Do They Shut the Falls off at Night?

The other day we were looking around on internet for information about Niagara Falls and ran across one of the many FAQ pages for the falls. The first question on the page asked the question above. Well we both shook our heads and said how stupid can one be, but did look to see how they answered the question.

As it turns out it is not such a silly question after all. The American and Canadian governments have agreed to keep the water flow over the falls at 100,000 cubic feet of water per second. During the tourist season Ontario Hydro and the New York State Power Authorities reduce the amount of water they draw from the river to keep the massive volume of water going over the falls.  However after dusk the volume of water going over the falls is cut in half as the power companies pump water from the river above the falls into gigantic reservoirs. Ontario Hydro’s reservoir is 212 acres and is smaller than the Robert Moses Hydro reservoir in New York State. Water from these reservoirs is used during the day to make up for the deficit when they must keep 100,000 cubic feet of water per second going over the falls.

So although they do not turn the falls off at night – they do reduce the amount of water that flows over it.  Who knew?

We continued reading and learned that the falls did get turned off by Mother Nature back in 1849.  The news report records are sketchy from that time period. In late March a south-west gale blowing off Lake Erie cause an ice dam to form at the mouth of the Niagara River reducing the flow of water into the river to just trickle.  The water flow over the falls was reduced to a mere trickle for between 30 and 40 hours.  The mills and factories along the river that depended on the flow of water went silent. Fish and turtles were left foundering, and people made their way into the river bed in the gorge picking up artifacts including bayonets, gun barrels, and tomahawks of days gone by.

In 1969 the American side of the Falls was turned off for a few months while a study of the rock formation at the crest of the falls was undertaken. They also studied the feasibility of removing the fallen rock from the bottom of the falls (they decided not to remove any rock and let nature take its course).

We were going to leave the Niagara a few days ago but the weather kept us from going east so we got to go over to Canada again today and watch the fireworks this evening and got a lot of good pictures. Here are a few (and I keep forgetting to mention that if you click on the picture you should get a larger view of it).

Niagara Fireworks

Niagara Fireworks

I guess the saying is true there are no stupid questions –who knows what you might learn when you ask (or read the answer of what was thought to be a dumb question).

Niagara Falls a.k.a my love affair with water

Brad Paisley released a song that as soon as I heard I loved. The name of the song is “Water”. The story of the song is that he has had a love affair with water since he was 3 years old and his dad blew up the kiddie pool. I can attest that my love affair with water goes far younger. Growing up in Florida surrounded by water my parents did one of the best things for me. They took me to swimming lessons. Lessons started when I was just a year old and by the time I was 18 months they would drop me in the pool and I could swim the length of the Olympic pool at the local public pool. Since then I have spent nearly my entire life less than two hours from either the Gulf of Mexico or an ocean. I love water.

When I was in high school and found out my parents were moving me from Boston back to my beloved Florida my girlfriends and I decided to run off to Chicago for a road trip as a good-bye. On the way back to Boston we side-tripped to Niagara Falls. We were only here a couple of hours but we did get to see both the American side and the Canadian side of the falls. This was long before the required passport to travel between the countries. I loved it.

As Bill and I were discussing our travel plans Niagara Falls was a place we both agreed we needed to see again. We didn’t really have plans for what to do but neither of us needs incentive to be near water.

It was almost a 6-hour drive from Cleveland and generally after a 6-hour day driving we just grab dinner and crash. When we got here we were both so jazzed that was not going to happen. We did grab dinner but then after dinner we headed straight over to the falls. There was little chance of us being this close to water and not dropping everything to go. We got to the falls and wandered around taking pictures. Just as we were about to leave because it was getting dark the lights came on. Niagara Falls lit at night is spectacular. We stayed a little longer and then decided we had several more days to enjoy it so we came home.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Tuesday morning we got our mail and THANK Goodness my passport made it. We excitedly jumped in the jeep and headed straight to the Canadian border! We spent the day roaming the little town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Canadian side of the falls. We spent an hour taking pictures of the falls after dark in all the many shades of light.

Niagara Falls in Color

Niagara Falls in Color

Wednesday was windy so we decided to postpone our cliff dwelling and boat riding and spent the day just meandering.

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

Today was the day. It was time for the two highlights. The Cave of the Wind is not actually a cave but a series of walkways built into the side of the cliff next to Bridal Falls (part of the American Falls) it takes you down to 10 feet above the base of the falls and up to the Hurricane Deck, where you can stand under part of the falls and basically get drenched. They give you a yellow poncho and special water shoes. Bill and I had a blast. It is funny of all the things I wanted to see and do in life THIS was not on my list but it is one of the coolest things I have ever done. You can also see the magical “Back Side of Water” that you cannot see just anywhere (for the Disney fans out there you will get the joke.)

Niagara Falls Cave of the Wind

Niagara Falls Cave of the Wind

Next was the Maid of the Mist boat ride. The boat takes you into the mist of the falls. I remember seeing the boats the last time I was here and wishing we had time to go but we didn’t. The boat ride was very cool. I recorded video as best I could between the sheets of water falling, the wind billowing, and the boat rocking.  Check the www.smugmug.com/twotwistedlimes account if you would like to see it.

Niagara Falls Maid of the Mist

Niagara Falls Maid of the Mist

Well with Hurricane Irene headed north and east it looks like we may stay here a couple more days if we can. The park office was closed by the time we got home so we will have to check in the morning. Being as it is Friday night and the park is only half full I am hoping it will be okay. The area is so beautiful I can imagine people would want to stay for a long time… or well until it gets cold! Grin. Everyone stay safe as the hurricane gets closer to land.

Niagara-on-the-Lake

Back when were in Pennsylvania Leslie completed the paperwork and sent off for a Passport.  We talked about going into to Canada a bit as we continue to explore the East Coast. Today we got the mail from our mailing service in South Dakota and sure enough the Passport was in the package.

Since we just happen to be staying just outside of Niagara Falls, New York we figured we should try out her Passport and make sure it worked so we headed into Canada for the day.  People frequently ask where we are from and most of the time we say something along the lines of – “from here but just for a few days”. We had to remember to say ‘South Dakota’ when asked today at the border.

We got across the border and started to drive towards the falls and saw a sign for ‘Niagara-on-the-Lake’ and decided to check it out.  Niagara-on-the-Lake (N-O-T-L in local shorthand) is a small town in southern Ontario where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario. The history of the town goes back to the late 1700’s when the village was incorporated as the town of Newark and served as the capital of the Province of Upper Canada. N-O-T-L is known for the Shaw Festival (a series of theatrical performances based on the work and time period of George Bernard Shaw) and the many wineries of the area.

As we entered the town we were overwhelmed by the wonderful flowers all over. We parked and walked up and down the main shopping street in the town taking in the color of the town.

The Flowers of N-O-T-L

The Flowers of N-O-T-L

We had a very tasty lunch at a Greek restaurant, purchased some post cards which we mailed from Canada, bought a new hat for Leslie and continued our stroll looking at the shops and flowers.

Leslie and her new hat

Leslie and her new hat

We did go explore the Falls – but more on that tomorrow.

The Most Important Part

A friend of mine asked me how I had been enjoying living in an RV for the past several months and I have to say, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT! I grew up in a gypsy type of life-style. The family joke is that my mother would move us every time the oven needed cleaning. In reality I think it was even more often than that. LOL Before I was even two years old my parents moved from one house to another just 4 blocks away. When I was eight we moved from Saint Petersburg to Tampa about 2 hours away. When I was 12 (3 weeks before my 13th birthday which I made sure they realized was ridiculous) we moved from Urban Tampa, Florida to rural Acton, Massachusetts. I hated that move. Before a year had past we moved to Bedford, MA closer to my dad’s job at the air force base.  Two more years and they moved us back to Florida. Two years after that I left home as soon as I had a diploma in my hand. In the next 3 years I moved five more times. All in all I went to 11 schools from Kindergarten through my senior year. I never really had roots to any given place. The longest I have lived in a single abode was from 18 months old to eight years old but I don’t remember much of that time.

In my life I like to experience things. When I move somewhere new I make sure to see what there is to see because I don’t know how long it will be before I am gone. Each new day has something new to experience when you live in an RV. If you do not like bugs you may have a problem in an RV if you want to stay in rural areas. I now always check the shower before getting in because it is a rude surprise to have soap in your eyes and turn around and be staring down a spider or large flying insect.

Knowing how much power you have at different parks is also an experience. When they tell you they have 30 Amp service but you pop the breaker every time you turn on the microwave, chances are they are lying. LOL Parking under large trees that we have had in many parks is quite lovely when it is 90 degrees out but also tends to block your satellite so you may not get TV shows for a week or month.

The biggest challenge we had at the beginning of our adventure is Internet. About 1/3 of the parks we stay at have Internet that is useable and about ¼ of those charge for it. The other 2/3 either does not have it at all or it is so slow it really doesn’t count. About 3-4 years ago if you went to Verizon or Sprint and bought an air card your download was unlimited. With the addition of Netflix online and other lovely bandwidth hoarders those times are gone. When we first bought the RV the largest air card we could find was 5 GB a month. This for Bill and I is a joke. When we were in the house we were probably using 2-4 GB a week. We considered installing a MotoSat Satellite Internet system but that would cost us $10,000 just to install, and then an additional LARGE monthly fee on top and that still is not unlimited. A few weeks after we got the RV I went back to Verizon with the intent of purchasing two of the 5 GB cards and when they had just released the new 10 GB account. 10 GB is still less than we would like but with the RV parks that DO offer service it has been acceptable to now. We are always looking for a new option for this though.

Traveling the country though has been a dream come true. We left Seattle in November spent a week getting some work done in Eugene, OR and then we have not really stopped much since. We spent early December in San Francisco. We spent mid-December in Death Valley, Christmas and New Years in Phoenix with friends. We spent January in San Antonio discovering Missions, in New Orleans gaining a few pounds on the rich fabulous food of the Creole and Cajun people. Spent February, March, and April touring Florida visiting family and friends and, of course, Disney World.

Since April we have had an amazing tour of the east coast. We travel about 200 miles and stay for a week. We have seen the Old Spanish Saint Augustine and learned about the history of the Spanish in America. We loved Savannah, GA and the learned that in the 1700s slavery was illegal in Georgia long before the Civil War. A week in Charleston, SC allotted us time to enjoy mustard bbq and to see where the Civil War started at Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie where one of the first battles with the English happened in 1775 even before Independence had been declared.

A week in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina made me truly appreciate the inventors in our great nation that have changed our lives and how we live them. I can’t even imagine how hard life was keeping in touch with family when you couldn’t hop a plane and go visit them. It also showed us the wonders of the Life-saving Stations that were in place that became the Coast Guard. Men that were told they had to go out to save the boat but were never told they had to come back. The bravery and heart of the people that are willing to give their own life to save another. That theme continued with us to Williamsburg, Virginia. Seeing Williamsburg and living the past when people gave their lives because they believed we should all be free from the tyranny of another government. Washington D.C. we saw the memorials to those great men that changed our nation not the presidents but the men that stood up and said I will not be a victim. The men that stand for the rights of those being oppressed. I do not like war but I do know that at times we have to protect our own.

I am blessed to be able to see these sites and explore the wonder that is the United States.

Of the things I have enjoyed during our travels the most important thing has become seeing the people. I know I don’t have time to visit all my friends but the ones we are able to see make the parks and history pale a little in comparison. The first week of August Bill and I spent at a gaming convention called Gen Con. It is a fun and interesting place but most importantly it is where so many of my friends visit and we all get together and play games and just have fun. I was able to see dozens of people that I met through WizKids (a company I used to work for) and it is just a great time to catch up.

Last week Bill and I made it to Cleveland, Ohio where my dear friend Lee lives with his lovely family. I was able to meet his daughter that I have spoken with dozens of times on the phone but is all grown up now! I got to meet his significant other, Angie, a very sweet woman that can bake up a storm!

His two Dalmatian puppies Boris and Natasha

and of course Franklin, his Russian Blue,

Lee's Frank

My Shadow

that looks remarkably like my sweet Shadow that I lost a few years ago. We cooked together and played games together and even grocery shopped together. They showed us some of the local sites and we got to meet some of their friends and play more games. This is one of my favorite parts of traveling!
There are so many challenges when it comes to RVing. This is one of the greatest pleasures.

More of Chicago

Today we headed back into Chicago to get some lunch, drive around and see a little more of the city before we head back east.  Today we experienced the bad, the great and the really cool.

I will start with the bad. Al’s Beef was rated as the 11th best place to eat on the Travel Channels 101 Chowdown Countdown. Al’s Beef claims it is Chicago’s #1 Italian Beef Sandwich since 1938. We purchased a sandwich, small fries and Pepsi.  There is no way this should have been number 11 – I believe it also was not good enough to be 11 from the bottom of the list. The beef was unremarkable, the bun was just a plain bun, but it was so soaked in the au jus to the point of being mush. The fries were just mediocre and on the verge of being too greasy. Even the Pepsi was off. On top the food being poor – it was on the expensive side.  It was even a bit dirty and the atmosphere was just unappealing.  This was by far the worse place we have been to that we have gotten off the Travel Channel or Food Network.

Leslie says: Bill doesn’t like Pepsi, I do. I drank about 10 sips before I tossed it because I couldn’t even tell if it was regular Pepsi or diet it was that bad. Also, I love a good French Dip sandwich and have had plenty of buns dipped in aus ju that were gloriously melt in your mouth… this wasn’t, it was almost rubbery. GACK!

OK – now that we took care of that. Let’s talk about the great. We had lunch at Hot Doug’s (http://hotdougs.com/default.htm). We saw this place on the Travel Channels Hot Dog Paradise show where they talked about the Rib Eye Steak Sausage and the various sausages from all over the world. Hot Doug’s is only open from 10:30 to 4:00pm Monday through Saturday. We arrived around two and there was a line that went out the door and around the corner (about half a block). We ordered a couple of the daily specials and a small fry.  We got the Rib Eye Steak Sausage which comes with Chimichurri, Ardagh Wine Cheese, and Crispy Fried Onions; and the Smoked Shrimp and Pork Sausage which comes with Cajun Roulade and Goat Cheese. The Rib Eye Sausage was very good however the Chimichurri could have been a bit bolder (although we guess that they wanted to make sure they focused flavors of the Rib Eye Steak Sausage). The onions were fried to perfection and were an excellent accompaniment to the sausage. On to the Smoked Shrimp and Pork Sausage – WOW. It was really, really good – the flavors all blended together so well.

Leslie adds: If you watch the Food Network or other cooking shows you hear a term “Depth of Flavor” Well many people think it’s a hogwash kind of term but if you go to Doug’s you will TRULY understand what it means. The shrimp/pork dog had the smokiness of a slow smoked shrimp with the fatty-juiciness of the pork add to that the creamy roumalade sauce that had a little kick of cayenne and a hit of good ol’ cajun yum and then the creamiest, smoothest goat cheese that has ever graced my tongue. Then the rib-eye was sweet juicy steak with that was complimented by the port-cheese and chimichurri and the light crunch of the onions for an excellent texture. I think I am getting a little carried away sorry about that. Back to Bill.

And for the really cool we actually have two entries. The headquarters of the Radio Flyer Company is in Chicago. Yes this is the company that makes the little red wagons that everyone had as a kid. They have a little wagon out front to make sure you know what they make.

The second entry in the really cool – cold actually. We went to the iCream Café (http://www.icreamcafe.com/), a store where customers create their own ice cream concoctions and then watch them being frozen with liquid nitrogen. They have a few bases (regular ice cream, soy based, etc.), lots of flavorings and then tons of add-ins, making the possibilities near endless. I had coffee ice cream with Nutella mixed in while Leslie went all kinds of crazy with the Cinnamon and Hazelnut ice cream with Nutella mixed in. They were both great and well – the freshest ice cream we have ever had.