Saturday, August 25, 2018

NIAGARA FALLS ADVENTURE AUGUST 2018



BACKGROUND

Lib and I are definitely “old” both being near and over 80 years old. I can still walk nearly a mile with a cane but Lib definitely needs a walker to navigate any length and a cane for balance when not using the walker. Other episodes and health concerns advise us that if we are going to travel and see places we better do it sooner or regret it has become impracticable. We had talked about seeing Niagara Falls and perhaps either an Alaska or Banff tour. This past Spring  we discussed the real possibility of driving to Niagara and brought it up in conversations with our family and close friends. We bought a new car two years ago with that notion in mind. Now it was getting time to “fish or cut bait”. We dared ourselves to do what seemed a daunting adventure and I began by looking up Niagara Falls on YouTube and Google Earth. We decided to drive each direction in two days to lighten the  task. Altoona PA would be the half way point and we made  reservations at the Hampton Inn there for Sunday night the 19th of August and Wednesday the 22nd for the return trip. We also made reservations at the Marriott Hotel and Spa on Fallsview  Street in Ontario after friends advised that the Canadian side was better. Near departure date we  took out nearly equal amounts of Canadian and American dollars, looked at several routes, went to AAA for triptiks and advice and received more ideas about what to do during the brief time there. Finally, we were also advised to call our credit card companies and advise them of our itinerary and destinations so that charging could go smoothly. I signed up for Uber and made sure that our Verizon service would work in Canada. Discovered that Waze was not fully functional so used our Garmin GPS for ALL the navigation. Many little details to plan before going on such a journey.







Sunday morning the 19th we began the first leg of our trip up I-95 toward Washington. Traffic was light going north but fairly heavy going south. It’s always confusing for drivers who are generally unfamiliar with the dual lane system as one nears D.C. Our GPS put us on the fast track for awhile. Our GPS then put us on the northwest track toward Altoona, PA the destination for our first day. Our aim was to drive without weariness and 5 hours a day seemed doable. The route took us through pretty vistas of mountains and valleys. We stopped at Bradford, PA for lunch at Arby’s. Think we both had a beef sandwich. Lib had potato cakes and I had curly fries. It was interesting to see how much the brand had changed since our days in Roanoke.



We continued toward Altoona and arrived around 4:00 pm. We had reservations at the Hampton Inn and we were soon in our room on the 5th floor. I took a 40 minute nap to rest up from the day’s driving. A Crackerbarrel restaurant was located right behind the Inn and we enjoyed some of the restaurant’s fare. While we were dining a young couple with their one year old baby were seated where I could see them. It was a joy to watch these young parents doing their very level best to entertain their baby boy as they waited for their meals to arrive. The young mother constantly was smiling and making faces to make the young baby boy laugh and giggle. A few times he became a little irritated and threatened to cry  and she would start another routine. 

                                           MONDAY

Hampton Inns offer a free breakfast  and on Monday morning we availed ourselves  of waffles for me and cheerios for Lib as well as fruit and hot coffee. We loaded up our few bags and were soon on our way. The weather which had been somewhat threatening cleared up  and driving was a pleasure on interstate roads. Soon we began the long climb up the Allegheny 
Front. Two things that were noticeable; that people here loved their lawns and kept them well cared for even the very large ones, and the increasing population of the blue green Norwegian evergreens. No large towns on our route, just hamlets every 10 or so miles. 

Finally we reached the outskirts of Buffalo, NY and the road turned westward toward Niagara Falls and the Canadian border. There must have been 12+lanes servicing cars, trucks, and VIPS. Here were some of the questions asked by the Canadian customs and ours was a young friendly sort. After passing over our two passports:
“Your name?”
Me, “William Kinzie”
Cc:”What country “
Me,”America…United States”
Cc, “ How long will you be staying in Canada?”
Me, “ 2-3 days to see Niagara Falls”
Cc, “Do you have firearms or guns to protect yourself” (That was an interesting question!”
Me, “None whatsoever!”
Cc “Enjoy your visit” handing us back our passport and waving us on.

After about half an hour drive we were pulling up to the front of the Marriot Hotel and Spa on Fallsview Street and after registration proceeded up to our room on the 7th floor. Our room no. was 707. It faced the Falls 
and the view from our window had to be one of the very best!
The Canadian Falls (Horseshoe Falls) could be seen in all their glory and the smaller American 
Falls were visible at our left. Lib and I spent quite some time just admiring the beauty of this world famous natural place. 

Since we weren’t too tired we decided to do the Hornblower boat trip right up to the Falls. We took the WEGO bus down to the dock area. Purchased our tickets and walked down a long ramp to the boarding area. We were given bright orange plastic raincoats which we donned before boarding. It is a 15 minute ride and we elected to be on a spot at the prow. We were instructed about what do do if there was an accident and told not to panic. The Hornblower is a much larger boat than the American Maid of the Mist which does the same route from the American side. Then we were underway.

i
The first 5 minutes were tranquil, and then the wind from the falling tons of water began to blow and the spume warned us of the coming deluge. Now we understood the need for rain gear. The water begin to swirl beneath us and turned a vivid green. It began to feel like being in a strong rainstorm. We came within what I estimated as 75 yards from the falling 
water. It was a very exciting unique spot to experience. I wanted to see all that was possible but the spume, rain like drops, blowing wind, a fog like atmosphere covered up my glasses and drenched my eyes so I was forced to turn my back on the most intense spots of the trip. Still it was one of the most exciting moments of our lives and was one of the things we had planned. By going on the boat ride that afternoon we saved time for Tuesday

We returned to our room to dry out and then walked across the street to a handy Outback restaurant for dinner. 

                                        TUESDAY

Tuesday morning we ate brunch on the 26th floor at an iHop restaurant with a panoramic view in the general direction of the Falls.  Suffice it to say, prices were nearly triple what the same breakfast would have cost in Richmond, VA. And that didn’t include that it was in Canadian dollars!!

Another unique experience is the tunnel behind the Falls. Engineers bored a tube with several branches that give wet views looking through the Fall from behind. Again we rode WEGO down to the Falls area bought tickets, donned the yellow plastic raincoats and Lib with her walker and I with my cane went down on the elevator and through the doors into the tunnel area. We got into a long line and trudged slowly toward the viewing area. Along the tunnel were posters showing the history and the science of the endeavor. I could feel the shaking from the water flowing over us somewhere above. Finally we arrived at one of the viewing tunnels and since there were people behind us also anxious to see we spent just a few minutes there. Not much to see, as the falling water veils everything. Just a very unique spot to experience. The falls generated wind blows water back into the viewing area but not with anything near the intensity as that on the boat. 

Back at the top we were ushered into a very large souvenir shop which was a delight for Lib. I was impressed with a huge stuffed bull moose and took his picture. The WEGO busses all can kneel down for handicapped persons and reserve a section near the front for their passengers. There are three lines; red, blue, and green. It took us a little time to learn which ones to board to get us where we needed to be. 

We ate dinner in one of the Marriott’s restaurants. It was well prepared and presented.

Niagara Falls are beautifully lit by powerful colored lights at night until the very early morning hours and every evening around 10 pm there is a 15 minute impressive fireworks show.
Canon Ti3 with zoom from room





Lib and I at iHop breakfast 

Lib with raincoat. using iphone for pic

Bull Moose in Antique shop

Lib and supper in Marriott 

Rainbow after supper Tuesday night
There is a zip line for the brave of heart, many parks, and a huge casino for those who enjoy 
gambling. When we entered the city we saw a large computer shop where iphone repair was prominently displayed. We observed many people attempting to take pictures on the boat who may have discovered that doing so was similar to taking pictures in a shower. Damaging water has a good chance of ruining a very expensive piece of equipment. I took one of Lib while the phone was in a plastic bag …surprised how well it came out. 

We weren’t sure whether we should attempt this adventure at our age and with our physical limitations. A number of years ago we took a tour bus for a week trip to New England called Sails and Rails. Both of us needed walkers but we were able to navigate. This time I did the driving with Lib as copilot (She did an excellent job of keeping us on track with the GPS) and she needed a walker. It can be done with patience and good humor….and I’m glad we did it!!

                                      Some Observations

Lib and I were impressed with the politeness and manners of the people who helped us 
with instructions, helpful suggestions, and physical help moving her walker when it was 
necessary. The peoples of the world inhabited our Marriott Hotel. The check in was run by two
Indians who smiled as I tried a little of my Gujarati on them. 

The tourist business brings in a rainbow of travelers. Canada at Niagara Falls, Ontario seems to be doing a very profitable business. Muslims were apparently staffing the Outback we visited on our first night supper, an Asian was the captain of the Hornblower, passengers on the Hornblower were from everywhere, and we all had fun!! There are millions of wealthy millionaires all over the world, I suspect, who are more then willing to spend significant amounts where they are welcome. America, please, please, take note!! Anything we can do they may be able to do better!! Let’s start behaving as one family instead of distinct tribes!!


Friday, July 18, 2014

Friends of Woodstock 2014: A perspective from one

Chapel building
WOSA 2014 was an interesting experience all round. Friday we drove to Baltimore and the Notre Dame University campus which was to be our location for the next 5 days. Our impression was that we would be residing in Meletia Hall, but we were strung out over another building that also was our dining hall. Our room was on the second floor, small with two little beds and a ceiling fan. No air conditioning and it was quite warm at night to say the least! Also, bathroom facilities were down the hall for Lib and down the next hall for me. Suffice it to say we did a lot of walking when the need required it.

Friday afternoon after getting our keys and room assignments we went down to the first floor gathering room and relearned not only our classmates but a few from other classes too. Our evening meal was a well prepared crab cake or vegetable sit down dinner and gave us time for further visiting.

A number of activities occur at a WOSA. We learned that the school was on a better financial footing. That a new principal had a powerful vision for the future that he seemed capable of implementing. And that faulty, staff, and board members  shared his enthusiasm and vision. Because he stopped at our table one afternoon and talked about Woodstock and answered specific concerns made me even more confident of his leadership ability.

Woodstock is an old school  in the foothills of the Himalayas.. It has reinvented itself numerous times and appears to be doing so again. Alumni gifts have provided for several new buildings and remodeled some of the older ones. It is an international school and has prepared well to serve the educational needs of the 21st century. The new name for WOSA is Friends of Woodstock School.
Young at heart trying Bollywood moves

On the evening of the khanna we were treated to a program of Indian dance, classical and Bollywood style. The picture on the left was Woodstock alumni of the younger generations trying out Bollywood style moves. At the bottom is a picture of a young 9th grade Indian girl performing a more classical dance.

After our whole school meeting was over our class of 54-55 reunion continued on for two more days.Our big activity on Monday was an Indian supper at the Indigma restaurant, downtown. Tasty food mixed with good conversation amid perfect ambiance.

On Tuesday we were treated to an Inner Harbor boat cruise with lunch. This allowed for more intimate conversation with just 4-6 at a table. After lunch we went on the open air upstairs deck to enjoy the passing scenery of landmarks and boats about their business or tied up.

We completed the reunion by assembling together to view pics from Woodstock and past reunions. It was one of the best reunions I had planned not to attend.  I  try to attend  these unique gatherings when they are in mountain venues. Because our Delaware family is nearby, we were able to visit them also.




class of 54-55 at Indian restaurant

walking down the avenue

waterfront of Inner Harbor, Baltimore

9th grade Indian student  performing Indian dance

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Catching Up

Opening present....
I recently celebrated my 77th year and noticed that I had not added an entry since January. This is an attempt to bring you up to speed should you be inclined. We've had a quiet good life since January. During the winter months I continued my playing in the Richmond Philharmonic and with our quartet. Our cellist suffered a massive stroke and has been sidelined indefinitely. An acquaintence looking for a quartet was able to connect with us and complete the group. 

This Easter I was invited to play in the orchestra assembled at Bon Air Baptist for their celebration. We did three services and it was a gratifying experience. 

We also had a good time at Sounds of the Mountain at Camp Bethel. This is a folk festival sponsored by Camp Bethel, near Fincastle, Virginia. You can find more about this in a previous blog. Another trip to the Roanoke area around this time was to celebrate our former pastor's retirement. We were graciously housed by long time friends, Dan Brogan, and his wife Ellie. We saw our last snow flurry  for the winter Sunday morning at their home.

Window box full of  Petunias.
Our Spring was wet and cool so there was a lot of lawn work to do. I decided to buy a small spreader and do my own fertilizing. If I am physically able to do a task, then I should. Saves money and also is a form of exercise. Our lawn looks as good as when it was maintained by a commercial business. 

On Father's Day our symphony played their annual free concert on the lake about 10 minutes from our house. The weather was perfect and the crowd enjoyed our presentation of patriotic and  pop pieces. 

We look forward to visiting our eldest daughter's family this summer. We get to see them about 3-4 times a year. They  have two in college  and  one about the same age as our  grandson here. Our Woodstock Reunion occurs around the same time in Baltimore Hope to write a bit about both after we return. 





Evening lake scene where we visited with neighbors
Easter Service at Bon Air Baptist. in Richmond.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

FaceBook

This will be a short blog. For several years I have been a member of the growing country known as FaceBook. I have lived in India, been an orchestra musician, taught strings for most of my life, and been interested in AOL and Google when they first appeared.

At first FB was mostly about family. It was a great way to instantly keep up with what was happening. It was even faster than email, because with email  I had to wait until my brother, sister, or cousin received it and then decided to answer. Email was more like writing real letters...and if the recipient wasn't into writing sometimes I didn't hear back. But there was a small group that I corresponded with and that was a circle of Woodstock School class mates. Then FB arrived and it wasn't necessary to write a long letter, just react in a a sentence or two to something that friend or family had posted.

Shortly my circle of responding folks grew larger. Former students jumped in. There were folks who lived in the same house I had lived in eons ago and were interested in photography. We made contact. Now I know it is impossible to maintain contact with 1000 friends as some of my students show on their sites. But 200 or so I can keep up  a tenuous relationship with.

Whether one has an iPhone, a pad, or a computer it is possible to maintain a satisfying connection with those who help make our lives meaningful. People that would have been lost to me forever have now dropped back into my life. Some cousins I hardly knew in  my  childhood days are now almost daily making chit chat and we're learning to admire each other.

Former students from either the near past or distant past share with me their joys and sorrows and I have come to know rather well some of  their  friends. These are all  young adults so it helps me understand how the world looks to people at that stage in their lives.

It takes some thought and some time to write a blog, an email, or to respond appropriately to a thought expressed on FB. When I began this blog as an experiment several years ago, one of my ground rules was that I would resist being vituperative. Yes, there are folks who I don't see eye to eye with...some times I see where over the years even I have changed positions, that's what growth and being human is about. But the thought remains that it is probably wiser and better to be supportive and helpful when possible rather than assuming that one is a small god and surely knows what is best in the many puzzling  situations people find themselves in.

FaceBook is like going into a large room where there are many people I know all chatting or putting up pictures of happenings near them. I can select any that I can relate to and put in my 2 cents worth, just as I would in real life in such a circumstance. There is much to be learned from each other as we journey together down this road we call life and I can't think of a better way to be so enriched. Thank all of you who have
made my life better by sharing!!









Monday, December 16, 2013

Merry Christmas

Dear Reader, Sorry it's been so long since I have written, but life has been rather ordinary and for someone like me that is something for which to be grateful. Here it is December and the Christmas mood is all around. What is it about Christmas that creates this wonderful feeling of anticipation and excitement. Depending on whether you're a child, a teen, a young adult or an older adult as myself we experience Christmas through the lenses of our very particular place on the stage of life. For some the vicissitudes of life have stamped out the exuberance, for me the magic remains though more subdued than the wild expectation of childhood.
  Advent is a strange ritual. As Christians we say we look forward to the return of the Christ child. But His spirit has suffused us all year so how is it to return. Did He go away the other eleven months? What exactly is it that returns to warm our hearts and put a light in our eyes and a spring in our step.
Let me share what Christmas means to me. Being a musician I'm reminded of all the religious and secular joys this Season arouses. There is participation in Handel's "Messiah" almost yearly from the time of my early teens. Not only the great words of God's incarnation into history, but also the accumulated stories of friends and strangers whose lives were changed by attending this oratorio. The amateur singalongs sometimes seem more fervently performed than the professional. The melodies pervading the ether are just more lovely than at any other time of the year I have also been privileged to perform in an area orchestral celebration and at our church.
  Then there are the lights. From the decorating and lighting of the Christmas tree from medieval Europe to the elegant decoration of homes, the explosion of lights on lawns and front yards, to the most humble home that is illuminated by those on a small tree or a candlestick in the window, all proclaim that Light is more powerful than darkness, that Love is stronger than hate, that God is truly among us even when we resist His insistent wooing. During Christmas it takes a truly bitter person it seems to not be somehow touched even though the secular mode is so prevalent.
  This is the season where families celebrate family. My sister is a new grandmother and it is wonderful to see the joy reflected in my brother in law and her faces as they welcome this second grandchild into the circle. Lib and I have large families on each side and so this is a special time for us. Through Christmas cards it is a time to connect, if briefly to past friends who were part of our earlier histories through Christmas cards.
  My pictures begin with the simple creche at the front of our small church. It reminds of us of the events of Bethlehem. Next there is a small sparrow I managed to capture. Jesus reminded us that God is concerned even with non human life. It clings to the branch with tenacity and bright eyed inquisitiveness, while being watchful for the predators from the sky. A short life maybe filled with an instinctive fear that keeps it alive. but for  the instant I clicked him we were both caught up in the same dance of life. The last pictures are of the beautiful homes lit to celebrate the Season. One near us has been tastefully, yet dramatically been illuminated the past several years. Several others are photos of other dwellings not far from us where a whole street has joined in proclaiming that it is Christmas. The last is Lib's decorating of our mantle and living room wall.So here, dear reader, is my wish for a Merry Christmas to you!
neighborhood house
creche
Add caption
neighboring houses
our fireplace and mantle

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Disappointng day for photography...

This past Saturday Lib and I went to Charlottesville, Virginia to a Curry Club meeting. We at an Indian cuisine meal at the Milan restaurant and reminisced about days in India. After our meeting we planned to go up to the nearby Blue Ridge Parkway and take some pretty Fall pics. My photo equipment was a Canon Rebel Ti and an iPhone with the 7 ios installed. The problem was there was scarcely any sunlight to illuminate the scenery and the foliage was not as far along on the ridges as I anticipated. At some of the overlooks favored by both amateurs and professionals it was just disappointing. Beside the obvious panoramic mountain scenery that can be overpowering at the right moment, there were other less obvious possibilities that several of us were trying to capture; a skeletal dead tree with arms stretched to the sky (can be artsy with a deep blue or red sunset sky for background), a clump of colorful leaves that invite close examination when processed at home with Picasso, and or a rock face or formations that can be an abstract texture study with the dead vines that are attached.. When the sun is out the possibilities are almost infinite. When it is overcast it really takes time and genius to see potential the rest of us miss.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

NOAC National Older Adult Conference

Lib and I just returned from the Church of the Brethren"NOAC" It is for older adults 50 years and older and is located in the Smokey mountains of North Carolina. The Methodists have created a center around Lake Junaluska that is just right for this gathering. The conference runs from Monday evening through Friday noon. Each main session opens with congregational singing of  hymns and a brief worship session. Then a speaker chosen for their ability to challenge our thinking on the theme of the conference makes their presentation . This year's theme was "Healing Springs Forth" and was three dimensional: healing ourselves, healing our community, and then reaching out to healing our world.

It was moving to see people our age, many who were significantly physically impaired in attendance. Two years ago I was severely crippled by arthritis and unable to walk without assistance. With my new hip implants I'm part of the healed, so having been on the hurting side I was much more impressed by those who might have been in the same or similar situation.

Older people, especially in the West, are often marginalized and buy into that self image. This gathering provides ways to affirm our real value to ourselves, our families and our communities. Here is the place to learn how. It is too easy to drop out of society and meaningful relationships. That leads to depression and further loss of esteem and usefulness.

While we were there we drove up to Newfound Gap on the main road between Cherokee, NC and Gatlinburg, TN. It is one of our favorite spots and in the East is about as close as I can get to the feeling of Mussoorie. It's barely 5000 feet in altitude. In the mountains the ambiance resembles Landour It was a bright sunny day and the light was good for photos.

Most of the speakers were prolific writers. I was most impressed  by Phyllis Tickle, nearly 80 years of age who spoke perceptively of the changes she had witnessed since World War II in American life, what it portended for us, and how we might best make of the future it was tending toward. Checked her books out in Kindle and she has a bushel basket full. Says she will stop the book tours and public speaking in the next two years.

There are many activities to take part in between the main sessions and also there was educational entertainment each afternoon before dinner. Birds of prey with live birds was quite interesting to me.
Also, a session about hand made American Indian flutes was fascinating.

Connecting with old friends across the denomination, family and near family, and getting to know the stories of others along our journey at meal times was surely an added blessing. On the last day I reconnected with a lady missionary to India that had arrived there just a year or so before our family returned to America. We were able to fill in some of the gaps of our knowledge of the years in between.. Was it just coincidence or something meant to be.

During our five days we found profundities to mull over, challenges to live for, and grace to make it happen. In other faiths there is often an emphasis on personal piety through pilgrimage, alms, and absolution all good ways to improve connection to our Source. The Brethren have been doing some of the same things with an emphasis on the together part of the equation. This is  one of those.
Dear friends; Renee Brown and Linda Crumpacker with Lib Kinzie

Our worship building

Lake pic and in the distance the cross

Model A we encountered at Newfound Gap


One of the hundreds of roses along the "Rose Walk"

Buddy Crumpracker the man "who makes it happen"our friend.
Organ pipes on the wall of our registration area.