Monday, September 08, 2008

Niagara Falls

Just back from our trial RV trip to Syracuse, Rochester and Niagara Falls...

Slowly I turned...(it's about 4 minutes in)

(We crossed the Susquehanna river as well.....Susquehanna hat company!)

We picked up the RV on Saturday morning and spent the next few hours filling it up with our stuff. It was a lot of stuff and this was just for a week--how are we going to pare down enough for a long trip? Next we headed towards Syracuse in what Pete described as the cruise ship on the highway.

We didn't know in advance when we would be able to hit the road and didn't want to over do it on the first day, so the plan was to boondock (stay somewhere with no water/electric/sewer hook ups) wherever we decided to stop that night. Walmart allows boondocking at a lot of its stores and, sure enough, when we pulled in there were already at least 15 other RVs settling down for the night.

With making dinner in a tiny kitchen and having to wash the dishes after every meal, the night goes by pretty quickly and we were in bed early to the (not so) lulling sounds of the diesel engines folks ran all night.

Next day we went the rest of the way to Syracuse and spent the afternoon with Sal and Sherene, old college friends of Pete's. Their oldest has taken up the drums and Pete gave a mini master class down the basement. We had a campsite in Rochester, so we reluctantly hit the road after a great dinner.

The site in Rochester was much better than the Walmart and Pete and I handled the hookups with no trouble. Next morning it was time to DUMP THE TANKS--not something we were looking forward to. We had the kids observe, since this will occasionally be their job on the long trip. It went off without a hitch! Not even too gross, especially with good thick gloves on. A good start and lighter tanks meant better mileage.

Monday was spent with former Boston friends Lisa and Dave and their great kids. We chatted, ate lunch and then headed for a nearby beach on Lake Ontario. What a great idea! The kids all got along well and didn't mind the frigid water. The adults sat on the beach and caught up some more.

We went back to their house for pizza and then Dave and Pete had a jam session down the basement for a while. Lisa, Katie and I went down to watch and Katie joined the guys for a few Beatles songs--she's a natural!

I had the pleasure of backing us out of our parking space and driving back to the campsite through the construction in the dark. I was able to ungrip my hands from the wheel by the next morning!

Next morning--Off to Niagara and the tight quarters and packed schedule was beginning to take its toll. However, we did get to Niagara, suitably impress the kids with how big they are, got our Adventure Passes and went to the new Niagara's Fury and the Journey Behind the Falls, both of which the kids enjoyed and were very cool.

Pete took a break and the kids and I went to my favorite kitsch--WAX MUSEUMS! We chose Ripley's Believe it or Not and Louis Tussauds. Awful and totally fun. Katie and Zack were talking all afternoon about going to Dracula or Frankenstein's castle or to the Nightmare exhibit but I knew I had steered them right when we got to the "scary" part of Tussauds, which consisted of 5 figures of movie monsters. They were both terrified and clung onto me for dear life!

We met up with Pete to check in at the campsite and hook up to have a quiet night of dinner, fooling around on a funny cakes blog and heading to bed. Katie and Zack also played with the little girl from the neighboring campsite.

This was supposed to be our big vacation day. However, we had been having ongoing problems trying to check the tire pressure, something we are supposed to do every morning. The front passenger tire was looking kinda flat, so we took our new truck pressure gauge (found out on Monday that the one we had for the car didn't go high enough) and headed off to find enzymes for the Black Water Tank--it's what you think it is--and to find a gas station with air.

Enzymes found and added. Air, not so much. There were strange stems on the wheels and the problem tire had one that air out faster than you could put it in. After several minutes, and quarters in the till, we got it up to a reasonable pressure and got a late start to the day.

But what a day! First stop was the White Water Walk, then off to the Maid of the Mist. This is when homeschooling is its most cool--no lines or waiting. We were able to be right up front and get very soaked in the process. Not a problem since we were wrapped up in plastic raincoats that got VERY hot while we waited for the boat to depart. We had terrific weather throughout the trip and it was nice to get a blast of water from the falls every now and again.

The only down side was our late start and then finding out that the shuttle to the parking lot, most of the attractions and the people mover all close at 5pm. We rushed over to the Butterfly Conservatory, only to realize we had no time to see anything and make the last bus back. But, good news! The conservatory had its own parking lot. Back on the bus to head back to the camper and go have dinner. I was irritated about everything closing so early, but when we got back to the main falls area there was an amazing rainbow, so it was a stroke of luck after all.

Katie and I really wanted to see the waterfall light show, but where to park the rig? I came up with a plan to get the kids in their PJs and do a couple of drive bys. But when I shared the idea with our neighbors, they suggested we use their car. Nice, considering they had just met us the day before. They are Dutch and have been living in Canada for about 4 years. Katie kept an eye on their 3 year old at the camp playground and we chatted on and off. What a nice offer and Pete and I said yes. So, we were able to see the falls on foot and also peer into the IMAX daredevil display, where they keep all the barrels everyone took over the falls.

The last day at the falls we went over to the Butterfly Conservatory but first, Pete squeezed us into a parking spot at the Whirlpool section to see the whirlpools and the Aero car. Katie and both agreed that this is not the ride for us. The kids were not very impressed by the whirlpools and I remembered them spinning more. Maybe the water levels were low?

The Butterfly Conservatory was stunning. I have NEVER seen that many butterflies in one place. The most important thing was to watch where you stepped. Pete, Katie and Zack all had butterflies land on them, but I guess I wasn't sweet enough that morning.

We called customer service for the rig and got an appt to get the tires and fridge fixed that afternoon on the NY side. Going through customs was easy and it was fun to hand over our passports. Not too fun to wait for the fix, but there was a Walmart nearby the shop and we needed to restock snacks and water, so we killed some time in the store.

Then we headed home. Zack asked if we could go to a campsite instead of a Walmart that night, so I found us a site with no hook ups once Pete was sick of driving.

Our last stop before home was Pittsburgh and I wish we'd had more time to spend there. Definitely going back. We stopped at the Children's Museum. where Pete magically squeezed us into another parking space. I'm generally unimpressed with Children's museums but this one was very nice. A lot of hands on activities and, ofcourse, a large Mr. Rogers section (the show was filmed at the Pittsburgh PTV station).

Too early we had to hit the road for home. We were worried about the impending hurricane weather but got lucky that it held off until Saturday.

We learning a LOT. Primarily about over scheduling and having a plan for what to do when nerves run high. We're also a lot more knowledgeable about how an RV works and rides on the road. Katie and Zack had a blast, their only complaint being the amount of driving we did.

So--plans for the big trip continue!