Days 150 - 152 of The Big Trip
On August 1, we left our last stop in Ohio and entered Pennsylvania. I dawned on me that we weren't stopping in Pennsylvania. As we drove through Erie, it looked like it would be an interesting place to see. There have been many times, on this perimeter trip, that I've had to remind myself that we cannot see EVERYTHING. If we're going to do the 13,000 miles in the 13 months as planned, we have to keep moving. We did meet someone, in California, who had done the perimeter and did it in eight months. I wondered if they stopped to see anything. Oh, well! It was a beautiful drive and we began to see vineyards in Eastern Pennsylvania. Our 200 mile day took us almost six hours, because we did it off the Interstate. It did take us awhile to get around Buffalo and to our park in Lockport.
On the 2nd, we were off to see main attraction in the area - Niagara Falls. Both the Andersons and we had seen the falls; but, they had only seen them from the Canadian side and we'd only seen them from the American side. The goal, this day, was to do both sides. Driving into the town of Niagara Falls, we went into a parking lot just outside the entrance to the state park. The attendant told us it would be $20 for the day. Then, he saw that both Clark and Jim were retired military and said, "For you, there's no charge." That was special and totally unexpected. We walked into the state park, bought a trolley ticket and were on our way. The trolley has several stops, in the state park, and we could get on and off; so, we did. Our first stop was Luna Island, where we overlooked the American Falls. The next stop was Terrapin Point, where we could overlook Horseshoe Falls. We had chosen not to do the Touristy things like the Maid of the Mist boat ride and the Cave of the Winds. Clark had done it as a child and I didn't need to spend money to get wet. It was back on the trolley to get to the proper stop to take the pedestrian bridge to Canada. Making sure we had our passports, we crossed the Rainbow Bridge into Canada. We were taking pictures as we walked the bridge. We were quickly through immigration and then walked along the overlooks to the falls. For the first time, in my life, I could see all of Niagara Falls. The American Falls are spectacular. It seems impossible, to me, that Horseshoe Falls are ever completely visible because of the mist that constantly is being produced. With the Great Lakes holding 20% of the world's fresh water, a lot of water goes over those falls every day of the year. On the way home, we found a roadside veggie stand and loaded up on fresh produce.
On the 3rd, we did what we'd never done before and that was to go to Fort Niagara. On this Saturday, we joined a lot of other people and found we had arrived for a Revolutionary War re-enactment. Different events were schedule throughout the day. We thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent there. The fort is beautiful, sitting at the mouth of the Niagara River as it enters Lake Ontario. The French built it in the 1700's. The British took control during the French-Indian War and then the U.S. took over after winning its independence. We stepped into one room, where women were preparing lunch for the re-enactors and doing it in the old fashioned way - stew in cast iron pots over the fire. One of the day's events was a recruitment re-enactment. The actors went about asking for recruits from the audience, mainly amongst the young people. Both sides got quite a few and armed them with wooden rifles and then spent time training them in the loading and firing of their weapons. Then the battle commenced. The kids had a great time, playing their parts with great gusto. That was followed by an artillery demonstration. After eating our picnic lunch, we went to the Officers' Club, which was open for the day. The fort was the site of training for WWI and WWII. It also served as a POW camp during WWII. The Officers' Club was built during WWI, I think. New York doesn't have any intention of spending money to preserve these old buildings. Several have been allowed to fall apart. There is a concerted effort to save this building and a couple of the others remaining. Inside the club is a mural, which is a painting of the first victory by U.S. soldiers in WWI. There were wonderful murals all over the building, several painted by POWs. From the fort, we headed back to Lockport to see the Erie Canal locks. These locks are special, because of the amount of lift at this point. In order for the canal to get to Lake Erie, they had to get over a 60' escarpment here. They did that with a series of five 12' locks. Those old locks have been replaced by two, which are the last on the canal. When we arrived, a tour boat was in the upper lock, waiting to enter the upper part of the canal. When completed, there had been two series of five locks - one eastbound and one westbound. The eastbound is now a series of waterfalls, which gives some sense of the huge drop the canal has to take.