Forget about the trip, lets talk about the pre-trip! We left Pickwick Fri 8/31 around 6 and got to Lee's folks house around 9pm. We chit-chatted a minute and then layed ur down around 9:30p. Around 10p we hear bang! bang! bang! bang! bang! Being in Memphis I really didn't think that much of it, you hear gun fire all the time, and Lees folks live in Raliegh... So anyway, then Lee comes in asking if we are alright, which of course we are. He said he jumped out of bed grabbed my 9 and headed out the garage door as soon as the shooting started. By the time he made it outside one of the shooters was running across thier front yard diagonal toward the opposite side of the street, passing right in front of Lee. Of course he didn't know that at the time...if that was the shooter or someone chasing the shooter so he couldn't really do anything. Turns out there were four mexicans sitting in the driveway next door, drinking, and listening to music, when two black guys walked up and took thier wallets, then let off five shots, hitting two of the mexicans. They were taken to the Med and as of Sat 9/1 they are still in critical condition. So wow ok now lets talk about the trip, bor-ing... :0)
We flew out of Memphis Intn'l and landed in Chicago, then we took off again and got to see Lake Michigan and then Lake Erie before landing in Buffalo, NY. We picked up our Avis rental car, a Ford Fusion and head straight for the border, at this pointe we have the goal of reaching Midevil Times in Toranto by 7p, and it's 4:30p and about 150km away...we make it to the the border and using our new passports go through with ease.
"Whats your business in Canada? Eh?"
"Do You have anything to declare?"
"How Long will you be staying?"
Lee "Maybe two days"
"Do You own a gun?"
Lee "Yes" (doesn't he know they are standard issue in Tennessee?)
"Do you have it with you?"
"Do you have any mace, knives......"
"Enjoy your visit..."
And that was it, you were waiting for Lee to say something funny weren't you? Nope he was all business! So we make it through the border and head toward Toronto. Make it to Toronto around 6:40p only to discover that they are having some National Expo something or another and the place looks like the busiest city you can imagine, forget finding a parking space. So we make a gametime decision to skip midevil times and find a hotel. Wandering around downtown saw the CN Tower (pictured) and two hours later we are in Markham, Ontario picking up some very overpriced liabations at the LCBO (That $12 box in TN, runs around $35ca up here) and then we checked into our room at the Comfort Inn. So until tomarrow...
Ya know this is the third time we’ve been to Canada and for the third time I’m saying “never going there again”, but I know I will when the opportunity arises... So we loaded up the car getting ready to head to downtown Toronto and some Orientals knocked on our car window to tell us that we have a flat. Just fabulous! Hotel desk said take it to “Canadian tire” so we go there and it’s a two hour wait to get our flat fixed. So we head to the local Avis which we should have done in the first place, but didn’t think about it. So the Avis guy gives us a brochure with an 800 number. They tell us to take it to the Toronto Airport and trade it in for another car (since we had already changed the flat). We decided to go ahead with our plans and make the “switch” on the way out of town. So we make it downtown and find a parking garage, walk a Mississippi mile to the Hockey Hall of Fame, which was entertaining even for me. And the building was an old cathedral-looking building with beautiful stained glass windows and elaborate trim throughout. Anyway, this would be a great place to take your kids but not on Labor Day weekend it was a madhouse with lines everywhere. So next up, lunch, we eat at the Lone Star Grill. They were playing country music, but that was the only southern thing about it. The Canadians like vinegar with their French fries and when we asked what the shaker bottle of clear stuff was our waiter was all “you guys must be from the states, eh?” Food was good and then we were off…ohhh another side note Discover Card is not widely accepted here. Just FYI.
So on to the CN Tower, at this time (Sept 2 2007) the (speaking in a deep voice) “tallest building in the world!!!” So we buy our tickets and get in line…and stay in line….and then an hour and 20 minutes later we see the silver elevators. Finally! Wow, this is like freaking Willy Wonka’s and we are going to blast through the glass roof at any moment. The elevator rolls!!!! I think we have it on tape. OK, so we got up there and Lee walks out on the glass like it isn’t anything! What the…I try to take one step out on the glass and everything turns to jello, my knees, my ankles (that’s right ankles turn to jello too!) So I jump back, that is just the most insane concept ever! I can’t wait to see the video footage. So after the glass floor we went to the outdoor observatory where there is just a wire mesh between you and the outside and there were small show-planes buzzing by the building that had me ducking like a nerd. Time to head out.
We arrive at the car, which is still intact, and we head toward the airport. We arrive uneventfully at the airport and switch out our flat tired car at the Toronto airport for a Grand Prix. Then onto Niagara Falls. We arrive at 7p but it was like Las Vegas on Crack! There were so many people and cars and honking and just madness. That’s the only way I know to describe it. It’s like Las Vegas (minus the casinos) squeezed into two lanes! It took us two hours to go about 15 blocks, and then we missed our turnoff into the hotel parking lot so we had to make the block again. So on the second lap we found the “S” Registration area. We are like valet parking PLEASE!!!! So here we are….were….Sheraton wasn’t really a fancy nice hotel but the location was primo and customer service was awesome. And we haven’t got our bill yet but the valet parking was worth every penny! Tomorrow Niagara Falls.
Headed out toward the Maid of the Mist first thing, this was an easy walk from our hotel. There were lots of people around but we flew through the lines and were on the boat in no time. Niagara Falls is so impressive; there is just so much water. Just incredible! And the Mist was thick, once you got in it you disappeared from site. The rapids at the base of the falls were impressive too, but the boat was very stable. I can't quit saying it...really impressive.
So then we went to the Hard Rock Cafe to grab some overpriced, conveniently located food. It was good I had chicken tenders, Lee had a burger and Naomi had a feast of BBQ'd chicken and ribs. Then we checked out a couple of the shops in the area included the Hershey store before heading back to our hotel to get our car. Next up Niagara-On-The-Lake.
We arrive at the whirlpool jet boat tours, at Emma's recommendation, got our wristbands and walk down to the waters edge to kill 15 minutes before our safety orientation starts. After that we suit up. A yellow Gordon’s fisherman poncho and an orange life vest, everybody looks ridiculous this is awesome! And we're off there is a 15 minute no wake zone we have to travel through in order to get the class 5 rapids, so our guide tell us (comically) about the history of the area, very interesting stuff about the War of 1812. Then they do some donuts, “ Hamilton turns” as they call it. And I'm thinking well this isn't that bad, pretty fun actually. Then we get to the class 5 rapids and they give us a little taste of it....yikes! That is really a lot of water splashing around, but I think I can handle it. Next we ride upstream completely through the rapids to the other side, no problem there, not for going downstream through the rapids, OH MY WORD!!! You guys there was so much freaking water that hits you square in the face you just have no idea. It's like hitting a brick wall, my neck is still sore from it, not the mention my hands cramping up because I am white knuckling the grab bar in front of me! What have I gotten myself into!!! Let me off this craziness!!!!
Captain - "Who wants to do it again???"
Me - NOT ME!
Captain - "Ok lets do it!!"
Me - Son of a...ok so this one wasn't near as bad, thank goodness!
Captain - "So that was kind of weak, who want's to do it again?"
Me - Are you kidding me, heck no!
Captain -"Alright then here we go...."
Me - Somebody shoot me now! Next time I see Emma's it punching her square in the face! But here I am typing so you know I made it....Would I do it again? Heck no!!!! But I am super glad I did it.
So back to America !!! 30 minutes getting through the border, went by pretty quick with us each re-telling our versions of the jet boat experience, then we head toward NYC, we got maybe halfway there and decided to call it a day. We're running about a day behind, but we're thinking we can make it up toward the end of the trip. Tomorrow...NYC
We knew it was coming, that big day of driving…going from memory it was Syracuse to Binghamton , NY , then through Scranton & The Poconos, PA, then across NJ to Newark then Jersey City , six hours in all. Once we got to Jersey City we got lost looking for Liberty Park, decided to fill up with gas and get directions; on a side note I guess New Jersey state law prohibits you from filling up your own gas tank, everything is full service, so anyway, we asked for directions and turned out we were only two lights and an exit away so it worked out ok, but that little taste of confusion was all it took for us to nix our lower Manhattan travel plans...too many people, too much traffic, too little parking, too little knowledge of the area.
We chose to use New Jersey’s ferry service to the Statue of Liberty because we didn’t think we would have time to get to the NYC one located off Battery Park as it turned out we accidentally did ourselves a big favor. There were no waits on our side while the NY ferry’s had lines a mile long on both islands. Ellis Island was really interesting, now that I’ve been there and seen it; I’m really looking forward to seeing more about it on the history channel. Ellis had lots of neat old photos of people and the building. Also had a census thing where you could pick your country of origin and then a map of the fifty states would pop up with how many people of that origin live in each state and then a dotted version highlighting the most populated states and areas within the states. There are over 324,000 people of German decent in TN, but the highest concentrations of Germans were in PA & OH.
Next up the Statue of Liberty, she was really amazing but I got to be honest, after seeing Ghostbusters I was expecting her to be bigger… Really glad we got to see her and very curious how they got her over from France and then reconstructed her. It would’ve been really interesting to have had a high speed camera watching the construction of such an odd shaped building. “Time Passes” are needed to go inside the statue and must be reserved between 2-7 days in advance, so we weren’t able to go inside, bummer. But was still really cool and the Manhattan skyline – amazing! That place really is a concrete jungle. We were able to spot the Brooklyn Bridge , Empire State Building , Staten Island Ferry, Chrysler Building , George Washington Bridge and some other stuff…. NYPD was constantly circling in a helicopter too, not sure if that is normal or not? What's wrong Lee? Sun in your eyes?
Guess that was about it…we drove until dark and ended up in Milford , Connecticut at a HoJo. Tomorrow we are going to try to see Connecticut , Rhode Island and then catch up with the rest of our extended family in Boston , Mass.
First stop, Mystic, Connecticut . We are supposed to take a $5 – 30 minute ride on one the oldest working steamboats in the country, problem was she wasn’t working today, she was broke down and in the process of being repaired…but there was lots of other stuff to see at the Mystic Seaport Museum. They let you walk on, under and through these old fishing boats, which are now antiques. There was lots of interesting info tidbits, like the fact that they tar the ropes to keep them from dry rotting. Sleeping quarters were tiny coffin like cubicles; I wouldn’t have made it, not even in the captains’ quarters.
Next stop the Quonset Aviation Museum in North Kingston , Rhode Island . We arrive at 2:45 (my info says they are open til 6p, turns out they close at 3p). We talk to the man in charge and promise we will “make it quick”. So he gives us the go ahead, and gives us some tidbits on the different planes on display, there were too many stories, and they were very interesting, but are all running together now so will have to wait and get the facts from Naomi’s video footage. I do know that there was a plane from desert storm, a plane from Vietnam , a retired F14 tomcat, an Iraqi land mine and several helicopters, vehicles, tanks and so on. Really neat stuff to see up close, I wish we would have been able to spend more time there, maybe next time-ha.
After that we went thru Jamestown and on to Newport , Rhode Island . Headed South toward the harbor only to find out the 72 foot schooner we were supposed to cruise with wasn’t leaving until 6 or 6:30 but as it turns out there was another company that had a 43’ sailboat that they were taking out at 4:30, perfect! I was a couple minutes after four, so we bought some tickets and went walking to see what the local shops had to offer and find some sunglasses, good grief it’s bright, victory! Lee, Omie & I all find some cheap shades and are ready to see what sailing is all about. I can see why people get into this. It’s very peaceful and there is something cool about getting from A to B using some canvas and the wind that you are given. I think we were the only ones in our group of 10 that had no sailing experience. Two of the passengers even took turns driving the boat. I was pretty cool; we are going to have to find somebody in Pickwick with a sailboat so we can do that again. Although I will say that in my opinion, all that leaning back and forth was kind of nerve-wracking, how does the thing not tip over???
After our cruise we headed toward Massachusetts . Made it to New Haven , Mass. We ate at the Texas Roadhouse (we’ve eaten there several times in Florence , Al) it was really good food….as usual. Found our self a hotel and tomorrow we plan on hooking up with the folks in Boston .
Did a drive by tour of Cape Cod National Seashore in Mass, very scenic and with the holiday being overwith we really had the place to ourself. From here we headed toward Sandwich, Mass to visit Pairpoint Glass. The have a glass store and a warehouse onsite where they create thier own blown glass. We followed the green line down to the warehouse where we watched them create a decrative bowl from start to finish. One guy starts with the ball of glowing glass and blows it up a little at a time then puts it back in the furnace. He does this several times before he hands it off to the next guy who uses some tools to add shape to the vase. This done in small steps that require putting the piece back in the furnace frequently. There is also a third guy who comes in every once in a while and will give them an extra glob of glowing glass to add a handle or decrative base or so on. Finally the completed piece goes in metal case for cooling. So after seeing all that I had to get a piece....they were fairly pricey but I ended up getting a purple vase for our master bath.
From the glass factory we continued to meander up the coast toward Plymouth, Mass. It was a smaller town with lots of street parking so we parked the car, fed the meter and headed up the road past a lot of small giftshops toward the Mayflower II. The Mayflower II is a replica of the actual Mayflower. I've always pictures the Mayflower as being a much larger boat, but maybe not... We decided to skip the Mayflower tour, as we had already been on a tour of several antique boats at the Mystic Seaport Museum. Further up the street was Plymouth Rock protected by an open concrete, columned building. It's a big rock with the numbers 1620 engraved on the right hand side. The left hand side looks like it had a split in it that had been repaired and that about it....how much can you say about a rock.
Next we head toward downtown Boston, I really wanted to see the North Church and Paul Revere's house (even through I've heard it wasn't much to see). So we exit off the interstate and venture into the downtown area. We immediately get lost, Boston's downtown area is like no downtown I've ever seen. It's very disorganized kind of like a spider web of streets. We never got our bearrings well enough to make our way to the North End, but we did get to see Boston Common, Chinatown and a couple other things while we wondered around downtown for an hour or so. (I'd highly recommend parking the car and taking the train or trolley into downtown...) After that we decided it was time to find the interstate, our hotel was calling us. We hooked up with the family at the Confort Inn in Woburn, Ma. We had a hodge-podge dinner of pizza, calzone & wings and then spent some time downstairs in the lobby with the family to discuss the days events and some of what's to come tomorrow.
We haven't had internet access for several days so this almost seems like work... For now I'm just going to list what all we did and I will fill in the details later (hopefully).
Warrens Seafood Restaurant
Bush compound in Kennebunkport
B&B near Bar Harbor, ME