Deanne and I embarked on our first vacation together in over ten years last Tuesday evening. We drove over to Wilderstead to get a jump start on driving to New York. Wilderstead to upstate New York is a day's drive; Ellettsville to upstate New York is a penal sentence. It was blistering hot and humid. We drove along the edge of a front. Rainbows abounded.
We spent a sweltering night in the cabin. Got up early and had a quick breakfast. I brought along my quart-sized backpacking French press, so we had really good coffee every day. And then we were off on the road: Cincinnati; Columbus; Cleveland; Erie, PA; and finally, Lake Erie State Park, just inside the western NY border in just about seven and a half hours.
Lake Erie is one of my favorite places to have camped. It's a small park, but the campground is well-taken care of, shady on the edges and open in the middle. We set up our tent and used this park as our staging area over the next couple of days. There was a restaurant a couple of miles outside the park entrance, where Deanne had a nice Broiled Haddock sandwich, and I had a very good Beef on Weck. Very tasty, but the portions could have been a little bigger.Erie happeningsLake Erie State Park, NY
Early next morning, we were up and on the road for Niagara Falls, NY, which is just 75 miles from Lake Erie SP. We drove around Buffalo and arrived about 10:00 a.m. Parking was cheap and easy. We walked a block and entered Niagara Falls SP on foot. Bought a couple of tickets for the Maid of the Mist and joined the line of pilgrims heading for their journey to the Falls.All aboard!Maid of the Mist
Once everybody was on board, we donned our disposable blue raincoats and the boat pulled away from the dock. Dead ahead loomed Niagara Falls. We were well positioned on the starboard rail near the bow. The main waterfall is 170 feet high. Going over in a barrel is strictly prohibited; daredevils have been arrested trying it. The drop is not the real problem, of course; it's the probability of being held under the Falls by the force of the water until the amount of air in your barrel or capsule runs out that's so dangerous.Approaching the FallsHorseshoe (Canadian) Falls
Both the Maid of the Mist and the Hornblower catamaran, over on the Canadian side, take you right up into the plunge pool at the foot of the falls. The water churns and boils like a kettle. After a while, you can't take any more pictures, because the mist has become a shower bath. This will have to do for a closeup.Getting closerAfter this, any pix would look like they were taken in the shower
Horseshoe Falls carries the main channel of the Niagara River over the falls; however, the American Falls off to the side aren't just a cheap sideshow. The rapids that flow beyond the foot bridge to Goat Island is one of those places in America that has been given the name "Hell's Half-Acre." And anything swept over the American Falls would hit the rocks, 180 feet below.
Coming back to shore, Deanne declared that her boat ride on the Maid of the Mist was the best twenty bucks she ever spent on a holiday attraction.American FallsOn our way back down river
This view of the Falls is from the Observation Tower bridge. One can also walk right up to the Falls on both the Canadian and US sides. View from up topAmerican Falls on left, Canadian Falls beyond
We ate lunch at a grill in the park. A black squirrel was hustling to get whatever he could, in competition with the usual gray squirrels. The sun was blistering the pavement, and Deanne ran out of gas early. So we walked in short stages over to the Top of the Falls, then took the trolley back to the State Park entrance. We drove back down toward camp, stopping for a light supper at a Tim Horton's in Dunkirk, NY.Refugee from MirkwoodNiagara Falls State Park, NY
I got up briefly in the middle of the night and saw a big, fat shooting star. Some outlier of the Perseids. The heavens were brilliant, and the Milky Way shimmered. No time for star-gazing, however. I went back to bed and we got up very early the next morning at 6:00 o'clock. By 7:45, we had breakfast cleaned up, camp broken, and we were heading for the interstate.
We tootled back down to Erie and then drove south to pick up I-80, heading east into the Allegheny Mountains. There are no straight roads east and west through central Pennsylvania. The reason is that the mountains run all through the State in a great arc of many ridges. After skimming those ridges for a while, we switched over to a highway that took us through Happy Valley (home of Penn State), and down into the great central valley of Pennsylvania, where Harrisburg, the capital, sits.
This wide valley is part of the same landform as the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. The Great Philadelphia Wagon Road was the route taken by the Scotch-Irish, who came from the eastern ports into central Pennsylvania, then down through Virginia, and into the Piedmont area of the Carolinas.
After six and a half hours of driving, we arrived in Hershey, PA, the other item from Deanne's Bucket List. We toured Chocolate World and shopped for candy. And then we were off again.Sweet and SourNo, really, she was happy to be there, I tell ya
About an hour back down the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road -- er, I-81, we pulled into Pine Grove Furnace State Park. We got some very nice wraps at the park's General Store for supper. And there, Deanne put up her feet to do some light reading.
Now, I brought along a popular history book and a couple of novels for my down time. Deanne is plowing through the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), in preparation for her counselor's licensing exam, which she hopes to qualify for some time this fall.Studying on itReading the DSM in camp
On Saturday, we broke camp early and headed for Gettysburg. We drove around the battlefield and shopped for souvenirs. Deanne wasn't in good form. I couldn't inveigle her into climbing up to the roof of the Pennsylvania Monument. So, we left early.Nope, I ain't a-goin' up therePennsylvania Memorial, Gettysburg
It was a long, hard drive. We left Gettysburg about 10:30 and arrived at Wilderstead back in Indiana just before 9:00. We skimmed through the edges of rainstorms much of the way. It was still very humid, but much cooler. We spent a fairly restful night in the cabin. Slept in a bit, got some breakfast, and drove the last two and a half hours back to Ellettsville, finally arriving some time around 12:30 or 1:00.