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.
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:
Me, “William Kinzie”
Cc:”What country “
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.
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 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!!
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!!