Saturday, August 14, 2010

Buffalo, NY

According to Iroquois legend, when the Great Spirit reached out his hand to bless the earth, he made an impression in the land. The impressions filled with water and became what is now known as the Finger Lakes region in Upstate New York.

The only thing we had to do today was travel the 3 or so hours from Syracuse to Buffalo. Apparently we are becoming extremely good at filling up a day! We woke up this morning and finally were able to buy new batteries for the RV. The Cab battery has been dead since I’ve owned the thing, and the auto battery wasn’t much better. But between getting that done and doing a little food shopping, it was too late for us to do much more in Syracuse…

Just as well, since there really isen’t a ton there. My friend Andrew went to school there back in the day and was the one who helped me remember where Dino BBQ was located. I asked if he had any ideas of what else we should do in Syracuse. His response was, “The mall is pretty cool…” Well then, time to move on. I do remember another place he took me to eat when I visited though. It was called Varsity, basically a burger joint, but their fries were great and they laugh at you if you even contemplate ordering a large fry. Andrew and I have hearty appetites, but we barely finished the heaping mound of fries that they call regular…

One of the largest of the Finger Lakes is Seneca Lake, which extends north to south for miles. At the northern tip is the city of Geneva, NY. Geneva also happens to be the home to two different colleges, Hobart and William Smith Colleges. Hobart is all male, William Smith all female. Really though, they share the same campus and all go to class together… So there ya go. Another good friend of mine, Jesse, went to Hobart. So I knew Geneva was a good place to stop by along the way today.

The downtown of Geneva isen’t really all that exciting besides a few great dive bars. But the lake is really nice. On this particular day, the weather was beautiful, but the wind was whipping right up the lake, causing some huge waves!! We ventured out onto the “Long Pier” and were basically playing frogger with the waves splashing across it. It was pretty entertaining. Megs tried to hold back the wind a bit, but ended up getting splashed pretty good instead. Haha. We strolled around the rest of town before returning to the RV, cruising through the campus to show Megs, and then heading back on our way.

Next stop on our tour was Rochester, NY. I only ever got as far as Geneva so this one was new for me as well. We ended up not being impressed though… We drove through the downtown area and really didn’t find it to be anything exciting, no offense to any Rochester lovers… But I will say that the area around the city is great. We saw a spot on the map for a lighthouse down by Lake Ontario, so we thought it’d be cool to go check that out. Well, we never found it, but instead found the Port of Rochester, right next to the Ontario Beach Park. There was a huge park and beach, right next to the entrance to the port and an insanely long pier that seemed like it took 30 minutes for us to walk down…

And there was a Jamacian Pride Parade going on...  So that was sweet.

This also was our first real experience of Lake Ontario. Looking out at the water and not seeing land anywhere on the horizon is really impressive. For two kids growing up on the ocean, it was tough getting our heads around the fact that we were looking at a lake. Really incredible.

Brief tangent. What is the deal with roping off a beach and announcing that people are only allowed to swim in a specific part of the beach?? We’ve seen this twice now so far and it totally confuses me… Now, objectively, you’d think that swimming in the ocean would be incredibly more dangerous than swimming on the shore of a gigantic lake. Yet I have never seen this kind of setup on an ocean beach… I don’t know what to tell you. Maybe no one in New York knows how to swim so they need to be watched like hawks by 6 lifeguards over a stretch of water that is basically 100 yards long. Plus a guy on a float in the water 100 feet out making sure no one wades out beyond their belly button… The whole concept is just strange to me. No waves to speak of or dangerous aquatic animals. Whatever. The beach was really nice otherwise, tons of beach volleyball courts.

So from there we decided that we had had enough of the highway and tried another scenic route. This one, along Lake Ontario again, was a little bit better than before. There were at least a few views here and there… But of course, corn field after corn field as well! We followed the route all the way down the rest of the lake and then made the turn for Buffalo and Niagara!! Soon we were driving along a humongous gorge with clear blue water at the bottom rushing along towards Lake Ontario.

This last point caused much confusion for me. For some reason I always envisioned that water flowed from Ontario south to Erie, as opposed to what it actually does. I guess I just live in fantasy land…

We passed by the huge Niagara Power Project and then came upon a parking lot off the road for something called Devil’s Hole. I was intrigued of course. So we stopped and took a ton of pictures of the gorge. We are obviously ridiculously excited about Niagara Falls tomorrow… Then we poked around a bit more and found some hiking trails going off in both directions, one that was supposed to go to Devil’s Hole and was 2.5 miles round trip. A moderate trail with moderate stairs. No problem right??

We somehow forgot that the river was a loooong waaay dooown… We got down there easy enough, though not entirely sure we were going the right way because these were by far the worst marked trails ever… But we followed the trail along the river for what felt like a mile or so. Now, it was a pretty warm and muggy day today and we were already working up a sweat… So when we suddenly came upon a stretch of trail that felt eerily cold, we took notice. Something wasn’t right here. Something… Evil…

We saw a large cave in the side of the cliff a little bit up the slope and, of course, jumped at the chance to go investigate. Cold air streaming past us, we entered the cave to find a huge dark hole leading up into darkness above us. Wind was howling down at us and no light could be seen coming from it at all. We had found the Devil’s Hole. The info boards at the beginning of the trail had tried to tell us that an old stream used to connect to the Niagara River above the falls, had become disconnected as the falls moved farther south, and the result was a hole eaten out of the stone. But we knew the truth. Another info board had told us about the 100 soldiers who died at the hands of savages near this spot long ago… Regardless of what you believe, it was freaky in there! So we snapped pictures quickly and then scurried away.

The way back up was, well, not fun. Man am I out of shape… All the more reason to be doing this stuff I suppose. I’ll probably be wicked sore in the morning, but we made it back up to the RV in good time and continued down the road to the falls. But of course you can’t see the falls from the road. Certainly not from the American side at least… It’s like a festival over there! Complete with a giant casino. Weird to have a casino there, but it was a cool lookin building, I don’t care who you are… Regardless, we are heading to the Canadian side tomorrow, pretty much everything we have heard says that their side is better…

So we drove through Buffalo, meh, and found a Walmart for the night. Tomorrow’s plan is to get up bright and early, then off to our second stint in Canada!

I wasn’t lying when I said we did a lot today… Sheesh!

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