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Niagara Falls: The American Side

My husband and I both of whom enjoy the glorious freedom of not having " jobs" right now, have not lost our sense of adventure.  We're both in our 50s, he's five years my senior, probably 20 pounds lighter, and 5 inches taller. He's lucky, his knees don't ache every time he climbs the stairs in our very old two story house. Me, I feel lucky to be squired around by my very handsome man. We set out a couple of weeks ago to take a two day vacation to Niagara Falls. I hadn't been there since I was about 10 and my husband had never been.

The drive up was smooth as glass and almost the entire way we could see lake Erie on the driver's side and on my side was field after field of the beautiful and fragrant rows of grapes. Grapes ready for harvest, destined for a cask in a winery, and eventually bottles labeled 2009 Pinot Noir. Made a mental note to suggest a wine tour soon.  We had decided to take this trip on the cheap and drove our own car and made reservations at a Hotel where my husband had racked up enough "reward points" from business trips for a free overnight stay; all we had to do was pony up the extra 20 dollars for a room with a Jacuzzi in it.

We scouted out the falls, stopped by the Visitor's Center, and figured out where we would park in the morning. It was hard to drag Hubby away from the falls, but I really wanted him to save the lengthy excursions for the next day. All I could think about was the Jacuzzi, but I managed to distract myself from that with the promise of a Falafel Combo Plate and Lamb Souvlaki. The food was delightful, there's no place in the little town where we live to get such cuisine, nor Indian or Thai food either. There are by the way scads of Indian restaurants just blocks from the Falls.

We had the most incredible time the next day. We're both far too jaded to go for amusement parks. We exhausted our patience with those when our daughter was young. We lived in L.A. and went to Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm, and Magic Mountain, more times than we can count. There were also the numerous trips to Marinelands, and even a couple of Whale Watches in Catalina. We always had fun, but most of the time it seemed like we brought the fun with us, the rides and attractions were largely boring.

I had mostly pleasant memories of Niagara Falls but didn't expect it to be even better as an adult. What a shock. The highlight of the Falls as a child was our ride in the ferry boat the Maid of the Mist. I had a ball getting very wet as a kid. I have to say that as an adult it was more fun, though I missed one thing about the earlier trip, my Dad.  I realize now that my being so young at the time was probably why he didn't get to do the Adult things that my husband and I got to do. We took our Maid of the Mist ride first thing after getting our "Discovery Passport", tickets to all the attractions in the Park. There's quite a bit of walking to get to the boat launch and then a long haul after you get back to shore.  The day was overcast and there was no rainbow over the falls, but still the ride was invigorating and the Falls were awesome. I felt like we had probably had the peak experience for the day. When we got out I was a little tired from all the walking, and was of course dripping wet. I took my Maid of the Mist slicker off and had a little sit down while I waited for my husband to take the walk along the rail and take some gorgeous pictures of the falls up close. 

We took the trolley to Terrapin Point and had a very nice lunch at the top of the Falls restaurant. I was determined to let him have the best experience possible, so there was absolutely no whining about all the walking, but my dogs were barking and boy my knees hurt.

On the trolley ride from Maid of the Mist to our stop we ran into some other old folks that were just bubbling about the time they had at the Cave of the Winds. The two ladies were radiant and the gentleman with them was much less thrilled. One of the ladies was so proud that she had the foresight to pick up a waterproof camera, and the other was really happy about the velcro close sandals that you get on the tour and get to keep.  I had read about the Cave of the Winds walking tour and from the boat I had seen some of the intrepid explorers in their yellow slickers climbing up a redwood scaffold and staircase and seemingly disappear behind the falls. Though the moniker Cave of the Winds has stuck, there really are no Caves there anymore, with the passage of time and water they have eroded.  It didn't sound that great to me, but I kept thinking about the free shoes and decided that I too wanted to take this tour. So right after lunch we caught the next trolley to the Cave of the Winds. Some guy out front tries to get you to pose for a picture, that he will have available to sell you at the exit of the tour. We blew him off and got into our sandals and rain ponchos and took the elevator175 feet down to the base of the scaffolding.

Our fellow travelers had warned us that at two or three places we would have the opportunity to turn back, but they had made it all the way to the top Hurricane deck, where with their waterproof camera they took pictures, all but the gentleman who had chickened out two levels below the top. They warned us too that some of the steps and handrails are moss covered and very slippery. Hubby kept reminding me that I could turn back, but I didn't. I was slow and let a couple of small groups go ahead of me, but I kept slogging away, and holding on for dear life. It was everything the other oldsters had said. It was thrilling and was like walking through an incredible storm; on some of the steps the waterfall actually ran out over the stairs and over our feet. We were actually standing in the falls! My husband made it all the way to the top, but I stopped at the last landing before the top. I had stopped dead in my tracks because at that moment the sun peaked out from behind the clouds and the most beautiful rainbow arched out right in front of us.

It seemed like it was no more than two or three feet away, like if we weren't clinging to the scaffolding, standing in the actual falls, in near hurricane speed winds, we could have just reached out and touched it. It seemed to arc right out of the top of the falls and back into the rushing waters at the base. But my husband whose camera by the way was not waterproof, said that from the very top deck, the rainbow wasn't an arc, but was a fully closed circle.

I began the descent and waited along the pathway for him to come down off of the scaffold. I was exhausted from the effort but would have to agree with the lovely Hindi young woman who said as she exited "What an Experience!" It was too.

My husband said he hadn't seen me work that hard in a long time. We went to one last attraction, the final showing of the Imax format movie afterward. It was just what we needed, a comfortable seat. By the time we left we were dragging our tails to the parking lot, but  we both were several years younger than when we started the day.  The Cave of the Winds tour was the Highlight, and it was all a very real pioneer type exhilarating experience. Amusement parks cannot compete with the real thing. I proved to myself that being old and overweight doesn't have to keep you from doing anything you're willing to try. You know what else? During that epic 175 foot climb up the side of the falls, I didn't even register pain in my knees. It wasn't a part of the picture. Concentrating on surviving and being 100% in the moment, left no room for reflecting on joint pains. It is of course only a temporary fix, it still hurt to climb the stairs when we got home. But during the trip through the rainbow, there was no pain, there was only will, determination, and awesome beauty.