. Here is a view of Downtown Buffalo from Ft. Erie, Canada.

We get on a bike path that leads to the Friendship Trail. It starts out in neighborhoods but then turns into a greenway that was an old railroad line. This is a very nice smooth bike path and not very busy. It is a cool, cloudy day and now there is a crosswind. This doesn't affect us much as the path is pretty well sheltered.

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The Friendship Trail

We stop for lunch at a grocery store called Joe's Value Mart located in the Ridgeway area. We have a wonderful lunch on a bench just outside the store. When we resume riding we enter an area that is more agricultural. After 18 miles of bike path we arrive in Port Colborne.

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Welland Canal

Here we ride across a lift bridge that spans the Welland Canal. This is a grated bridge and the cars make music as they drive across. We have left the bike path now and ride through Port Colborne. We stop to consult a map when a friendly local gives us directions from Clarence (the street we are on) to Killaly (where we want to be). This is when a few neighborhood kids challenge us to a bike race. We tell them, "they win" and continue riding to Killaly.

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Clever Advertising in Port Colborne.

When we finally reach Killaly we follow it to Main St. and Main St. eventually turns into Highway 3. At this point we have a strong headwind to fight. Highway 3 is busy with a narrow shoulder, so riding is not ideal. We ride to Ratler but this road soon turns to gravel forcing us to head back to 3. A short distance later we try Abbey Road but it too becomes gravel. This time we continue for about one mile to Daily Ditch Road and after a short distance we continue west on Feeder Road, still with a stiff headwind.

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Canal Road

Before long this turns into Canal Bank Road that runs alongside this former canal. Next we bump into some construction but we easily get through it, and continue on until Inman Road. Here we see several very nice farm houses. We take Inman to Mumby, then to North Shore Drive. This takes us the Riverside Motel on the Grand River.

Tuesday, July 30, 96 miles, Avg 12.3 mph, 7h45m riding time, 2548 climbing ft. and 2272 downhill ft.
Dunnville, Ontario - London, Ontario

Day 4 Map

We are up at 6:00am and ready to find some breakfast. We follow Zena's (the owner) advice and check out some breakfast places. Knoll's and the German Deli are closed until 8:00am and 9:00am respectively. Doesn't anyone have to get to work before that time? We settle on the Donut Diner which is filled with salt of the earth Canadian patrons, including a guy who says "Goddamn" all the time. Then a guy rides his bicycle through the parking lot with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth. We feel right at home here.

We start riding at 8:15am and head west riding alongside the Grand River. Mostly this is wall-to-wall houses along the river side of the road with corn fields and pasture on the other side. There is this one house that surprises us.

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Confederate Flag

We are not expecting to see a Confederate flag in Canada (although a subsequent web search shows that this symbol of racism and slavery has some popularity in rural parts of Canada). There is also a Canadian flag in the adjacent window.

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Grand River Scenic Parkway

The road we are following is the Grand River Scenic Parkway. It's a nice road with not too much traffic. We also see some wind turbines on the other side of the river.

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The Expansive Grand River

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Shadow

We take an action shot to capture the nice shadow.

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Cayuga Bridge with Mare's Tail Clouds

This bridge in Cayuga traverses the Grand River. It is in poor shape and there's some ongoing construction to repair it.

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Sorry!

A short time later we see this interesting sign. Does this kind of advertising really work? Since we are still running on the breakfast we ate at the Donut Diner, we decide against trying this place out.

We continue west on the smooth Talbot Road 3 out of Cayuga. In a few miles we reach Haldimand Road 20 and head northwest.

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High Voltage Towers

Before long we cross under this impressive array of High Voltage Towers.

The next town we come to is Hagersville and we stop for some snacks and a break, sitting on a bench near the intersection of the main streets. Unlike many towns in the US, the busy highways run right through the center instead of bypassing the town.

After leaving Hagersville, Haldeman 20 turns into Indian Line Road. There are more trees here on the Indian Reserve and many modest tobacco shops. Our next turn is Jenkins Road.

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Backroad

We're riding the backroads of Canada.

Soon we hit some gravel and reroute north on Cockshutt Road to Oakland Road, which takes us to Oakland. This road is busier but nice and smooth. Just before the town of Scotland we stop at a bike rest stop for a major bike trail and have some snacks. The information sign board there tells about the agricultural history (e.g., tobacco) in the area and some of the crops that now replace a lot of the tobacco.

A family pulls up and they all start riding bikes on the trail. One woman (who appears to be 40ish) is having a bike problem. Her bike chain is not in sync with the gears. I offer to help with this problem. She thanks me and wishes Jim and I could ride with them in case they need help again. They are very grateful and I feel like Mr. Super Bike Wrench even though all I did was move the chain onto the chainring.

The next town is Scotland and we ask two young women on a smoke break for advice on a slight jog in out route. They did not know and pulled out their cellphones in full sunlight and squinted a lot. Finally they said to go straight (which is impossible). We pull out our paper maps and figure out that most likely we need to take a left until we find County Road 3.

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Interesting Agriculture

On County 3 we see interesting agricultural areas including this one under dark tarps.

County 3 is a ten mile stretch that leads to Norwich. Here we stop for some lunch at Foodland Grocery. We bought some salads, etc. after the Bakery/Deli didn't pan out.

We head north out of Norwich and turn west on Quaker St. There is an historic Quaker site here. We pass by some very nice farm houses with large silos and they appear to be well capitalized. One had a grain elevator for trucks. The rolling countryside pastoral and mostly well cared for.

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Whiteface Clownman and Sheep

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Sunscreen Clown Face

We bump into a gravel road at Dereham Line Road and head south to Mt. Elgin Road.

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Hilly Farmland Area

Along this rooute an elderly lady has thrown a blue ball down the road. I help by picking up the ball and bringing it back to her. When I start to ride again, she smiles and throws the ball again. Jim grabs the ball and throws it back to her and we ride away fast to avoid getting into an infinite ball throwing loop.

Next there's a slight jog north at Pigram Road, then west on Crampton (gravel road) to Putnam Road. The farm houses along here are quite impressive. Many are made of brick and some are quite ornate. We only see a single abandoned house. At one point a dog chases us but not with much conviction.

We head north on Putnam Road to Cromarty Drive. We are bouncing around trying to avoid gravel roads. It's surprising to us how many gravel roads there are this close to a major city like London. Many of these roads are paved for two miles, then gravel for some distance then back to paved. Hey, this is another pair of opposites - smooth and rough.

We head south on Dorchester, west on Crampton (previously gravel), jog north on Westchester Bourne, and west on Dingman.

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Gravel Road

This too turns into a gravel road but turns back into pavement after crossing Old Victoria Road. There's not much traffic on any of these roads, just the occasional commuter from London.

We pass by a cyclist as we cruise to Wellington Road. There's a tailwind as we head north on Wellington which takes us to Exeter and then two blocks to our hotel where we meet Laura. She had toured London earlier in the day, including a visit to Labatt Park, the oldest continuing operating baseball grounds in the world.

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The final destination

Total Distance 323 miles (Tom) and 328 miles (Jim)

EPILOGUE

After a nice visit to London, Ontario, we head back to the USA. It's a beautiful day as we pull up to Customs on the Peace Bridge and hand the Customs Agent our passports. Things now get a little strange. Mr. Bad Cop Customs guy asks me if I had ever lost my passport. I'm about to say, "yes, 21 years ago in Paris", but after I just say, "yes' he immediately asks me my mother's maiden name, and runs around the car writing down the license plate number and other things. All of our passports are placed in an orange plastic bag. That's never a good sign.

You see, back in 1992 I did lose my passport in Paris while cashing some traveler's checks (remember those things). Anyway, I have been subjected to a number of Q/A sessions at customs as I reenter the USA. This just seems like what happens when you lose a passport.

However, in the last 6 or 7 years, when the Customs Agent notices that this happened in 1992, they just let me pass on through. This guy was having none of that. He tells me they have to make sure I'm not traveling with a fake passport. It seems hard to believe that someone could now get into the USA with a passport I lost 21 years ago.

When I finally get to talk to someone else, inside the building they directed us to, he apologizes to me for having to still go through this kind of a thing more than 20 years after the passport was lost. He says he will try to get this removed from my record but the only way I can find out for sure is to go through customs again. I can't wait but he's a good cop.

We make out way across the border and go have a lovely lunch at Betty's restaurant in Buffalo. Welcome home!