Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Falls and the Farm

Saturday, July 14:
Niagara Falls
On Saturday morning we got up extra early, hitched the trailer back up to the truck, said good-bye to Uncle Hal and Aunt Kate, and left Canandaigua by 8:00 a.m.  We got on the thruway (paid lots of tolls for these toll roads in New York) and headed due west across Upstate New York toward Rochester, where we turned north toward Niagara Falls.
Crossing the Niagara River from Grand Island, NY, to Niagara Falls, NY.

A little more than 2 hours later we crossed the Niagara River twice, once when we drove over the bridge to Grand Island, NY, and again when we crossed from Grand Island to the city of Niagara Falls, because the river splits and flows around the island on both sides.

The mist above the falls is visible slightly left of center.

Once we were in the town of Niagara Falls, we followed the Robert Moses Parkway along the river toward the falls.  We were still miles from the falls when we began to see a huge cloud of mist above the falls in the distance.  It doesn't show up well in the photo above (taking pictures through the windshield makes all the colors appear faded), but it was quite an impressive sight.

The rapids heading toward nearby American Falls. (10:45 a.m.)

After we drove through the downtown area a few times looking for parking that would accommodate a fifth-wheel trailer, we gave up and headed to Goat Island, where I knew there was ample parking.  Goat Island is located between the American and Canadian portions of Niagara Falls.
The man who originally owned Goat Island decided to keep a herd of goats there, once upon a time.  The goats all froze to death during their first winter, but the name stuck.

Our shuttle approaches where we wait on Goat Island.
It was 11:00 by the time we were parked and waiting for our shuttle to take us back down near the river beneath the falls, where we planned to take a Maid of the Mist boat tour.
While we were waiting to board an elevator,
a tour boat below us returns to the Maid of the Mist dock.

Once we arrived and bought our tickets, the wait wasn't as bad as we'd expected.  In less than half an hour we were on a boat, heading toward Niagara Falls.

A view of Rainbow Bridge, one of the bridges carrying vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians
from the United States (on the right) to Canada (on the left).

The first thing we had to do was board an elevator that carried us from the town above (at the top of the falls) to the lower Niagara River (at the bottom of the falls).
It was pretty cool to clearly see Canada on the other side of the river, so close.  As you can see, the river isn't all that wide.  If I hadn't already set foot in Canada (Victoria, British Columbia, on the other side of the continent) during our honeymoon cruise, I would have been sorely tempted to obtain passports for all of us just so we could drive over the bridge and say we'd been in Canada.  It's too bad that travel between countries has become so strict due to all the terrorism in today's world. 

The boat before ours loads up with passengers while we wait in line.
On the other side of the river you can see the Canadian Maid of the Mist dock.

Once we reached the bottom, that's where we had our longest wait.  There was a long line from the bottom of the elevator to the dock.  However, the boats held a huge number of passengers, so it moved fairly quickly.  As it happened, the boat before ours filled up just as we were about to board, so we ended up at the front of the line for the next boat.  Not too shabby!

14 July 2012: Dylan (age 15) models his Maid of the Mist raincoat.

While we were waiting, we were each fashionably attired in our voluminous, see-through, sapphire-blue, souvenir Maid of the Mist rain-wear, or should I say fall-wear. 

American Falls
There are actually 3 falls at Niagara Falls.  On the American side we have American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls.  We sailed past them on our way to the larger and more powerful Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side.
Oddly enough, despite the size and power of Horseshoe Falls, many people have survived going over them into the river below.  On the other hand, no one has ever survived going over American Falls, due to the deadly rocks at its base.
The smaller Bridal Veil Falls to the right of American Falls.  Size is relative, though. 
Those tiny yellow dots below the falls are tourists in rain slickers.

Originally, I had planned to follow up the boat tour with a walking tour from the top of Bridal Veil Falls to the platforms built below it.  By this time, however, we were experiencing some family drama due to much too much family closeness, so we cut our stay in Niagara Falls short.  Now, though, I kind of wish we'd stayed and done  the second tour.  It would have been amazing.

A gull sails just above the water ahead of us as we motor toward Horseshoe Falls.
Still, the Maid of the Mist tour was incredible in and of itself.  I highly recommend it.  I also highly recommend taking along a pair of sturdy goggles with built-in windshield wipers!

Looking back toward American Falls.  The tower and lookout platform to the left of the falls
is where I took some pictures from above, and the tower contains the elevator we rode down.

Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side

I had every intention of capturing outstanding photos of Horseshoe Falls from this amazing vantage point.  Being first in line, I had actually gotten the most prime spot in the prow of the boat and my camera was ready.

Horseshoe Falls

I knew I was going to get soaked.  I don't mind a little water.  I kept my camera under the poncho, prepared to pull it out for any great photo op that presented itself.  What I didn't expect was the sheer force of the spray as we neared the falls.  I got off one shot (above) as the spray began to hit like heavy rainfall, and then it was all I could do to wipe the water off my sunglasses so I could see anything at all. 

Sailing away from Horseshoe Falls

Once we were almost under the falls, I saw exactly nothing.  The deluge was blinding.  It came in over, under, and around my sunglasses, so I took them off.  It didn't help.  I wiped wave after wave of water out of my eyes, only to grab the briefest glance of my surroundings before having to rub more water out of my eyes again.  It was quite the experience!  (Maybe the prow of the boat wasn't the best place, after all...)

14 July 2012: Mary (age 57) looks like a drowned rat
after experiencing Niagara Falls up close and personal!

Consequently, the 3 pictures above are the only shots of Horseshoe Falls I got from the boat.  Sigh...

A final look at all 3 falls from the lookout tower before we left.  That's Goat Island
between American Falls/Bridal Veil Falls in the foreground
and Horseshoe Falls in the distance.

After a quick visit to the gift shop, where I bought one of the seven souvenir tee-shirts I ultimately brought home with me (not counting several for Ed and Dylan, too), we caught the next shuttle back to Goat Island and left Niagara Falls by 1:30 that afternoon.

Saturday, July 14:
The Family Farm
We left Niagara Falls, but we weren't done yet!  From there we headed south through the green, rolling hills and farmlands of Upstate New York.  There were several more sites to be seen that same day.
Ed wanted to revisit the country where he spent his childhood. We drove through Attica, where he attended Attica Central High School (and his driver education teacher used to have the kids drive to Attica Prison). 
We drove to Perry, where his family used to attend church in a building that is now a private home.  Their family had converted to the LDS Church and had to make a 2-hour drive there every Sunday.  It took us just a few minutes to find their old church building.
While in Perry, we stopped for a couple of hours to visit Ed Law, Ed's dad's best friend since high school.  (My father-in-law, also named Ed, passed away in November 2009, so I never met him.)  Ed Law and his wife were wonderful hosts and made us feel very welcome.  They almost convinced us to stay the night, but our itinerary wouldn't allow it.
Next, we stopped in North Java to see the house where Ed lived for 3 years after his parents sold the family farm in 1974.  The house was newly-built when they moved in and Ed has good memories of it. 
We drove through Delevan and saw the corner where Ed's dad owned a gas station for about a year, until it burned down in a mysterious fire.
We cruised through Machias, not far from Ed's childhood home, and saw Lime Lake, which flows right through the middle of town. 
And then we arrived in Franklinville, where Ed spent the first 14 years of his life on an almost-700-acre farm owned and worked by his great grandfather from the mid-1800s. 
We went by Franklinville Central Elementary School, where Ed attended school with all the other kids from Franklinville, Machias, and the surrounding areas.  Along the way, Ed saw many businesses he remembered and many more that were changed or gone.
Then we had the bittersweet experience of visiting the old family farm.
The farm was located on Reynolds Road, named for Ed's great grandfather.

Caryl kept trying to talk us out of going.  She had gone there several years ago with her husband and found the changes to the land to be upsetting.  Ed was determined, though.  It had been 35 years since he'd seen his childhood home, and he wanted to see it now.

14 July 2012: The farmhouse Ed grew up in, 1960-1974, as it appears today.  At first
we thought it was empty, but then we saw evidence that someone does indeed live there.
It's unkept, like a jungle, compared to when Ed's family owned it. 
See the old photos below.

I had never been there, of course.  But I had seen many pictures of the old farm, and even I was dismayed to see what had become of the property since Ed's dad sold it to a so-called "developer" so long ago.

1953: Ed's dad, Eddie Reynolds, as a young man (age 16),
59 years ago, in front of the family farm house.

The Reynolds Family Farm in Franklinville, New York, 1953.
That's the very road we drove down and took pictures from.

A few areas had clearly been leased to farmers, who were growing some crops there.  However, most of the land was still open and going wild, except for some old trailers and mobile homes that were falling apart and surrounded by rusted garbage.
I could see why it was upsetting to Caryl, but as we drove through the old farm, Ed pointed out places he remembered and reminisced about things he did there, and we began to see the property through the eyes of his memory.  By the time we left, Caryl said she felt much better about the state of her old home.
In fact, the areas that have been neglected by the "developers" have taken on the wild beauty of natural lands.  I hope they leave them that way.

Ischua Creek: Ed used to fish in this creek running through the farm. 
Not far from here, a deer leaped out of the woods near the side of the road
and ran across the road in front of us.  Beautiful!
Caryl says her husband had simply become tired of farming, so he sold the farm to try his hand at other things.  My husband understands, but he regrets that his dad didn't hold on to the farm for a few more years.  Ed loved that farm and has told me often he would still be there farming it if he'd been old enough to take it over and buy it from his father.  Farming is in his blood.  (Hence our garden and chickens...)  How different his life might have been if things had gone differently. 
After we left the farm, we continued south for almost an hour to Olean, New York, near the Pennsylvania border.  We drove past the hospital where Ed and his four siblings were born.
In fact, the night before Ed was born, his mother put off going to the hospital.  It was August 31st, and if Ed had been born that day he would have been named Willard, after his paternal grandfather.  However, Caryl had made a deal with her husband that the baby (if it was a boy) would be named Edward Jr. if he was born on her husband's birthday, September 1st. 
Caryl did not want to name her child Willard, so she held out until the next day.  Ed was indeed born on his father's birthday, Sept. 1, and he was named after his dad.  My husband thinks it's pretty special to share his dad's birthday, but he never expected to one day marry a woman (me) who was also born on Sept. 1! 
By now it was 9:30 p.m. and becoming dark, so we found a place to eat in Olean before continuing to drive another 3 hours on to Ohio, arriving at our destination at almost 2am.  It was a long night, but that's a story for another post...

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