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Goodbye, New York!

July 14, 2011

Go to bed in Minneapolis,
Wake up in PA.
Pack your roll, your brush, and your comb again,
Ready to roam again, ready to stray
When the circus comes your way.
                                                             —”Join the Circus”

When I was in second grade, my class put on a circus to celebrate the school’s 25th anniversary, and we all sang the above song during the performance. It comes to mind now not because The Hamster and I went to a circus today but because we woke up in New York and are going to bed in PA. It’s been a fun but very long day.

Instead of heading straight to Niagara Falls first thing this morning, I acquiesced to Sam’s request to borrow fishing rods from the motel, and we went fishing in Lake Otsego off the motel’s pier. Well, Sam went fishing. I was assigned the unglamorous job of baiting his hook with the live worms we bought in the motel office for $2. (There’s something to love—and fear—about a motel that sells live worms in its office.) He didn’t catch anything but the lake was so clear that we were able to watch as fish after fish ate the worms off his hook and swam away.

The next stop was a local grocery where I picked up a toothbrush for Sam to replace the one he left at camp, and a post office to mail the first of what I hope will be a series of 36 postcards (one each day) that we’ll be sending to Abby from the places we visit.

And then, driving. Lots of driving. After driving for about a half hour, my GPS looked like this:

That little green box in the upper-right corner says we’ve got 193 miles to go until the next turn. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but I can tell you that the road to Niagara Falls is smoothed over considerably with a bag full of child-friendly car activities. Once the scenery became monotonous and Sam ran out of things to tell me about camp, he dug into his backpack for some of the entertainment I packed him. He spent a little time with the books of kids games and activties, but the big winner today was the portable DVD player and the copy of “Rudy” that I packed to get him excited about our visit to the University of Notre Dame.

Eventually, we made it to Niagara Falls. Somewhere along the way, we stopped to make and eat sandwiches at a rest stop, fully christening this an official road trip.

The plan at Niagara Falls was to walk around on the American side, then walk over Rainbow Bridge to the Canadian side, and then come back to America for the Maid of the Mist boat tour. Rainbow Bridge didn’t work out because I forgot to bring our passports so we couldn’t cross. The boat ride didn’t work out because The Hamster decided that, despite having enjoyed a week-long cruise just a couple of years ago, he is afraid of boats. But we still got some great views of the Falls, thanks in part to the bargain of the day: $1 each to use the Maid of the Mist’s observation deck and take their elevator down to the bottom of the Falls. Hamstie was wowed by the enormity of the falls, and by the relative calm of the water just a few yards past the falls. He had a lot more to say, too, which I captured on video and hope to post tomorrow.

By the time we left Niagara it was dinner time and we were hungry, but we had a very important stop to make before dark, so we had a quick snack (the back seat of our car is literally filled with food and drink) and hit the road again, headed southwest to the tiny town of Westfield, NY.

If you don’t already know the story of Grace Bedell, the 11-year-old girl who convinced Abraham Lincoln to grow a beard during his campaign for the presidency, do yourself a favor and click the link. Anyway, Grace lived in Westfield, and several years ago the town finally honored her unusual friendship with Lincoln by installing an outdoor statue of their meeting. It so happens that Westfield is literally on the way from Niagara Falls to our next stop, Canton, OH. And since Sam learned about Grace in school and I am endlessly fascinated by all things Abraham Lincoln, going to see the statue was a no-brainer.

The takeaways:
1) Abraham Lincoln was hella tall.
2) Top hats rock.
3) Sam really enjoys taking silly pictures.

We left Westfield at about 8 badly in need of nourishment. The plan for dinner tonight was that we would find a rest stop somewhere and cook burgers on our tabletop propane grill. (As a side note, that grill might be the best $30 I ever spent, even before this trip). It wasn’t long before we found the perfect place: just over the state border, the Pennsylvania Welcome Center: a wayyyyy-too-nice rest stop with a beautiful picnic area that was completely empty when we got there. Great weather, great scenery, and great burgers were a perfect, relaxing way to end an exhausting day.

A few exits down I90 later we found a Travelodge with a shockingly beautiful lobby and not-at-all-shockingly drab rooms. But it was late, and we were tired, and for $70 we got beds, A/C, wi-fi, and even an indoor pool, which should be refreshing in the morning before the long drive to Canton for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

So there you have it. Wednesday we woke up in New York but by noon on Thursday we’ll be in Ohio.

Climb aboard before it moves on
And you’ll thank your lucky stars you did.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 14, 2011 9:40 am

    So happy to read that with all the planning, you made the time to stop for “fishing”. I did click the link and enjoyed the stories. So great to follow the trip.

  2. July 14, 2011 10:49 am

    Loving this. I might copy your itinerary for a road trip in a few years.

    How are you transporting meat for the grill? Are you stopping at places with kosher meat along the way to replenish? With a trip like this, food is always my #1 concern…everything else always falls into place.

    Also, it’s probably a telling sign of how old my kids are – I read ” Somewhere along the way, we stopped to make and eat sandwiches…” as “we stopped to make | and eat sandwiches…” 🙂 Took me about 3 readings to understand that you weren’t talking in toddler-speak, and you actually were applying both verbs to the sandwiches.


    • ABH permalink*
      July 14, 2011 3:40 pm

      Binyamin, kasrus makes food the top concern for any kind of trip. I brought a lot with me and I plan to replenish in every kosher nabe we pass through. More on that in tonight’s post.

  3. Yehuda and Esther permalink
    July 14, 2011 2:19 pm

    Love the pics, and your ability to improvise.

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