Crossing the Peace Bridge into Ontario is a mostly benign experience. I present my passport and answer a few questions: “Citizenship?” “How long will you be in Canada?” “Do you have any weapons?” Wait, what? Do I have any weapons? Well, I guess I am an American, and this is Canada. Fair question.
Welcome to Canada, Eh!
Having lived just across the border from Canada for several years, I am more than aware of the contrast between the two countries, physically and otherwise. While the U.S. and Canada do have many similarities—both were shaped by immigration, have wide open spaces as well as large metropolitan areas, and drive on the same side of the road—there is something different about Canada. Perhaps something more relaxed, more polite, or dare I say, more civilized? Whatever it is, once across the border, I do feel differently. The Harley’s growl suddenly seems a bit much, as if I am disturbing the calm or disrupting an otherwise quiet afternoon of curling.
Rumbling through the streets of Fort Erie on the lookout for a place to refuel the beast, I encounter only friendly faces. At the service station, I fill the tank and overhear a cell phone conversation at the pump adjacent to me. At this point, I can’t help but notice that less than a half mile from the U.S. border, the Canadian dialect is in full force.
After topping off the tank, I make my way over to Old Fort Erie, a popular tourist spot on the shore of Lake Erie. Lakeshore Drive, as the name implies, follows the lake south toward the fort. I stop to take a few photos of the Buffalo skyline.
Old Fort Erie is a reconstruction. The original, which was built by the British in 1764, was destroyed by occupying American troops near the end of the War of 1812. The war was largely perceived by Canadians as an American attempt to annex land and expand U.S. territory. Many of the battles were fought on the shores of Lake Erie. Now operated by the Niagara Parks Commission, it is open daily during the summer months when visitors are free to tour the buildings and grounds.
Continuing along, it has come to my attention just how American my bike is when I notice that my odometer only tracks in miles per hour. This being Canada, kilometers are the rule of thumb. Attempting to put my long-dormant conversion skills to use, I recall that one kilometer is equal to roughly .62 miles and round to .6 miles to make the math easier. I figure that it should stand to reason that 50 km/h is roughly 30 mph; 60 km/h equals 36 mph, and so on.
All of this math makes me hungry as it has been several hours since I’ve had anything to eat. I stop in the town of Ridgeway for a quick bite. No chain eateries here, which is just fine. There are many local establishments to choose from. At a small roadside stand, I opt for a hot dog and poutine, a uniquely Canadian dish made up of French fries, gravy, and cheese curds.
Small Towns, Small Tank
Farther down the road where the trail leads me back to trace the now rocky shore of Lake Erie, I pass through the towns of Crystal Beach and Port Colborne. Modest homes and cottages dot the narrow two-laner. I pass private campgrounds and RV parks, a sure sign that this area is a haven for those looking to escape city life during the warmer months.
Beyond Port Colborne, the road begins to take on a whole new personality. Before long I find myself diving, rising, twisting, and turning on absolutely pristine pavement. I’m so enthralled at times that I find myself dragging my pegs in a few of the tighter turns; certainly nothing unheard of on a Sportster, but a first for me. The route occasionally strays from the water’s edge and goes by farmland where corn and other crops appear to be nearly ready to harvest.
The towns of Lowbanks, Dunnville, Selkirk, and Port Dover lead me to Port Rowan, where I stop to rehydrate and refuel. The little tank on the Sportster and no fuel gauge have me playing it safe, and I’ve made a habit of filling up every 100 to 125 miles. Petrol stations on the Canadian side of the lake aren’t on every corner, and it’s a good idea to plan accordingly.
On both sides of the lake, wind turbines are a common sight. I notice several roadside signs with messages clearly in opposition to the turbines, and they’ve piqued my curiosity; so I ask the attendant at the service station about them. He tells me that there are some ecological and public health concerns being expressed from those living in proximity; so much so that there have been organized protests by those looking to shut down the wind farms permanently.