Sunday, August 16, 2009

Over the Falls in a KLR

Eventually, as I arrived in beautiful Niagara Falls, N.Y., the morning overcast burned off and the sun beat down on a very crowded scene, with hawkers waving orange flags to lure vacationers into $10 parking spots, t-shirt vendors, refreshments stands and lots of harried-looking parents herding their kids down to the river's edge.

You could buy two t-shirts for the price of a parking place

Somehow, in spite of growing up only a few hundred miles away on the other end of the New York State Throughway, I managed to avoid ever visiting one of the continent's oldest attractions. Being able to walk up and almost touch so much raw power, it's easy to understand why people have been visiting the Falls for centuries.

What you see as you enter the park at American Falls

Niagara Falls, Canada's skyline is more impressive than the U.S. side's

Riding the Maid of the Mist looked like it'd be fun, if you were a sardine

The boats go right under Horseshoe Falls -- wet and wild

After checking out the state park out on Goat Island, which affords an upclose view of the impressive Horseshoe Falls, I decided I'd had enough of the tourist scene, got on the bike and headed south, planning to stop in State College, Pa., where a friend teaches at Penn State.

I set the Blackberry's GPS to avoid highways and toll roads and it took me to NY 78, called "Transit Road," a miserable hot ride lined by strip malls and frequently interrupted by traffic lights. After an hour or so of that, I escaped the Buffalo urban area and slid into the Allegheny mountains.

In late afternoon, thunderstorms swept through the area I was riding into. In Franklinvlle, N.Y. the front yards of homes along the road south were flooded, the pavement was wet and approaching cars had their wipers on. In Ischua, the rain caught me and I stopped under the roof at a gas station/mini mart where a couple of muddy ATV riders who were waiting out the storm drinking sodas and eating slices of pizza.

That seemed like a good idea, so I bought a couple of slices of pepperoni and a Diet Pepsi and joined them. After about a half hour, the rain stopped, the ATVers buzzed off on their muddy four-wheelers and I headed past Olean, N.Y., crossing into Pennsylvania at Bullis Mills and gliding through the hollows down to Sizerville, where I spotted the tents and trailers of a state park campground.

The rain had stopped and the forecast was good, so I pulled in to spend the night.

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