The following installment in the Road Trip Diaries... I was feeling creativing in writing this particular account. Enjoy!
We’ve been on the road less than a week, and we’ve already seen Niagara Falls, Wrigley Field, and more antique stores than I thought existed in the entire country. We drove across New York on Route 20, which is a sort of pseudo-highway that meanders along through the state at speeds ranging from 55 to 20 (in school zones). It cuts right through every town along the way, no matter how small, so we’ve been getting an up-close and personal look at the far reaches of New York state. Considering that the denizens of New York City consider anything North of the Bronx to be “upstate,” I’m not sure quite how to define the area we’ve been driving through… I think perhaps it might be a completely different country.
We actually did get to see a real foreign country, however briefly. Under cover of night, we slipped into the Niagara River, using a rope we had woven from locally grown grasses earlier that day. We made our way across, fighting to hold on against the strong current, and melted into the shadows on the Canadian side, searching for the operative, Cow-hawk, who had contacted us via secure satellite link before our departure… Matt is reminding me that this message may be intercepted by the authorities, so the “true” version of the story is this: we walked across the pedestrian path over the Rainbow Bridge right by the falls. We reached the Canadian side, and the kind customs agent allowed us to enter freely (despite our lacking passports) alongside a Hasidic Jew in full garb, which helped to confer an authentic immigrant experience™.
Once in Canada, we took the Maid of the Mist boat trip right up to the foot of the Horseshoe Falls, where we were surrounded on all sides by huge torrents of water, and so much mist it felt as though we were looking at the whole scene from the middle of a cloud. The boat’s engine was roaring at max capacity just to keep us in that location for a few minutes. We soaked in the majesty of the scene while jostling with poncho-wearing tourists from Maryland, Israel, and San Francisco, all of us taking pictures of grinning relatives and soaking wet children.
Our attempt to return to American soil was hindered by several ridiculous obstacles, the first of which was a set of turnstiles with a fifty-cent “pedestrian toll” in order to cross to the American side (quarters only). In order to raise enough money for the trip, I played the ukulele in a grass skirt while Matthew did the hula. His Kawaueale’ae’i Lal’ai brought the house down. Unfortunately, hula dancing wasn’t enough for the Americans—once we reached the American side of the river, we had to wait in line for an hour while two or three other families were slowly allowed through, and then the American agent grilled us about our birthplaces and our childhoods, and forced us to name names before we were allowed through (if a few of you get calls and/or disappear over the next few weeks, I’m truly sorry, and I’ll take good care of your plants while you’re away).
The falls were beautiful, but the area around them was the biggest tourist trap I’ve ever seen with the possible exception of Orlando—blech. Even at the campground, we paid $35(!) for the pleasure of setting up our tent in what was basically a large parking lot full of RVs. Instead of metal fire pits, each site had a hubcap in which to build a camp fire. I’m all for reduce/reuse/recycle, but it didn’t exactly add to the ambiance. It was a bit of a letdown after camping the previous night at a beautiful green campground in upstate New York, where we left the rainfly off the tent and slept under the stars, surrounded by large trees and tiny lightening bugs.
One of the best parts of this trip has been the unexpected or strange sights we’ve seen along the way. Many of them have been beautiful, like Lake Erie, which is much larger than I imagined… I know they're the "Great" Lakes, and they've always looked huge on the map, but it's no comparison to seeing them in person. it looks like the shore of an ocean, with the water stretching off into the horizon. We drove for hours and hours, with no sign of the water's end.
We’ve avoided major highways most of the way, opting for Route 20 through New York and Pennsylvania, which leads us through all the small towns along the way. We’ve seen acres of farmland, beautiful vineyards in New York, and Budda’s Whitetail Acres Ostrich Farm, where we stopped for a brief visit to chat with Budda himself. He rode up to us on his tractor while we were peering in through his barn window-- looked happy to have visitors, although there was not an ostrich in sight. Apparently the last batch had recently been "processed," although clearly they had not died in vain. Budda unlocked a small shop next to the barn, which sold a dizzying array of ostrich-derived products. Matt was induced to try some ostrich jerky, which I declined. He also displayed ostrich-skin boots, purses, and jackets, and ostrich meat in every possible form (bulk ground ostrich, anyone?). As we perused his wares, Budda held forth on the virtues of ostrich meat (low in fat and cholesterol-- even less than venison!) and hide (tough but soft, with natural oils, and check out the unique "goose bump" pattern!). Although we were both tempted to purchase something as a souvenir of this remarkable stop, we eventually bid Budda farewell with a promise to return again on our way home, should we pass this way again. And to think we'd almost passed by his farm without stopping... I think our decision to turn around and check it out will set a tone for the rest of our trip.
Here's Budda (from his website:
Soon before stopping for the night, we passed a church that, according to the sign outside, offers “JC for the soul, A/C for the body.” As soon as I track down the pictures from early in the trip, I might have one of the sign... until then, here's another one I thought was interesting. Until next time!
(Trying to use flickr here, we'll see if it works.)
Here's the link:
And I'll put the picture in as well, from my own file. More work with flickr tomorrow.