After the cyclists left, Ed and I went to breakfast, which we had been told was next door at the Best Western motel. Perhaps we should’ve twigged as we waited to be seated and were then served by a friendly waitress, but it was only at the end of the meal when we were presented with a bill each for $13 that we realised that this particular breakfast was not included in our motel bill.
As I checked out of the motel in Niagara Falls, the weather changed from overcast to torrential rain. I got drenched walking/running from reception back to the car, so I could only imagine how soaked the cyclists were getting in their opening miles over the border in the USA. We then dutifully joined the queue of cars on the Rainbow Bridge waiting to cross the border.
It turns out that the (rather slow) Canadian border guard up in Michigan/Ontario was not supposed to remove my visa waiver from my passport as I was leaving the country only days later. Because he did, I had to apply for another one at a cost of $6 and wait ages for the US Department of Homeland Security to stamp some forms. As it happens, I would have had to wait ages anyway for Ed to get his visa waiver, as he had entered Canada directly.
Once across the border the torrential rain continued. We had decided to take the TomTom bicycle route, as we figured that would be more scenic than the interstate that we otherwise would have taken. This, however, turned what should have been a journey of an hour or so into a journey of three or four hours, much of it spent waiting at traffic lights and almost all of it with a visibility of only a few metres ahead, negating the benefits of a scenic route.
Ed and I arrived at the motel just outside Rochester NY in the early afternoon and were joined a couple of hours later by Andy and Alex who had negotiated the opened heavens and arrived courtesy of the TomTom. Neil and Leo, however, had been navigating by map and were not able to find the road to our motel, so were collected in the car from a nearby town.
Day 2 began early and under significantly better weather conditions, with the sun warm but not scorching. Ed and I first drove into Rochester to see what was there, but after not seeing much and being directed to turn around by traffic police, we left. Again following the cycle route, we pushed on towards the town of Waterloo, where Neil and Leo were due to meet us for lunch.
Waterloo is a quiet little town, focused on a crossroads around which there are two banks and a post office. I’m not certain they have many visitors from overseas, as it was something of an ordeal for them to cash an American Express travellers cheque. Firstly, the lady in the post office told me I could only use a travellers cheque of maximum value $5 to pay for some stamps there (she refused outright to simply cash the cheque); who on earth would carry a $5 travellers cheque?
Next stop, the bank across the street, where I was told that I’d be better trying a larger bank, as they didn’t handle them. Finally, the cashier in the larger bank on the third corner of the crossroads took my cheque and showed it to her colleagues before asking me if I bought it overseas. She seemed a little perplexed as to how I could buy a dollar travellers cheque outside of the USA. Once she was satisfied that she did indeed work in a bank and that it was therefore her job to take my $100 cheque off me and replace it with $100 in cash, she took my passport.
Her initial reaction on turning to the penultimate page in my passport was to sigh an “awwww”. I assumed she thought I looked somewhat cuter at the age of 19 than I do now, though in fact she was simply expressing how nice and quaint it must be to be from the UK. I know this because her next question was to ask whether I was “from the United Kingdom or from Northern Ireland”. Unsure as to whether she’d just misread the country’s full name or was attempting to lure me into a sectarian debate on the constitutional position of Ulster, I told her I was from England. After a few moments of confusion about me dating the cheque in the European style and her consequently assuming I thought it was 7th December, she handed me $100.
Neil, meanwhile, had been busy managing to twist his ankle while walking across the carpark towards our car. After a break for lunch, bandaging and the reinflation of tyres, we went our separate ways once more. Ed was keen to visit a nearby museum about the women’s rights movement, so we drove to the neighbouring town of Seneca Falls and tried to find it. After failing entirely, we hit the road once more and headed for a waterfall at Toughannock Falls near the southern end of Cayuga Lake. We drove by countless vineyards and wineries (New York produces more wine than any state other than California) on the long straight road that runs roughly parallel to the lake, before pulling into the carpark. The falls are some 33 feet taller than Niagara Falls, although are infinitely less dramatic. Nice setting though.
We then pushed on to Ithaca, briefly stopping to meet Andy and Alex in the town centre before heading to the motel a few miles out of town. The motel was rather more expensive than the one in Rochester, but was the only available option. It has thick sinking carpets and two swimming pools, but is otherwise pretty standard. The final climb out of Ithaca really took it out of Andy and Alex; Neil and Leo, meanwhile, are a couple of hours behind and should arrive in Ithaca shortly.