Thursday, October 19, 2006

To Buffalo, Niagara, and back again...

What a vacation I just had! The wife and I went on a drive that took us through Pennsylvania and up into Canada to see Niagara falls. Along the way we made some stops and as always I took pictures to share with the world :).

Click the images to see a slightly bigger image. And the videos are best if you let them fully load first.

Day 1
We started out on Sunday and took a scenic drive upstate to visit my sister and brother-in-law at their new dwelling.

What a beautiful house it is…but I would not feel right posting pictures of their house. To stop temptation I left my camera outside and focused on the surroundings instead.

I hope to one day have a yard so big that my dogs can run down to the river and have a swim or just tire themselves out chasing a Frisbee.

The house overlooks the Delaware and is one of the most beautiful and tranquil locales that I have seen.

I took this opportunity to get some fantastic shots of my youngest of three. My wife would like to get this image painted in oils. What do you think?

One last one before we move on…

Before continuing on our journey my brother-in-law made the most delicious ribs for dinner and my sis made a rice dish and some string beans to accompany the meal. My family never disappoints when it comes to cooking.

We continued on our way and made one more stop before sleeping in Binghamton for the night. My wife noticed this just off the road behind a store that looked to be deserted for quite a few years.

Day 2
We continued on our way to Niagara and my wife saw yet another cool sight. Check out the plate…

We made our way through Buffalo and although we had heard that they had over two feet of snow last week we could not find any along the highways. Thousands of trees, however, seemed to be snapped like twigs. I’ll tell you more about that on the trip home.

After a total of about eight hours of driving we reached the border and crossed over easier than it should be. It’s cheaper to cross into Canada than it is to get off of Long Island.

We took our first stroll along the falls.

What a majestic sight. The amount of power behind that rushing water is astounding.

Each year the erosion of the rock wall is about one foot. Eventually, I guess, the falls will recede on to US soil.

I have realized my own stupidity The water travels north and “falls up” into Canada. Growing up, my thought was that water was traveling south and going to the Great Lakes…but it is just the opposite. Live and learn.

So, here we are looking across to the U.S. side and the walkway that Woody Woodpecker made famous in his cartoons. Well, famous to a young boy watching cartoons on Saturday morning.

I can see the people raising their hands and cheering “YAAAAAAAY!”

A bunch of people have tried going over the falls in contraptions. Some lived to tell their tale and some did not. Stupid People

Everything comes with a price including the walk along the steps, the ride down to a ledge at the bottom of the falls, or a ride in the Maid of the Mist.

Back in 1885, a Commission was established to make the Park self-financing while keeping admission free to the public.

However, today, you cannot park ANYWHERE without paying. Luckily our hotel was within walking distance of the falls… and, yes, we had to pay to park at the hotel.

There are two bridges in this area leading into Canada. We came over the Rainbow Bridge and you can see that it is named that for a good reason.

There is so much mist from the cascading falls that the sun makes magnificent single and double rainbows.

Although we were here mid-week, there are still many tourists.

We went to dinner at The Keg and had the most amazing Filet Mignon while getting a spectacular view of the falls.

On our way back to the hotel I stopped in the Casino where I had some insight that there would be a fountain mimicking a Tesla design.

I recently gained interest in this scientist that was way ahead of his time. He believed he could give the world free energy by pulling electricity out of the atmosphere and giving it away for free.

Mythbusters has covered a few of his theories; for those of you that may find him interesting. How could you not?

After resting for a bit I woke up my wife and said “Lets check out the falls at night.” So off we went into the night. I am so glad we did. What a sight to see.

They use a row of high-powered lights to keep the falls illuminated all night.

The Canadians definitely have a nicer view.

I snapped a few more shots on the way back to the hotel where we had a well deserved sleep.

Day 3
Niagara is definitely set up as a tourist trap. It is like Disney with attractions, rides, at least 4 wax museums, 4 haunted houses, etc… It was raining when we got up so we decided to hit the attractions in town.

We visited Movieland and checked out the wax creations.

The wife hung out with Forest Gump.

While I choked Johnny…”It’s over Johnny! IT’S OVER!”

We hung out with the Simpsons.

And had my very own Mars Attack.

My wife was mortified when I tripped a LOUD siren by touching Madonna’s boob…
HEY! It was “right there” and when would I EVER get that opportunity again? :( And no, I am NOT a perv :)…

I got what was coming to me…How could I resist…

I promise… I will NEVER do it again.

We then went to SCREAMERS which touts 500,000 visitors and 47,000 chickens.

If at any time you want to end the experience, you yell “SCREAMERS” and you will be let out the “Chicken Exit”. Unlike the laws in NY, they are allowed to touch you in this haunted house. I don’t want to ruin the experience, but the freakiest part is that you are in complete darkness and have to follow the red LED lights which are sometimes not the easiest to find. Ghouls brush past you, things grab you, and rooms seal up. I spent 5 minutes feeling along a wall (or should I say box) before they let me out.

We paid for the torture chamber too which I do not think would be allowed in the U.S. after the Fire at the Haunted Castle in 1984 which resulted in the deaths of 8 people. We went through tight spaces…and I mean TIGHT…in complete darkness. We had yellow LED lights to follow now and people grabbed at us in here as well. There were areas where you had to get down and crawl, shimmy, wiggle and maneuver past tiny openings. It was fun as hell, but if you are overweight or claustrophobic I do not think you could complete it.

We did however and received this card to prove it.

Check it out if you are ever in the area.

Near our hotel we saw Rossi Glass where artisans worked in front of you to craft some beautiful pieces.

We saw one such artist from the Ukraine craft two pieces. He started with a small amount of glass which he rolled on the end of a metal pipe before adding more molten glass.

With this new bulb of glass he began using his tools to quickly pull and sculpt a figure.

You can see on their website (link above) him making a similar figure and how quickly it is done.

And the finished piece cooling…

He then began to create a vase with their signature Cranberry Glass. They are the only manufacturer of this glass in Canada.

The heat generated by this oven could be felt from 20 feet away. The artists work all year round and the summer heat creates a sweltering work environment.

As they work the glass they put it back into the oven, while continually turning it, to keep it malleable.

The soft glass stretched to the floor, where he tapped the base on a metal plate, to form the base of the vase.

He worked so quickly that I missed the forming of the top of the vase on film. He swung the vase up and down toward the floor while constantly spinning the tube.
I did catch him torching the base after he put a coating of powdered glass.

We had done a lot of walking and rested our weary bones before going out for a great Chinese dinner, once again, overlooking the falls.
Asian Pearl
Be sure to check out the picture gallery.

Day 4
So now we are ready to go back home. We stopped down the river on the Canadian side one last time at what was called the whirlpool. The water travels into an elbow and whips around in the other direction. You can take a cable car over this section of the river but it didn’t impress me the way the map portrayed the “whirlpool”.

We stopped at the duty free shop to get some Ice Wine. This is a VERY sweet wine that is made from frozen grapes. Each grape gives one drop of wine. You are supposed to drink 1.5 oz. as an after dinner treat.

We then continued back to Buffalo for some lunchtime wings. We went to Anchor Bar and they were THE BEST I have ever had. The sauce had a hint of vinegar and the bleu cheese dressing had a kick as well. They were not just dipped in Tabasco like they seem to do here on Long Island.

There are license plates from all over and some really cool custom plates on the wall.

And my trip would not be complete if I wasn’t stuffing my face.

As stated earlier, Buffalo was messed up. Trees were broken and power was down throughout the city. I would have liked to get more pictures through the city but pulling over would have been tough.

We stopped at a cemetery to get a few shots of the scene…but this was citywide. The weight of the wet snow broke tens of thousands of branches and took down power lines across Buffalo. Most areas will not have power until this weekend.

I leaned up against this fence to get a shot or two…

And this hairy guy wasn’t too thrilled…

We drove back in a straight nine hour drive and settled back into everyday life. Back to the Xbox 360 and in a few days, back to work…

Until the next time.