Days 1-11 12-19 20-30 31-40 41-51 52-60 61-109
Day 31 - September 19, 2008
Notre Dame - South Bend, IN
We were driving east through Indiana today and right in the middle of the state the time zone switched to the Eastern zone. So we've lost another hour and there are still more corn fields.
We stopped in South Bend to see Notre Dame University -- Martin's dad's alma mater. We checked out the bookstore, church, grotto, main building, library, and the famous stadium (we chanted Rudy, Rudy as we looked down the tunnel to the field.) Most of the buildings on campus are built out of tan colored bricks, very uniform and not much ornamentation. The campus had an almost austere look, except for the interior of the church. It was gilded, ornate and beautiful. I was feeling the Irishness of my surname and got a Notre Dame Fighting Irish Sweatshirt.
Tonight we stayed just off of I-90, south of Toledo at the KOA. KOAs always seen to be pretty good have a lot of pull-throughs, so it was a good choice for the night. My mom and I went to a less than stellar meal at Cracker Barrel and went to Kroegers for real groceries.
As we are drifted off to sleep, we hear the familiar horn of a freight train in the not too far away distance. We are starting to feel like we are in the movie My Cousin Vinny!
We did a lot of driving today. The big stop was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH. The "museum" has tons of memorabilia. The costumes were the most impressive. I enjoyed seeing Madonna's rocket bra, Janis Joplin's multicolor VW Beetle, Elvis's car, old Ampex audio recording equipment, famous guitars, Bono's sunglasses and especially Jimi Hendrix's wild outfits. The museum is a giant glass pyramid right on the water. Cleveland looked much nicer than it's much maligned reputation (but I was only there for a few hours!)
Some of the hard core Rock and Rollers!
We drove all the way to Niagara Falls, NY today. We are staying at the Niagara Falls Campground. We drove through three states - Indiana, Ohio, New York.
I have a good friend who lives in Toronto. Since we are so close to Canada, we had to drive up for a visit.
We crossed the border at Lewiston, NY/Queenston, ON. Martin even gets away with joking with the Canadian customs agent. The Niagara region has a wine growing area and is best known for making ice wine, a dessert wine. The ice wine grapes are left on the vine a long time for maximum sugar and are picked at the first freeze. The grapes have to be frozen so the harvest usually occurs in the middle of a very cold night. We stopped at the well respected Inniskillin winery for a tasting. We arrive at 10:45 and have to wait until 11am to taste - some puritanical Canadian law trying to prevent the public from being drunk all day I assume. Not very good for the wine business though - it would never fly in California! Next we drive over to Niagara-on-the-Lake. It's a cutesy little tourist town, best know for it's George Bernard Shaw Festival. We have lunch and get some jams at Greaves. In the nearby Fort George, American and Canadian kids are re-enacting the war of 1812.
We have to drive all the way around the west side of Lake Ontario to get to Toronto (as the crow flies Niagara-on-the-Lake and Toronto are only 40 miles apart.) My friend Chris lives in Scarbourough, a suburb on the east side of Toronto. Chris and I met while we were both traveling in Europe 23 years ago and we are both still fond of traveling. I've been to Toronto five or six times to visit her. My parents have never been here before, so she gave us a very well-informed driving tour of Toronto. It is Sunday today, so the traffic is very light. For dinner she cooked us a delicious leg of lamb dinner and then we checked out photos of her recent trip to Dubai. It looks like a fascinating country to visit. Her brother lives in Dubai and helps run the international film festival there. Chris took the opportunity to visit earlier this year.
We really got spoiled staying with Chris. In addition to cooking us dinner last night, she cooked us a full bacon and egg breakfast this morning. We're not used to having homecooked meals at a big table with real dishes and a tablecloth. It's a very welcome change. She graciously lets us ALL use her shower too - yeah! We stopped at the Ontario Science Center on our way out of town. Martin, Colin and my dad went in to check out the Mars, physics and astronomy exhibits. The building was really cool and the exhibits were very well done, but we only had an hour or so to visit. If you are coming to Toronto with kids, Martin definitely recommends this place.
It takes us an hour and half to get down to Niagara Falls. We stop on the Canadian side (the views are better), have a late lunch and then go see the falls. Colin has seen them before, but was too young to remember. This time he describes them as awesome! My parents are very impressed too. All that moving water is pretty powerful. 700,000 gallons of water goes over the falls every second. The falls are 170 feet tall and are eroding back at one foot per year. (Horseshoe Falls eroded at four feet per year before the hydroelectric plants were installed. Check out this amazing story of when the falls naturally stopped flowing.) I'm bummed because we missed the last Maid of the Mist tour. I'll have to add that to my list of things to see next time. That list of places I was hoping to see but we didn't get to so far includes: Sea Lion Cave and the Columbia River gorge in Oregon, Whidbey Island in Washington, Glacier National Park in Montana, Badlands National Park in South Dakota, Frank Lloyd Wright's Taleisin and Oak Park in Wisconsin and Illinois, Chicago architecture tour, Erie Islands near Toledo, Finger Lakes and Lake Placid in New York. I'm sure I'll have more to add as we go on.
Crossing the border back into the states took a little more time than the Canada crossing. We didn't get inspected, but the agent was rather chatty - doing some social engineering I'm sure. He even asked Colin if we were his parents and who the other folks were in the back.
We are back at the Niagara Falls RV Park for the night. Martin and I take a late night drive to the American side of the falls. The falls are lit at night and I get some decent photos. We went to Goat Island between the two falls. It should be called Raccoon Island, because the little bandits are out en mass.
Day 35 - September 23, 2008
We are driving across New York today and there is more corn here too. We take the New York Thruway; it is the most expensive toll road so far -- $62 bucks to go across the state. At least the road is maintained pretty well and there's no traffic. I had a peeve with the Illinois toll roads -- stopping every five minutes to pay tolls makes traffic even worse and they were very badly maintained - pot holes everywhere
The leaves are finally starting to change. I'm hoping to get some good foliage photos in New England.
We are staying at the Lake George RV Park for the night. It is a really nice park (most expensive too) with every amenity you can imagine. Colin enjoyed the arcade and the playground. We never made it to the indoor pool. I'm sure this place is packed in the summer. Trying to find a restaurant that is open for dinner proves to be a challenge. Most restaurants have closed for the season. The majority of restaurants and attractions closed after Labor Day and very few remain open until Columbus Day. We find a bizarre little polish restaurant in the town of Lake George for dinner. This area is loaded with water slides, arcades and mini golf courses. It's a beautiful area and since it's only a few hours from NYC, I'm sure it's very crowded in the summer. I think the crowds would detract from that getting-away-from-it-all vacation, but I guess if you are used all the people and activity in Manhattan, it's no big deal. Plus the kids would have plenty to keep them busy!
This morning we saw a woodchuck in the campground. Being from California - we had no idea what this little guy was! We all grabbed our cameras to take picture of this cute, novel little creature. I had to ask the maintenance guy what it was; I'm sure he got a good laugh!
Our plan today is to cross Lake Champlain and head to Burlington, VT. The seasonal ferries are still running, but the wait and travel times seem a little long. We decide to cross over on a bridge near the town of Ticonderoga. We happened upon Fort Ticonderoga and decide to check it out. I'm feeling a little uneducated today because I had no idea where Ft. Ticonderoga was located or what had happened here (at least I'd heard of it). First the woodchuck, now the fort! The displays at the fort did a great job of explaining its history. The fort is strategically located at the portage between Lake George and Lake Ticonderoga. It was an important location because cargo could be quickly transported north from New York City via these waterways. The Fort was built by the French in 1755 and violently changed hands between the French, English and Americans quite a few times. The French defeated the prestigious Black Watch here. (No, not the kamikaze bar in Los Gatos -- the Scottish military regiment!!) Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys fought here. (Apparently they did more than make furniture!!) The weather was perfect today and we had a great serendipitous homeschool day at the fort. Colin enjoyed the cannons and climbing up and down all the buildings. The fort is privately owned and contains an extensive collection of weapons and artifacts, great historical displays and a modern education center. The restaurant has home made food; my mom is still raving about the deviled egg sandwich. We would highly recommend a visit.
Ethan Allen's sawed-off musket - a blunderbuss.
Canons have a magnetic attraction to Colin. Many photos on this site will attest to it.
As we drive into Vermont, the cow count dramatically increases. All those dairies have to get their milk somewhere! We stop at the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory for a tour. The tour was pretty cheesy. We promised we'd get Colin a bear there; unfortunately that was before we saw how much they cost! He got a white bear with a karate gee.
We stayed at Shelburne Camping tonight.
Who knew that the little town of Shelburne, VT had a cool museum? The Shelburne Museum features art and Americana. It consists of 39 buildings, 25 are historic and have been moved to the site. Exhibits include works by Mary Cassatt, folk artist Warren Kimble, historic carousel horses, a round barn and the beautifully restored Ticonderoga -- the last walking beam side-wheel passenger steamer in existence. Fifty years ago, the 220 foot Ticonderoga was brought two miles overland from Lake Champlain to it's present location on rail tracks over frozen ground. I'd recommend a visit to this place; there was something for everyone to do and see here.
We stopped in the small town of Richmond, VT and had a pleasant lunch at Toscano Cafe and Bistro. They were doing construction in town; we took a detour and got stuck on a street with no outlet. We had to detach the Mini and do a 3-point turn in the RV to get out of there -- one of the hassles in traveling in such a big rig. We headed to the Ben and Jerry's Factory for dessert. The production line was not making ice cream today (a machine malfunction). We did the tour anyway -- much better than Vermont Teddy Bear and free samples at the end. The original guys - Jerry and Ben - have sold the company and are no longer involved in it's ice cream production.
In the higher elevations of Vermont, the leaves are starting to peak and the colors are beautiful. We drive through the White Mountains into New Hampshire and stay at Gunstock Resort. Gunstock is a ski resort that has RV hook ups in the off season. Martin's dad lives in Alton Bay on Lake Winnipesaukee, about 20 minutes away. We head over to Bob, Cathy and Amy's house for a much appreciated home cooked meal (hearty seafood soup - yum!) I enjoyed having a big family meal together. My in-laws invited my parents to stay at their house so they could have a real queen size bed and some space. My dad was very impressed with the woodwork and craftsmanship of their house.
It is pouring rain today so we decide to hang out around the lake instead of going up to Mount Washington - the windiest place on earth, literally. We drive up to Meredith and had a very nice lunch at an inn overlooking the lake at Lakehouse Grille at Church Point. I do a little end of season sale shopping at Mill Falls (designer pants for $30 that are long enough - woohoo!) We also go to Fun Spot at Weir's Beach for some indoor mini golf and video games. This place has the largest collection of vintage video games in the world - takes me right back to my wasted youth! Colin is in heaven with all the games. Martin puts up his inevitable high score on Gallaga (he's obviously spent a little time in the arcades himself) and then we head back to Alton Bay. After dinner and some interesting slides of Martin's childhood, we head back to the RV pretty late. The rain is still coming down and lots of frogs are trying to cross the country roads. I feel like I'm playing a real life game of Frogger. Eventually I realize that I'm going to slide off the road if I try to avoid every frog that jumps in front of me. I drive on ignoring them.
It's still raining today. The puddles at the RV park are getting bigger. It's very damp; our towels never seem to dry. My parents are leaving us today. They are going off on their own adventure for another ten days to Kennebunkport ME, Portsmouth NH, Rockport, Salem, Boston, Plymouth, Provincetown, Hyannis, Nantucket, Sturbridge MA, Newport RI, and Mystic CN. They will fly home from Manchester, NH so I drop them off there to pick up their rental car.
Martin and his dad manage to find a break in the weather in get in 9 holes of golf. Colin and I go to see a movie - Igor. It is really bad, even Colin thought it was lousy. Cathy cooks us another great meal.
More rain today. We will be heading to Maine tomorrow and we are watching the weather today. We're hoping to avoid an incoming hurricane. As of today it is set to come ashore right at Bar Harbor where we will be staying. We'll stay tuned. We drive down to Fenway Park in Boston today to catch the last Red Sox game of the season. They are playing the Yankees -- Colin's favorite team. (We wanted to see the Yankees at old Yankee Stadium, but didn't want to rearrange our whole trip just for that.) Fenway is the oldest operating park in major league baseball. Martin wanted to share the park of his youth with Colin. He never thought his kid would be rooting for the Yankees!
I'm doing my best urban driving in the Mini to get us to Fenway in the rain. We meet up with Martin's sister Julie and her friend Kelly at the park. The rain has miraculously stopped for a while. We are sitting way out in the bleachers, but we still have a good time. Colin knows to boo when the local crowd cheers and cheer when they boo. He appears to be the only Yankee fan here! The rain picks up again. We do our best to stay dry. The Yankees won.
Colin, Julie and Kelly
After the game, we meet up with Julie and Kelly in Newton for some Mexican food. We will be seeing Julie more next week, but it was great to catch up with her today. It's another late night. We have to drive two hours back to New Hampshire.