Day 2: O Canada!
Niagara Falls to Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio
When I think back to first thing this morning, it seem like a lot longer than 15 hours ago. It’s been a very full day. We parked the car at Niagara Falls this morning and set off to explore the area. Bob and I stared in awe at the falls, while the kids stared with much the same excitement at the Ferris wheel visible across the gorge.
After taking in the view, we headed to the observation tower and then down to the Maid of the Mist. It’s fortunate it was a hot, sunny day, since “mist” was a major understatement for the type of precipitation we experienced on the boat. Of all the people on the boat, three of them elected to take off their rain ponchos while the falls rained down on our heads. Any guesses as to who those three were?
Afterward we walked up to an observation deck right next to the falls, where once again everyone other than our children was covered head-to-toe in a glorified plastic bag. On the deck it basically felt like you were under the falls, with water pouring down in buckets so that I couldn’t even see where I was going. (Luckily, Lanie was ahead of me shouting, “I LOVE this!” so I just followed her gleeful laughter.) Looking downward you could see the rocks and gorge below, spanned by a bright double rainbow – quite an impressive sight and maybe even better than the Maid of the Mist itself.
|That’s us huddling in the lower left-hand corner.
It was then time for the big moment, crossing the Rainbow Bridge into Canada. Beforehand our friend Jamie had warned us that Canada actually charges pedestrians 50 cents to leave Canada. (Jamie is known for being rather, shall we say, frugal, and was quite indignant about this.) Our friend Charles, a proud Canadian, felt compelled to defend the honor of his country and gave me $3 on the spot to finance our journey. So, this portion of today’s blog is sponsored by Charles Reid. Charles, this one is for you:
|Crystal Cave Mirror Maze, the pride of Canada
We were rather amazed to find that the Canadian side of Niagara Falls is much tackier than the American side. Hard to believe, right? Our girls now envision Canada as a neon-lit jumble of carnival rides, haunted houses, amazing attractions, and fast food restaurants. We let them choose one tacky tourist attraction to visit, and they went with the Crystal Cave Mirror Maze. I have to admit that it was actually pretty cool – but also very stressful for me. You had to put on plastic gloves and go into this room that was a maze of mirrors in every direction, lit by disco lights. The gloves were because the only way to find your way around was to feel for it, since otherwise you’d walk smack into a mirror (which happened to Lanie more than once). The girls kept taking off in different directions, and I would frantically call them back since I could see like 8 of them all around me and did not know how to distinguish the real one. At one point, having lost all sense of direction well before, it crossed my mind to wonder how long they would let you wander around in there before someone came to help you out. But at last we all found our way to the exit, having experienced an authentic bit of Canadian culture.
We also couldn’t get away from all the gift shops. Of all the junk that they contained, here is what Nadia elected to spend her money on:
Yes, that would be Niagara Falls nail clippers (with a bonus bottle opener to boot). I can just see the pathetic target customer for this item, sitting around on a Saturday night drinking a 12-pack of beer and clipping his toenails. I think Nadia picked this because I kept telling her how impractical all the stuff was. Well, she had me there.
After returning to the US, we hopped back in the car and set off for Maumee Bay State Park in Ohio, about 5 ½ hours away. I picked this place because it was a convenient stopping point between Niagara Falls and Chicago, and we could swim in Lake Erie (which may or may not be a selling point; the jury is still out until tomorrow). The car ride got pretty long and by the end the kids were bouncing off the walls, but we made it in one piece. This part of Ohio is mostly just huge fields of corn and (we assume) soybeans, very flat with an occasional water view.
I rented a yurt at the campground since I knew we’d be arriving on the later side and didn’t want to have to bother with the tent for just one night. It’s not exactly roughing it since we have beds, a fridge and microwave. The kids set off to ride around a bit on their bikes while we unloaded the car and started a campfire. I had been going to say many good things about this place; about the beautiful sunset, the quiet, the beach on Lake Erie, and the total lack of mosquitoes – until we started getting menaced by a skunk who is clearly not the slightest bit afraid of people, fires, noise, or light. We had spied him multiple times but thought he’d gone away, so imagine my surprise when Bob and I were sitting by the fire and I heard little footsteps crunching behind me. He drove us away from the fire and to the safety of the yurt for quite some time, and now, as I sit here writing this on the picnic table in the dark, I’m feeling rather jumpy. So, off to bed. Tomorrow, we’ll explore the park and then drive to Chicago.
When we were thinking about this trip and those who would be accompanying us, there was some speculation that Lanie might not be old enough to handle it. Two days into it and we see that not only is she old enough, the other two are too old. Just about everything we’ve been to so far has been FREE for people Lanie’s age (and not free for the others). Howe Caverns. Maid of the Mist. Gratis.
Why, if one were to bring a busload of four-year olds across the country stopping at attractions along the way…well, it almost certainly would end quickly and horribly, but it would be the most economical way to make such a trip, per capita. Lanie didn’t even complain when Canadian Wendy messed up her kid’s meal and gave her yogurt instead of poutin.
Today we start to see how well this trip was planned. Jen has picked out a really nice place for us to spend the evening. It’s scenic and quiet, and there’s wildlife. In Ohio. An early blueprint for this trip was to have us visiting every roadside dive we could find and take pictures of each other holding cans of cheap beer in one hand and pointing menacingly at the camera with our other. But, as we all know, Brian Mooney made that trip not five years ago and the Mid-Atlantic states are still on alert for copycats. So this is also a good way to travel.
The kids have been good. Even when we disconnected the aqua-lung (turned off the Little Town on the Prairie cds) with about 45 minutes left in the trip, they held it together pretty well. Oh, they splashed around a little bit in the middle row, but nobody was the worse for it.
And, to their great credit, they did not run out of the yurt when we told them that Rollo the Skunk was prowling our campsite. That could have been disasterous, but it wasn’t
Hopefully, can can say as much tomorrow night about driving and parking the van in Chicago.