Day 25: Niagara Falls

Yesterday we drove from Canton, Oh to Niagara Falls. It was not a long ride, so we arrived with plenty of time to tour the area. In fact, we arrived just around lunch time, so stopped in Buffalo at one of the original Buffalo wing restaurants called Duffs to try original recipe wings. Unfortunately, I also looked up the history of Buffalo wings and found out how they are made. Not on a nutrititionist’s list of top foods. But it was worth the try!

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Upon arriving at Niagara Falls we started in the visitor’s center to read the background information and pick up a map. We then went to the closest overlook, near the American Falls, but we were much too anxious to get up close, so we purchased our tickets for the Maid of the Mist boat ride to the bottom of the falls. Since it was not crowded (summer crowds are gone – yeah!) we walked right on to the boat. They hand you a blue rain poncho (The Canadian equivalent has red ponchos)  and within a few minutes we were floating by the falls.

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First you go by the American and Bridal Veil Falls

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and then move as close as possible to the Horseshoe falls (the Canadian side) and hang out there in the mist of the falls for a few minutes. (You do get pretty wet!) It was awesome.

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We did not bring our passports so that was as close as we were going to get to the Canadian side of the falls. At the boat launch area there is also a set of stairs that climbs along the side of the American falls, so we checked that out as well.

We then wandered around the Niagara Falls park finding all of the viewpoints to the falls. There is a site for the Horseshoe Falls from the American side. You cannot see the full horseshoe but you do get a pretty good view of it, so not much missed if you can’t make it to the Canadian side, although I am sure seeing the full view of the Horseshoe Falls is amazing.

This is a picture of the crowd in that area. If you look closely you can see women in hijabs and Menonites in traditional dress. It has been cool to see so much diversity in the more well known sites. P1010248.JPG

We found another nice RV Park and had another rainy night. Our typical routine at the  RV parks is find a level place to park in our site, then prep. dinner, I mean I prep dinner while Shayna checks out the grounds. We are always excited if there is a sink to wash the dishes in. Our van has a sink and water, but it is difficult to get the dishes really clean. We have 2 stoves, one that is removable and one that stays in the kitchen, one pot and one pan, but we have eaten pretty well. Then, we get the van ready for the night, get out the bedding from storage, pop the penthouse. We are tucked in by dark but usually spend some time reading and working/homework. In the morning we repack the bedding, drop the penthouse, prep. breakfast (usually yogurt or oatmeal) and hit the road. For lunch we usually stop at a rest area or try to find a park and make sandwiches.

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Today has been strictly a driving day. We drove from Niagara Falls to Albany, NY with a stop in Schenectady for an oil change – we hit 5,000 miles. After a few nights of rain, we opted for a motel room in Albany. We are staying right across the street from Albany State University and had a nice walk around the campus.

Day 23/24: On the Road

Said goodbye to Mom and Dad (sniff, sniff) and hit the road. We were now just working our way across the rest of the country toward Boston.

It was a relatively uneventful day. The highlight of the day was a stop in a town called Casey. Cousin Sara had told us about it. I had not planned on the stop, but when I saw the road sign for Casey, I figured it was a good time to take a driving break. First we drove to the far end of town for the advertised “Popcorn Festival”. We had visions of multiple stands of different flavors of popcorn to taste – a Novak heaven. Turns out you get a free bag of popcorn as you walk around the Labor Day crafts fair. We were there before noon, so not much was going on. It looked like they had lots of food vendors and some carnival rides, but they were not open yet.

Then we went back into the heart of town to check out the biggest X. We could not find everything, but did see the biggest rocking chair, mailbox, pencil, ruler, wooden shoes, knitting needles, bird cage and wind chimes.

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What was really interesting was comparing Salem, Il. to Casey, Il. Both are small towns that developed through agriculture and oil. Casey is only 3,000 people while Salem is 8,000. But Casey is a much stronger community. Casey has capitalized on the idea of “if you build it, they will come”. There is a steady stream of visitors to the town to see all of these Guinness World Record size objects, and they are strategically placed in or near businesses to drive people in to buy stuff. The town had character, energy and a strong sense of community. While you could see that many businesses in the downtown area have shut down, there are others that are thriving. In comparison, it did not seem like Salem had much community investment in developing an identity or effort to revive it’s dying downtown.

Thought we would borrow this for homework on the road, but it won’t fit in the van!

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That evening we spent at Grandpa’s Farm RV Park in Richmond, Indiana. It was a small park, but had a really warm pool, pool tables, ping pong tables and even a few arcade games. We made dinner, went for a swim and prepped the van for bedtime. Shayna climbed into her penthouse and after about 10-15 minutes of thunder and lightening, she climbed into bed with me. I may have been a bit neurotic but I was afraid that our penthouse tent might be a bit exposed to the lightening, so I put the ladder in the grass and pulled down the tent about halfway. Then at about midnight, afraid rain would be getting inside, I popped it back up to close the flaps completely. Needless to say, the next morning the penthouse tent was quite wet – inside – ugh!

We dried what we could and hit the road again. Our destination was Canton, OH. My sister has a good friend who lives there who offered to host us. We had a great afternoon with Shelley. She showed us all over Canton. We were excited to stop by the President McKinley monument and museum, since Shayna attends a school named for President McKinley. We thought we would gather some information that might help us identify why her school was named for him. I think we figured out that is was probably more about timing than for any specific accomplishment. He was assassinated in 1901 and the school was built around 1912. There were not any major accomplishments during his administration.

Shelley has lived in Canton most of her life so she shared a lot about its history and the history of her family there. We had a really yummy dinner at an Asian restaurant and had dessert at the town’s most popular and oldest ice cream store, Taggerts, opened in 1926.

Day 22: Frank Lloyd Wright & Salem, Il

Our last morning in Springfield we decided to do a tour of the Dana-Thomas house, a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home.

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Beautiful! It was commissioned by Ms. Dana in 1902 and includes both architecture, art glass and furniture all designed by Wright. Another must see if you are in the area.

Afterward we drove to Salem, Il. where my father grew up.

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It is a small town of 8,000 people in Southern Illinois. We got the grand tour of the town, seeing each house my father lived in, and the community pool I remember swimming in, all day long, when I was a kid. We had dinner with a few of Dad’s friends. It was fun to listen to them banter. They have all lived together in this small town for years, and know everything about each other.

We stayed in a not so nice motel, actually missed the van!