Date of Trip: June 2008
It’s not too often six people, six people who have not been acquainted for an extremely long time, venture out for a week-end together, much less a week-end OUT OF THE COUNTRY!! Cindi & Mike (ages 51 & 52)/Ann & Bert (ages 64 & 74)/Margie & John (ages 64 & 59)
Ann and Bert had been to Niagara Falls, Canada quite a few times and shared stories of their fun times with us. Cindi and Mike expressed an interest in visiting there since they had never been to this wonder of the world. Now, John and I had been there several times but it had been quite a few years since our last visit. So you put this all together and we have six people who want to go see the “falls”. Now we had to determine the best time to go, where to stay, what kind of rooms and who was driving. It was decided we would take two cars: Bert driving Ann, John and me in the lead car and Mike and Cindi to follow.
The following is a journal as seen through my eyes, my interpretation and perception.
Friday June 13
We got up early, as I imagined everyone did. After a few setbacks we were finally on the road at 9:35am — leaving Canton, Ohio behind us and heading to the Falls of Canada. All along our drive we kept a close eye on the car behind us. At 10:00 we got on Rt 76 in Rootstown with Cindi and Mike close behind. We didn’t want to lose them. At 11:23 we stopped at a Cracker Barrel for brunch. We left and were on the road again at 12:29. We turned onto Rt 90E at 1:00 pm. To pass the time I asked Ann if she wanted to play roadside poker. She was game! So I explained that you had to find road signs that began with the first letter of the alphabet and work your way up to Z. We began. Bert even helped with a few words. John always seemed to be a letter or two behind our current needed letter but we certainly appreciated his contribution. At one point a comment was made about the car in front of us who was swerving between both lanes. Ann said, “maybe because he has an earpiece on”. [my interpretation} “maybe it’s because he has a hairpiece on”. I said what does his wearing a hairpiece have to do with his driving?? Ann cracked up. She said, “I said, EARPIECE”. Well that gave all of us a hardy laugh. I didn’t think he had a hairpiece on!! And the trip only went downhill from here. Or should I say uphill for laughs! At 1:24 we entered New York state and the toll booth. We got a ticket to pay when we exit the toll road. At 2:08 we made a pit stop at Angola. Back on the road at 2:27. At 3:02 we crossed the Peace Bridge and entered the Canadian Border Patrol. They asked for our passports. Wanted to know why, where and how long. Bert informed the officer that the car behind us was traveling with us. Whatever… So when Mike stopped at the border patrol the officer asked Mike if he knew the people in the car ahead of him. Of course Mike was a little taken back and said he knew three of the passengers but did not know the dude in the back seat! (of course he had to say something smart) The officer asked him other non-pertinent questions to which Mike gave equally non-pertinent answers. After that confrontation we were all on our way on the Queens Highway heading toward Niagara Falls. Bert was not real sure which road to get off, but soon determined it must be McLeod. We got off at that exit and went driving through residential areas with Mike on our tail. Then we spotted the Sky Wheel, which was quite large. That’s where we wanted to be but we were in a parking lot — the parking lot of the casino. So we turned around and Bert got us to our hotel around 3:40. Mike, Ann and I checked in at the desk. Bert, John, Cindi and Mike then drove the cars around to the back with the luggage. Ann and I walked up to the third floor to check out the rooms. First thing that hit us — NO DAGGONE ELEVATOR. We saw our rooms with two double beds, which were ok but we found that Ann and Bert’s room was a smoking room — not desirable. We looked out our window, which faced the parking lot, and there they were, our friends and loved ones, unloading the cars. Ooopps, we have to help with luggage, so off we flew down the stairs to help. We had to carry or should I say lug our stuff up three flights of stairs. John and I were not coordinating the luggage movement very well. We were not showing our good side at this moment. Someone commented our actions would make a good “Kodak Moment”. Not a good time to think of a camera!!! We finally got the bags into the respective rooms.
We then headed to Mike and Cindi’s room which was designated the gathering room to hang out and make our plans for our first evening in Niagara Falls. After much deliberation over whether to do the “Wheel” or the “Maid of the Mist” first… wheel- maid — wheel — maid — wheel — maid… the Maid won out!! So off we went to walk to the Maid of the Mist. This would also be Cindi and Mike’s first view of the actual falls. We had told them, “we enjoyed the falls, we hope you do too.” Don’t want to build up their expectations too much because it is based on our experience and perception way back when. Anyway, when we got to Niagara Rd. and they saw the falls I knew they were disappointed. I wasn’t quite sure what they were expecting but I don’t think this water trickle measured up. That aside… we got our tickets for the boat ride only to find out at the last boat leaves at 5:45 it was now 5:30. We got the second to last ride of the day. (good thing we didn’t roll with the wheel first) As we entered the dock a photographer was anxiously waiting to take our group picture — for purchase after the ride. What the heck. So we posed and then moved on. As we walked down the long ramp toward the boat, Cindi and John took quite a few “neat” pictures of the falls and the nearby bridge.
We were given our blue rain coats and we boarded the boat, walking up to the top deck. We didn’t want to miss anything. The boat took off very soon after. It was rather neat getting up close and personal to both sets of falls. We hesitated in placing the hoods on but the closer we got we knew, “get those suckers on NOW.” We all had fun looking at each other, taking pictures, getting wet, and experiencing the “roar” of the falls. We definitely got wet but what a way to begin the vacation. After we docked we had the choice to either keep the raincoat or recycle it. What to do, what to do??? Some kept it; we pitched it. Off we went into the gift shop then outside to the booth where our pictures were. We liked the subject matter of the picture and agreed it was a great memento. We each wanted one but there were only two printed at the time. While we waited for the third picture to be printed we looked around the gift shop area — no purchases though. With each couple having a picture we were ready to go “behind the falls”. We were informed by a worker at the MOM that it was just down the road a piece. Well, it was a big piece of road. We walked and walked, finally Mike and I went into a building that was being remodeled. We walked through it to the ticket window for the tour. We scoped out the price $12.50/pp to be sure we all wanted to do this. When everyone else arrived they agreed, “Let’s do it!” Mike and I went to the ticket counter and he asked the kid working there what size the walkway and rooms were. The kid was a little confused, having to ask a co-worker what they thought. Then Mike said just forget it, it will be ok. But I am sure [my perception] he was thinking “It better be big enough or I’m comin back after you!] John and I got out tickets. Mike and Cindi were buying theirs when Mike back up and looked puzzled. He asked me, “did that kid ask you what kind of coat you wanted?” We looked at each other, and said “no!” Mike went back to the ticket window and came away with two tickets. Ann and Bert bought theirs at a different window. As we were talking, [my interpretation] Mike asked us what a zip coat and postal coat were. We all looked confused. “What???” He then asked me, “What did that guy ask you?” I said, “They wanted to know our zip code number.” Mike said “Heck, I thought he asked what kind of coats we wanted. So I said, ‘one of each'”! We roared and roared. Mike wanted to go back and talk to the guy but decided it would be better to let the kid ponder over that little transaction — no clarification would be given to him. That began the “joke” of the week-end! So many times the opportunity came up for us to kid Mike about his little “mis-interpretation”. He took the kidding well! Now we are waiting in a line to go behind the falls. Now again I am concerned about the experience for them. We did it in the winter and it was really “cool” so to speak. They may not perceive it the same way. I try to buffer it before we begin. We waited in line reliving Mike’s “coat” fiasco. Finally we get into an elevator for our descent and we were handed our yellow rain coats. When the door opens we are facing yellow walls with condensation. We walked forward and to the left hallway. Off to our right was a sign that said To the Portals. We chose to go straight to the look-out area. Here again, we got mighty wet. If we would have wanted to get even wetter, we could have taken the steps to the lower look-out platforms and walk-ways to experience the falls-in-the-face first hand. We nixed that route. Back to the “portal” area. Each of the three portals was cut out of the stone wall directly under the torrential descending waterfall. We were only permitted around 12 ft in front of the opening, blocked by a metal fence. We took pictures and had laughs again about getting wet, yet again. [my perception] I don’t think this experience was as enjoyable for the group as the Maid of the Mist. We decided we had enough and entered the elevator for the ride up. Exiting the elevator we went to the counter to check out our photo. They put us in front of the falls at night with the lights on. It looked pretty cool, so we decided to buy it. The price was $14.95 for 2 and $5 for the third. Bert suggested taking a pony cart ride which I thought was a great idea. We get outside and no pony or cart. So we started walking. By this time we have been on our legs, without sitting down since 5:00. It is now around 7:45. I know John’s knee has got to be bothering him but he has not said anything, just a few moans here and there. We start walking the 2 miles (at least) back to our hotel when Bert hails a cab. He said “come on, let’s ride”. The cab driver said he could not take six people but he could take four. I was in the mood to walk but John jumped right in the back seat. Everyone else wanted to walk too. I couldn’t let him go alone, so I got in the taxi while the rest hoofed it. The ride only cost $6 and John said it was worth every penny. We went to the room and dropped off our stuff. I got a sweater and then we came back down to await the weary travelers. When they arrived they wanted to do the “wheel”. John and I declined because we had done the big one in Chicago. Now Mike is a little nervous about this machine and he announced to the other three, “do not move or make the car move!” [my interpretation]. John and I sat on the bench and watched them ascend. They were in car 25. I took a picture of them as they passed us. They were sitting in the car with Mike and Cindi’s facing our hotel and us. Bert and Ann faced the falls. After the first rotation, Bert said, “that’s one!” Verbalizing to the group that he shared Mike’s fear. Of course everyone laughed. The second time around Cindi thought she would take a picture of us sitting on the ground. So she stood up (wrong move)….walked over to the over side (another wrong move) and knelt down on the bench (bad, bad move) and took our picture. Of course it was cloudy because of the tint on the windows, but that was nothing compared to the cloud resting above Mike’s little head when he informed her to “sit down”. Then (I think) she realized she was missing the real view — the falls. So she turned around to enjoy the splendor of the falls with the “cloud” beside her. After three rotations they exited the ride and walked over to meet us. They were all laughing, describing the ride (each had their own interpretation). I then wished we would have gone with them. We went up to our room — now it is around 8:30. We decide to freshen up real quick and then go to dinner at Kelsey’s right next door and spend our $25/couple voucher. We walked down the steps and wala, there we were. We took a booth since there was a long line to sit outside. We all had a good meal.
There were to be fireworks at 10:00 so we were trying to finish so we could see them. We were cutting it very close. As we exited the pub we could here them in the distance. We began walking down the street to get to the main street but before we made it there, they were over. Bummer. Oh well, now we shop!! Now it is raining outside and coming down pretty good. We ran into another store just to look around. We felt it was time to give the casino a chance. Walking over to the place of vice Cindi and Mike stopped by an outside bar that had a girl entertainer. They decided to stay there and told us to pick them up when we were done. We said “ok” and off we went to throw our money away. As soon as we got in the door we split up. At least three of did. John sat at one of the machines to rest and said that is where he would be when we were ready to leave. At last, bells were ringing, music playing, coins a clanging and we were ready to support the cause. I had to get Canadian money because it would not take American. At 11:30 we walked out of there with our pockets just a little lighter. John was status quo. We went back to our hotel and checked out the pool area. Then I called Cindi and Mike about meeting for breakfast in the morning. WHAT A DAY!! I don’t think we could have squeezed anything else in!
Saturday June 14
We were to meet for breakfast around 8:00 but Ann and Bert were not there. I called Ann’s room and they said they would be right down. At 8:45 they came into the dining room. We sat and relived yesterday and laughed yet again about Mike’s “coats”. Today was Ann’s day to plan and we were going to Niagara on the Lake. After we ate we went back to the room and retrieved our coolers that were packed with a few goodies we might need for the day. Then we piled into our cars and off we went. The day was a little overcast with rain threatening but that didn’t discourage us one bit. As we left the Falls area Bert drove passed the “Floral Clock” which was not very floral at the time. In fact it was mostly green — no definition at all. I did stick my arm out the window and pointed, hoping our dear friends in the car behind us would take a look and realize what the round space in the ground was suppose to be. I wanted to yell, “de clock, de clock”. But my voice would not be big enough to carry to their car!! Onward ho, on our scenic drive to a quaint little town. At one point Bert pulled off the road — his intention was unknown. [The following is Cindi’s interpretation] Cindi looked at Mike and Mike just shrugged his shoulders. They didn’t know what to do so Cindi told Mike to pull up next to Bert. Then she said, “Wait a minute. I think he is rolling down his window to tell us something. No – – no he’s not. Ann is getting out of the car. I better get out too. It might be a special place.” Ann got out of the car and so did Cindi. Cindi ran over to Ann expecting the announcement of a great spectacle. Then she was confused as she looked at Ann and heard her say, “We just stopped to drop off some trash!” Well that sure deflated Cindi in a hurry as she exclaimed, “WHAT?” “It’s a nice look-out though.” Ann said apologetically. Then they both cracked up! Just being an observer of the incident was hysterical so we all had a good laugh — I should say — yet another good laugh. Cindi enjoyed the unplanned scenic stop for a second then back in the car to play “follow the leader”. When we arrived at Niagara-On-The-Lake we drove through town and parked along the street toward the end of the shops. Then we started to hit the little shops, but of course, some of us had to hit the facilities first. We strolled in and out of many shops. Ann bought a cute top. John and I got ice cream and cookies. We buy the important stuff — stuff to sustain life!! As we crossed to the other side of the road Ann pointed out a wine shop with tasting available. We’re there!! Bert, Ann, Cindi and I bellied up to the bar and made our selection of wines. None of their “whites” turned me on so I didn’t buy anything. I think Bert bought a bottle. John just sauntered around the store — not participating in our tasting adventure. Outside Mike was passing the time talking to two elderly gentlemen who appeared to be enjoying his company. They were shaking hands good bye to go off with their wives as we approached. Cindi commented, “Isn’t that sweet. Mike made new friends.” As we regrouped and discussed our lunch menu which included a bottle of wine, we realized we did not have a cork screw among us. Cindi said that she saw an affordable one back at the Winery and she would buy it because it would also be a good souvenir. So, off she went to save the day. Heaven forbid we have a bottle of wine with no means of opening it. Around 12:00 we drove out of town continuing toward Lake Ontario. We stopped at a nice rest stop and set up our picnic foods and drinks. There were benches bolted to the ground but no tables. Apparently their benches do not come with tables. We were in a quandary where to place our table cloth – on the large rock by the water, by the bench or on a spot of grass. We chose the grassy area below the bench where the guys were sitting. We girls enjoyed sitting on the tablecloth even though it was plastic with cotton backing, we tended to slide ever so slowly but we made the best of it. We took pictures and enjoyed looking at the lake dotted with sail boats and jumping fish. The guys sat on a bench and enjoyed eating the tasty morsels provided by all. After about an hour we cleaned up and walked toward our cars. Mike and Cindi stopped at a fence nearby to check out the golfing area. Then we piled into our cars again and started to head back toward the falls area. We had several other stops in mind and we wanted to get in as much as our aging little bodies would allow. Along the way we happened to notice quite a few picnic areas with benches attached TO TABLES. But we agreed we liked where we ate better. It was a little more private with a great view. Who needs a table when you have nice grass! The next stop was Pellar Winery, quite fancy. We did a little wine tasting there and then discovered it was the same wines that we had tasted in town at the wine shop. No wonder they looked the same.
In the lobby of this elaborate winery/restaurant. Ann checked out the dinner menu and prices. Quite impressive! Cindi spotted a beautiful, enormous flower arrangement and was amazed to find it was made with real flowers. Of course we had to have a picture. We also proceeded to take several pictures in the lobby.
We left there, moving ahead toward our next stop, the Butterfly Conservatory. I wasn’t real crazy about going there but everyone else was quite enthused so — who am I to damped the party. We got in line to buy tickets reminding Mike he didn’t need a “coat” here. Upon entering the conservatory we were astounded by the multitudes of butterflies, all different varieties, colors, sizes…they were every-where, even copulating in public. One landed on Ann. She was so excited. Bert and I took pictures of “them” to document the happening. Now we were done with the butterfly adventure and on to the next adventure… the Aero Car over the whirlpool.
When we arrived at the gorge we were a little skeptical. I took pictures of the car as it went across the vast span of water. Do we really want to do this? I guess we did — Mikie did, so we all did. We purchased our tickets, $11.55 per person (again no “coat” needed). Then we waited by the whirlpool-overlook until we were called to board the car. Finally the gate was opened and we walked through. We got on board, took more pictures and then waited for the take off. 24 people were the limit on the car. I think they waited until they had that amount before they took off. It was very smooth sailing over the whirlpool. We went to the other side which was also Canadian territory. At that point we switched sides by rotating. On the return trip we were on the other side of the cable car. It was neat. We saw the boat taking the people into the whirlpool and we also saw the blue boat that brought people down to the whirlpool from Niagara on the Lake. We were high above everyone and everything. Back on shore we got back into our cars and drove back to the hotel. We were exhausted — it was a very long day and it wasn’t over yet! We all went back to our rooms, relaxed a little and then got ready for dinner. I called Cindi to check on their status. I think her status was “prone” but she was friendly and acted awake. She said they would be ready in 20 minutes and invited all of us to their room for appetizers. I called Ann to inform them of the invitation. We went over to Cindi and Mike’s room. Cindi had crackers and chips filled with re-fried beans, guacamole that she fixed herself mixed with salsa. Ann and Bert joined us soon afterward and then the guys took their drinks outside and we girls sat inside and had girl talk. It was a very, very relaxing atmosphere. I questioned if we really needed to go out to eat but it was agreed that the “men” needed something substantial. After about 1/2 hour we got ourselves in gear and left the suite heading for Ma Ma Mia’s, which was just around the corner from our hotel. We were not especially hungry but the aroma was enticing. They told us there would be a five minute wait so the girls went next door to look at the linen shop. Since we were not all that hungry several of us split dinners. We had a fun talk waiting for our food to arrive. When it did come the portions were quite large. I was glad we were splitting. Mike and Cindi wanted to see the falls lit up at night but Mike really didn’t want to walk down the hill to see it so he suggested doing the “wheel” and seeing it from the air. I told him I would like to join them but I wanted to gamble and would he wait for a while. He said, “sure”. I will meet you at the wheel at 10:30.” That gave us 1 1/2 hours to gamble. Cindi and Mike went back to the room to rest and pack. We said our good byes and went to the casino. The casino was fun. When we were done we headed back on our 10 minute walk to the wheel anticipating a nice night ride to view the falls only find a long line. Not good. We met Mike & Cindi and after a moment of consideration decided it was not worth the wait in line. We would just walk down to the main road to see the falls. So the six of us made the walk down Clifton Hill to the Niagara Rd. I told Cindi I hoped she wouldn’t be disappointed in the lights. Weellllll, I was way off base. The lights were none existent. They were just white and barely that. The falls on the American side had some color but not the Canadian side. It was then that Cindi admitted they visualized the falls being enormous and spanning about 7 miles. Oh my, they must have been REALLY disappointed.
Back at the room we all said good night and agreed to meet down at breakfast at 7:30. Now I started packing and throwing things into the cases and in no time I was done. Now to bed and hope I can sleep.
Sunday June 15
I was up long before the wake up call and got John up. We dressed and finished packing. I went into the hall and saw Bert walking down the hall, probably taking things to the car [my perception]. I checked Cindi and Mike’s room, no answer. They were probably already at breakfast.[yet again, my perception] I knocked on Ann’s door and she said Bert took everything down last night. Boy, that sure impressed me. They were really on the ball. I told her we were ready but needed ice for the cooler. Bert had returned by then so Ann, Bert, and I took the luggage to the car while John took the cooler (on wheels) to get ice. NO ELEVATOR! So this process was not a “walk in the park”. We huffed and puffed but we made it to the car and started to load up when John came with the cooler which fit in nicely. We went inside for breakfast and found Mike saving a table for six. I decided to check us out before eating. While doing so I asked for best directions to the Peace Bridge. The lady said we went out of our way by taking McLeod St. She gave me nice, simple directions. I went in then and enjoyed my breakfast with everyone. We were out of there and on the road at 8:10. Bert was apprehensive about going the route told to me but he agreed to give it a try: Rt 420 — QE. It was a snap. We saved lots of time. We stopped at the duty free shop at 8:35 until 9:15. Since Cindi and Mike were heading straight home we said our good byes. We were heading for Rt 20 and the wineries. We were at Customs at 9:22 – no problem. On I90 at 9:29 — toll booth at 9:40 and on to 90W. We got off at exit 58, Seneca County. Toll $1.15 at 10:05 toward Rt 20. In Silver Creek at 10:10. We stopped at a Willow Creek Winery but it didn’t open until 12:00, so we moved on. We stopped at the Merritt Winery in hopes it would be open. Since it is only 10:15 in the morning we were a little doubtful. We saw a sign that there was a wine festival at this winery but it didn’t start until noon. There was a guy outside sweeping the side walk so Bert leaned out the window and said, “Any chance we could have a nip?” The guy’s interpretation “Any chance we could have a kiss?” So his response was, “I don’t think you’re my type!!” It took us a second to get it then we had a good laugh. Since the guy didn’t feel threatened (he-he-he) he said that he would open up early – for us!! How nice. We needed wine! He did not charge for tasting because he was always hopeful the person would purchase wine. They had good wine there so we bought three bottles. They certainly benefited by opening up for us. Other people even came in while we were there. We left there happy at 10:58!
Onward to Woodbury Winery. They were open and a very nice lady was behind the counter. She did not charge for tasting either but I was not real impressed by their wine. We did purchase a bottle though which she opened for us since we decided to have lunch on one of their many picnic tables. First of all we had to move the table into part sun/shade to accommodate everyone’s preference!! We put the table cloth on the table and got all our goodies out. It was so, so nice. We just enjoyed the sun, the food and the wine. We even were able to use the timer on both our cameras to take a picture of the four of us. On the road again at 12:20. We got gas in Fredonia at 12:29 where Ann and Bert also got coffee. We were off the toll road in Ripley, NY at 1:00 at a cost of $1.25. Now we are on Rt 90W. In Ohio at 1:50 pm. Took a potty break at the Ohio Visitor Center then back on the road. Ann is driving now and I am up front with her. Mike called to say they were home safe and sound sitting on their deck relaxing. That was good to hear. He informed us that there was a back up on Rt 8 and to avoid it. We took his advice and rerouted onto Rt. 11 at 2:10 then on Rt77 at 3:30. We had a nice drive home pulling into our drive at 3:45 with 84 degrees. What a nice trip. We unloaded our stuff and said our good-byes
Epilogue: I must say this was a wonderful, fun-filled, adventurous, bonding week-end. Hopefully, just the first of many.