So as I sit here in a little cafe waiting for the Garminator to accept its' new maps, I suppose I can add a bit to the blog. Last night after I posted by blog with my intentions to get to the falls today, I headed over to what turned out to be a most excellent restaraunt. It was a little place called "The Sawyer Hotel" that apparently was in some sort of old wooden hotel, or at least that was the theme. Either way, it seemed to be about as far from "chain eatery" as I could find, and more importantly, it was close. I had a wonderful steak and fries, and some sort of local beer that was also tasty, and with a full stomach, I was ready for a good nights sleep. I headed back to the overpriced campground, and set up shop. I couldn't decide if I wanted it to rain during the night or not, but ultimately settled on "rain" and placed the windows on the bean in the appropriate position, down.
After that I tossed the mosquito net over the big back window and hopped in for the night. After surfing the web and having one last tasty beverage for the night, I got down to my jean shorts and hit te sack. I tossed and turned a bit, fretting all the while that maybe I'd not done enough to guarantee a torrential downpour, so I shed the shorts and drifted off to sleep in my skivvies. At approximately 3:07:15 A.M the national weather sevice should have advised that animals have been seen marching two by two in the greater Buffalo Area. I was gently awakened by the light sprinkling of ostrich egg sized drops of water exploding on my forehead. I could only smile. I layed there for a moment contemplating going back to sleep, as I'd slept in downpours enough in my Army days. After another moment I opted to roll up that back window and try to get a bit more sleep. I crawled to the front, made the command decision to bust out of the Bean in flip-flops and underroos, and opened the doors. Of all the nights NOT to wear my superman undies.
Well with the door open, I tried to push RTD out so I could get out. Rockstar took one look at the veritable flood, and opted to stay in the Bean. I cursed my companion and staggered out into the night to roll up the window. Now for those of you unfamiliar with 1984 Suburbans, the back window is part of one large tailgate, and rolls up using a crank handle, which can only be accessed from outside. Of course, to make it even MORE fun, mine is broken. The handle of mine comes out of the door when twisted, compliments of a certain musclebound former commander of mine who tried to manhandle it. I have a new one, and it is even IN the truck. I tried to install it before i left but after a few hours of work, I realized one apparently needs a degree from MIT to install it, so now it sits in the glovebox, all shiny and useless.... Anyhow, I digress... Well I made it to the handle and immediately started cranking. Of course, the handle chose this most opportune moment to completely come out of it's socket, and I continued getting drenched trying to get it back in. I finally managed toget the window up the rest of the way at about the same time my body was developing gills...
I crawled back in the Bean and dried off. Then I kicked RTD, who was snoring ever so softly, for good measure, got into dry skivvies and headed back to dreamworld. Now if any of you ever had sleep overs as kids, you may be familiar with the "hand in warm water" phenomenen. This also works VERY well with "whole body in cold rain" too. I sat there trying not to cry as I waited for the rains to end. Finally, as my bladder neared the bursting stage, the rains slacked up then died completely. I was back out of the Bean in my flip-flops and skivvies so fast one would have thought RTD had popped his glands again (which he had, but at about 7pm). I looked far across the campsite at the restrooms, decided I didn't know anyone to bail me oput of jail when the cops responded to the "nekkid one armed dude in campsite" call that would most certainly follow, and headedfor the treeline. Once I was there and relief was in progress, the skies redoubled their efforts to wash away the Bean, and I just laughed. Again. I finally ended up sleeping in my birthday suit until morning when I finally got ready to head to the falls. I opted to skip the shower, figuring I'd had two already...
Now I have to tell you, take everything you know about the falls that you learned from movies, and forget it. I pictured Niagara Falls being at the heart of a beautiful state forest. I envisioned myself driving slowly down winding roads, pointing at young fawns that were romping in the meadows with their rabbit friends. Once at the falls I expected that helpful and humerous good natured park attendees to helpfully direct me as to where to go, patting Rocky on the head before we wandered off. Once at the Falls I figured there'd be ample room to take amazing pictures that even the postcards couldn't touch, and possibly even some good conversation with some other adventurer much like myself. While I expected that I'd not get to ride the boat into the falls because I had RTD with me, I pretty much figured everything else was fair game. Boy was I mistaken...
I left out of my campsite figuring te falls should be easy to find. I mean they are pretty well known within the state, and at least a few neighboring states have heard of them. I decided I'd just follow the mass exodus of RV's and Florida license plates tooling around at seven mph below the speed limit and viola, I'd be at the falls. Sadly, I forgot it was monday, and nine a.m. at that. The Florida RV crowd was long since gone to the falls. So I took off out of the camp looking for signs. After a few miles I saw a small sign directing me onward, and my hopes were buoyed. Look out Bambi, here I come! It didn't take long for me to realize my rain addled visions of the falls might be a little off. As I followed the signs to the falls, I wondered if maybe I was actually going to Compton. That's right folks, the Falls are at the heart of the ghetto. Thanks, Hollywood! As I drove on thru areas most people would be locking their doors and trying not to make eye contact in, I began to wonder if maybe I was lost. I considered asking the friendly looking crack dealer at one of the stoplights, but thought better of it when he greeted me with "you five-oh?"
Eventually I spotted a sign proclaiming "Niagara Falls Visitor's Center". I was excited. I pulled in and quickly realized it was a tourist shop. My excitement dwindled. I turned back out onto the road again and quickly saw "Official Niagara Falls Welcome Center". Aha! But I looked closely and again, tourist trap. Crafty are these Niagraans. I then passed about 1.4 million more "Welcome" centers before finally I started to get close. As I closed in to my final destination, angry at not getting to watch Rockstar attempt to befriend Thumper, I noticed an official looking person waving an orange flag directing me to park in the "Niagara Fall's Parking" for just $20.00. My ADD riddled mind managed to think back to that first "Welcome Center" and I took a chance and passed by them. Six official looking flag wavers later I came to the REAL entrance to the falls, and paid my $10.00 fee to get in. While I'm not a big fan of paying to go to see nature's attractions, I understand that money is needed to maintain them, so I didn't complain.
Once inside I pounded a bottle of Gatorade, bungee corded my tripod around my back Robin Hood style, and headed to the falls with RTD in tow. A quick rule, never leave home on a long trip without an assortment of bungee cords. They are nearly as useful as duct tape, and there are few things that can't benefit from a lil' bungee action. Anyhow, I headed down to the "American Falls" and the first thing I noticed was the 35 mph continuous wind. If you are a hat person, now is a great time time to leave it in the car. Finally I set up my tripod, and started trying to take pictures. A tripod is also a necessity if you take any pictures. Even with a little dinky instant digital camera, a tripod is worth its' weight in gold. I quickly learned however, that even my little dinky camera is like a sail on the top of the tripod in a 35 mph wind. I didn't help that RTD was attempting to either encircle the tripod, or mate with it, I'm not sure which. After taking a number of pictures, I formulated a game plan. Head over to the Canadian Falls, then the wind caves, then back over to the lookout for some more great pics and finally call it a day.
Now before I continue, let me tell you a little about the falls. They are big. Good? Ok back to the story! No really these things are only about 170 feet high, but their width is unreal. The falls rush over the top from a river that's about two feet deep. They roar down and seemingly dissipate into a huge cloud of mist long before they hit the bottom. The American falls actually cascade down a few rocky ledges first, while the Canadian falls are the ones you try the barrel trick on. At the bottom there are large boulders which will quickly end your barrel trick, and from their the river flows out at a fair clip. The relative clarity of the water at the top of the falls givines way to a much greener hue as it flows away under the various lookouts and bridges. On the Canadian side are the remains of some old hydroelectric plant, which I though made the falls look even more like some sort of ancient ruins. At the top the mist from the bottom is blown up and gives a much welcome chill to the air, and the smell is reminiscent of the ocean, but without the fishiness.
Moving back to the story... RTD and I headed over towards the Canadian falls, all the while stopping to pee on every tree. After a few minutes of this one of the park rangers came over and requested an end to that, so from that point on just Rocky got to pee on the trees. Lucky dog. Once at the Canadian Falls I again whipped off the tripod and started taking pictures. It was significantly harder here, being that apparently a large portion of the population of India opted to tour the falls today, so the crowd was quite large. On an aside, the sari's worn by the indian women are probably one of the most well put together and colorful outfits I've ever seen as a "native" dress, and I admired them accordingly. After taking numerous pictures here, I headed to the entrance to the Wind Caves, where I was told it cost about $15 to get in, and no pets were allowed. Seriously?? Isn't this a national park?!!? So I dejectedly headed to the lookout site so I could finish taking my soon to be pulitzer prize winning photographs. It took a while to get over there because apparently RTD hold about 278 gallons of doggy marker juice, and was still going strong catching any trees he'd somehow missed on the way over.
Finally I made it over to the lookout point, and waited in line to get thru the gate to go onto the lookout. Once at the front, I was again asked for more money, and informed no pets were allowed out there. You have got to be kidding me... Again, isn't this a state park????? I inquired as to the whirlpool, and go the same answer, more money, no pets. By this point I was fed up. I really have to wonder at what point sis we as a nation sell our national parks to private industry. I understand we as a nation are built on capitalism, but when the parks that our tax money goes into to maintain is now the realm of some sort of profiteering company, I truly want to vomit.
Finally after several hours of wandering the falls, and laughing at Rocky in his hopeless desire to get to them we left. I must say I felt bad for RTD. He could here all that water, see all that water, even taste it in the mist, yet never get to any of it. Maybe little pools for pets to drink from should be put in? They'd probably charge for those, too. And no pets allowed.
After the Falls we loaded up the Bean and headed out west. Buffalo disappeared into the rearview mirror quickly, and with it went the petroleum laced air and sewage scented goodness that I noticed seemed to hang over the west side of the city. Out on the open road there wasn't much worth remarking, as the southern great lakes' region seems to be relatively flat and uninspiring. One thing I did notive though were the miles upon miles of wineries up here, so if wine is your thing, this might be a trip worth making. I finally got off the road in Sandusky, Ohio, where I've set up shop for the night in a little KOA campsite. I still haven't decided if I'll leave the windows of the Bean in the "RAIN" position.
Tomorrow I hope to reach Chicago, and then possibly tour the Suburban making factory in WI the next day. Get to see where the Bean's family went after 1984, so we'll see! Also, if anyone here would like to show me around the Apache factory, I'd certainly show up for that! And if they just happened to want to take me around the traffic pattern, maybe a touch of combat maneuvering flight, I'm game for that, too! My flight suit size is 44 long.