Travels in America: Niagara Falls to Dayton Ohio

My husband Joe and I have undertaken three trips to the United States, and have loved our travels there.? In the keeping with the holiday spirit as we all take a well earned break, I have brushed the dust off our blog written at the time (October 2014), removed excessive cussing and tidied up the grammar for Whaleoil readers.? This is part 4 of 7.

Day sixteen ? New York to Niagara Falls

Up before dawn this morning, after a restless night waking every few hours to check I hadn?t slept through the alarm.? Joe slept blissfully and snore-fully through this of course.? Eventually, I timed it right and woke with a minute to spare at 5.44am.? It was all stations go to shower and pack the last minute stuff, and then hoof all our luggage to the train station.? We decided to walk, only 8 blocks and at that time of the morning, very few people about.? Got there with plenty of time to spare and mooched into the Amtrak lounge to relax.? Then we heard the beginning of two announcements about our train that were interrupted and talked over by someone else, so we had no idea what important information was being imparted.? I decided I better go and ask, and apparently we had to go through some kind of check-in where our passports were presented to make sure the tickets matched our passports and were then given a luggage label for each bag (6 in total !!) because apparently Canadian customs are picky that each bag has a label.

As usual, it turned out they didn?t give a hoot and no-one checked that the bags we got off the train within Canada matched those on our ticket.? Sigh.? These people really should talk with each other.? No security to go through, we just formed an orderly queue and after about 10 minutes wait, were herded down the escalator to the train.? Boarded, found a seat and hefted the luggage into the overhead racks with no issues (easy enough with one person each end of the bag!)

Now it was time to sit back, relax and enjoy Amtrak hospitality for the next 9+ hours.? And it was a very nice relaxing trip, lots of gorgeous fall tree colours as we followed the Hudson river up through New York State.? At Utica (pronounced Yoo-tikka) a woman with two kids got on.? Sigh.? A little girl of about 3 going on 13 and a baby boy about 9 months old would be my best guess.? Sadly he cried, and whined, and howled and whinged for most of the trip, and at each station, we would cross fingers that she would be getting off.? Eventually, she did, at Rochester, so we at least had a few hours of relative peace for the rest of the trip.

The train was running late by the time we got into Niagara Falls and was made even later as we had to sit on the train and wait for Canadian border control to decide how they were going to process us.? Eventually, they reached our carriage and came on to tell us everyone had to unload all their bags and go through passport control and customs.? So off we went, queued up, and went through the usual ?how long are you?here for, where have you been, how long are you staying, what is the purpose of your visit? rigmarole.? Then we had to put our bags through x-ray and that was it, free to go.? We hoofed outside and grabbed a cab and headed to our motel.

View from our window, Niagara Falls

We had picked the Fallsview Marriott because of its reputation for spectacular views over the falls, and my word, it did not disappoint.? Took our breath away when we first walked into our room.? Now we?re over it and don?t even bother to look.? Just kidding of course !!!!!? It?s stunning and it will be hard to walk out of here.

We were pretty hungry by now as lunch had been a good 6 hours earlier, so we headed off to find something to eat.

Day seventeen ? Niagara Falls

The day started very grey with quite low cloud threatening rain, but let?s face it, a rainy day in Niagara Falls will beat a fine day at the office hands down every time!? We headed out via a brief stop at ?the Country Chalet? and it?s ?all you can eat breakfast for $6.99?, which is actually much nicer than it sounds, except the catch is that coffee is not included in ?breakfast? and they clop you another five bucks each for that J? But it was still good food, and it kept us going for the whole day !!

We walked down and caught the funicular which is basically a pretty short cable car ride down to the river level, on one edge of the Horseshoe Falls.

Funicular with the Marriott in the background

We were surprised at how close you can get to the river?s edge and the barriers that you could so easily climb over if you were trying to be famous and actually go over the falls.

No kidding!

Thankfully the crowds have thinned a bit at this time of year, and there was plenty of space to spread out and no jostling required to take photos.? We spent the rest of the day wandering along the river?s edge on the Canadian side of the river, and then across the Rainbow bridge and through the border to the American side of the river.? This is all easily walkable, you just need to take your passport with you and answer the usual questions about where you are going and why.? No x-raying of gear this time, we were just waved through and on our way.

We had booked a trip on the Maid of the Mist, which is a boat that takes you past the American Falls and reasonably close to the base of the Horseshoe Falls.? You are given what is basically a large plastic bag to wear as a coat, to keep the worst of the spray off you.? And you need it, the spray and the wind at the bottom of the falls is pretty fierce, as you would expect.? It was a fabulous experience, great to see the falls from the river and get an idea of the power and force behind all of that water.

After the boat ride, which was only about 20 minutes, we continued mooching along the American side of the river, right up to the opposite side of the horseshoe falls from where we started out.? I?ve probably already bored everyone to tears raving about the autumn trees, but it has made this whole trip so colourful and pretty, and although it wasn?t the reason behind choosing to come at this time of year, it has led to some spectacular viewing everywhere we have been.

So the leisurely wander had taken us about 5 hours by this point, not to mention about a thousand photos, so we turned around and started heading back.? Same old story getting back into Canada, present passports, answer a few questions and we were done.? We decided to walk home via the town this time, try and suss out somewhere for dinner.? Lots of pretty tacky ?amusements? designed to keep children occupied, Guinness World Records, Wax Works Movie stars, House of Horrors, Ripleys Believe it or Not, all that sort of stuff.? Continued mooching all the way home to our motel, where it was time to sit down (first time since breakfast !) and watch the view out the window some more.

We had a very nice dinner at a place called The Keg, which specialised in steaks.? Was a great meal, steak cooked to perfection and beautifully tender good service, all topped off by a lovely view over the falls. We had a whiskey sour as dessert and were asked ‘shall we keg it for you’ where they up the whiskey content but not the price! Hmm, hard choice but we said yes 🙂

Day eighteen – Niagara Falls

A slightly better day today weather wise, not drizzly and the wind was blowing the mist back over the falls so you could actually see much more of the horseshoe.? Planned a ?rest day? today, which meant less walking than usual to re-visit the gift shop for gifts, and take more photos of the Falls just in case we missed something yesterday.? Colder today, the temperature is about 8 degrees Celcius but with wind chill feels about 5 degrees, so we were glad of polar fleece, thermals, scarves, hats and gloves.

Once we were rugged up, we were comfy, so the cooler temps haven?t spoilt the visit, and it?s certainly more pleasant to have less people around, as it?s now at the very end of the season here.? Shopping complete, we went back to the motel and got ourselves organised for tomorrow.? We need to get to Buffalo Airport by 8 am to pick up the rental car, and there is no simple public transport to take us there, across the border back into America.? So we booked a cab, which wasn?t as horrendous as it sounds, and we knew we?d probably have to do that when we were planning the trip.

Our next stop is the Wright Patterson Air Force Museum in Dayton Ohio, and it is going to be about a 6-hour drive to get there. The alternative to picking up the rental in Buffalo would have meant we would have to waste a day kicking around Buffalo waiting for the overnight train to Toledo, to then get a cab from the train station in downtown Toledo at 5am to get to the Toledo airport across town to pick up a rental car, to drive 3 hours to Dayton ??? and then do the whole palaver in reverse to drop the car back again and catch a 5am train into Chicago.? So one cab trip was a much better option, and probably cheaper in the long run, and it means we miss Toledo, which is no hardship! Toledo was Klinger?s hometown ?(M*A*S*H) ? need I say more?

We booked tomorrow night?s accommodation at the Wright Patterson Comfort Suites, which are just across the road from the Air Force Museum that Joe wants to visit Friday.? We programmed Dora with the address of the hotel and she calculated about six hours driving time.? With that all done, we spent a few hours in the afternoon just sitting in front of our picture window enjoying the fabulous view, reading a book and generally chilling out.? A rare spot of downtime this trip.? We flicked on the news late afternoon to catch up on the shootings at the Canadian Parliament in Ottowa.? Quite hard to believe something like that happening in peaceful little Canada, just shows you never know where there will be some kind of nut job with a point to prove.

Went and had dinner at the casino complex, a very nice burger joint called The Famous, that had some gorgeous art deco features.? Watched the old guy at the table next to us almost choke to death and be given the Heimlich manoeuvre by the restaurant staff, who were fabulous with him.? The cynical part of me said they were probably keen to avoid a lawsuit, but they did seem very genuine in their concern for him.? The old guy was fine after all that and left the restaurant under his own steam a bit later, a happy camper with his even happier dining companion.? I guess she was pleased not to be carting him out in a box.

Dinner complete, we went back to the motel to collect camera and tripod & set off with all our layers against the chill to take some night photos of the Falls.? They are lit up with huge spotlights, which sounds a bit naff but does actually make them really pretty at night when there wouldn?t otherwise be much to see.? Mixed success with photos, some ok some pretty hopeless, but still worth the effort.

Niagara Falls lit up at night

Walked back to the picture window motel room and packed our stuff ready for an early departure, 7 am cab pickup.

A little bit of trivia ? the binoculars that are dotted around the place for tourists to use have an instruction ? ?Insert one loonie here? ? It turns out that the Canadian $1 coin is called a loonie as the bird depicted on it is the loon. The Canadian $2 coin has a bear on it, and while initially, the Canadian treasury thought it may end up being nicknamed a broonie.? In fact, it?s now called a toonie? so you have loonies and toonies.

Day Nineteen Niagara Falls to Dayton Ohio

Cabbie arrived promptly before 7 am and was waiting for us as we schlepped all our luggage out to the motel lobby.? We loaded up and set off, wondering if there would be any extra scrutiny at the border given what had happened yesterday with the attack on Canadian parliament.? But if there was we didn?t notice it and we were waved on after a few questions about our intentions, (WHY are you going to Dayton ????) and a quick check of the boot to make sure we weren?t doing any human trafficking, which we weren?t.? Nice cab driver, and he told us some interesting stories about taking people across the border, people that had tried to do it without passports, Cubans defecting to America, and his own slip-ups where he had mixed up his passport with his wife?s by mistake and didn?t realise until he went to present it at the border.? He also had some interesting local knowledge, said Buffalo had been a city of 400,000 people in the past but had lost a lot of manufacturing jobs many years ago.? It?s now a city of just over 200,000 people and remained unaffected by the last Global Financial Crisis as the city had already been decimated years previously.

We were dropped right by the Avis counter and did the necessary paperwork, agreeing to upgrade to an SUV for an extra 10 bucks a day.? We were on our way by about 8.30am from Buffalo, in a very nice Ford Escape SUV.? We?re glad we went for the upgrade, it is a very smooth ride, and we have plenty of room for our luggage in the boot.? We?ve already refilled a 7/8th empty tank for $36, so it seems quite economical.? I had to specify an amount to pre-pay before we can begin filling, so I guessed a hundred bucks, based on NZ prices and the fact that it?s about 3 times the size of the Mini, so was very pleasantly surprised that I got refunded more than I paid!

Just an aside on the petrol pumps while I think of it, most of them are pre-pay but you need to swipe a credit card, which is usually no problem, but then you have to put in a zip code, and we don?t have a valid one, so it always gets declined at this point.? So it?s a complete pain, you have to go into the gas station and swipe and sign.? Most of the EFTPOS terminals are signature based here, and most of the mag stripe only, very few are chip capable, and even fewer ask you for your PIN.? We?ve tried putting in a valid US zip code (belonging to a mate who lives here) and that doesn?t work, and we tried our NZ postcode in case it was matching the cardholder address with the code we entered, but neither of those options worked.? Sigh.

We had a very pleasant and uneventful drive down to Dayton.? Dora was right on the money in terms of directing us to our address, and we even managed motorway exits for food and coffee/wee stops without getting horribly lost.? Lots of roadworks though, lanes closed and reduced speed, although that seemed to be ignored by everyone except us.? They consistently drive 10 mph over whatever the limit is, and even if we do the same and follow the speed-limit-plus-10 rule, we are still passed by people going significantly faster than us. ?Lots of State Troopers on patrol too, sitting parked in between the two highways (one road of at least two lanes often 4 going one way, plus a separate highway the same size going the opposite direction with a wide median strip in between) and we saw probably half a dozen cars that had been pulled over, flashing lights, the works.? The right-hand side of the road driving is pretty easy on the Interstates, it?s when you get off and deal with the smaller roads and laneways that you need to keep your wits about you and remember where you need to be.

We arrived in Dayton earlier than expected at around 3.30pm, and Joe has walked across to the Museum for a recce, they are open until 5 pm tonight and at 9 am tomorrow.? As we approached the Air Force base, we saw a C-17 doing circuits, and since Joe has been over at the museum I?ve heard a couple of noisy things taking off.? I?m sure he will be a happy camper.