Tuesday, June 12, 2012

We took a little ride. (Day 1 - Home to Toronto)

Last Wednesday, Chris and I set off on a six-day international motorcycle adventure. The purpose of our trip was to be in Byron Center, Michigan on Saturday, June 9th for our friend Clay's annual ST.N BBQ. We decided to take "the long way" to get there by traveling up to and through Ontario on our way to Michigan. 

While we were gathering our clothes Tuesday evening, I asked Chris what time we needed to leave Wednesday morning so I could set the alarm clock accordingly. He said we should be on the road no later than 8 AM. Wednesday morning, we were up, packed, suited up, and ready to roll out of the garage at 7:49 AM.

Rolling out early...it's a little chilly!
Chris and I both opted to start the day with our liners inside our jackets; this proved to be a VERY wise decision! It was 55 degrees when we left the house and dipped as low as 52 degrees about 50 minutes later outside of Clearfield. Brrr!!! The first part of our route was a bit of a repeat from our adventure to Kane and the Kinzua Bridge two weeks ago. We headed out US 322 through Philipsburg to Clearfield where we picked up PA 153 to US 219. We stayed on US 219 through Ridgway and Johnsonburg to Bradford.

On US 322 leaving Port Matilda heading toward Philipsburg.

It's a junkyard, dawg!

Hey, there's the Hound radio station again!

Back in Ridgway, PA.

The paper plant in Johnsonburg; it was a little stinky that day.

Riding through the Allegheny National Forest on US 219.

Hi, Pete! (My colleague Pete works at Pitt - Bradford).

Bradford, PA is the home of Zippo! When in town, do the museum tour!
Just north of Bradford, we turned off of US 219 onto PA 346 where we found a Tim Horton's inside of Crosby's gas station. I was thrilled to discover this Timmy's serves STEEPED TEA! Chris got a Boston Cream doughnut and I had a bagel with cream cheese along with my steeped tea. I sent my mom a text to brag that I was enjoying a Tim's steeped tea; she was totally jealous!

Tim Horton's steeped tea is awesome!

I should have had Chris take this plate since I didn't wind up getting a souvenir from the trip!
Following our late breakfast stop, we continued out PA 346 to PA 646 which turned into NY 16 and led into the town of Olean, NY. We stayed on NY 16 until it met NY 400 - the Aurora Expressway. We took NY 400 to I-90 to I-190 toward Buffalo. We stopped for gas outside of Buffalo-proper and then continued  to the Peace Bridge where we crossed into Canada.

Well, hello NY! This was my first time in NY on the bike.

Despite bear crossing signs every mile for 6 miles, we did not see any bears.

Chili, the ST.N mascot, traveled with us for this trip.
Here, he supervises our fuel-up.

Shuffle off to Buffalo.

First Niagara Center, home of the Buffalo Sabres.

Our friend Marty recommended crossing at the Peace Bridge and his suggestion was spot-on!

Stop here for goods free from duty.

Leaving the US, heading toward Canada on the Peace Bridge.

Flags mark the international border on the Peace Bridge.

Welcome to Canada, eh!

In keeping with the measurement system of our host country, we changed our GPS over to metric.
Crossing at the Peace Bridge was our friend Marty's suggestion. THANK YOU, MARTY! There was very little traffic, the border guard was very friendly, and it allowed us to arrive at Niagara Falls "the back way" which, again, meant very little traffic. With regard to our border crossing, it was so easy to enter Canada. The border agent asked us to turn off the bike, but did not ask us to remove our helmets (yay!). She asked the basic "why are you here, how long are you staying?" questions before sending us on our way with a "have a safe trip!" 

We rolled into Niagara Falls (Table Rock) about 15 minutes later and Chris was DELIGHTED to discover that motorcycle parking was only $10 as opposed to the $18 he had seen online earlier in the week (no m/c parking fees were listed online). We parked the bike, stashed our valuables, secured our helmets onto our new helmet locks under the top case, and headed off to be tourists for a few hours. We snapped a few pictures of the falls before heading inside in search of rest...er, washrooms, currency exchange, and lunch.

Photographer Chris!

The Maid of the Mist. One of these days...

My handsome hubby at Niagara Falls.

Representing the Pens at Niagara Falls!

Chris, Chili, and me.
The falls erode about 1 foot every 10 years.

Chris wanted to bring this giant stuffed beaver home with us!
The Welcome Centre at Table Rock.
Inside the Welcome Centre was gorgeous!

Chris' camera has CRAZY zoom!!!

Hmmm...well, I know "frommage" is cheese...

We got pizza combos (Chris' with fries, mine with salad) for lunch. Chili approved.

This little House Sparrow enjoyed the fry tidbits we tossed him.

And this seagull enjoyed my pizza crust.

Here's Chris and me at Niagara Falls.

A marker about the park and powerhouse.

The view from our primo $10 parking spot!
Once we were done being tourists, it was time to make our way to Toronto. We left Niagara Falls via the 420 to get back to Queen Elizabeth Way. 

Suited up and ready for the trek to Toronto.

Carriage ride around Niagara Falls, anyone?

The boring American side.

Heading "up" toward "downtown" Niagara Falls.

We saw several cars in Canada that we've not seen in the US,
including this Mercedes B200 available in Canada since 2005.

To Toronto, please!

Canadian wine in the making!

The QEW kept us close to the shores of Lake Ontario.

Ministry of the Environment...sounds like a Harry Potter office!
Thankfully, we didn't encounter too much traffic in/around Toronto since it was still somewhat early in the afternoon rush hour (around 3:30 PM). From the QEW, we took the 427 to the 401 to the 400 to get just north of Toronto-proper to Vaughan and our hotel, the brand new Aloft. We encountered about two minutes of rain outside of Mississauga and the skies were quite threatening when we arrived at the hotel. We checked in, got showered and dressed, and walked to the Canyon Creek Chophouse for dinner. It was at dinner that I discovered that unsweetened iced tea isn't something that is widely available in Ontario. After this disheartening revelation, I realized I was going to have to settle for club soda while I was in Canada. Oh well...

Following dinner, we walked over to Vaughan Mills (similar to Arundel Mills for you Baltimoreans reading this). We started at Bass Pro Shops and walked a lap around the mall with a stop in the most awesome store ever! (You'll see in the pictures below.) After being on the bike all day, it felt great to stretch our legs a bit. When we returned to the hotel, we hit the pool for some additional relaxation (the water was quite warm) before returning to our room to turn in for the night.

Our standard king room at the brand new Aloft (opened the first weekend of May).

The closet area.

Separate sink area.

The walk-in shower complete with shampoo and shower gel dispensers on the wall.

Heading toward Bass Pro Shops to browse.

Stormy skies behind our hotel (the white building near center).

Canadians have some funny signs, pedestrian and roadway alike.

PRO HOCKEY LIFE!!! So much hockey gear, so little time to look at all of it!!!

Chris surveys the scene.

Pads, pads, and more pads!

How about some hockey sticks?

I spy a home Penguins jersey!

And an away jersey!

Check out our rock star parking spot behind the sign, to the left of the main entrance!
We left our house at 7:49 AM and arrived at the hotel about 8.5 hours later at 4:30 PM. We were probably stopped at Niagara Falls for about 2 hours and another 30 minutes earlier in the morning at Tim Horton's so our "on the road time" was approximately 6 hours. We traveled approximately 310 miles on Day 1. 

Stay tuned for Day 2...

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