Monday, May 27, 2013

Niagra Falls, the Canadian side

Niagra Falls is a place I've wondered about my whole life. Like, wondered where it even is. I always thought of it as some magical place where water just gushes out of ever pore of the Earth and spills out pure joy for all us common folk jaw droppers to enjoy. Is it in America? Maybe Switzerland, that's a place where wonderful things like national peace seem to happen. Now having visited, I have to give my unenlightened self some credit since Niagra Falls is in fact in America and another country. But since Niagra Falls is the border between the US and CAN it is not actually in either and is technically a magical land of peace! More credit for me!

All nonsense aside, Niagra Falls was pretty spectacular. We curved our way around Lake Ontario for about a hundred miles until finally arriving to the Canadian side of Niagra Falls. Upon pulling into the glorious Falls we were bombarded with nearly every other tourist attraction you could imagine. A ferris wheel, Ripley's Believe It Or Not, the Hardrock Cafe, cotton candy, ring toss, the Niagra Falls Casino Resort - you name it! We suffered a bit from the uninvited overstimulation until arriving at the real attraction. Despite the unparalleled tourist carnival - seriously, it's like Universal Studios on 'roids - we definitely made the right choice to view the Falls from the Canadian side. The vantage point is far greater than the US one on the other side and much larger overall, especially compared to that tiny yet fancy sky walk observation deck.

We gazed above the Falls for at least an hour watching the water from Lake Erie rush over and over into the Niagra River. We were totally mesmerized. I imagine that the people who elected to ride the boat down into the river and right up to the Falls felt the same. I bet they also felt soaking wet. I prefer the view from afar. We lingered for a while until making moves to head back into America and our final destination: NEW YORK!

Oh and thank you tourist sir for the picture of me and Claire and you.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Ontario, I'm on ta you!

After surviving Michican we could hardly wait to be in Toronto. We fled our own country as fast as we could and ran into Canada's open arms. Eh, can we take refuge here for a night?

On the way through Ontario, somewhere around Woodstock, we ended up taking a wiz break at a Tim Horton's (apparently those are like the Starbucks of Ontario except it's fast food). Here we met the most preciously wide eyed group of Ontarian teenagers hanging out in the parking lot, up to no good and seemingly no wrong. They saw our Oregon plates and nearly jumped out of the car to ask us where ärēgōn was. They wanted to know if it was in Canada...or in New York. They were precious. I wish I could have hung out with those rascals all day. Why were we at a Tim Horton's in Woodstock-ish Ontario? Oh yeah, because someone just absolutely had to get her hands on some McDonald's french fries otherwise this someone would have had a hangry meltdown. Ahem, not I. Ahem, Claire. Much to both of our regret, McD's is not as easy to come by as the Canadian equivalent when in Canada, go figure. After hauling around for what turned into a lot longer than 5 minutes we finally found those golden arches and Ms. McDonald was appeased. Back on the road!

We pulled into Toronto around happy hour and checked into our hostel for the night which was actually a University of Toronto dorm room. Not a bad deal. The campus is centrally located in downtown and brought about a familiar sense of coziness to when Claire and I first became friends in the dorms years ago. Didn't think I'd be back in a twin bed so soon! We freshened up from a long day of driving, finished up some beers leftover from the Grand Canyon and jumped onto the nearest street car to visit the pubs. We stumbled across some hot dogs,  a funkadelicious blues band and zero available taxis until eventually hauling our tired bodies back to our collegiate abode.

For our big day out on the town we figured we'd head straight downtown for a proper brunch. After all, it was Saturday. Downtown was strangely deserted and we had the most difficult time finding a place that was open for service. And also no one around seemed to be able to point us in the right direction - for anything. "Excuse me, officer, do you know where we could find a place for breakfast around here?" "Excuse me? What? No. Not really. No." Oh, a very nice hotel with a restaurant that has the lights on. "Hi! Two for breakfast?" "Oh, what? No, we're not open. We won't be serving food until 2:00 PM" What's going on, eh? We were very confused. It seemed like we were there on the wrong day or something and eerily like we had traveled into an early 90's parallel universe. We started to see some Blue Jays fans making their way to the afternoon game but by that point we were on our way back to the car.

All that being said, Ontario was ok. I'd be willing to give it another shot on a day that was any of the days except for the one we went on. As long as I stick to that plan my next visit is bound to be a whopping success! But hey, I mean eh, thanks for the shelter mates, we sure needed it! Catch you on the other side CAN!

Saturday, May 25, 2013


After Chicago, we had a long haul ahead of us until our next destination ---> Canada! It didn’t take long to get to Ann Arbor where we ended up spending most of the afternoon. Strongly recommended by my Wolverine Alumni friend, we picked up some sandwiches at Zingerman’s Deli and grubbed as if we had been living out of a car for 10 days. Delicious! Thanks for the samples, Zingerman’s! And thanks for the iced coffee that came with a verbal warning that the effects would be not unlike those of crack. Seriously, thanks. The cracklike effects came in handy around Somewhere, Ontario several hours later.

We made our way to the University of Michigan campus and quickly found ourselves in the Museum of Art. We spotted some Picassos and observed an eerily alluring holographic installation by Laurie Anderson. We returned to the car and much to our good fortune found NO parking ticket!! Horray! (This was the second time [Omaha was the first] that I entirely forgot to pay for parking for an extended period of time so the moment was a bit exciting.) We got back on the road and made our way toward Detroit…

As we had done in all other cities until this point, I took a close look at the map and found a route to detour through the city. The plan was to cruise through downtown, see the Detroit sights and peep in somewhere to take a wiz or like, buy gum. Well, I stubbornly did not get gas in Ann Arbor because, you know, I wanted to use up as much gas as possible so that I could fill on empty and therefore postpone our next gas stop - to think we had made it this far with our logic is truly a wonder... So, here we are approaching Detroit with the gas light on. We're searching around for a gas station and the first two places I stop at have totally busted pumps and pay stations that probably haven't been greased since the 00's. The search persists. We are not finding any gas and seem to be going further and further into a direction that will never lead to our afternoon delight. Finally, we find a gas station with fully functioning and free flowing fuel. We regrouped and reassessed - the quest for gas had ended up taking over an hour and turned into a perilous black hole odyssey. We got back on some highway to see that the next exit was 9 Mile Road. And then the next exit was 10 Mile Road. Yup, our dandy Detroit detour led us to 8 Mile. The time was now 5:30 PM EST (blast! the time had changed again) and rush hour traffic was not at all rushing. We had hours to go until getting into Toronto so we let go of any hopes for our Detroit detour dream and got the heck out of that place!

Overall...Ann Arbor was really cool. I'd give Detroit another chance just as soon as I catch my breath from the whole gasoline/detour fiasco, whenever that is.

Oh yeah, we also drove through Indiana, but just for a bit.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Chi Town

CHICAGOOOOO!!!! You windy city you, you swept us right off our feet from the minute we strolled in. We pulled in just in time to catch sunset over the city on the gleaming Chicago River. What a sight! We met up with some fellow Oregonian ducks and chatted over some local Illinois brews.

For our big day out in the city we decided to take a Chicago’s First Lady Architectural Tour aboard a lovely riverboat. After picking up a couple of bloody marys downstairs, we grabbed a pair of seats on the upper deck to hang our heads over our backs and gawk at the glorious city cruising ahead of us. Chicago, you are the most beautiful city I have ever seen. The city is reminiscent of those Italian cities I’ve never been to that wind around rivers and carry the townspeople over romantic bridges from one scene to the next. It's glorious! My favorite buildings are the Marina Towers for sure. They look like twin beanstalk butterflies, delicately playing home to 19 floors of parking, 30 floors of condominiums and a marina! The Willis Tower ain’t bad either. I feel quite lucky to have been able to see the tallest building in the North America before NYC’s Freedom Tower is completed and reclaims its title.

We checked out Millennium Park, looked into the Bean and wandered around the gardens until coming across some very beautiful retailers. There’s nothing like shopping in the city! We did our girl thing and then caught up with friends again for one last night on the town. We made too many friends at the bar and eventually made our way back to the Millennium Park Parking Garage Hotel. Overall, Chicago was great, truly a divine experience. I love you Chicago, I’ll be back as soon as I can!