Monday, June 1, 2009

Niagara Falls

Last weekend (Memorial Day weekend), Gary and I went to Niagara Falls.
It is not something we planned. It is something we did on the spur of the moment. We were driving to the Chicago Botanic Gardens, which are about an hour away from our house, when Gary turned to me and said, “We should of used this three day weekend to go to Niagara Falls”. I half-teasingly said, “Do you still want to?” And then my jaw dropped. Because right then and there, Gary did something very, very anti-Gary. He said “Let’s go”. Now to get the full understanding of why this is so huge, you must understand, that Gary is not a very spontaneous person. In fact, it could be said he is anti-spontaneous. Every thing has to be planned out weeks ahead of time with him. So you can understand why, when he turned the car around and started heading home so we could pack, I was astonished!! It didn’t take us long to throw some clothes in a suitcase, and within less than an hour of his initial suggestion, we were headed from Illinois to Niagara!!!!!!!

You might think we were crazy to spend one whole day driving up there, and one whole day driving back, just to spend a few hours at the Falls, but this is something I have always wanted to see. I mean, come on, Niagara Falls is the second largest falls on the globe next to the Victoria Falls in southern Africa. One fifth of all the fresh water in the world, from the upper great lakes, eventually cascades over them. It’s true the surrounding area has seen better days. Buffalo, NY is like a lost soul, wearing ragged clothing. Most of their factories have closed, and tourism is some of the only employment currently available. Poor Buffalo, with it’s brutal winters, steeply pitched roofs, paint-peeled houses, and grungy downtown area, has one fantastic jewel-like thing going for it……the powerful Niagara.

To make this trip affordable, we stayed at cheap motels, and ate the worst food ever, surviving on fast food, bags of peanuts, and anemic looking roadside restaurant salads doused with sugary sweet, slightly rancid tasting dressing.

We naively over-paid for a tour-guide package, which would have cost us half the money if we went to the attractions on our own. We doubted the sanity of the trip, when one of the “attractions” the tour guide bought us to was the run-down looking, open-all-night, mini-mart type of place, which he also called the Dare Devil “museum”. In the corner of the store, past the isles of day-glow-orange cheese popcorn, past the sour cream and chive flavored potato chips was one or two of the dust covered barrels people had used to go down the falls with.

Again, we doubted the sanity of the trip, when we waited over an hour and a half to ride in the Maid of The Mist boat, which brings you right to the falls, bouncing in, and bucking the churning water like a fishermen’s bobber, clutching your brand new camera under your raincoat, hoping against hope that the item you just spent hundreds of dollars on, would not be ruined by the mist and spray and humidity. And why oh why did you bring it on this type of trip anyway, when you knew it might be wet and WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?????? You dumb idiot???

And we really, really, really doubted our sanity when we had to wait in line over two hours for the “Cave in The Wind” attraction, which allows you to don raincoats made out of plastic as thin as the Saran-Wrap you cover Thanksgiving day leftovers in, and fun plastic foam sandals, so that you can stand on a platform directly under the falls. Yes. Many, many times, we had our doubts on trip, and wondered why we had come all this way, but, once we finally reached the wooden decks constructed for viewing, and were able, at long last, to stand within inches of one of the most powerful natural forces on earth, in that second, all was forgiven and forgotten. Smiles broke out on every tired face, which were now covered in the spray of The Great Lakes water. Joyful bliss was achieved as photos were snapped with the dramatic, thunderous water at our backs. Yes, it is nice to see the Niagara from the viewing decks above, and from the Maid of The Mist boat, but, here on the platforms, you are able to FEEL the Niagara, and, I have to say, FEELING the Niagara beats the hell out of just seeing it, any day. I could barely hang on to the rail, because the force of the wind and spray we as strong as being on an Alaskan Deadliest Catch crab boat. Ok. I don’t know that for a fact, because I have never been on a crab boat, but , the wind was pretty strong, and I felt a rush of pure joy, bordering on glee, when I felt the powerful water, which looked as if it was going to land on my head, and sweep me away at any moment. I actually wanted to cry. I liked it so much that, I had Gary hold my camera, while I went back on the platform two more times, to soak up the exciting experience. Yes, the feeling of raw, beautiful power was worth all the bad food, the hard motel mattresses, and the urban blight of Buffalo. For here, in this unlikely place, I experienced that feeling of being a small, grateful dot in a wonderfully vast, complex, and mysterious universe. I have to truly say, the trip, was now, at last, worth it.

Thank you Gary. Thank you Niagara.

So that was our Memorial Day weekend.