The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850

This controversial law allowed slave-hunters to seize alleged fugitive slaves without due process of law and prohibited anyone from aiding escaped fugitives or obstructing their recovery. Because it was often presumed that a black person was a slave, the law threatened the safety of all blacks, slave and free, and forced many Northerners to become more defiant in their support of fugitives.

" 'There's slave hunters all over Ohio, come up from Kentucky or Virginia to try and take back Negroes to their owners. See, we got lots of runaways through here on their way to Canada. In fact, a lot of traffic comes through Ohio, one way or another. Hell, you can stand at the crossroads here and watch it. East to west you got settlers moving for more land. South to north you got runaway slaves looking for freedom. Funny how nobody wants to go south or east. It's north and west that hold out some kind of promise.' "

The Last Runaway, Tracy Chevalier, 2013

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Back in Kansas City

On Friday evening, June 27 we rode our bikes from the downtown hostel in Buffalo to the De Pew Amtrak Station about 9 miles east.  We rode out Broadway to Dick Road, and there was the station.  We arrived about 8:30 with sundown at 9, so we had light all the way out.

On the way we turned off Broadway and took a good look at the old New York Central Station, now standing totally abandoned. At one time there were 5000 people working there and 200 + trains a day.  It is about 4 miles east of downtown in what is now a "rough" neighborhood. Judging from the churches, it was once a Polish area.  Today it was largely African American, though there was a lot of empty space.  We rode through (with their permission) a street basketball game as we approached the historic station.

The train was posted 90 minutes late when we arrived at the De Pew Station.  It didn't take long to box the bikes and check two panniers each, through to Kansas City.  Then we sat down to wait.  We dozed.  We went outdoors and sat with the trainspotters and watched the double-decker container trains pass by.  At midnight we struck up a conversation with a fellow traveler, also a bike tourist.  We had a good talk, comparing trips, and before we knew it, the train rolled in at 1:30 a.m.

Both of us slept well on the train and by daybreak we were in eastern Ohio, then passed through Elkhart and South Bend, Indiana. We finally arrived at Union Station, Chicago, at 1:30.  That late arrival stole the time we had counted on to walk down to Millenium Park, so George ran out to buy us "fixings" for supper and I played on the Internet and guarded our remaining panniers in the station.  At precisely 3 pm, train #3, the Southwest Chief, pulled out.  And at 10:25 pm, we pulled into Union Station Kansas City.

We waited 20 minutes for the Main MAX bus and were back home by 11:30 pm.  Today we fetched the bikes, the checked panniers, and two bike boxes from the station.

It was a very good trip.

Historic New York Central Station--Buffalo

This station is abandoned.  It is located about 4 miles east of downtown Buffalo and once employeed 5000 people and had 200+ trains a day.  Today it has been replaced by a smaller station on Exchange Street, close to downtown.  Downtown Exchange Street is used for the trains that run from NYC and on to Niagara Falls in Ontario, crossing the Niagara River at the Whilrpool Bridge.  They also stop at De Pew, but they do NOT have baggage handling at Exchange Street or at Niagara Falls.  In fact, the Amtrak/Via station was one block away from our hostel at Niagara Falls, Ontario.  But we could not put our bikes on it there!

The Lake Shore Limited that runs between Chicago and New York/Boston, splitting in Albany, uses the De Pew Station about 9 miles east of downtown.  We rode our bikes to De Pew, making a quick stop to see this wonderful old building on the way.

Boxing the Bikes in De Pew

We got one new and one used bike box at the station, so the total cost for both bikes was $35 from De Pew to KC.  One box = $15. One box was free and shipping each box was $10.  This is the rate for a bike that accompanies a ticket holder. It is also possible to ship unaccompanied, boxed bikes on Amtrak so long as the stations have baggage handling.  The charge for this is higher, but I have done it twice:  to Providence, R.I. and to Portlnd, Oregon.  I found the cost quite reasonable, and the process is the same.

The station clerk gave us tape and a marker and we got the packing done in less than an hour.

Amtrak recently announced that they plan to put special cars on long haul trains that would have racks or hooks to secure bikes without having to box them.  That would be great!  But what I would really like to see is the chance to put bikes on and off the trains at many more stations.  That would allow cycle tourists many more options for starting and ending trips in places where it is not currently possible to do so.

(See my early entry about my concern whether Amtrak in Cincinnati had hired a baggage clerk.  Without that individual, we could not have started this trip where we did.)

 Instructions printed on end of box

 Remove two nuts and turn the Handlebars

 Remove the Pedals
I lashed my sandles and helmet to the rear rack

Roll the bike, back wheel first, into the taped-up box

Tape the open end shut, write your name & address and give it to the ticket agent

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Buffalo Underground Railroad Sites

Niagara Square

Guaranty Building - Buffalo New York

Returning to Buffalo

We left Niagara Falls on the Olympic Torch Trail, ran through the tourist district, then took Stanley to Chippawa.  We followed the Chippawa River til the village of Chippawa, then headed south til we reached Weaver and that brought us out at the old Willoughby School House Museum on the Parkway.  Since traffic was light, we followed the parkway back to the Peace Bridge.  That part of the ride was idyllic.

We were forced to use the north side of the bridge sidewalk so that we were facing the oncoming traffic, complete with 18 wheelers.  There is no guard rail on the road side of the sidewalk, so at first we walked; then we rode.  I felt sorry for the truckers who knew if I fell off the sidewalk it would not be a pretty picture.  A border crossing guy was waiting for us and ushered us through a gate.  I wanted to take a photo, but I figured I had better not.  He helped us over to Busti Street and sent us on our way.

We rode into town on Niagara Street, not nearly as nice as the bike path of Sunday.  We finally got ourselves oriented and headed for the Pearl Sreet Pub to watch the US-Germany World Cup match.  It ended 0-1, but the US goes on to the group of 16.

Then we spent several hours looking at fabulous old buildings and found ourselves in an area of Underground Railroad activity as well.  In looking for the Michigan Street Baptist Church we found the Colored Musicians Club. 

The president gave us lots of information before we walked across the street to the Michigan Street Baptist Church and learned more about Buffalo's role in the Underground Railroad and the Niagara Movement, the precursor of the NAACP.
We are now back at the Buffalo Hostel.