Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mission: Impossible*

*where the mission is: "visit Niagra Falls without spending any money."

I made the trip to Niagra yesterday, to see what all the fuss was about. Before I got to the falls, I realized something important: this place was going to be expensive. Pay-to-park lots dominated the landscape. That, and boarded-up buildings. The city of Niagra Falls, apparently, is horribly, cripplingly economically depressed. I could tell, because the Canadian side of the falls looked great. They had ferris wheels, and waterslides, and big hotels, and even a little CN-Tower-looking thing. Based on my experiences of Toronto and now Canadian Niagra Falls, I have determined that every city in Canada has a big space-needle sort of tower.

Back to the story at hand. Tourism appears to be the sole source of income for people working in Niagra Falls, and they don't mess around. This was going to be a tough one. I found a more-or-less free lot after a bit, several miles downriver. Luckily, when it comes to tourist places, I like two things:
1. I like to hike.
2. I like to not pay money.*

*this is the reason why I did not actually see Mount Rushmore, despite driving right up to the damn thing. After rolling up the hill and catching glimpses of the monument, I was notified that it would cost $10 to park. Ten dollars. To spend a couple minutes looking at some big stone heads. I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

So I got walking, up to the falls. And now that I've seen it --

It's nice. The falls are really big, and there's lots of water whooshing down making a cool sort of DOOOOOOOOOOOOM sound as it throws up massive clouds of mist. There were big crowds of friendly-looking Canadians on the other side of the gorge, and there was a boat down at the bottom of the falls, its engines running at full power just to hold in place in the current. There were also massive crowds of people everywhere, including a particularly foolish-looking group wearing bright yellow plastic parkas and sandals waiting in line to take an elevator to the base of the falls. I walked around, I saw the sights, and i stayed away from places that cost money. I left with the same amount of cash in my pocket as when I showed up, and that's a victory in my book.

Take that, Niagra Falls tourism industry!

I've been in Rochester, NY, the last few days, after driving over from Indiana on Sunday. What did I discover on Sunday? That Indiana is boring. I also found a real, live national park, just south of Cleveland. Cuyahoga is a pleasant park of tallgrass prairies interspersed among hardwood forests in the rolling hills of the Cuyahoga valley. It was a perfect place to get out of the car and hike around for a few hours to break up the monotony of driving from South Bend to Rochester. So that's good. The weather was also kind to me, waiting until I was done hiking to open the skies and dump massive rainstorms upon me.

Today was a "Dave discovers Rochester" day. I drove by the Kodak campus, an absolutely massive affair covering what has to be thousands of acres in Rochester. I discovered Rochester's contribution to world cuisine: the garbage plate (a collection fries, macaroni, cheese, and no fewer than two kinds of meat (hot dogs, cheeseburgers) thrown in for good measure. Said ingredients are then tossed unceremoniously into a massive pile on a plate. Or, as was the case last night, on a pizza. Delicious). And I visited the Rochester Museum.

Well, sort of. I got off to a good start, doing all sort of museum things like looking at exhibits and reading signs. Then I saw K*nex zone. It had massive bins filled with little snappy plastic pieces and wheels and gears and all sorts of fun things. Then I looked at the sign, and realized that the age limit was 3, so I couldn't go in. Then I looked at the sign more closely, and realized that 3 was the minimum age.


I spent the next two hours building a massive sort of semi-truck-looking-sort-of-thing. It was clearly more impressive than anything the 8-year olds near me could construct.

Score again.

Then I realized that I had spent the better part of the afternoon not seeing the museum, and decided the remedy this within the remaining 60 minutes I had before the museum closed. This plan worked for a few minutes, before I discovered the climbing wall. Presumably, it was an exhibit of the Taconic orogeny, showcasing the rock formations of the Rochester area. Realistically, it was a rock climbing wall. Once again, I was far superior on the climbing wall to any of the 8-year olds in the museum.

Score once more.

So, it was good fun, and I clearly established my dominance over the children of Rochester. Good times.


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