By 9 o'clock on Thursday morning, I left my cabin.
It would be a long route -- over 200 miles -- albeit a scenic one.
Before jumping on Canada's QEW (Queen Elizabeth Way) towards Fort Erie, I fueled up and gulped a cup of coffee. The gentleman running the register, said the coffee was "on him."
The QEW was the fastest way to reenter the United States to Peace Bridge. In other words, speeds reached as high as 100 km (62 mph). Just look at the red portions on your speedometer for easy conversion -- that's what I did the entire time.
I began to see signs saying Buffalo, New York.
Then, I crossed the Peace Bridge and filed into customs for autos.
(What you see below is not the aforementioned bridge. This one is the entry point back into the states along the Niagara-on-the-lake side.)
My experience re-entering the States was the antithesis of entering Canada.
I had a pleasant border agent who asked me at most four questions.
He welcomed me back into the United States.
The process took less than five minutes.
From Buffalo, I took 190 South then 5 West.
It was strange navigating west after going east, but that's how it goes when one drives from New York to Pennsylvania.
Along 5 West, you see Lake Erie on your right and dilapidated and abandoned manufacturing plants (from yesteryear) on your left.
As I pass by them, I wonder why they have not been converted and renovated.
The Ford plant -- bright and white -- looks new.
Speeds on 5 vary -- from 40 to 55 mph.
I approach signs for Old Lakeshore Road (scenic byways), so I took that route to exit the great state of New York.
Of course, speeds on Lakeshore ran a bit lower (30 to 35 mph).
It was a picturesque ride with views of Lake Erie, mansions, estates, and Frank Lloyd Wright's famous Graycliff.
I did stop at Graycliff; however, the cost in time (2-hours) and finances ($38) encouraged me to say thanks, but no thanks.
I took an illegal photo of the place on my way out.
I continued my eye-candy ride along Lakeshore on a cloudless blue sky day.
Twists and turns.
Up and down.
Many resorts and retreats sprinkled the roadway.
Then, I reached a state park area and an abrupt stop where I had to go either right or left.
A gas station was on my right, so I turned it around to gas up and ask where I was.
I was in Irving, New York.
In order to go west, I would need to take a right.
No signage (at all).
Luckily, I had a second friendly gas attendant.
Continuing, I passed through many small towns in that part of New York and many dark tangerine-colored license plates.
Then, I began to see sweeping valleys and rows and rows of grape vines.
Lake Erie came in and out of focus.
Unexpectedly, I drove by the welcome to Pennsylvania sign.
It went by so quickly that I really don't even know whether the state welcomed me or not.
When I reached the outskirts of Erie, Pennsylvania, I stopped in for lunch at a random place.
The staff was friendly; the food edible; the patrons kept to themselves.
I ate standing up (for a stretch break, too) and when I finished, I sent a few text messages to Hope (the woman I would be staying with that evening).
When I returned to the pavement, I looked for signs for 19 South.
I had not yet reached the "real" Erie -- the more industrial, urban landscape.
Traffic became more congested.
I stopped for gas and reviewed my map.
Miraculously, I found the slanted turn off from Erie onto 19 South.
My next stop would be Mercer -- where Hope lived.
It was about 70 miles away.
A couple hours later.
Golf courses later.
I reach downtown Mercer.
Rather than contacting Hope, I opted for a library visit to blog.
After paying my $1 fee, I went online for a little over an hour.
It was nearing 5 p.m.
I called Hope.
She was enthusiastic.
Meeting me downtown, she escorted me to her country hideaway.
Backstory on Hope.
She was one of the drivers (and sometimes she bicycled, too) from last summer's Brian's Ride. Her and her daughter picked up the van driving in St. Louis to Annapolis.
(Had it not been for that ride, I would have never met her.)
Hope was kind enough to offer me a two days of rest before riding into Pittsburgh.
We caught up on our experiences during that ride, and discussed various other topics, too.
I opened the bottle of red wine I purchased in Canada, and we drank it with various venison-based dishes she had prepared.
I also tried some of her mouth-watering canning delicacies -- asparagus and two chutney-like mustards.
(This pioneer woman can cook AND can AND flip houses!)
We sat on her deck and shared more stories about our lives.
Her rural getaway was exactly what I needed.
What was most therapeutic was being in the company of a talkative, frank, and open person.
Nearing 10 p.m., I began to show signs of weariness.
She showed me to my upstairs bedroom and bathroom.
I was so tired that I did not shower.
Instead, I brushed my teeth and called it a night.
Tomorrow Hope had plans to take me to a few nearby state parks and quaint borough called Slippery Rock.
Until we meet again, my friend.