Today I basically considered a traveling day. I did cover a lot of mileage, but when I look back I also did a lot of things besides driving. I think that is generally my style. When I’m driving from one location to another with a purpose – for example, when I’m driving from Los Angeles (family) to Oregon (home), I can get in the car and not stop for six or seven hours. My goal isn’t to sight see. However, when I’m traveling through a new area, I’ll break up my travel into small segments and actually enjoy stops along the way. That’s what happened today.
I saw a little more of Cleveland this morning, and most of that time involved relaxing at a coffee shop in (I think) one of the trendier parts of town. Eventually, I hit the road and headed east for a nice day of driving. The plan: curving around the eastern side of Lake Erie, through Buffalo, NY and finishing in Toronto.
The morning consisted of singing along with the radio and enjoying the view through northeastern Ohio. It seemed list there was constant construction on the highways in Ohio. My only thought, however cynical it may be, is that the winter destroys the roads and then they spend all summer repairing it for the next winter to destroy it again. But, really, I don’t know. As I approached the state line, I had one of my travel insights: pull over and check gasbuddy.com to see how the gas prices compared among Ohio and New York. Then, I realized I was actually heading into Pennsylvania, not New York, for several miles. There was, I learned, a major price difference among the states; it wasn’t surprising. It’s like that on the West Coast as well. I stopped at a gas station in Ohio just before the border, followed that with an uneventful experience in Pennsylvania, and then didn’t actually realize I was in New York until several miles in when it hit me that the road signs looked different.
Then I left the United States for two or three minutes, supposedly. I don’t know the politics of it, but I assume it’s not unlike how they say if you walk into the American Embassy in Berlin, you’re actually in the United States rather than Germany. I don’t know if that’s true, but in any case, this is what you see as you drive through northwestern New York state:
You can search online and read about the controversy and politics of it. In any case, my next destination I decided would be Buffalo, NY, the 3rd snowiest city in the United States (the top three are all in that part of New York). I thought the city looked fairly depressing. But that’s just in my very limited time there. I wasn’t compelled to do any sightseeing other than to get coffee and to pick up lunch at Frank & Teressa’s Anchor Bar. Why, you ask? What else should one do with limited time in Buffalo than order buffalo wings where they were created. It was interesting; it seemed like a dive bar, but also had a gift shop, for obvious reasons. The wings were good but unimpressive, in my opinion. They also seemed pricey, at least compared to what I’m used to.
Just beyond Buffalo is the Niagara River, and just beyond that, Canada. As soon as I entered Canada, I quickly realized that my cellphone service is a national plan, for the USA. I received a warning that usage in Canada would be billed at $2.05 per MB, so I quickly turned off mobile data and relied on the saved Google map and GPS to track my location along the downloaded map. I wasn’t expecting that. It was like the olden days … 15 years ago, when I studied up on a paper map and kept it handy as I was traveling. It was quite a challenge, but primarily because it was unexpected. My first destination in Canada was Niagara Falls.
Niagara Falls is widely considered the most overrated tourist attraction in North America. I can find sources for that if you wish. Once I arrived at Niagara Falls on the Canada side, I found a place to park, walked across the street and watched the falls. Niagara Falls and American Falls are both visible near each other, and there were a LOT of tourists. I thought the falls both looked really cool and pretty, so that part is not overrated. However, there are lots of waterfalls in the Pacific Northwest and visiting one lasts maybe an hour, maybe less. What I think is very overrated about Niagara Falls is that it is billed as destination where you can stay several days – complete with shopping, attractions, boat rides, walking up to the base of the falls (with a shiny raincoat), standing over the Falls on a bridge, and lots of expensive hotels. If I can generalize, the large crowd of visitors seemed to be primarily retirees, families with small children, and Asians. That’s three separate groups, and it was just my limited impression of spending maybe 45 minutes there. It’s truly all the time I needed and I don’t see why I’d every need or want to go back again. As I headed back to the freeway, I stopped by a visitor center advertising free wifi and sat with my computer inside writing down directions to my Toronto hotel which was about an hour away. I got to overhear several groups making basic hotel reservations in the $200-300 a night range. That’s Canadian, but still, I’m felt happy to have found the right strategy for me; see Niagara Falls, then keep going.