When Right is Wrong and Left Isn’t Much Better

One of the interesting aspects of traveling is the opportunity to bushwhack, or the art of finding one’s way without a bloody clue where you are. Some fine moments of serendipitous discovery have surfaced from these fearless jaunts into parts unknown, no doubt enhanced by the fact I’m a guy who adheres to the Guy’s #1 Rule of the Road:  don’t ask for directions. Thus, I can grasp that pure sense of victory, assuming I eventual find my way somewhere.

Last weekend my trip to Chicago ended with an “adventure” into parts of South Chicago I really shouldn’t have been. My brother and I decided to play golf Sunday morning before his plane, and we literally picked a course out of the yellow pages that was on the way to Midway Airport. As luck would have it, Midway and the course were in the general direction I needed to go, mainly heading south on I90.

After a brisk round of 18 holes, 14 or so on which we actually had the energy to play (the others being completed as a badge of honor, more or less), I dropped him at the airport and proceeded towards I90…or so I thought. I never found the on-ramp as shown on the map, and what signs were there led me in a big circle. 45 minutes later, I decided to bushwhack my way there whatever means I could figure out from within the confines of my car, which at the time consisted of my 10-year-old Rand McNally road atlas.

If you’ve caught my drift so far, then you realize I was cruising the ghettos and near-slums of deep South Chicago, driving along and taking turns as though I knew what I was doing (which I didn’t). I did eventually find a combination of streets to navigate that led me to an on-ramp some five miles away and a mere 90 minutes after dropping Bro off at the airport. I was finally Ohio-bound, another successful bushwhack notch to my credit “without asking for directions.” That would have been unmanly, unheard of, and unnecessary…despite the fact it would have saved me at least an hour’s wandering through parts unknown. Lessons Learned for next time? Nah, once a guy always a guy.

Blogging from Chicago

Blogging from Chicago…or more exactly, the Apple Store on Michigan Ave. Trying out the Macs with an eye towards getting one…assuming I can still run Windows (you can) to support old projects. Tried out the iPhone, almost bought it on the basis of what it does WITHOUT the phone part! Amazing. This place, the Apple Store, is a dangerous place. Suggest anyone with a weakness for cool tech toys stay away…far away.

Eating lots of incredible food, but fortunately walking my ass off as well! Doing everything by foot, and probably putting in 4-6 miles/day, although it feels like a lot more.

Serindipity highlight of the trip (so far) was stumbling onto the Newbury Library Book Fair, with some 100,000 books for sale. Those who know me are aware that books are opiate to me, so of course I had to stop and browse. Three hours later, a bag full of heavy books, and 15 blocks from the hotel! Not the best planning, but…

More when I return, the usual travel pix, and a report on our golf game Sunday morning (brother and I), at a course we literally just picked out of the yellow pages. Should be fun.

The Falls

On our annual bud trip, my boys and I drove up into Canada to visit Niagara Falls from the Canadian side, plus a day trip to Toronto. In our usual pre-trip conversations about where we’d like to go, I offered to take them to New York City, or San Fransisco, thinking I would expose them to some serious culture and a taste of big city life. They, to my surprise, wanted to see Niagara Falls instead! At the time I thought, “Great, this will save me a bundle,” which didn’t prove to be exactly true, but close.

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I’d seen Niagara Falls once before from the U.S. side, when I was 10. I remember the roar of the water and being impressed by the size of the thing, but not much more. Since then, more than one person remarked that the Falls were more spectacular from the Canadian side. So we three decided to spend all our time on the Canadian side to see what all the fuss was about.

Upon arriving in the Niagara area, the first impression is the obvious expectation that no tourist dollar brought in will ever leave the area. Everything is maximized for tourist pleasures from elevated restaurant prices to entertainment of every kind one can imagine. I couldn’t help but wonder if people came here to see the Falls, or partake of the pleasures of the wax museum, the arcades, movie houses, night clubs, stage shows, major-name concerts, casinos, and on and on. I guess after 30 minutes staring at falling water, most tourists need something else to do. Fortunately, we were intent on absorbing the Falls and avoided all those other money traps.

The two tourist events that got our converted American dollars were the Maid of the Mist boat ride that takes the passengers, rain parkas and all, close alongside the American Falls then even closer to the Canadian Falls, and the Behind the Falls attraction. Fairly recent rock falls make the American Falls less than pristine but still majestic. The Canadian Falls are bigger and more impressive, but a good portion of them are constantly covered by a mist cloud created by the falling water. Still, impressive examples of Mother Nature’s forces at work.

On the Behind the Falls attraction, one descends by elevator down to a viewing platform so close to the edge of the Canadian Falls you’d think you could reach out and touch them. Additionally, you can walk behind the falls and see the power and surge through a couple of excavated viewing tunnels. Don’t really see anything but a misty white wall of water, but you can feel and hear the power of the falls.

erosion.jpgThe most intriguing new-to-me fact came from this wall poster in the Behind the Falls tunnel. At some point in the early 1700s, surveyors begin charting the shape of the Canadian Falls and since then subsequent engineers keep the monitoring efforts revealing the alarming rate the fall was receding. Through engineered control of upstream currents over the last 80+ years, they’ve been able to slow the erosion to a level that ensures the Falls will be there for future generations to enjoy.

Even though it either rained or stayed overcast the whole visit, the Falls were impressive enough to overcome the weather. My photographs came out okay, but clear, sunny skies would have yielded some amazing blues and greens in the water. Tourist traps aside, visiting the Falls from the Canadian side was well worth it.

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American Falls, viewing walkways on the east side.

 

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American Falls, Maid of the Mist boat

 

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Canadian Falls, Maid of the Mist boat, and one serendipitous bird shot!

 

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Behind the Falls attraction, Canadian Falls