Tuesday, May 21, 2013

B68. Trip to Niagara Falls

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Darlene and I left Virginia, headed for Niagara Falls Ontario, about 8:30 AM.  It was a beautiful day for a long drive, overcast but no precipitation except for an occasional drizzle.  We stopped once for lunch and once for gas and, filled with excitement, crossed the Canadian border around 5:00.  My first time to Canada!  I was giddy and snapping pictures everywhere.  We had driven 8 hours and were remarking at how neither of us was really tired.

A few minutes later, we were one mile from the hotel, and the car died!  2012 Honda CRV.  Just totally shut down.  We coasted into the next side street, and I got out to try to push the car into the grass.  It was a one way street with little traffic, which we would later learn was the exit of Marineland.  2 cars quickly stopped and helped, and one guy who worked there called the office for more help.  With my AAA and the extreme kindness of the Marineland staff, the car was soon towed to the nearby Honda dealership, and we paid a taxi driver $20 to drive us and all our luggage our one more mile!

By this time we had met several Canadians, all sincerely delightful and very helpful, and several of them had told us we were crazy to be going to Niagara Falls today, because tomorrow is Victoria Day, the beginning of the Canadian vacation season.  There would be 10 times more tourists at the Falls than usual, speaking a hundred different languages.

Furthermore, because it was a holiday, the Honda dealership would not be open until Tuesday, so Darlene wrote a note and left it on the dash, telling the dealership why the car was there and giving them her cell number.  We would try to call them on Monday and hope to find someone there to answer on Tuesday.

Miraculously, however, she got a call later that same evening.  The service manager just happened to have stopped by for a minute, with his wife and child, and saw the car.  He ran a diagnostic test, which showed a problem with the mass airflow sensor, which seems a rare and fluke kind of occurrence.  They didn’t have the part on stock, he said, and with the holiday, wouldn’t be able to get it until Wed., but he would take it from a new car and then replace it, so we could have the car back on Tues.  Again, such a wonderfully helpful person to encounter!  He even offered a loaner car, but, with our hotel within easy walking distance of the Falls and all the surrounding attractions, we turned down his loaner offer.

One more complication, with the car still under warranty, the parts and service would have been covered had we been in the U.S., but he had no access to U.S. warranties.  When he called on Tues., however, he had talked to the appropriate US contact and let them know what was going on so Darlene could be reimbursed when she returns home. 

Finally settled into the hotel, we munched on what snacks we had brought along, as we had completely missed dinner time.  Then about 8:30 we walked down for our first view of the falls.  It was getting dark, and after dark colored lights were reflected onto the water.  Thousands and thousands of people were everywhere.  Indeed it was a holiday!

In the darkness we missed our shortest route back to the hotel and ended up on Clifton Hill, a shockingly over-the-top carnival-like thoroughfare, with crowds comparable to my few memories of the NC state fair, and gawdiness like  a combination of Vegas (my impression having never been there) and the most gawdy carnival midway imaginable, except unlike the temporary carnival attractions, these were solidly planted.  King Kong was toppling the Ripley’s Believe it Or Not Museum, Frankenstein was on top of the Burger King eating a whopper, there was a fun house, a haunted house, some kind of MGM studio attraction . . . We found our way back to the hotel just as the 10:00 fireworks were beginning at the falls.  We didn’t mind missing them!

Monday, May 20

Monday late morning we walked back down to the falls, seeing them now for the first time in daylight. (Well, Darlene had been here 19 years ago, but it was my first time.) Wow!  Breathtaking!  Still thousands and thousands of people, truly speaking a hundred languages, and dressed like the United Nations, but it was all quite fascinating.  We took lots of pictures, walked for hours in the surprisingly summery heat (mid-80s, but with a beach-like breeze), went into a couple of souvenir shops, had a delicious lunch on the patio at Shoeless Joe’s . . . went back to the hotel to relax a little, then went back out for another long exploring walk and some dinner, Jamaican jerk chicken from a street vendor.  Then we watched the first hour of my Ken Burns documentary DVD Not for Ourselves Alone, the story of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in preparation for the next leg of our trip.

Tuesday, May 21

On Tuesday, very rested and completely acclimated to our new surroundings, we arose early so we could see the falls in the morning sunlight.  That turned out to be the best part of our Canada trip (well, I can only speak for myself).  The morning light was beautiful on the falls, and we had the whole world to ourselves, except for the gardeners and those who were cleaning the place from the night before.  We walked a lot, took lots more pictures, went into a couple more souvenir shops, and had an Indian/Pakastani buffet lunch.  During the morning, the Honda dealership called Darlene and said the car was ready and that they would send a free shuttle for her whenever she wanted to pick up her car, so she went after lunch, and I finally sat down to write this memoir.


Joyce said...

Kathy, you were only 3 1/2 hours from my hometown! Niagara Falls is so beautiful and we have been many times. Sorry about your car issues, but it seems like you made the most of it and enjoyed your stay in Canada! :)

Kathy Vestal said...

Are you in Canada, Joyce? I loved Niagara Falls and was a little sad to leave it this morning!

Joyce said...

Yes, I am in Canada Kathy.
I am sure you will be back sometime!