Sunday, October 21, 2012

Erie, Pa to New Concord, OH

Cambridge, OH – October 15 to 21, 2012 Our Current Location

For the most part we prefer to dry camp or stay at a city,county, state or national park campground. Generally, but not always, commercial parks are a little too crowded for our taste. We scored the almost perfect campground in Erie, PA. Owned and operated by the city it is presented as a marina campground. Situated on the shores of Lake Erie, the campground is located next to the canal leading to the East Basin. So we got to see lots of cargo ships transiting the canal to load and unload. The Coast Guard Station is located across the canal and they provided reveille and taps daily.

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The campground also had full hookups, very important after having dry camped for 8 nights and a Laundromat.



On one of our excursions around the area we discovered a yard full of quirky art. You need to click on the picture to get a closer look at what they are made from. We wondered how the neighbors felt about this. I guess it would make it easy to give directions, “Yeah, we live in the house next to the yard full of weird stuff”.

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We also explored Presque Isle State Park where we found a small bay full of houseboats. Later we found out that the bay contains the maximum number of houseboats allowed by the state and that the only way to have a houseboat in there is to buy a lease from the state. So, until someone moves their houseboat out of the bay, no one else can move one in.

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EJ had coordinated with her uncle for us to come visit. So now we’re on the way to New Concord, Ohio. It’s overcast and traffic got a little congested, but there are still some beautiful fall colors to enjoy.

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We had scoped out a campground, the closest we could find to New Concord, and drove through to take a look. We didn’t get a warm fuzzy feeling from it,so we opted to spend our first night at Walmart. The next morning we contacted the Elks Lodge in Cambridge, OH and asked if we could park in their lot and got the OK. So we spent the morning getting set up there before driving over to meet EJ’s relatives, Dick and Sally.

They had made arrangements for us to see the National Road Museum. It’s actually called the National Road-Zane Grey Museum and we wondered why someone would combine these 2 elements into one museum. Well, as it turns out there is good reason for the combination. Back in the 1700’s is was next to impossible to pass through Ohio because of the thick forest that covered the state.  Ebenezer Zane, Zane Grey’s grandfather, contracted with congress to cut a trail for horseback riders across Ohio. Although the trail was barely big enough for a horse, thousands of settlers used the trail to build settlements along the way.

Between 1811 and 1828, construction on the road brought it from Cumberland, MD to New Concord, OH then eventually all the way to Vandalia, IL. The road originally consisted of dirt, next crushed stone then, in WW1, it was completely bricked to accommodate military traffic.

The museum chronicles all this complete with vehicles of the period and a wonderful diorama. There is also a display of Ohio pottery as well as one of Zane Grey the author. And of course we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to change our looks, Yeehaw.

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The next day we all drove to Columbus, OH for lunch, to surprise EJ’s Aunt Sue. She was indeed surprised, and even rendered speechless, which surprised the rest of us!

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On the return to New Concord we stopped at a pumpkin farm and market. There was a big crowd and we wanted to see what the attraction was. We came away with some small gourds and pumpkins to use as decorations in Big Guy.

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Dick and Sally also took us for a drive on some of the original National Road to show us the original brick roadbed. We also saw several examples of “S” bridges and mile posts.  The “S” bridges are examples of the most economical method of building a bridge at the time. They are built perpendicular to the current.  A well cut rock and mortar bridge could only span so far between footings and this provided the shortest distance.

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We had a great time in PA and OH, but now it is time to pack up and hit the road.

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Niagara Falls – WOW ! !

Niagara Falls, NY – October 10 to 14, 2012 Our Current Location

We had a long road day and didn’t get into Niagara Falls until after dark. We headed for a Walmart near the Visitor Center to crash for the night. We debated on whether to drive ourselves or splurge on a tour to the Canadian Side of the Falls since almost everyone we talked to said the Canadian side was better.

Next morning we headed to the Visitor Center and decided to go with one of the big names, Gray Line Tours. As part of the process of trying to sell us on additional attractions and tours they asked where we were staying and we said in an RV. In that case, they said, we have a parking area with an electric hookup if you’d like to stay here for as long as you like. SOLD! We got Big Guy and immediately moved over here before anyone else got the coveted spot. As an added benefit, there was a Bob Evans right next door.

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We opted for the evening tour, starting at 3PM, because we wanted to see the colored lights on the Falls. The really nice thing was they would pick us up and drop us of at the Visitor Center, so no driving involved. The Canadian side is really built up with hotels, museums, and attractions. Plus everything is very new looking, pristine and clean.

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Our first stop was to the Journey Behind the Falls.We took an elevator down 150’ and got to go out on the observation decks at the foot of the falls. The thundering sound and spray were awesome. The poncho really didn’t help much. Then you traveled through tunnels and had more views through two different portals.

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The Falls were a ready source of hydro-electric power which has been utilized since the early 1900’s.  The buildings that housed the generating equipment were quite striking.

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A walk along the waterfront gave us a great view of Horseshoe Falls.

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Part of the visit included “The Whirlpool”, although try as we might, we never did see a whirlpool. Over the whirlpool ran a gondola. Due to a sharp bend in the river right here, many people think they are looking at the US on the other side. In fact the gondola operators thought it was quite humorous that people were trying to sneak into the US only to find out they were still in Canada.

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On the way to Skylon Tower, we stopped at the floral clock just before sundown. It is created from up to 16,00 bedding plants and the design is changed twice a year. It is really beautiful and there was still enough light to get some good pictures.

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Arriving at Skylon Tower, appropriately after dark, we took the elevator up 775 feet above the river level to the observation deck. It was cold and windy, but oh so worth it. The nighttime surroundings were lit up with neon signs and the Falls were glowing under powerful colored flood lights. We were told the US and Canada share the cost of paying for the flood lights and the power it takes for them to operate.

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Long day, great tour. We didn’t get back until around 8:30 pm. Glad we had a guide/driver to allow us to enjoy everything.

The next day we decided to check out the American side. We parked on Goat Island, a New York State Park, where we got to see the Falls up close.

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We walked all around Goat Island before walking over to where you could catch the Maid of the Mist.  Frank wasn’t crazy about getting onto the tour boats, and here you can see why.

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Of course we took pictures all along the walk. We were both surprised at how shallow the water is. And of course we were thrilled to see several rainbows and even a double one.

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We stopped and got some coffee and a muffin then sat on a bench next to the Falls. We were swarmed by birds, who were in no way intimidated by us mere humans. It fact some of them ate out of our hands.

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There is a huge Casino in town and naturally we had to check it out.

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Finally our visit was drawing to an end and it was time to go. The falls are truly awesome. We have so many pictures even after editing. We thoroughly enjoyed both sides and hope everybody gets to see them at least once in their life. One more item to check off on the Bucket List.

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Niagara Falls, New York