June 22- 29, 2019 We have already been to New York state when we stopped in New York City so I don’t have a sticker map picture or a state number to update. Even though we had checked NY off our list, no cross country trip is complete without seeing Niagara Falls… it’s probably the last iconic landscape we will see on this adventure.
AA Royal Campground and Motel. Yes, this was a parking lot with full hook ups next to a Motel with no amenities but the owner was very friendly and we were able to get mail here. We didn’t mind because we were sightseeing everyday. I forgot to take a picture of our spot.
Niagara Falls for the first time
Saturday night, after we parked and set up, we picked up Francey from the Airport and headed straight for Rainbow Bridge. On the drive there, we noticed from the road, miles away, what appeared to be smoke rising from the river. We soon realized it was the mist from the falls!
We parked on the American side, in the Niagara Falls State Park Parking lot for $10, then walked over to Canada.
It was so neat to see the falls for the first time. It’s such a quintessential tourist landmark in our country. About 13,000 years ago, glaciers melted away and formed the Niagara Falls. They are slowly eroding the rock below the falling water making the Falls recede back towards Lake Erie. Lake Erie water runs into the Niagara River which falls 160 feet at Horseshoe Falls and continues down the river to Lake Ontario.
Anyone that mentions the falls immediately mention that you have to go over to the Canada side to see them which is so true. While most of the falls are in America, you have to go to Canada to actually see them. Otherwise all you are looking at is casinos! I’m so happy that our country protected this land so the beauty of the falls did not get lost in commercialization.
We had a lot of fun standing in two countries at the same time on the Rainbow bridge. It’s named Rainbow bridge because you are suppose to be able to see rainbows created by the waterfall mist. We did not see any tonight…but that has a lot to do with the role the sun plays in that little magical colorful arch in the sky. It was 7:00pm when we arrived so the sun was setting behind the casinos.
I couldn’t get enough pictures!
Next we passed through the gates on foot into Canada.We brought our passports so we could do the border crossing. It’s one thing to drive through a border crossing, but I think it’s way cooler to walk over. In Texas, we walked and then rowed a boat across into Mexico at the beginning of this adventure and loved the experience.
We are in Canada! We asked the guards to stamp our books. This was Francey’s first stamp in her new passport book. Francey had bought Abby a Canada Niagara Falls shirt at a second hand store months ago. Abby was excited to wear it tonight. I snapped a picture of the flag in the background with her wearing the shirt.
Canada has a nice park area to walk through as you venture closer to the railing of the gorge. That separates you a bit from the crowded casino streets with bright lights.
It gets cool near the water in the evening and Francey had been traveling all day so we headed back to America around 9:00pm. It cost a $1 in quarters to come back over.
We watched the sunset from the bridge but did not stick around for the fireworks.
Erie Canal Cruise
Buffalo is the western terminus of the Erie Canal. We found out that you can take a cruise on an old steamboat through two locks on the Erie Canal. What better way to learn about this man made wonder.
Entering the locking system.
The lock fills up with water, the boat rises up and then opens on the other side.
We cruised down the river for an hour and a half as they played canal music.
This time Abby opened the gates for us.
Astounding process. This was a great way to spend a Sunday morning.
We ate at a restaurant called Lock 34, cute huh?
We drove 30 minutes North to Fort Niagara state park to play in Lake Ontario. We are trying to play in all 5 Great Lakes. We explored the Fort first by taking a walking tour then exploring on our own. We watched a musket demo and ate ice cream. I should be keeping track of all the musket demos we have seen in the last two years.
Here is us in Lake Ontario, skipping rocks. We didn’t bring swimsuits so we just waded in the water. This lake water was really high. Normally there is more of a beach here. We could see Toronto across the Lake. We decided not to drive up to Toronto because it was 2 hours away and there wasn’t anything we were overly excited about seeing.
Later in the afternoon, we drove over to Canada this time and parked across from Table Top Center. We ate dinner, bought our souvenirs and walked the rim.
The rainbows were in abundance today.
Us girls headed to the Teddy Roosevelt Inaugural NHS. This is the house that Teddy Roosevelt was visiting when he took office after President William McKinley was assassinated.
I learned a lot from the museum exhibit on Pan-America Exposition. I knew nothing about it and equated it to the Worlds Fair I’ve read about.
The only way to explore the house is to take a guided tour. Our tour guide was fantastic! He played the role of transporting us back into the day it all happened. I really felt like I was there. We stood in the room where he was sworn in.
The upstairs had great hands on exhibits. Francey even had fun with the interactive desk and taking selfies with Teddy.
Francey treated us to Mexican for lunch. The service was slow but we had fun playing a drawing game.
In 1901, Annie Taylor, an American schoolteacher who, on her 63rd birthday, became the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a custom made barrel. And to top it off she took her cat with her. She did it to make money but it never really was successful. People were intrigued at first but lost interest quickly.
Buffalo Museum of Science
Since we have to get out of the house everyday for Chris to work, today we decided to go the science museum in Buffalo. We packed a board game and found a table to play it on and eat our packed lunch before exploring the exhibits. We got in free with our ASTC membership. It’s worth the admission price though, there are 4 floors of interactive exhibits.
When in Buffalo you have to eat Buffalo wings from the place they originated! Duh! We ordered them to take home so we could eat dinner with Chris. Chris and I ate the majority of them, no one else is a fan.
The Buffalo wing was invented in 1964 at Anchor Bar in by Teressa Bellissimo.
Every night, in the summer, Canada shoots off fireworks over Niagara Falls at 10:00pm. It was a great show! What is really cool is they shine colored changing lights at the falls as well.
Niagara Falls State Park
Maid of the Mist
The famous Maid of the Mist is on the American side. There is a Canadian equivalent boat ride that takes you to the same place that Maid of the Mist but I wanted to ride with the original company that has been doing it since 1864.
The boat took us into America’s most powerful waterfalls. I’m not sure where else you can hear the roar of 600,000 gallons of water falling right in front of your eyes. It felt like we were entering a Hurricane with the gale force winds produced by the falling water.
I charged my Go Pro and had it on video the whole time we went through the Horseshoe Falls unfortunately I discovered I had not emptied the SD card so it only captured the first minute of our ride. UGH! Luckily, Chris took a few pictures until it was time to get really wet at which point he put the phone away. We had to hold on to the side of the boat because of the force of the wind coming from the water. At one point I looked back to see Francey hanging on to a pole. We got soaked!
After we got off the boat we walked up the stairs to get close to American Falls. The ponchos are really just for looks unless you try to stay dry, which we did not. We stood at the front of the boat on the Maid of the Mist and walked up to touch American Falls. If you stand on the lower deck of the boat and don’t walk up the stairs to American Falls you can stay dry.
You can also go out on the Prospect observation deck after you ride the elevator back up to the top. Francey gave the girls quarters so they could view the falls up close while we dried off a bit in the sun.
We walked over to Hard Rock cafe for lunch, which is really close to the state park parking lot. The girls have never eaten at a Hard Rock so they enjoyed watching the music videos on the big screens while we ate.
Cave of the Winds
Cave of the Winds is another activity included in the Discovery pass. Instead buying each adventure separately we found it more economical to buy the pass because we had planned to do all that was included. When you arrive at your timed entrance for Cave of Winds we were given new yellow ponchos and special sandals. Had we known ahead of time, we could have done this first and worn the sandals on the Maid of the Mist, because you get to keep them.
We saw people wearing these around all day. In fact, we saw people wearing them on other tours in other states we’ve visited.
We rode the elevator down 175 feet into the Niagara Gorge. The stairway takes you under Bridal Veil Falls. They take down this stair system every winter and build it back every summer.
The Hurricane deck is no joke. We had so much fun with this. It was a calm sunny day. This is just what it’s like to stand under near the waterfall.
We rode the trolley around the park, which is included in the Discovery Pass.
We had dinner at the local restaurant near our RV park. We tried pizza logs for the first time. We had seen them on several menus around town so we decided they must be a thing around here.
Went started our day exploring the Aquarium of Niagara Falls.
Then we walked to Rainforest cafe for lunch. After lunch we enjoyed the ping pong tables and corn hole games that city provides for entertainment.
The street games
After we walked back to the aquarium we watched the Sea Lion show then drove to the state park to see Whirlpool Rapids. It was a hot day and we had done a lot of walking today so we took advantage of the Kona Ice truck smartly situationed in the parking lot.
Francey has never done an Escape Room and we love them so we reserved a room for 8:15pm at Escape Room Adventures. We chose 108 Ocean Avenue. This adventure was different than the other ones we had done where they involved several rooms, it was all in one room with a ton of locks. It was still fun and we escaped with 20 minutes to spare.
Niagara Falls Power Authority is a great FREE activity for anyone. It is a very educational interactive museum that is kid friendly. When you enter you are handed a badge that you personalize and record energy points throughout the museum. There is a 4D simulator ride, Van de Graaff generator, and much more.
Seven years ago, in 2012, we took a trip down to Gainesville stadium to walk around the stadium without all the football game crowds. I took a bunch of pictures, including a really cute picture of Chris and the girls posing in front of the statues of three Heisman trophy winners from University of Florida; Steve Spurrier (1966), Danny Wuerffel (1996) and Tim Tebow (2007). The girls were 4 and 6 years old.
Here is Mackenzie reading Tim Tebow’s book on vacation, in November of 2015.
In 2016, we read Steve Spurrier (head coach of UF football while Chris was at school there) was going to be in Atlanta at the College Football Hall of Fame signing his book. We had read his book and brought our copy for him to sign along with two 11×14 printed copies of the picture of the Heisman trophy winners. We printed two prints so each girl could have their own copy. I let the girls play hooky from school to go downtown to meet Coach. We arrive early and stood in the long line waiting for our chance to talk to him in person, get his signature and maybe snap a photo. The sign clearly stated that he would not be signing anything other than his book but I have a little rebel side to me and wanted to take the chance.
When it was our turn, he had our book in his pile already so as we approached I had the girls stand in front of us. They quickly slid the prints in front of him. What parent hasn’t used the cuteness of their children to try to get away with something. He looked up from his rhythm of signing books and paused at the sight of the prints. Then he looked up at all of us dressed in our Florida gear and we flashed a huge smile. He said I’m not suppose to do this and signed both of them anyway. We said thank you so much. We asked if we could have a picture with him and while we were posing we explained our plan to have all three Heisman winners sign it. He was raising money for Curing Kids Cancer so we mentioned we would donate extra money since he signed it for us.
We decided to buy a few more books for friends and stood back in line to get those signed while the girls played the games in the center of the College Hall of Fame building. This time, they changed the sign to say “for each $20 donation, coach will sign ‘other’ things besides his book”. We are trend setters 🙂
We walked out of the College Football Hall of Fame building and were heading to lunch when Chris spotted Danny Wuerffel. What are the odds? Well as it turns out he runs an organization in Atlanta called Desire Street Ministries and had just stopped by to say hi to his old coach. Our timing just happened to be a perfect moment. We got his autograph (unfortunately it’s in orange sharpie above his statue on the brick instead of under it on the sidewalk so it’s hard to see) and a photo as well. It seems this goal to get all three to sign the prints was going to be easier than we thought.
As it turns out we had to work a lot harder to get Tim Tebow’s autographs. No opportunity seem to presented itself until one day in April 2017. We checked the girls out early from school and drove up to Rome, GA to watch a baseball game. Tim Tebow was playing for the Columbia fireflies at the time and was scheduled to play against the Rome Braves that night. We again wore our Florida Gator apparel and bought front row seats in the right field. Before the game, the local news stations game over and interviewed Abby. On the TV that night everyone heard why she was at that game that day- to see Tim Tebow. That combined with the fact we ran into one of her teachers during the 3rd inning would not have gone over well if we had lied as to why we checked her out early. Good thing I was totally honest:)
We waited patiently for him to complete his warm ups. With excitement in our bellies, we leaned over the wall and hollered his name while holding out the prints. He did in fact come over and sign ONE of the prints. But not the other one! UGH!! He didn’t come back over to our wall the rest of the game.
That brings us to day, June 28, 2019. We have carefully carried this print, that is missing one signature, around the country for almost 2 years hoping we would have a chance to run into Tim Tebow. Guess what? We are in Buffalo, NY when he is playing for the Syracuse Mets, a New York Mets organization. He is coming to Buffalo to play the Bisons while we are here. Chris bought tickets in the left field where he would be warming up.
Tonight, we dressed in our Florida gear, packed our print and sharpie and headed to the game. We arrived early, took our seats and chowed down on hot dogs and pizza logs as we anxiously waited for warm ups to begin. I made friends with a few other Tebow fans, one of which had a connection in the dug out. When our new friends informed us Tebow was on his way out we felt butterflies in our stomachs. As soon as we saw him, we screamed his name, he looked right at us and grinned. Now you’d think we’d be the only Tebow fans at a game in Buffalo, NY but that was far from the truth. There were so many people lined up against the wall waiting for him. I will say we were the only ones in Florida gear.
We stood there for 25 minutes and watched him warm up. Not a bad way to spend a Friday evening but we were there mainly to try to get his autograph on this print- focus Tina. When he picked up his glove at the conclusion of warm ups he walked directly to us first. He signed our print! Thank you Tim Tebow! Thank you! Now play ball!
It turns out we had an added bonus… his first at bat, he hit a homerun.
Timmy signing the print.
The national anthem for Canada was sang along with America’s. We had a lot of fun during the game, Mackenzie tried so hard to get on the jumbo Tron with her flossing and to catch a ball, with no luck. While she and I took a break to go to the bathroom, Abby and Chris were featured on the screen doing the air guitar!
Another bonus was the fantastic fire works show at the end of the game. That was two fireworks shows this week and it’s not even July 4th yet!
Saturday we moved to Cleveland Ohio.