September 25, 2003


Got out of Angola by 9:30. Becky did Curves while I secured fuel for the car.

Curves in Derby, NYIn Curves, Becky talked to a couple of locals. One had lived in the area of Niagara Falls and had suggestions for how best to enjoy that spectacle. The other had a brother who lives in Issaquah! How small a world is that?

Headed off to Buffalo and had lunch at Frank and Teressa's Anchor Bar which purports to be the original home of Buffalo Wings, that bar food staple. We shared some medium wings (they come in mild, medium, hot, and suicide. I'd have had suicide, but to share settled for medium.) I'm sorry to report that they tasted pretty much exactly like the wings I've had in establishments on the West coast, my brother-in-law's opinion to the contrary notwithstanding. I had the "beef on weck" sandwich, "weck" being a local kaiser-style roll topped with coarse salt and caraway seeds. The table condiments included fresh horseradish which made a fine sandwich with nothing else but beef and bread. Becky had a chicken caesar which met with her approval as well. The service was abysmal despite the liberal ratio of wait staff to customers. I left a big tip just to mess with our inattentive server's head.

After a brief disagreement on directions (Becky was right as usual), we made our way to Niagara Falls. We thought to go to the visitor center to get the lay of the land and determine where and how best to see the Falls. Becky's acquaintance at Curves had suggested that the best view was from the Canada side, but we thought we'd check and see before proceeding. We followed the signs and found ourselves headed for a Native American casino. We asked the parking attendant where the visitor center might be found and he gave directions for a couple of turns. We followed them (in our own creative round-the-block way), but found no visitor center. We drove around some more, Becky consulting the AAA tourbook, me using my usual intuitive navigation style. We made our way onto Goat Island, an island just above the Falls on the American side. They seemed to have an interpretive center of some kind, but it was $8 just to park and we were really just looking for information. We tried following the signs to the visitor center one more time and once again found only a construction site adjacent to an enormous casino. At this point we were pretty disgusted with the US handling of the landmark so we headed for the border to see if our northern neighbors could do any better.

We determined that our passports were at hand and proceeded to the Rainbow Bridge border crossing. There is a $2.50 (US) toll to cross the bridge. The bored toll taker asked what our citizenship was and how long we expected to stay in Canada. At our answer of "a couple hours" he sent us on our way. Didn't ask for any ID.

Across the bridge, we turned right, then right again, following the signs to the Falls and we found ourselves on a road paralleling the cliff edge with a view that made it quite clear that here was the best place to view Niagara Falls. We proceeded to the parking lot which cost $12 (CAN. $9 US) which included a little souvenir guide book. The parking lot was a museum of US and Canadian license plates. We saw at least half the states without even trying.

Barrel's eye viewWe walked along the cliff edge snapping photos with all the other tourists. We started at the up-stream end where you can see the wide, fast-moving river and the edge. Becky playing touristFrom the top, it's a gentle thing, the water moving swiftly, but smoothly along its way, then there is the edge, and it is just gone, quietly and smoothly following gravity off the precipice and into space. As you walk along you can look back and see the curtain of foaming water cascading down and down, lost in a cloud of white mist at the bottom where it all rejoins to become a river again. Rainbow Bridge and its namesakeFarther along, you see that "The Falls" is actually two falls. The river splits around Goat Island. The first and more impressive is the one you've seen in endless photographs, the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. The other half of the Falls is on the other side of Goat Island and is known as the American Falls. It is a huge waterfall which looks puny only in comparison to the great torrent of the Canadian Falls. The American is not a single drop, but a more gradual descent cascading down a rocky slope. So next time you see the main Falls Canadian Horseshoe Fallsknow that as much water as is streaming over that lip, just a few hundred yards to the left there's even more water from Lake Erie hustling on its way to Lake Ontario and the sea.American Falls

We bought some tourist junk at the gift shop (again paying with US money at not quite the prevailing exchange rate) and went back to the car. Our plan was to head east in earnest today and get into the northern New England states for the weekend so we didn't tarry in Canada. TouristsAt the crossing back into the US we were again asked our citizenship, how long we'd been in Canada, whether we purchased anything while there (he was unfazed by my answer of "tourist junk"), and who owned the vehicle we were driving. The guy's entire interview was conducted in a goofy fake English accent that made me expect "What is your quest" as the next question (be assured I had my answer all ready), but alas it was not to be. Again we were sent on our way without showing any identification.

In the interest of alacrity we decided to get on I-90 to jet east to Seneca Falls, NY. In this end of the country the interstates are toll roads. When we got on I-90 in Buffalo we were issued a card showing our time of entry along with the toll we could expect to pay depending on what exit we chose to leave the highway by. Since you pay when you leave the road there is a strong disinclination to make idle side trips, and to further discourage you, the state of New York has established "service areas" at which you can find a gas station and 2 or more fast food chains sharing a building with a set of restrooms and a gift shop, all of which can be visited without actually leaving the highway corridor and hence without having to reset your toll-point. This is all very nice unless you prefer to patronize independent businesses. Apart from a couple of brief construction slowdowns we covered the 150 miles to our destination in reasonable time (while listening to Tim Curry read the first few chapters of The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket) and paid our $2.90 to leave the freeway (thankfully) behind. We proceeded south on 14, then met up with our old friends 5 and 20 for the brief jaunt east from Geneva (on the shore of Seneca Lake, one of the "Finger Lakes", so-named for their parallel elongated shapes) to Seneca Falls. Here we found the Gould Hotel, a building of early 20th century vintage with a few rooms to let.

This is our second night in an establishment without phones in its rooms. We hadn't checked in with home since leaving so I went out and tracked down a payphone (harder than you might think--I went through three minimarts before finding a functional payphone) and phoned home (using my newly-acquired phone card. Appalling number of digits, reasonable cost-per-minute). Unfortunately our housesitter wasn't in, but there were no messages on the voicemail which is a good sign and I left a message assuring whoever might hear it that we are alive and well. We'll try again tomorrow. Hopefully we can find somewhere to get on the net in the next couple of days so I can get some of this stuff uploaded.

Oh, I almost forgot, while on the Canadian side of the random line of demarcation we bought some of the Canadian KitKat bars that tyd of thenyoudiscover has been going on about. We got some takeout dinner at the Downtown Deli here in Seneca Falls and got a pack of American KitKats. After dinner I broke off chunks of each and fed them to Becky in single-blind fashion. She preferred the Canadian bars and so did I. They taste much more strongly of chocolate than the US version. What is up with that? The ingredients are in a completely different order for the two bars. Plus the Canadian bars are significantly bigger at 50g compared to 1.5oz. My only gripe with the Canadian candy is that, contrary to appearances, the packaging isn't water-tight so some moisture snuck in while the bar was in our ice chest waiting for its chance at a taste test.

Posted by jeffy at September 25, 2003 07:32 PM

I forgot to tell you that I wanted you guys to get a picture of you two kissing in front of Niagara Falls. So you either have to drive back and get that shot, or at least get a picture of you kissing in front of some other falls during this trip.

Posted by: rachel at September 26, 2003 11:39 PM

My fiancee has a friend who lives in Issequah!

I spent four years in Niagara Falls... not the water, but the town... sad to hear the casino went up - another terrible use of an Upstate NY town. Hopefully, though, it'll bring some money back and we can fix up the parks as beautifully as the Canadian side.

While I agree that Canada offers better views of the Falls, Goat Island is absolutely amazing! Worth every penny of parking and hassle of travel.

For future reference for anyone who reads this and is headed to the Falls. There used to be free parking just two blocks outside of the State Park in New York. Head up the street away from the State Park past the Hard Rock Cafe. The building up head is the Rainbow Mall (or was, if it is no longer there) which is attached to the Wintergarden. The parking there should be free.

Posted by: at April 28, 2004 01:21 PM