Midwestern Meander 2012: New England to Niagara Falls

It’s eight hours from our house to Niagara Falls. Because my kids are champion road-trippers, this wasn’t actually as hellish as many people might expect. We listened to several of Beverly Cleary’s “Ramona” books and began Black Beauty, which we all loved. My daughter loved that it was told from the horse’s perspective and my husband and I loved the not-so-subtle messages of temperance from the 19th-century Quaker author.

On this trip, we discovered that my daughter can’t stomach hip/retro decor. She literally felt ill at the cafe in Utica where this delightfully kitschy owl perched on one of the thrift-store formica tables that populated the dining room:

The rest of this leg of the journey was more pleasant, with two exceptions: The guard at the border didn’t make a big enough deal about it being the very first time my children or I had used our passports (I wouldn’t have wanted her to search the car or anything, but a little, “Woo-hoo!” might have been nice), and my son refused to wear his poncho on the Maid of the Mist boat tour. Poor guy wailed the whole time but no amount of dousing by the falling waters of the Niagara River could convince him to put on his poncho. My husband, daughter, and I stood around him like blue Dementors trying to shield him from the mist but he just cried on. (I probably should have given him chocolate when we returned to shore.)

The highlight of the trip (besides the falls themselves) was discovering a little wooded walking trail behind the police station and next to the public rose garden that allowed us to take a less touristy path back to our hotel from the falls.

Some more photos:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Related Posts:

Adventure for the Non-Adventurous

Wasn’t it about this time last year when I was fixated on the idea of selling everything and moving into an RV? I wonder, if I looked at my journals from the past two decades, if I would find that every late-winter brings me this “itchy feet” sensation.

What’s interesting this year is that my husband seems to have it, too.

“I think we should have some kind of adventure,” he said last weekend.

“Adventure?” I repeated, one eyebrow raised. “What kind of adventure?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “Maybe a road trip.”

“We’re going to western Mass in July,” I said. “We could drive up to Acadia and camp sometime. We could drive down to DC and see my dad, visit some museums. Oh! We could fly to Mexico and visit Tucker and Victoria before they head across the Pacific!”

“I’d like to see Vermont,” he replied.

“What about the big Canadian/Upper Midwest road trip you wanted to do?”

“I still want to do that,” he said after a slight hesitation.

“We’ll need to plan it, then. Hey! We could camp all through Canada on our way to Detroit!”

“Umm…” my husband replied.

“The kids and I need passports, and to get those, we need you to come with us to the post office between 10 and 3 one day.” It doesn’t take much to get me off and running in planning mode.

“Okay. Let’s do it. We’ll make the deadline for applying for passports March 1st.” I was impressed by the decisiveness of his reply.

Of course, we’ve not done anything else towards this goal. The passport applications are still collecting dust on the desk. We’ve not investigated routes or campgrounds or timing for a Canadian adventure. We’ve not seriously considered whether our car is big enough for camping equipment for two weeks AND the family.

And it’s not all my husband’s fault. I talk a lot about taking adventures, but when it comes to action, I’m as guilty of procrastination and equivocation as he is.

As much as we’re craving adventure, we realize that our definition of “adventure” is different than other people’s. For us, the 30-mile trek into Boston is preceded by weeks of planning (and then eventually scrapped because it’s too much work/the kids won’t get much out of it/parking will be a pain/it’s too expensive/what will I eat? I missed the Pompeii exhibit at the Museum of Science for all of these reasons).

We will, with little hesitation, pull up stakes and move across the United States, something that other people find unthinkable, but at the same time, the trip to visit my dad in DC has been postponed indefinitely because I can’t decide if he’d be offended if I bought a salad spinner, brought along my Vita-Mix, and filled his fridge with kale during our visit and because between train, plane, and automobile, I can’t think of any way to travel alone with my children that would actually be “pleasant.”

But should adventure be pleasant? My friend from middle school, Maggie, who recently spent a year traveling around the world, wrote about sixteen-hour bus rides with no bathroom facilities (and along narrow roads cut into the sides of cliffs…not sure which part I found most unnerving about this). She wrote about trips down the Nile that resulted in her contracting some kind of parasite. She wrote about almost getting kidnapped and robbed by a motorcycle cab driver in India. She wrote about drinking some unidentifiable liquor during a power outage somewhere in Africa. She risked injury, illness, and death on three continents, and this was all still part of her definition of adventure. It falls more in my definition of “near-death experiences.” Chances are, it’s a little of each.

What, then, is our (our family’s) definition of “adventure”?

I’ve referred to taking the kids on the bus through downtown Salt Lake City as an “adventure.” There was an element of the unknown. We were doing something out of the ordinary, although not unprecedented. It required ignoring the unpleasant (like the smell of the guy in the seat in front of us) in favor of focusing on the pleasant (my son’s amazement at finding himself inside this huge vehicle, my daughter’s elation at getting to pull the cord to request our stop, my own satisfaction at successfully reading a route map/schedule). But there was little danger of physical harm or even of getting lost. If all else failed, we knew how to get home thanks to the grid system upon which the roads are laid out (my daughter learned early on to ask, “What South are we?” a habit that’s less helpful in New England). And I always traveled with ample snacks and clean water, in case we found ourselves stranded on State Street where there would be nothing but fast food places and adult bookstores (like the one advertising “used” magazines. Ew).

Tucker assures me that adventure is different for different people and that my little anxiety-filled adventures are just as adventurous as his family’s upcoming voyage across the largest ocean in the world. I have the sense that this is at least mostly true, but I’m not  entirely convinced.

I mean, which do you think sounds more adventurous? “We took our two kids and sailed our boat across the Pacific Ocean,” or “We took our two kids to the children’s museum in Salt Lake City via public transit”?

Or how about, “we camped our way across Canada from Boston to Detroit with two kids and a salad spinner?” (Yes, I know neither Boston nor Detroit is in Canada, but there’s some Canada in between the two cities.)