NIAGARA FALLS . . . 2006

[Mother Nature and a bunch of treehuggers are crying somewhere]


   Let me start this little blog by saying that I have always wanted to visit our 51st state, Canada. For some reason, it took 40 years to get around to it. I figured that after watching Bob and Doug McKenzie in the 80's, listening to Ann Murray slaughter a Monkeys song in the 70's and recently reading up on Karla Homolka, I didn't really need to go to Canada to get the gist of the experience.  But, as luck would have it, Sherry and I had talked about taking a little trip away from home to: 1) go on our first vacation in 1 years; 2) see if Sherry could bear to be away from Harper for 4 days at a time [it was tough]; and, 3) just see something we hadn't seen before. Given only four (4) days and the condition that we travel on Delta to use some passes from my sister (a Delta flight attendant), anything in the western half of the US was out of the picture. We had to fly through Atlanta if leaving from Alexandria and either Atlanta or Cincinnati if flying from Shreveport; so we were relegated to something in the east. Glacier National Park will just have to wait another year or two.

   After spending some time on the internet looking at the alternatives, Sherry picked Niagara Falls, Canada, because, as it turns out, the best views of the falls are on the Canadian side. So we packed warm and, at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 22, 2006, we drove to Shreveport to begin our trip.

   For multiple reasons, we decided to fly to Toronto, rent a car, and drive to Niagara Falls. We arrived at the Toronto airport after connecting through Cincinnati and rented a Dodge Magnum station wagon. I now want one of these cars. Sherry thinks its ugly, but it drove like a sports car, had plenty of room and the drink holders were in the perfect place. I'm not sure about the mileage, but one of these may be in my future. Harper would think its cool; I'm sure of it.

   On the way to Niagara Falls, we noticed something a little different about the scenery. It was difficult to put a finger on; things just looked a little different, like when LSU played Clemson in the Peach Bowl in 1995. I remember watching Clemson play and thinking that they were the evil LSU [think Evil Captain Kirk from Star Trek, but without the mustache]. Orange isn't all that far from Gold. The mascot was a tiger; the Clemson band even played "Hold that Tiger." They call their stadium Death Valley. Anyway, Canada looked kinda like the rest of the US, but just a little different. So when we saw a Home Depot with the words "Tim Horton's" underneath, we just figured Tim held the franchise and Home Depot let you do that with the signs. Little did we know that it was a popular do-nut shop franchise. I mean, who would think of putting a do-nut shop in a Home Depot? But I digress. When I saw a large supermarket-looking store with a large sign on the front proclaiming it "The Beer Store," I decided to cut them a little slack.

   Well, we were hungry before arrival so we stopped at a placed called Boston Pizza to get something to eat. Boston Pizza is basically a Chili's that sells pizza along with the usual bar & grill fare. I had Diet Coke and baby-back ribs; I forgot what Sherry had. The bill came to around $40. A little stiff, but we were on vacation and got a cheap deal on the flight so what the heck. We arrived in Niagara Falls without further incident and checked into the Hilton in a room with a view of the falls, except for one little thing:

View from our hotel room. American Falls on the left, Horseshoe falls on the right.

Fallsview Casino right in the %@$&*# middle.

    When it came to weather, we could have picked a better time for the trip. A front had just pushed through and the high temps were in the mid-50's. But weather wasn't the story here. I bet that you have never been to a bigger out-of-place tourist trap in your life. It's one thing to stick Vegas out in the middle of the desert, but putting the Nigara Falls skyline adjacent to this natural wonder should require a hanging of someone. It's definitely not a wilderness feeling like Yosemite: it has more of a Central Park vibe to it. Look one way and you see an impressive set of waterfalls; turn around and you see skyscrapers.

    But it's the little things that scream "Tourist Trap" the loudest. Here's an example; see if you can spot the problem with this picture:

The elevator button panel at our hotel.

    Hmmm. Aside from having no nominal 13th floor to keep stupid people from refusing to stay there [check the next airplane you ride on too, stupidity is a universally ubiquitous commodity], our hotel didn't have a second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth floor either. "Why?" you ask. Silly you! You wouldn't be able to see the falls over the Casino from any of the lower numbered floors now would you? Can't you just hear it: "Why yes ma'am," the hotel clerk knowingly intimates into the telephone, "you'll be glad to know that you and Mr. Smith are staying all the way up on the the 7th floor and the falls are less than a half-kilometer away." In case you were wondering, we stayed on the 14th floor: 19th in the numbering scheme shown in the photo: 13th if you believe that "mezzanine" actually means something.

   Anyway, after checking in and dropping off our luggage, Sherry and I walked through the rain and around the Casino/Shopping-Mall/Parking complex the get our first un-obscured view of Niagara Falls.


Niagara Falls. "American Falls" on far left. "Bridal Veil Falls" on middle left. Horshoe Falls [Canada] on far right.

   After gawking for a while, we headed out to look for some supper, only to be confronted with the sheer expense of it all . . .