2016 Niagra Falls motorcycle trip

Day 3

August 27

Today we plan to cross the border and visit the Canadian side of Niagra Falls. We'll also find out if my passport photocopy will get me across the border...and more importantly...back. I hope it does. I would feel bad if Donna was stuck in the US with me and didn't get to see the Canadian side.

We were on the road early today. Hopefully we can beat some of the crowd. We decided to take the more northerly I-190 crossing in hopes it might not be as crowded.

The flags mark the US/Canada border. This is about where we got before we stopped for the traffic backed up waiting to cross. Sigh. Traffic jams on motorcycles suck.

As we got to the traffic jam Donna noticed Monty & Stephanie weren't behind us. We looked back and could see Monty along the side of the road ~ 1/8 mile back. Mechanical issues? We could see Stephanie walking back to the bike so we thought she might have dropped something. She had. Her and Monty's passports look like credit cards. When she pulled them out of her pocket she dropped Monty's. We teased her that it might have been on purpose. Now they are several cars back.

It took forever to get to the border checkpoint. When you get near the gate you are supposed to stop at a line about 50 feet from the guard shack. The next car pulls forward which gives a safety zone between the car crossing and the next car waiting. Well, I didn't notice the sign so I kept moving forward with the car in front of me when it was my turn to wait at the line. I immediately got the 'stay back' hand sign from the border guard. Hmmmmm...not a good first impression of me.

When it was our turn we moved forward. The questions the border guard asked were pretty generic but they have that intimidating stare that is almost scary. He didn't seem too thrilled to see my photocopy and asked where my passport was. I felt like a little kid getting into trouble when I told him I left it in Indiana. He kind of gave me a 'what a dumbass' look, then handed our paperwork back to us and said "Enjoy your visit". We made it in!

We pulled over down the road and waited for Monty & Stephanie.

One of the negatives about my old Garmin 478 is limited memory. I can't install all of the North America maps and have to choose certain sections of the country. The Northeast US maps I installed do not include Canada so as far as my GPS is concerned we might as well be on Mars.

When Monty pulled up I told him he gets to lead in Canada, so he did. His maps might be old (2007), but they include Canada.

We turned off the highway onto the Niagra Parkway. We pulled over at an overlook near the hydroelectric stations. There is one on both sides of the river and they are both fed by reservoirs. These replaced the old power station by the falls.

It is several miles to the falls and the parkway is nice and relaxing. When we got to the city Donna & I got stopped at a light so then we got to play catch up. I enjoy doing that. Where did they go? There they are!

There is a lot of spray from the falls so unless you are entombed in a car plan to get wet. You can see the wetness up the road.

Another thing to count on at a tourist attraction like Niagra Falls is that everything is going to be expensive. $22 to park. It cost us a little less since we had US dollars. Actually it was pretty cheap for me since Monty paid for the parking! They let us share a spot. We got to do the same thing last night.

Parked. Now the walking starts. The Skylon Tower is in the background. We had looked into staying at one of the hotels overlooking the falls but we didn't want to pay $279 per night per room. Yikes!

Our first stop was the welcome center. It is across the street from the falls so it is under a constant mist.

We checked out the gift shop and decided what we wanted to do. They have several different attractions to choose from. We decided to do the 'Journey Behind the Falls' and the 'Maid of the Mist' boat ride. We bought tickets for Journey Behind the Falls and awaited our alloted time.

While we waited we went outside on the viewing platform. Stephanie had bought these rain coats from Walmart prior to the trip. It was wet and windy, but it was fun.

When it was time for our Journey we headed down a labyrinth of stairs and tunnels. That in itself was pretty cool. They make all the couples take pictures to try to sell later. They hand out the yellow rain coats. Then you go deeper into the tunnels.

When I think of 'Journey Behind the Falls' I envisioned walking on a gangway behind the falls as the water rushes in front of you.

This is what it really is. You view the falls from a couple tunnels bored behind the falls. Interesting, but not really what I was expecting.

The last stop on the Journey is a viewing platform near the base of the falls. Guaranteed wind and wetness.

This is where the Maid of the Mist boats venture into.

There is also an abandoned bore tunnel that is gated off. I love that kind of stuff. From here you wait in line for an elevator that takes you back to the visitor center.

We decided to save ourselves some walking and take the incline railway to street level. We ended up having to loop back through the visitor center to get to the trams.

Once at city level we started our exploration. Our first stop will be the Skylon Tower hiding behind the Casino.

The tower is getting closer.

Walking and walking and still walking. The city area was very clean. There were lots of views of the falls along the way.

There is a neat bridge crossing on the approach to the Skylon Tower.

Inside the tower base we purchased tickets to ride to the top. Tickets are free if you eat in their restaurant. We inquired...the restaurant was booked for a couple more hours and their lunch special started at $40. No, thanks.

The elevators are external to the tower so you get that feeling of hovering as you go up and down.

All my life I've seen pictures of Niagra Falls. I've heard of the American side and the Canadian side, but I never really knew how everything fit together geographically until we actually came here and saw it.

The American falls are on the left. The Canadian falls are larger, more rounded, and the water falls farther due to the lack of rock debris. There are a couple Maid of the Mist boats in the river. The blue tower on the left is part of the American Maid of the Mist complex. The welcome center we visited is immediately to the right of the Canadian falls. Beyond that is the lot where we are parked. You can see how far we've walked so far and there is plenty more to go.

The tickets to the top of the tower were less than $10 each (US) and well worth it. Click on the picture for a larger version.

We had pizza in the food court at the base of the tower.

We checked out some shops near the tower but they held no interest. Our next stop was the shops we had passed on the way in. I thought they were immediately below us so we took a stairway path down through the woods. When we got to the bottom we found they were not. We took a path northward through a park area.

When we reached the shops they reminded me of Gatlinburg, TN. We visited a couple souvenoir shops and Donna found a bunch of shirts for her kids. A lady told Stephanie of a wine store in the area so we hoofed around for several blocks and finally found it. Donna and Stephanie got some wine for themselves and people back home.

The girls had found the wine store and Donna had bought all the gifts she planned to get. We started the long trek back to the bikes to store the packages.

A Starbucks appeared so we took advantage of drinks and its restroom. While I was occupied the others decided to do the Maid of the Mist ride from the American side. Great decision! We would have to add a few miles to our walking to do the Canadian-side ride. The American-side version is next to the parking lot. My feet were happy.

Headed back down the incline railway. When we bought tickets we wisely purchased them for the ride back down the hill also.

It felt sooooo good to get to the bikes. My ankles were dying. We stowed our purchases and headed out. It took a little time to get back on the road due to the traffic. Once again Monty led us.

I was expecting to go back across the same bridge, so I was surprised when he started zigging and zagging through the town. He and Stephanie had noticed the Rainbow Bridge had very little traffic so they decided to cross there. Good decision!

The lines were MUCH shorter here. I still had some anticipation about crossing due to my photocopy passport but not as much as this morning.

Donna is excited to head back to the USA.

I remembered to stop until told to proceed this time.

The car in the lane next to us got searched. Our border guard wasn't as menacing as the one this morning. He had us remove our helmets and sunglasses, and of course he gave me a hard time over the photocopy passport. In a few minutes we were back in the USA. Monty promptly pulled over so I could lead. Dog.

The parking lot we used last night was full so we parked a few blocks away. We had to pay a kiosk and put the ticket stub on my windshield. I took a picture to prove I paid in case the stub blew away or walked off.

The blue building is where we shopped last night. I think the only thing 'Made in America' is the sign. I'm not sure what the cops were doing but they were there the whole time we were.

On the way to the Maid of the Mist ride we passed this beautiful Goldwing. A coworker, Chuck Jacobs, has one just like it. I didn't know it, but Chuck is also on a ride to the east coast for work to attend some meetings in Baltimore.

We purchased tickets for the Maid of the Mist ride then made our way to the elevator tower. There is the Rainbow Bridge we just crossed.

Here is an overview of the Maid of the Mist ride. At the bottom of the elevator tower you go through a room where they take couple's pictures. Then you go to the white tent where you receive your rain coat. Then you exit and wait for your turn on the boat. They cram a lot of people on the boat.

Here we are passing the American falls. At times there were two rainbows. We are already pretty wet.

This is the abandoned hydroelectric power plant. It is now the landing area for a zipline ride. It would be fun to explore the old power plant.

The Canadian falls. The boat spends several minutes churning through the mist. The mist makes it hard to see much and it's hard to take a good picture.

The worst part of this ride is the end. At the beginning you spend a little bit of time buying the tickets, a little bit of time waiting on the elevator, a little bit of time waiting for the rain suit, and a little bit of time waiting on the boat. It doesn't seem to take that long. After disembarking from the boat you now have to wait FOREVER in a line for the elevators to take you back up top.

Eventually we made it to the top and back to the bikes.

After a long day of being tourists we wanted a good supper. As we got near the hotel Olive Garden showed up on a GPS search. We all like to eat there so it became our supper location.

We stopped on the way back and Donna was forced to pay $10 for a pack of cigarettes. It had been a fruitful day. The rest of the night was spent lounging. Tomorrow we head east to Donna's past.

32 miles riding and several walking.

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