…and they’re off

Yesterday we put Ed on a Greyhound bus to Niagara Falls and then followed him in our tank. After arriving in Niagara at around lunchtime we walked a few miles into town and ate in a restaurant called only ‘Family Restaurant’. We mostly had pasta dishes of one variety of the other, each served with an identical, slightly disgusting tinned tomato sauce. They did bring Andy’s dessert out with candles in the top, though, to celebrate his birthday (and one of the last opportunities to eat deep fried brownie for the next 4-5 weeks).

We then headed to the falls themselves, which I had been pre-warned about not being as tall as one would imagine. It’s true that they aren’t the tallest waterfalls in the world, but they are almost certainly the most magnificent. The raw, uncontrolled energy of the water tumbling over the American and Horseshoe Falls takes the breath away, and the spray from the falls travels high and wide. Apparently, 20% of the world’s fresh water flows over Niagara Falls, which is mind-boggling.

After taking photos from every possible angle, we bought our tickets and went into the tunnels behind the waterfall. The plastic ponchos that they hand out are essential, as one of the viewing platforms takes you just feet away from the torrent of water, soaking you from head to foot. The tunnels extend 200m behind the Horseshoe Falls from the Canadian side, so I suppose we were briefly in no man’s land.

Our thirst for getting soaked by the world’s most powerful waterfall was not yet quenched, so we handed over $14 each (in a mixture of US and Canadian currency; a combination of being so close to the border and the exchange rate being almost exactly 1:1 means they are interchangeable in Niagara) and boarded the Maid of the Mist vessel.

The boat first cruised reasonably close to the American Falls before moving right into the heart of the Horseshoe, practically within touching distance of the falls. Again, we were equipped with ponchos and they were perhaps even more useful than earlier, as the spray made good visibility a pipedream and gave us a better shower than a budget chain motel could ever manage.

Later that evening, after returning to the motel for a rest, we drove back into town (with Andy following on his bike) and ate huge hamburgers (called Baconators – two burgers, four strips of bacon, cheese, mayo and ketchup) at Wendy’s. There was a strange novelty in eating at a fastfood chain that for some reason has never made it to the UK.

Niagara Falls as a town is a bizarre, seedy place. The centre is a brightly lit strip of hotels, motels, casinos, tacky giftshops, museums and crap restaurants. It’s almost as though the Niagara Falls authorities thought, “Hey, we’ve got one of the great wonders of the natural world right here, so lets build Blackpool next to it.”

Our appetite satisfied, we wandered down to the falls and observed their magnificence when lit by floodlights (incidentally, powered by the falls themselves via the huge hydroelectric plant upstream). If it were possible, they looked even better than they did during the day.

This morning we rose early for the raison d’etre of the trip: the cycling. Shortly after 7am Leo, Neil, Andy and Alex left the motel on two wheels, stopping only for photographs at the start of the bridge across to the USA. All being well (apart from the gear problems that Neil’s just discovered), they should now be pushing on through New York state towards Rochester. Me and Ed will cross the border in an hour or two, joining them en route for their midday rest break.

One thought on “…and they’re off

  1. I thought it was time someone made an entry to the blog, to make sure that Rob knows that his contribution to the trip is greatly appreciated. Having read your account of the trip I am becoming convinced that you either persuaded Bill Bryson to do some ghost writing for you or perhaps some of his literary talent rubbed off when you shook hands at graduation. I have just finished ‘The Lost Continent – Travels in Small Town America’, by BB and I am sure he must have stayed in some of the same hotels as you, it should be essential trip reading.
    Good to hear the cycling has started and is going well.


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