Niagra Falls and what came before

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Mum wanted to go back to Athens, and after some map looking earlier we realised that we really had plenty of time, so off we went south again. We stopped in at Rogers at the New again, though just for a night, and actually went down to the bottom of the gorge this time. I left mum to her own devices chatting to teachers and post office people in Athens, then we went north again.

Detoured back into Maryland to get a picture of their state sign, and saw some unexpectedly large wind turbines. Admired the trees in this general area. Saw a great big bbq charcoal plant. Mountains and mountains of sawdust.

Arrived in Penn. Picked up a guidebook to covered bridges, but never ended up seeing any. Looked at their coal displays. About as mine-centric as Butte, MT.

No forestry land here. State parks are all closed. Hmm. We call ahead and find one place that is allegedly still open. $20 for a sodden patch of gravelly grass, amongst deserted RVs. Everyone has gone for the winter. Even the owner, his dad is minding it while he's gone. Rain rain and more rain. The cheap taj mahal tent doesn't stand up to this, and the ground is simply to dishy everywhere with no high ground. Mum sticks it out on her little bit of high ground. I go on strike and sleep in the laundry.

I'm extremely grumpy at this point. The weather sucks, there's no camping any more, I can't think of anything I actually want to be doing or seeing any more, and mum's being mum.

Eventually, after finally getting some sleep, and getting some things dryed out a bit, we come up with a plan. We're going to see about going up to the top of Maine, for me to visit the other end of US Route 1, which I visited in Key West, and visit my friend Michael in Boston, and maybe Cape Cod on the way, and then go into New York, and fly out. First stop though, is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum in Cleveland. It's meant to be a good museum, and we're only 20 miles from Ohio, so why not tick off another state.

The RnRHoF is pretty neat, if a bit pricey. ($20/person) Very well thought out and well connected exhibits, with lots of cool background. I was quite impressed. It was much better than the Smithsonian for instance, which I thought was completely overrated. Side note, I completely overlooked my day at the Smithsonian when writing up that day. that's how good it was.

Hell, lets' talk about it here, while we're comparing museums. The smithsonian is free. It has really really cool "things" It fails miserably in presenting them. It only wins because it has the actual things, instead of replicas, but that's really about it. The RnRHoF had some pretty cool things, though I think there were better things it could have had, but they presented it all excellently. And music everywhere, yet not offensively blaring out of everything. (In their fashion section, they had actual clothes worn by a bunch of artists, including madonna, but the madonna clothes were very forgettable, I mean, where was the pointy bra!)

So we only had an afternoon there, but we just squeeze everything in, and then it was rushing up the road to get to the Niagra Falls YHA before it closed for the night. It was time to bite the bullet. There would be no more camping, and this money was budgeted for anyway. This YHA was much nicer than the Kitty Hawk one, being run by a local politico and his wife. We learnt all about the curious quirks of the local economy, and relations with the canadians and so on and so on. This YHA was a converted old boarding school for girls from way back in the day. Exquisite woodwork, and decorative cast iron steam heaters.

Like the YHA's to come however, despite having an awesome gas stove, the utensils available were rather lacking, and my pots and pans and cutlery came in quite handy.

So! Niagra Falls. What's it like. Well, it's hard to say. I didn't want to push my luck with visas so I stayed on the American side. Which means you can't really see Horsehoe Falls at all (due to mist) and you only get a side view of the American Falls. Ok, so it's pretty cool. They really are a big set of falls. And it's pretty neat how fast the erosion is digging out new shapes for the falls. (And dropping viewing platforms into the river below as well)

What really irked me was that two of the viewing platforms were fenced off, "for the season" Admittedly, this were two areas that would have serious ice problems in proper winter, and would probably be fairly dangerous places. However this was a bright, fairly warm sunny day, and the fences weren't the least bit permanent. And it certainly wasn't that late in the season. The Park was still operating their tours out to underneath the American Falls. And they shut that down pretty damn quick if it's icy. Turns out they fall under different managements. Slack bastards.

Speaking of which, the below the falls tour on the american side isn't really worth it. You don't really get a very good view, and that's really about it. Oh well.

The boat cruises had finished for the season as well. Oh well. Mum said it was very cool from the Canadian side. Oh well. Had fun taking pictures of the fat squirrels, and trying in vain to take a picture of a black one, the first I'd ever seen, before later on seeing about 5 of them, just sitting around. Even took pictures of a large rat type creature. Eating the same berries (Hawthorn iirc) Showed the picture of him to the parks staff. One of them said it was a squirrel with no tail fur. One of them said well it looks like a rat, but the first was the expert, so they ummed and ahhed and avoided answering. Presumably some people don't like to hear that rats exist.

The birds were having a field day with the berries too. We even saw some great big old ginko trees. It really was a beautiful day. So much nicer than Pennsylvania. I took a bunch of pictures, then that night we came out again to take pictures of it lit up. The canadians do a wonderful job of lighting it up every night, with 15 minutes of white light, then 15 minutes of coloured light. Really would have liked to have been able to see them from the Canadian side.

The next day we walked out into 3 inches of beautiful fresh soft white snow, under a crystal clear blue day. Gorgeous. Went and visited the Power Authority museum, which was kinda neat. They have a really really cool mural painted in the 60s, depicting the arrival of the first white missionary to the falls. It's a really cool painting. Anyway, after that we headed out, and off to Rochester, Syracuse, and Corning, all of which are subjects for another day.

The New River Gorge bridge in less clouds

Rolling hills of West Virginia, from Bickle Knob

Bickle Knob lookout tower, in the middle of nowhere

Great big isolated wind turbines in Maryland

As close as we could get to Horseshoe Falls

Stupid signage

Rainbows in the mist

American Falls