Niagara Fell

Wednesday, June 23, 2010 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Day 54: Bowmanville, ON to Hamburg, NY.  All rested up from yesterday's break, we were ready to face Toronto's rush hour this morning on our way around Lake Ontario to New York.  With the G8 and G20 Summits slated for the Toronto area later this week, preparations for these events and their costs have been the focus of many news reports. 
Portions of the city of Toronto are being turned into a fortress.  A 10-foot high fence has been constructed around the two-square mile area in Toronto surrounding the convention center where the G20 will be held.  This area includes not only the center but office buildings and condo towers.  Security officials have warned people who live and work in or near the summit zone to be prepared to show identification when asked and to expect long lines to get into the fenced area during the summit. 

Some highways in the area will be subject to rolling closures as the leaders make their way downtown from the airport.  With signs on the highways warning of "significant delays" during the summit, we were happy to zip through the area today in just an hour.

Once we escaped Toronto's maddening rush (pictured above), we sped toward Niagara Falls, filled with aniticipation and dread.  Just before we reached the Niagara area, a shipwreck near the freeway drew our attention and we couldn't resist the urge to investigate.
May I take your order?
Strangely, it appeared to be a steel-hull sailing ship.  We inquired of several people at a nearby marina before coming across a local salt who knew the tale and was willing to tell it.  Several years ago, the ship was brought down from Montreal by an entrepreneur who planned to dock it in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a nearby town, and operate a restaurant in it. 

Having difficulty getting the necessary permits for the restaurant, he stored the ship in the Vineland marina until all was in order.  Before this could be accomplished, the gentleman died of a heart attack, leaving no heirs.  The ship continued to sit in the harbor in sparkling condition until one fateful winter night when teenagers who had crossed the ice to board the ship to explore decided to build a fire on board to ward off the cold.  The wooden deck and veneer went up in flames and only the shell remains.  Not really a shipwreck but a ship wrecked by careless intruders.
Resident swan family
At the marina, we saw a pair of swans and their young cygnet feeding on seaweed in the harbor.  Although the adults kept a wary eye on us as we watched from nearby, they seemed pretty tolerant of human company.

At last we made it to Niagara Falls, where we found exactly what we expected, thousands upon thousands of tourists.  Our research had informed our plans, so we skipped the very commercial Canadian side of the Falls area and headed to the state park on the U.S. side. 
American Falls
Although there were numerous activities one could choose, with a special combo ticket for all the thrills, we opted to walk across the Rainbow Bridge where we had a terrific view of the falls that completely satisfied us.  The falls were as spectaular as we had expected, we were glad to have seen them, and we left.  Later we learned that while we were gazing at the falls from the bridge, an earthquake centered near Ottawa affected the Niagara area for a few seconds.  We were too busy gaping at the sights to notice.

As we drove through the city of Niagara Falls on our way out of town, the glitz of the dozens of hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, and other attractions near the falls contrasted sharply with the urban decay of the city.  Many stores were boarded up, factories idle and empty.
Urban decay in Niagara Falls, NY
Desolate, abandoned homes sat boarded up in the midst of others which seem to be headed for the same fate.  As in too many other American cities, deindustrialization combined with middle class flight to the suburbs has left Niagara Falls with an isolated urban poor unable to maintain a decaying infrastructure. 

We drove on to Hamburg, New York, where we settled in for the night.
  • Miles driven:  200
  • Letterboxes:  4
  • High-rise condo buildings around Toronto:  1,906
  • Tourists:  35,932
  • Tour buses:  65
  • People riding Maid of the Mist boats under the falls: 157 per minute
  • Ships wrecked:  1
  • Swans:  3
Boarding the Maid of the Mist boat to go under the falls

Even with the provided blue slicker, we didn't really want to take that ride.

Rainbow Bridge between Niagara Falls, US and Canada.  Cross by auto, foot, or bike.