Road Trip! Saturday, August 20, 2011-Niagara Falls

Force of nature.  That’s the only way I can describe Niagara Falls.  I’m on the Maid of the Mist, and I am looking up through a torrential downpour of water at what must be one of the wonders of the world.

We are sitting inside of the Horseshoe Falls “U”, and nobody comes out of this experience dry, or bored.  The sheer volume of water is impressive enough, but it creates a wild maelstrom at the base, which is what we are sitting in, and Jonathan and I have scored a great location right at the bow of the ship.  We are there for maybe ten minutes, and the roar of the Falls is deafening, but still the hundreds of people aboard cheer in delight every time we’re buried under a particularly huge curtain of rain, and trust me the cheesy plastic garbage bag they issue you as protective gear doesn’t even come close to keeping you dry.  It’s a lot of fun for all ages and I highly recommend this experience if you’re at the self-styled “Oldest State Park in America”, circa 1885, and don’t mind getting your expensive cell phone soaked, which I did..

There are actually two falls that make up Niagara, American and Horseshoe, and you can see them both either by water or land.  After our boat ride, we take a short hike about halfway up American Falls, which is like a normal linear fall, except it has a flow rate of 75,000 gallons of water per second, is about 175 feet tall, and almost a kilometer wide.  Other than that, it’s just your average ho-hum natural wonder.  Anyway, we hike up to an overlook along with gaggles of other tourists and stand on a precipice that is constantly pummeled by a blowhole-like torrent of water and I’m once again amazed at the sheer size of this landmark, and the fact that some people have decided that nice leather sandals and dress shoes are the perfect attire for slogging through ankle deep puddles and a rainstorm.  We get a couple of pictures and head back to the top of the cliff on an elevator, where you can access a viewing platform, and from there you can see the water’s last seconds as it flows over the top of the Dolomite outcropping, which is far harder and less fractious than the shale underneath, and that freak of geology is what creates a waterfall in the first place.  But nobody really cares about that except me, and that’s only because I’m a closet nerd and geology major…everyone else is too busy oohing and aahing, and I can’t blame them, because from where we are, about even with the top of the fall, you can see that the water is a deep forest green before it drops, when it changes to sea green or white, and it’s a beautiful sight to be sure.

We hike over to Goat Island and beyond to check out Horseshoe Falls from above, deciding to skip the Cave Tour because of the long line of Indian and Japanese tourists, which stretches for about, oh, an hour.  The view from there is not quite as impressive, even though Horseshoe is bigger, because from the American side of the falls you don’t have a great angle, but from Toronto, which is directly across the river, I’m sure its spectacular.  But Jonathan doesn’t have a Passport, which is easy to understand, because we’ve only talked about overseas travel for maybe three or four years, and he’s been very busy watching competitive eating shows on TV and studying on the side, so he just hasn’t had the time.

So we both enjoy our trip to Niagara but too soon we must head to Buffalo for some great wings and a good night’s rest.  And what better place to eat in Buffalo than The Anchor, which is where wings were “invented”?  I get a chance to meet the owner, Avano from Milano, who seems like a nice guy, and the place is one of those funky originals that I always love.  It’s filled with all kinds of paraphernalia and bric-a-brac, but my favorite decorations are the Harleys parked along the walls at ceiling height.  It’s preseason and the Bills are playing, so it’s standing room only and we belly up to the bar and order up a dieter’s special plate of 50 wings with Suicidal sauce on the side.  We plow through 42 of them before giving up, but I can tell from the way tears come to my eyes after dipping the plump wings into that incendiary sauce that I’m going to regret that option, maybe not now, but soon, and in fact I do the very next morning, when I feel like my bowels should be used as an experimental rocket propulsion system for NASA, but oh boy were they great at the time, and no I don’t regret it!

And that’s really all I have to say about Niagara and Buffalo, which seemed like a good industrial city with a blue-collar backbone and a lot of pride in their game, and that’s not so bad after all, but before we close I feel the need to speak a little about New York roads.

Florida is a big believer in user fees, since we like to place the tax burden where it belongs, on the poor and disenfranchised, but we’re pikers compared to the Empire State (Land of the Tolls), where apparently public unions must run the highway system, since they even pay a toll monkey to hand you a ticket (isn’t there a machine for that?) and there are more toll plazas than Subways lining the highway.  You can’t even get to the next fireworks/martial arts supplies/ice cold beer store without paying another $2.50 to some troll, and apparently even New York natives don’t believe in the EZ Pass system which allows you to sail on through without stopping, because they’re all lined up in the cash lane just like us dumbass tourists, so what you have is a purpose-designed and government-sponsored traffic jam every few miles on the INTERSTATE, for God’s sake, and doesn’t that totally negate the advantage of a limited access road?  But at least the road system comes close to rivalling those blacktops of driving bliss found in Mexico and Liberia, and is a boon to auto repair facilities and kidney doctors as well, so I can see why you have to pay extra for it.  I’ve paid my last #!%&*@() $47.15 to cross that maze of roadblocks, and by the way who thought that 15 cents was a smart way to round to begin with?

And that’s all I have to say about New York’s roads.  The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but at least it’s well paved, and you don’t have to pay a toll…

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