Friday, September 30, 2005

Niagara Falls 2005: Day III

We woke up a bit later, since we were so exhausted from Day Two. Again, Mom was awake before Kris and I. She had the camera ready as the day began with what she says was a pretty intense thunderstorm. I slept through the whole thing. She was amazed that they kept the Maid of the Mist going with all of the lightning.

By the time I was up and ready to go, the skies were perfectly clear and you never would've guessed it had rained.

We decided to head for the Maid of the Mist. Kris led us on a "shorter route" which actually turned out to be the long road, but it was scenic. As we walked, we came upon a motel I was pretty sure they used in the first episode of Wonderfalls, so I had to take a picture in front of it. (When we returned home, I checked my Wonderfalls DVD and it was the wrong motel. Oh well.)

Before long, we found ourselves walking down Clifton Hill. I was a bit shocked when I realized it's even steeper than Murray Street. I took my time so I didn't plow through a bunch of tourist, didn't want to scuff my new chair!

Finally at the base of the hill, we neared the Maid of the Mist. After a short elevator ride and many ramps going downward, we donned our stylish ponchos and we were ready to board.

I look like something out of a Missy Elliott video

It's a funny thing, overall, the newness was gone from most of the things we did on last year's trip, but the Maid of the Mist lost none of its magic. It's such a rush getting so close to such a massive natural wonder, you can really feel the power of the Falls.

The Brothers Smurf

There was one thing I could have planned better though. It turns out that the spot I chose to park my chair was directly under the edge of the second level of the boat, so as we pulled away from the Falls, a bunch of water poured down from the upper level onto me. There were puddles forming on my poncho.

We went to the gift shop (got a t-shirt and a little Canadian flag for myself and a t-shirt for Dad), stopped to eat at the little cafeteria area we ate at last year, then we checked out a couple places at the bottom of Clifton Hill. We made a quick pass through the WWE shop and then went into the MGM store. Next, we went into the Marvel building. It really is a cool place with lots of cool stuff, but it baffles me that they don't have any adult sized t-shirts or anything. What's the deal with that?

Chillin' with Spidey again

Me between the Infinity Gauntlet and Thor's hammer, Mjolnir

Me with Dr Doom's mask

Outside the Rainforest Cafe

Next, we stayed on the walkway along the river, heading back towards the top of the Falls so we could go on the Journey Behind the Falls. Another elevator ride down and we were wandering in the tunnels behind Niagara Falls. It was pretty amusing watching Kris, who's 6'8", walk down this tunnel with only about an inch between his head and the ceiling. It's crazy to watch the Falls from behind. The combined sights of massive amounts of water pouring down as huge clouds of mist shoot upwards is tumultuous and incredible.

Under the Falls

Behind the Falls

The tunnel

From there, we stopped in the gift shop and I bought a postcard to send to my good friend, Linda. Then I headed back outside to the top of the Falls for another dose of mist before heading back to our room.

At approximately 7:30 PM, we all lost it. Without warning and without reason, the three of us completely lost it and began laughing uncontrollably. Maybe it was the negative ions, maybe it was us being in vacation mode, or maybe we were just delirious. I'm leaning towards the latter. We laughed so hard at absolutely nothing that we had tears in our eyes. When we eventually regained our composure, it was time to eat again.

This time we went across the street to Tony Roma's. I'm happy to say it was the best and cheapest of the nice places we ate at, though it was still a bit pricey. And I've just got to say, damn...that Romarita I had was excellent.

Finally, on our last night in Niagara Falls, we went to the casino one last time.

Within the first ten minutes on the quarter slots, I hit for $30. I had a good vibe, baby. At the end of the night, I had played with about $50 and won roughly $80. I'd say it was a good night.

I was craving some ice cream, cause, y'know, gambling makes you crave some ice cream. We searched a bit, but anywhere that might have ice cream was already closed for the night. So we tiredly marched back to the hotel.
I wrote out the postcard for Linda while looking at the Falls from our room and then hit the sack to rest up for the drive home in the morning.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Niagara Falls 2005: Day II

I had a bit of a hard time falling asleep the first night, but I eventually dozed off. Around 9:00 AM, I was the last to wake up. Mom was up way before us and snapped some pictures of the sunrise through the mist of the Falls.

She also took a picture of me waking up. I was still beat, it wasn't a pretty sight. Apparently I look like a bad Jack Nicholson impersonator in the morning.

"Wait til they get a load of me..."

One thing we could all agree on was that we were hungry. We marched down the street to a breakfast buffet Kris saw while walking last night. It was a nice little place, the food was alright, not the best ever, but it did the trick.

From there we walked up the street and checked out the OK Gift Shop. I've loved the name of the place for a while now, but this was the first time I had been in there. It's a cute little shop, a bit cramped though.

We stopped back at the hotel to pick up the van and we were off to Marineland. Kris couldn't believe how apart everything in the park was.
The first attraction we checked out was the deer park. It's basically a big enclosed area with dozens of small deer roaming freely. The thing is, you go right in there with them. You can pet them, feed them, just get up close to them, it was pretty cool.

A pygmy deer sits on my lap and eats from my hand...not really...

The comes backup!

From there, we found ourselves at the section housing the black bears. There were a bunch of them down below and you could toss food down to them. It was pretty funny, the bears seemed to keep posing for pictures. One would throw his paws in the air when someone was about to toss food like he was saying "Come on buddy, over here!"

Another one leaned his paws across a big rock and looked up at Kris as he was about to snap a picture.

Zombie bear

We wandered a bit more and just like last year, the sun started to get to me. I was getting hot and my skin was turning red. I needed relief, so we found a water fountain, whipped my towel out of my backpack, soaked it, and used it to cool myself down.

After a little more wandering, we checked out the Beluga whales for a bit.

Next, we headed for the killer whale enclosure. We went to the underwater viewing area for a little while, but the water was cloudy and the whales weren't hanging around the windows at all. Kris did spot an amusing sign though.

We went up to the above ground area to check it out, but wheelchair height is never very good for things like that. Mom asked a guy who worked there if there was a raised area or anything so I could actually see into the water. He told us to hang on and then disappeared into the crowd for a minute. Upon returning, he said "Follow me."
He led us to an off limits area where he introduced us to the whale trainer, Christina (or Christine, but I'm pretty sure it was Christina). Before I knew it, Christina had called the whale over.

All my life I've been fascinated by marine life and now here I was, just inches away from an orca. She then asked if I'd like to touch it. The whale turned over on her side, lifting her fin to me. I couldn't believe I was actually touching a whale. It felt rougher than I expected, like a wet eraser, but that might've been cause I touched the edge of the fin.

Now, anyone who knows me knows I can get grossed out fairly easily. Imagine Christina shoved a dead fish into my hand. I just tried to block it out of my head that the warm squishy thing in my hand was a dead fish and went along with feeding this beautiful whale.

Mom got her turn too

After a quick little song from this magnificent animal, we said our thank yous and goodbyes and we were on our way.
As we made our way out of the park, I had a hand covered in fish goo. What's a guy to do in such a situation? No, not the towel. Savages. I got some Purel from Mom, of course!

From back at the hotel, we found ourselves walking towards the Skylon Tower.

When we arrived, Kris backed out of heading up top with me and much to my surprise, Mom decided to ignore her fear of heights and accompany me. We bought our tickets and up we went.

The ride up the little yellow elevator was really fast, it really doesn't feel like you go up that high.

The view from up top was just awesome, you could see for miles. The only bummer was that there were stairs to get out to the main viewing area. Ah well, the view was still great. Major kudos to Mom for going up with me.

Me longing for Toronto

We popped into the Imax theater, but the next showtime was quite a wait, so we decided to pass and maybe come back the next day.

It was pretty cool though, they had some of the actual barrels that people have gone over the Falls in on display, so I posed by a couple.

We made our way back to the hotel for a little bit. I decided it'd be cool to head to the casino, but we needed to eat first. We headed to the Friday's in the hotel we stayed in last year and amusingly enough, we were put at the same table as last year. The food and drinks were good, but really expensive, not to mention our waiter was ridiculously slow.

Me drinking an ultimate mudslide...through my nose

With full bellies, we made our way to the casino and I found the quarter slots. I decided I was only going to use the Canadian money I had gotten from my lovely family for my birthday. In the end, I spent $40 and won $29. A loss of $11, not too shabby.

Gambling makes you thirsty, so we stopped in the lounge in our hotel's lobby before heading up to bed. Drinks were ordered and I decided to just get water. Good choice. Like most places up there, it was expensive. For example, Kris ordered a beer that turned out to be $8. Needless to say, he made sure he enjoyed every last drop.

With a very full Day Two behind us, we headed to bed in preparation for Day Three.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Niagara Falls 2005: Day I

As written on September 6th, 2005 at 11:12 PM

We got a slightly late start today, but that's the beauty of vacations, it doesn't really matter if you're late. Everything was packed and ready, I quickly ate a few pretzels, breakfast of champions. On the way out the door, I grabbed the one thing you should never ever leave home without, I grabbed my towel. Laugh now, just you laugh.

Mom, Kris, and I hit the road at 12:30, not too bad. The sky was clear and the air was warm, a lovely day for a drive. Just like last time, I had my iPod with a seemingly endless supply of music ready to go.
The road was smooth and traffic was minimal, but somewhere in Pennsylvania, something hit me. Y'know how you sometimes see a little something out of the corner of your eye, but when you look, it's gone? This was exactly like that, except that something hit me in the face and that something was a bee. To be more precise, it hit me directly in the lower lip. The little bugger and I met with such a velocity that he broke in half upon impact. His head popped clean off and the remains landed directly on my iPod. A photo opportunity if ever there was one.

At some point after that, a bee flew into the back of the van and stung Kris in the arm. Did my family do something to upset the bee community?

As we made our way through New York, things were smooth again. It was incredible driving past all the vineyards. You could actually smell all the grapes from the freeway, it was mouth-watering.

We took a break at the roadside rest stop in Angola. To get to the restaurants, you have to go through an elevated walkway that leads you over the freeway. A simple pleasure, but I love it.

From above, we noticed smiley faces made of asphalt on the road below.

A quick bite to eat at McDonald's and we were on our way again. We drove through Buffalo.

Then over the Peace Bridge.

And then we circled around to finally reach Niagara Falls.

We quickly found the Marriott and Mom went up to the desk to check in. It was then that Kris leaned forward for some reason, spilling water from the cooler slung over his shoulder all over the floor and my shoulder. Good thing I towel! HA!
We made our way to our room and it was fantastic. The room (a 2 room family suite) was spacious and had an incredible view. Amusingly enough, we were right next door to the hotel building we stayed in last year.

A few minutes after we got in the door, our phone rang. Turns out we locked the keys in the van, so the valet couldn't park it. Kris ran down with the spare set and unlocked it.
A couple quick calls home to let people know we arrived and we were off to explore. Well, not quite yet. I wanted to load pictures to my laptop to free up space on the camera's memory stick. It was at this point we noticed Mom had left the tray for my wheelchair at the front desk. When she returned with it, Kris realized he had left his wallet in the back seat of the van. He had to take a shuttle to the van to retrieve his wallet. We seemed to be having a bumpy start at a pretty classy looking hotel. Anyway, THEN we were off to explore.

We wandered down the street and through the mall area in the casino building.

When we came out the other side, we made our way down the same enormous hill from last year. Murray St.

From there, we walked along the walkway by the Falls. As we got closer, the mist gradually intensified until in felt like rain. I breathed deeply, smiled, and tried to take in the euphoric effect of the negative ions given off by the Falls. Before I knew it, I was laughing uncontrollably. I probably looked like a maniac, but oh well. Kris and Mom weren't quite as thrilled as I was, but I think they enjoyed it.

To get back toward the hotel, we cut through a gift shop. The mist had gotten me so wet, my hand kept slipping off the controls when I tried to drive my chair. Solution? Dry off with my towel. Those intergalactic hitchhikers really know what they're talking about.

We found ourselves at the base of the hill once again. It was a real trial getting my old chair up that hill last year, but I now had my new chair. It was time to show that hill what for. I started out fast and strong, but the farther I got up the hill, the steeper it got. About halfway up the hill, there was a group of elderly folks resting on a bench. Seeing me pushing my way up, one lady spoke up.
"You oughta give an old lady a ride" she said.
"Hop on!" I replied, but I guess she decided to do it on her own.
Eventually, I made it! Now it was time to eat.

We went to the steakhouse we ate at last year because it was so good. Upon arrival, we were given a seat right by the giant window overlooking the Falls. Again, the food was fantastic, aside from my steak and baked potato, I ordered a chocolate martini.

Our waitress was cool, but a little absentminded. She confused us with another table at one point and then Kris had to ask her four separate times before she remembered to refill his Pepsi. The biggest shock was how expensive it was. I won't give a number, but let's just say I made sure I ate every last bite so I got my money's worth.

Right now we're back in the hotel room and I'm watching the Falls out the window as I type this. My eyes are trying their hardest to close, so I think I better let them. More tomorrow.