8:30 am: I've finally been on the road long enough that I've lost track of the day it actually is. And mostly don't care, which is pretty good. We've gone about 1600 miles and on our way to yet another destination involving another 240 miles or so. And it's a 240 miles along roads that remind us of England, in that the freeway is surrounded by trees and all the rest areas are mobbed with businesses, I-90 has become a toll road out here, which is weird for us, with a ticket handed out at the beginning that you pay for when you get off, unlike the series of toll booths and machines on 470 by us.
We've just left Niagara Falls, which I don't usually associate with Buffalo New York, but they're neighbors, nearly. And, yes, the Canadian side is definitely worth going to and seeing it all from that side.
We started Saturday, at about 2, which was when we finally got the van completely packed. We nighted in the middle of Nebraska at a $5 campground and a thunderstorm whistled and banged and rocked us to sleep in the van. The wind was a welcome respite from the heat.
Jet, who had had a 3 hour nap in the car, and little of running around during the day couldn't get to sleep and had a small melt down while John and I were too tired to deal. No more three hour naps! He did, however, eat like a horse, though his menu has narrowed, again, with the stress. We did bring his vitamins, so he shouldn't suffer from eating nothing but noodles, rice, and toast. He is still eating a lot of whatever he chooses to eat, so I think he is burning a lot of energy.
Des Moines, Iowa was our next stop, with a hotel room, instead of camping, and a pool. Jet got to swim after a small stop at a playground surrounded by trees. A good dinner, and he went out like a light.
On the way through Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, we stopped at the Rock Island Arsenal by Davenport. The AAA map had indicated a park there, and John cheerfully asked the guards at the entrance as to how to get to a park there, and they, after peering at our drivers licenses ("They sure give you some time on those, don't they?" when the guard saw the 10 year expiration date on it), they gave us detailed instructions to a kid park by a display of obsolete artillery.
Jet had a great time, even in the heat, playing in the sand box and then walking around the huge guns. It was sobering to see an "atomic cannon" with a 17 mile range that had been built in the 40's and decommissioned in the 50's. It was enormous and the implication of simply having it was amazing.
It was a beautiful place.
We ended up at the Warren Dunes Michigan State Park, by white dunes nearly five stories tall just off Lake Michigan. The lake was a silver expanse off to the horizon, impossibly still for an ocean, though it resembled one, Made me think of the western sea from the Lord of the Rings, especially with the swimmers haloed by sun.
We camped in the forest there that night, covered with DEET and lighting a campfire despite the heat. The fireflies were everywhere, and slow enough to delight Jet who could actually, just about, catch them. We had a pretty pathetic camp, though, boiled spaghetti with grated cheese (which Jet loved but left a little out for us). Jet ended up toasting Triscuits on metal skewers over the fire. He thought they were quite tasty.
Yes, we bought marshmallows and chocolate to go with our grahams
for the next time we make camp.
I pulled my shoulder the next morning, but was able to drive part of the way to Niagara Falls, on the Canadian side. We've stayed there for two nights, taking a day to walk the way to the Horseshoe Falls and see the U.S. falls. It was also to go to Brick City and see a tremendously intricate and detailed world made of Lego.
It took a man 5 years to build everything there. Words can't serve to catalog everything there, with all the humorous details, but at the end was the piece de resistance, a model of the Horseshoe falls, complete with barrel rider and tightrope walker. The waters were shaded from blue to white. There was even a model of the Maid of the Mists in the pool below, and crowds of variegated tourists at the top and part of the way down, modeling the "Walk Behind the Falls".
Jet loved the trains in there. John liked the cityscape with a raised monorail. I liked half-completed sky scraper with guys having lunch on a beam suspended from a crane. The beam twirled gently in the breeze from the air conditioning.
The other thing we stayed for was the pool at the Comfort Inn. It was half a full-sized pool, 2.5 meters deep in the deep end and one meter deep in the shallow end. Jet found two ladders on opposite side in the deep end and used them as the endpoints of a race track. He raced John and I back and forth and back and forth and back and forth so many times I've lost count. He got better at it even in the days we were there. He drew comment from nearly every adult that saw him motoring around, and they marveled at a 4-year-old that could get around in the water so easily.
We went swimming the moment we checked in and then twice yesterday, once right before Jet went to bed. And, indeed, the swimming made it very easy to get Jet to sleep at night. Quite a good thing. It didn't, at first, help my pulled shoulder much, but the hot tub really did relax things enough for me to use Jet's vitamin bottle as a deep pressure point along the worst of it. I just lay on the bottle and positioned it until it was pressing where I needed it. Thank goodness for all the massage therapists who taught me how to take care of myself.
The falls were not a letdown compared to everything else. The night we got there, we walked down to see the U.S. falls, lit by the light tower. Jet called them "the rainbow falls" the next day. We took the hike the next day, through a beautifully groomed park and then on the sidewalk overlooking the gorge, through the mist from Horseshoe falls, until we got to the top of the Horseshoe falls.
There was one vantage point right where the water touched the wall we'd been walking along, and I could see the clear, green bottle glass of the water just before it plunged down into a white plume of mist. Then multiply it by the incredible length of the fall and the roar was astonishing. Even from the hotel, a mile away, we could hear the roar of the falls, constantly. But right near by it rumbled and you could feel the vibration all through you. It was pretty amazing. I think I got one good video shot of it, and a couple of pictures that I can't tell how good the contrast is until I fiddle with it at home.
There was something about being there, though, that was something that couldn't be caught by words, pictures, or any medium.
We walked back, swam, did laundry, got dinner, swam again, slept, did the continental breakfast at the hotel, packed up and are back on the road, now.
Three general things I've noticed. ON the most part, the interstates have their own rules and conduct and it's common up and down and across the country. On the most part people have been great about only using the left lane to pass. And it's the same across.
The other thing we've noticed is that there aren't that many out of state plates anywhere anymore. Maybe the next state over, but we've only noticed a few cross-country drivers anymore. Other than the semis, of course, and other than at Niagara itself, of course, there were plates from everywhere there. Still, on the road, itself, and at the small hotels in the middle of nowhere, there seems to be (anecdotal evidence) a lot fewer families venturing a long ways out.
Reminded me, obliquely of Connie Willis' "The Last of the Winnebagoes", though for, perhaps, different reasons. Made me wonder if the folks arguing that it takes more energy to get ethanol from corn than ethanol, itself, provides also took into account the fact that ethanol uses the starches and sugars in the plant, which will still leave the oils that can be made into biodiesel as well. Plus if prices get high enough, people will find an energy efficient enough way to do what needs to be done.
Anyway... some of this is from the fact that across Nebraska, we consistently saw ethanol gasolines with higher octane for *less* money than the 100% gasolines. So the "super" gasolines cost less than the "regular" unleaded. That was pretty mind bending, at first, but then it was kind of cool. Fully loaded we're getting about 19 miles per gallon, which is pretty nice for an aerodynamic brick.
We'll see how it goes.
Right now we're headed for the Adirondacks and a train. :-)