So it’s been a long time since I took the time to actually recap these adventures (now three months ago) but finally catching up and reliving the warmth, beauty, and fun. I miss it so much now that it’s full on winter. Exiting Ohio brought me into the teeny chunk of Pennsylvania bordering the Great Lakes. Despite having spent my college years in PA, western PA was pretty much uncharted territory for me aside from a day trip to Fallingwater years ago further south. I had no idea this was a winemaking area (mainly very sweet- not my faves but tried one because local goods deserve a try) and driving past little fields of grapevines with Lake Erie in the background was lovely. My main stop heading through was exploring Presque Isle State Park which is on a little peninsula in the lake and is filled with marshlands, beaches, and a spot at the tip with a memorial to Admiral Perry. Now you may recall that I had also just visited a strikingly similar memorial to the same dude in Ohio, and also that I visited a different park of the same name in Michigan’s UP. Weird. It was a beautiful spot, free to enter, with a loop road and lots of quiet trails, bike paths, and places in a normal year that one could go boating. The fall colors were starting to emerge and it was a serene morning before continuing into New York.
I staked out a spot which ended up being one of my favorite spots to wake up to at a fishing pier outside Westfield. The little town had a tiny lighthouse and I spent the evening inhaling Chipotle while watching the sunset at Barcelona beach, then did had a lazy morning by the pier after catching the sunrise with the seagulls. I did a drive through of the Chautauqua Institution, which is the community and artist retreat center on which my little town of Glen Echo in Maryland was based, and the similar vibe was crazy. Made me feel like home for a few minutes, then did a swing through Jamestown on the other end of Chautauqua Lake, most notable for being the hometown of Lucille Ball. Not only is it filled with I Love Lucy themed murals, but also has a Desilu museum (closed while I was there), Lucy’s gravesite, and my personal fave, two dueling Lucy statues, known as Scary Lucy and Lovely Lucy. Hilarious. What a tribute.
Next stop was Buffalo. Some highlights included a bunch of old factories and silos, some of which have been repurposed into other things like one painted like a giant LaBatt six-pack (a rival to the one in Wisconsin?) with shops and a brewery below and funky art and attractions, but also lots of pretty parks, waterfront sights, and waterfalls- one of which has natural gas seeping out from a fissure that someone keeps lit as an ‘eternal flame’ which was stinky but cool at the end of a short hike. I saw some fun statues like one of a Buffalo nickel and a monument to a hospital service dog (so sweet), and attempted to see a famous statue of a girl with a shark head but didn’t do my research and it was off display for the moment. Bummer. The city also has lots of beautiful architecture downtown, and while driving through I went by a stadium with signs for the Blue Jays. Now, here’s how little I know about whatever I should know: I may have said aloud, “huh, I didn’t realize we were so close to Toronto… it must be a hassle to go back and forth across the border for games. Weird.” Later I got to visit and inhale s’mores while visiting some ex-DC friends, Matt and Jackie and their kiddos, which was so nice, and Matt, who works with the local sports franchises, told me that this was just a temporary solution for Covid and a rare moment a Canadian team would be stationed in the US so… there that is. Oops.
My visit ended with a trip to Niagara Falls! I’d been here with my family on a trip when I was around 10 but am so glad I went again. Certain wonders and places are just amazing no matter how often you see them, and I could have stayed and stared at those falls all day. I did the Cave of the Winds walk along the bottom side of the falls which was a very cool experience and offered a different viewpoint and the chance to feel a little taste of the power of the falls. The ticket info mentioned that the steps can be slippery so I opted for sneakers, but this may have been the worst choice because I ended up getting totally soaked from the calves down below the free poncho from the Hurricane Deck landing. Worth the squishy shoes for the rest of the day though. And the giant spiders all along the trail.
From the top I walked all around and was treaded to some double rainbow action watching the boats pass through the spray. Side note: comparing the Canadian boat and the American boat was like night and day of Covid measures at a glance. The Canadians had literally 10 people max per boat, while the American ones were at half capacity which was still many dozens of people. Did I still go on the Maid of the Mist tour? Yup. After judging away I donned my poncho and hung back from the people smushed against the rails and stood in awe of the falls. From afar I spotted the new all electric version that my godmother’s nephew helped design, but hasn’t been approved to take passengers yet. Down the road a bit I went through the Whirlpool State Park and watched the swirling, stunningly blue water along the trail. Then on my way out of town I spotted a bizarre house decorated with all sorts of colorful religious symbolism. The internet tells me that this is the home of a man who was certain the apocalypse was coming in 2012, and very vocal about it. 2013 must have been a bummer for him. There was also a giant cross next to the garage but I missed it in the photo. Anyway, weird wrap up to the a beautiful day!