High atop the Niagara Escarpment, the Brock Monument seemed as lofty and enchanting as Shangri-La when the rain clouds parted and it came into view. The cycle path was mercifully gentle as we started climbing toward the 19th-century stone column, but then again, we were hauling a pair of bike trailers containing two infants, their overnight paraphernalia, our luggage, and the spoils of visits to various tasting rooms. And we were running late for our Sunday afternoon train. This Niagara wine tour was turning into quite the adventure.
Fact is, the words "adventure" and "Niagara wine tour" rarely appear in the same sentence. These jaunts typically involve leisurely drives or bicycle rides between the peninsula's bucolic vineyards (often book-ended by gruelling journeys along the infamously busy Queen Elizabeth Way). But it's amazing what the presence of two eight-month-olds - and the Bike Train service from Toronto - can do.
On Saturday morning, Michael, Allana and Olive Lagimodière pulled up in front of Union Station just as my wife, Angela, was extricating Ava from her car seat. Since we knew we'd be carting all our gear around by bike, there were no Jolly Jumpers or Electro-Magnetic Baby Hypnotizers in the satisfyingly small pile of luggage taking shape on the sidewalk. Just one backpack and bicycle per person, along with a plastic-wrapped, unassembled tandem bike trailer from Mountain Equipment Co-op. (We planned to rent another one from Zoom Leisure in Niagara-on-the-Lake.)
After checking in, we proceeded to Platform One, where our ride - a 56-passenger Via Rail car - was being boarded by Spandex-clad keeners and more casual cyclists such as ourselves. A few toddlers could be spotted milling about, but Ava and Olive were definitely the youngest passengers.
The Bike Train differs from Via's usual Toronto-Niagara Falls run in that it includes a luggage car fitted with bike racks. It's the brain child of Justin Lafontaine, who came up with the idea during a cycle tour of Niagara in April, 2006. At that time, Lafontaine found there was no convenient way for car-less cyclists to transport bikes to the region from the Toronto area. After forging partnerships with the City of Toronto, Government of Ontario, Niagara-on-the-Lake Chamber of Commerce and Via, the Bike Train made its first, sold-out run in the summer of 2007.
Read the rest of the story in the Globe and Mail
WHERE TO STAY
NOTL is an ideal day trip from the hotel, gaming and sightseeing hub of Niagara Falls, where the Courtyard Niagara Falls is walking distance from the famous falls and from and both casinos.