Further along, a glance to the right offered an historical scene: Old Fort Erie. Its stone fortifications visible from the street, it loomed over the hill, and I could understand why they built it there so many generations ago. As we moved along, I kept marveling at the smoothly paved path, which wound us along the lakeshore in an easy fashion. Vibrant wildflowers were sprinkled across ancient shoreline rocks, while other landscaped areas offered the scent of roses and hydrangeas. After about four miles of comfortable riding, Jon was surprised to see the path turn in a new direction since he last rode it, the previous summer. We found it led us back down the the shore, where ruins of all sorts sat in the calmly lapping water; guardians of the past. I noted Victorian-era photographs and letters on the interpretive plaques as we sailed by; but we had somewhere to be.
Upon arrival in the village, we were greeted by our friends, whose perfect summer beachwear made the sentimental child inside me grin. Despite the short distance we were from home, I was reassured to see familiar faces. We picnicked, in a sense, sharing stories and laughter in the sun. Then, we trudged up the sandy path to the beach itself, laid out our mismatched towels and blankets, wrote ridiculous stories, and took the same photographs that thousands of other people take. We savored each other's company and for once, didn't hurry, think about work, or deadlines that must be met. Wading out into the freezing lake, I looked hard at each one of their faces, committing them to memory in a way I'd never done before. As a kindred spirit once said, "You fall in love with your friends."
Eventually, we went our separate ways, them waving to us from the car as they drove off toward home. Jon and I knew that we had a much slower trip ahead of us, but neither of us minded. We meandered back to home, exiting the path to view classic Main Street scenes, considering the architecture and perfection of many small, local shops. We paused back on Erie Beach to read the interpretive plaques, and the hair on my arms stood up, understanding the importance of the site to so many thousands, so many years ago. We did not take much time to be sad for history lost. Winding our way through a carnival that seemed to suddenly appear, we managed to figure out the way back to the bridge, and made a last push to ride (rather than walk) our bikes all the way up to the peak. Another simple exchange with Customs, and we were back on Buffalo city streets, yet the perfection of the afternoon still clung to me. I believe it will stay for quite some time.
1.) Erie Beach midway entrance: http://cec.chebucto.org/ClosPark/ErieBech.html
2.) Erie Beach map via Western New York Heritage Press
3.) Friendship trail photograph: http://www.forterie.on.ca