One of the natural wonders of the world

Trip Start Jun 16, 2012
Trip End Jul 28, 2012

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Flag of Canada  , Ontario,
Wednesday, July 25, 2012

July 24 - Toronto to Niagara Falls

Time to go to one of the most touristy places in the world – Niagara Falls. Now why would I go to an overly touristy place – I do have a thing for waterfalls. The drive was not as bad as I thought it would be. We left Toronto around 11 and did not get into a ton of traffic. The drive was mostly urban through the vast metropolis of Toronto and its metro area, then through Hamilton and the big Ford assembly plant and then on the small piece of land between Lake Erie and Ontario along the Queen Elizabeth Highway. Our campground is to the north of the city on the Canadian side in a town called Queenstown. The name of the park is Shalimar – interesting Arabic name for a place near Niagara Falls.

This place was like a parking lot somewhat – most of the people here are permanent. We did get a pretty good spot away from most people – not that we don't like people but it is easier to take care of the dogs. We got set up, had some lunch and then took the dogs on a walk around the campground. It had this monster swimming pool, but we were far from it so the noise level was down. In the afternoon we drove across the border to gas up as this Indian station with diesel 20 cents less than anywhere else. So out come the Jerry Cans. From here we stopped by an RV place to see if they had a toilet part of which they did not. Then to a Wal Mart to grab some provisions. Then back across the border. With plenty of daytime left we decided to actually go see the falls.

We drove down the Niagara Parkway for 10 miles to the main area which was full of touristy things. The Canadians really did a good job of mixing park and commercial together. The main road by the falls is all park with all the commercial things a block behind. We parked in a free area – hard to find in town – at Kings Bridge Park. Since this was 2 miles from the falls we took our bikes and road the bike path down. I really liked this ride as the roar of the falls got louder and louder the closer we got. Interestingly we saw a rusted out barge stuck on a rock just half a mile before the falls. Turns out this barge has been there for almost 100 years and the two people aboard were successfully rescued. We crossed over short bridges and past an old power station before getting to the main overlook with spray hitting us all over the place. Though it is a major touristy place, it is a must see place for anyone – these falls are amazing. It is easy just to stand at the edge and stare or just take a million pictures – of which I did both. We rode the bikes downstream some more to see the American falls and then came back to our truck. So we found a good place to park for our little trip. Back in the truck and to the campground.

July 25 – Niagara Falls

Time for touristy day at the falls, or at least the morning since that’s as long as we could stay out due to the dogs. We parked in the same place and rode our bikes to the main touristy building to check out what we wanted to see. Both of us at first decided to do the Behind the Falls trip. Even though it was early in the morning the tourists were out in force. We stood in line for about 30 min. where they gave us a "souvenir" poncho – or Chinese made super thin plastic. We took an elevator down to the base of the falls. Before heading outside through the concrete tunnels, we took the tunnel behind the falls to a couple of portholes behind the falls. Major noise. There were some signposts to give a little history of the place and how fast the falls are eroding – since the diversion of hydroelectric power about 100 years ago the erosion rate is very slow. Turns out the falls is very small at night – when not many people are looking – but then the water is released during the day time for the tourists. After peeing behind the falls we walked out onto a platform right at the base and bottom of the falls. It was pretty amazing to see behind the water falls. So a ton more pictures were taken while trying to protect the camera from all the spray. Now since our camera was out of order I had to use the cell phone which does not have a bad camera. After 30 min. of getting sprayed we went back up the elevators to the top of the gorge.

From here we walked along the path on top of the gorge overlooking the falls with the million other tourists all taking their millions of pictures. I could understand why as each place gave you a different perspective on the falls. Soon we reached the Maid of the Mist entrance – yes, the height of touristy. But something you have to do once in your life. Pooja did not seem to interested in it so I went on my own. The line was very long and it took me about 45 min. to get on. It felt like a herd of cattle be driven on the ship. Unfortunately I was one of the last to get on the ship so I should have had a bad viewing place. However, I did work myself to the top deck and almost to the very front – it pays to be big and tall at times. Though we were stuffed like sardines on this boat and could hardly move. As we got close to the base of the falls it got very windy with a ton of spray hitting us. Everyone’s blue ponchos were going all over the place which made it hard at times to take pictures or videos. Soon you could not even take pictures as the spray turned into an almost windy rain effect – live in a major storm at sea. This all lasted only 5 min. but what a thrill it was. Would I do it again – probably not. But it is cool to do at least once. The entire ride only took about 30 min. but I did get some pretty cool shots with my phone. Back at the dock it was cattle herd off and back up the ramp for the elevators. Looking back you could see the next batch herded onto the boat. Not bad money these people are making. At the top I found Pooja and we walked back to get our bikes and get back to the truck. From here we went back to the RV to take care of the dogs and get some lunch.

We hung out at the RV for a few hours in the afternoon before Pooja got the bright idea of walking the dogs at the falls. So I dropped of Pooh and the dogs on a side road around the falls and then drove to the park two miles down the road. Then I biked back to the main drag to meet up with Pooh. But the crowds were huge and it was very difficult to walk with three dogs on these narrow sidewalks. I could see some people were getting frustrated but Pooh did not care about the other people – only the dogs. Finally I said enough was enough and I rode my bike back to get the truck and call the whole thing off, not matter if she was mad. So a long ordeal – all that bike riding at night – for nothing. We went back to the RV and chilled for the night.

July 26 – Niagara Falls

Last full day of this six week trip. Kind of sad in a way. Most people are excited about getting back home after a long vacation. I guess I’m one of those people that are just very happy on the road and seeing what is around the corner. Home is nice, but there is nothing like traveling. Woke-up kind of early to get my bike ready for a little ride. There is this 10 mile bike path along the Niagara River to the quaint town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was an overcast day with a little rain here and there but not too much. The ride was very nice and almost flat for the most part. Past nice houses, or should we call them estates, and vineyards – as this area is known for its wine. After just over an hour I made it to the town just past historic Ft. George.

At first I rode around the port area. Across the Niagara River on the US side was “Old Fort Niagara.” Some major history happened in these parts during the War of 1812. From the port I rode along a road with some old houses and to the oldest gold course in North America. It is only a 9 hole but still neat to think it is the oldest. Interestingly, right in the middle is another fort that gets very little foot traffic – Ft. Mississauga. You have to walk through the course to get to it. There is a square two story brick magazine in the middle with some earthworks around it. After my little jaunt around the small fort I took my bike and found the main drag of the city – Queen St. I parked my bike and went up one side of the street and down the other in about an hour and a half. Lots of quaint shops and pricy bistros. This is kind of like the Sedona of Canada – many older couples with lots of money. But it is a cool place with all the old historic buildings giving it a British look and very clean. I went into several shops myself but ended up not getting anything though I can close with a few shirts – I have already bought too many shirts on this trip as it is.

After my self-directed tour of Niagara-on-the-Lake, I took my bike and continued back on the bike path called the Niagara Parkway Recreational Trail for my 10 mile ride back. Once I got back to the RV it was lunch time so I fixed a little something. Then it was onto an afternoon walking tour with Pooja. There was still a chance of rain and it was a little overcast. We walked through the small quaint town of Queenston Heights – again, a major place for the War of 1812. A few old houses and Bed and Breakfasts’ here and there. We took a little loop around the town which is just a few square blocks large. In the town is the historic Laura Secord Home. Laura Secord is one of the most famous historic Canadians. She ran from her home to warn the British and Canadian forces of where the invading Americans were. From her information, the British went on to win the Battle of Queenston Heights. Funny you never hear about this in American schools. Then it was on to find a trail up the actual heights where the battle took place. At the top of this small hill is the Brock Monument. Brock was the British General who died leading his forces to victory. Again, he is one of the most famous historic Canadians, but I have to say before this trip I had never heard of him – and I really like military history. American learning of the War of 1812 is only about 1) USS Constitution, 2) Star Spangled Banner, 3) Burning of Washington, 4) Battle of New Orleans. But right as we got to the top we got a nice little rain so we walked back down the trail with a little protection from the woods.

After a nice three hour walk, we got back in the truck for our last trip to the falls. We did stop by a few places on the way. One was the floral clock – a big clock at a 45 degree angle with flowers all around it. Reminded me of Hindi Movies shot in Switzerland. And most of the tourists here were Asian. Just a bit down the parkway is the hydroelectric station. Since the both of us really like to check out how things work we took a little 30 min. tour of the inner workings of the place. Pretty cool how they harness the power of the Niagara River to provide electricity and how it has expanded over the years. From the dam we decided to hike in a little park off the parkway – Niagara Glen Nature Preserve. Turns out, this is a major hidden gem in the area. The top part of the park had the usual picnic pavilions and playgrounds. But then, there were some stairs that led straight down the Niagara River gorge. So of course we had to check it out. Turns out there were many more miles of trails in this part – with its own rock city action going on. Felt like the karst landscape of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam or the Li River in China, but in a forest. There were not too many people on these trails and defiantly not the “typical” Niagara tourists. We went all the way down to the Niagara River and its crazy rapids right along a rock. One slip and who knows where you would end up. After about 30 min. at the bottom we worked our way back through the stone forest on trails that were not clearly marked. After anothe30 min. we found the stairs back out of the gorge. Very neat place and highly recommended for the outdoorsy types like ourselves.

Back in the truck and down a mile or two we checked out a souvenir shop that had a few overpriced items but nothing we really liked. Since this was our last night on the trip it was time to buy a few things. So we continued on to downtown to find some parking. The sun was setting around this time so all the touristy places were being lit up. We found a parking place a few blocks from the main strip. We hit several shops here and there and were forced to go in a few as the rain was hitting hard here and there. We bought the most stuff at a store run by Indians – go figure. But they did have the best prices. After this and hitting more rain we finally ended up at a Tim Hortons. I guess since this is the last main day of the trip in Canada we better go to the most famous Canadian coffee and donut place. We sat in here for about 45 min. just waiting for the rain to end. Since I don’t drink coffee I had a very nice berry smoothie. With the rain kind of going away, we made our way down to the florescent lit falls. Yes, I had now see the falls many times, but I don’t think I could every get tired of it. It was neat just to stand by the railing and admire this gift of nature and soak it all in – literally and figuratively as the spray would hit us ever so often. We walked from the main tourist center at the top of Horseshoe Falls and walked along the path toward the Clifton Hill touristy area. It was now around 11 and we were still out – we are usually in bed by then. But we went through some more shops as Pooja was getting some last second things. With more rain coming in we stopped by another Tim Hortens and we got the same thing. I spent this time downloading some stuff on my phone from their WiFi which took forever. While I was doing that, Pooja got some fries at the KFC. Then it was time to walk the many blocks back to the truck. Since this is Canada we felt pretty safe walking down these roads in the middle of the night. Back at the truck we drove 15 min. back to the RV park in no hurry to get up for the two day drive starting tomorrow.

July 27 – Niagara Falls to northern Kentucky

We did not get up early as planned to get on the road back home since we got to bed so late. We just got up when we could and slowly packed the RV and had a little breakfast. It took us awhile to get on the main highway here – the Queen Elizabeth Way – as they stripped the road where I was driving. It is really fun to take the RV on dirt and gravel. On the main highway it was just 30 min. to the US border going into Buffalo. We crossed over the Niagara River into Buffalo and then had to go through customs. Of course we got a surly border guard and checked the inside of the RV where he saw Pooja’s creepers she bought in Toronto at the Laidlaw. So then we had to go somewhere else for a major inspection since we did not declare this plant. At this time Poncho decided to take a major pee in the backseat. When it rains it pours. They just ended up tossing Pooja’s plants and we were on our way after a 30 min. delay.

Outside of Buffalo we took the back roads the rest of the way through New York so we would not have to pay the toll road on the I-90. If you have a car it is not too bad and probably worth it. But with a truck and RV you have to pay through the nose. We took the coastal road – US 20 and State 5 – and the traffic and traffic lights were not too bad and we made pretty good time. We got back on the I-90 right before the NY – Pennsylvania border. The Penn. part of the I-90 is short – just about 45 min. long before you got to Ohio. From here it is a short distance to Cleveland, though we did go around it on I-271. Mostly easy driving around Cleveland – much better than the traffic back in Atlanta. From here the highway merged with I-71 way south of Cleveland and soon we were back in the rural areas. To Columbus it was only two hours, but we did run into a little traffic there. Then it was two more hours to Cincinnati where I-71 gets a little crazy going through downtown to catch I-75 and the bridge across the Ohio River. After the Ohio River I felt closer to home as this meant we were back in the South. Just about 30 min. south of Cincinnati we drove into our place for the night – the Flying J truck stop. I gassed up and parked along the curve outside the Dennys. At truck stops we don’t un-hook and the trailer is a little off balance. But we are only here for 12 hours at the most. I cranked up generator and out went the slides where we chilled out for a few hours before retracting the slides halfway and going to bed.

July 28 – northern Kentucky to home

Easy drive for the most part. We just took I-75 south all the way home. Through Lexington, the Appalachian of western Kentucky, and then way down the hill toward Knoxville were we gassed up. Then south toward Chattanooga, Atlanta, and then back up I-85 toward Lawrenceville and home. An easy 8 hours with no major problems. Now we are back and time to get back to work so we can earn money for next year’s trip.

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