Niagara Falls on a Whim

One of the challenges of our travels around the country is the actual traveling part.

The way our nomadic set-up works is that we rent vacation homes for several weeks to several months at a time. Surprisingly, this turns out to be quite affordable (for example, our beautiful 4-bedroom house on Cape Cod works out to $50/night including utilities – cheaper than our rent in the Chicago suburbs). It also makes it feasible for Havarti and I to continue working from home while we travel.

What that means for traveling, though, is that we have to try to get from place to place without a lot of detours. That gets tricky when we’re traveling far distances. Eight hours of drive time actually works out to about 10 hours of travel time (stopping to eat and pee and move our legs). We can fairly comfortably do 10 hours of traveling in a day. More than that gets ugly.

So even a cool site that’s a half-hour off the freeway, by the time you figure in the actual site-seeing time and another half-hour to get back on the freeway, adds two or three hours to an already full day of traveling.

And that’s just not sanely doable most drives.

The other option is to just add another day of traveling, but that adds another hotel (at least $70), plus more road food (always a challenge with our gluten-free/dairy-free folk), plus time that we need for work.

Ergo, we’ve missed a lot of “oh, so close” sites that we wish we’d been able to experience. Several National Parks, a handful of major historical sites, and even some old friends who we’d love to be able to sit and chat with. We just can’t make it all work.

It’s all good. No room for complaint in this life we’re living, really.

The point of all this is to explain how cool it is that we ended up seeing Niagara Falls on our way to Cape Cod.

Buffalo, NY is about halfway between Chicago and Cape Cod, so we stopped at a hotel there for the night. We knew it was about a half-hour from Niagara Falls – but in the opposite direction of Cape Cod. We weren’t sure if we wanted to add the extra hours to stop and see it.

But it’s Niagara Falls! People take vacations specifically to see this place. We knew we’d kick ourselves if we didn’t do it. So after some late night messaging with my friend, Kelly (who grew up in the town of Niagara Falls), we felt confident that we could make it work on our way out of town the next morning.

So we woke the kids up early, quickly packed up, and headed to Niagara Falls before I’d even had my coffee.

It’s funny how thrilling a bunch of water going over a cliff can be.

Almost a million gallons of water per second.

Just falling and falling and falling. All day. All night.

It’s mind-boggling, really. And I learned that the outflow of water from the four Upper Great Lakes flows into the Niagara River and over the falls, then flows into Lake Ontario. This factoid would have meant pretty much nothing to me as a kid growing up in Washington, where the Great Lakes were just big blue blobs on a map. It’s different to see these things in real life.

 Which is a big reason why we’re taking this trip.

 It was a cloudy morning. Not too cold, thankfully.

But it’s definitely misty near the falls. My friend had told me that the Canadian side of the falls is where you can “see” the falls, but the American side is where you “experience” them. I didn’t really understand what that meant until we were there.

It means you get the spray right in your face. If I’d had a long stick I could have touched the water. If we’d been there in season (or probably even later in the day) we could have gone to a cave under the falls where you’re actually behind the waterfall. That would have been cool.

It also would have been cool to cross the bridge and see the view from the Canadian side, but alas, no passports for the kiddos.

I’m glad we got to see what we did of the falls, though. Well worth the extra couple hours of travel time.

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Annie writes about life, motherhood, world issues, beautiful places, and anything else that tickles her brain. On good days, she enjoys juggling life with her husband and homeschooling her children. On bad days, she binges on chocolate chips and dreams of traveling the world alone.

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