Just sitting here and thinking of my baby and our trip to Niagara Falls in May 2010. I loved that trip and thought I’d put a few pics up. As always just click on a pic to see it full size.
The months counted down and became weeks and then days. Arriving in Ohio for the first time back on that cold January day seemed so long ago. Me and Raven had done so many things together. Shared so much and seen so many places. But the time drew nearer and inexorably closer till I had to leave.
I suppose I started getting worried round about the beginning of June about three weeks before my departure. Apart from the fact I was going to have to leave my baby there was the flight. People who know me are well aware of my absolute terror of flying. I start worrying weeks before I have to fly and of course all possible disaster scenario’s parade through my mind. The usual terrorist bomb, an in flight fire raging out of control. The pilot and flight crew dying of food poisoning mid flight, even mid air collisions. More even bizarre scenario’s and every news item about aircraft and their mishaps is followed by me with ghoulish and unreasonable fear. Also we’d just had the Icelandic volcano ash cloud. That didn’t help. By the final week I was a gibbering wreck inside barely keeping it hidden from Kit, but she knew.
Every time I fly one of my first visits is to the docs for Valium. My little pre-flight sweeties, usually washed down with beer and G&T chasers. Even that seems to do little but I MANAGE IT. I am what is known as a stubborn git. No way will I give in to this unreasonable fear and I MANAGE IT. The funny thing is that as soon as I’m on board the latest metal behemoth of choice and possible death I am OK. All my worries seem so far away as the Beatles once sang. I become Matt Spears, seasoned international jet-setter. And I have certainly flown a few miles over the past year or two.
But flight nerves aside as the clock ticked down to my leaving Ohio I would sit on the deck and looking out into the warm night I would remember. As crickets cricketed and fireflies performed their bright flights of love I looked back. Incredible times together as our love for each other grew stronger. We had visited Niagara Falls in Canada, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland and other fantastic places but the times we spent alone together were the greatest. Watching TV snuggled up together on the sofa. Laying in bed at night talking and me reading to her. Making her lunch for work and slipping little love notes in. All of these times were so precious to me as I looked back on them as I sipped my beer on a warm Ohio night. But I looked back in sadness that this had to end for now at least. I did shed the odd tear as I remembered all this but I never showed them. I kept them to myself. But Kit knew this.
And eventually the final morning came. Wednesday 23rd of June dawned hot and hazy. Humid with a promise of rain later. I hadn’t slept much as I rose and made tea for us. All of my nerves jangled. My mind was a mess and so I took my Valium. It seemed to help and soon we left for Columbus Airport. England were playing their last match of the group stages as were the USA that morning as we sat in the departure lounge. A small group watched the action in the bar. We had coffee and then I had beer. The nerves started to disappear but the sadness got worse.
Eventually the Football ended. England and USA were through but narrowly and we all know how that ended but Kit and I sat and talked. We kept it upbeat although I was breaking inside. I visited outside for a smoke break and returned to find a Gin and Tonic. OMG I think there was about four measures in it. Kit knew my frailties and had issued me medication. Gawd bless her. The waitress we thought had to be related to Bette Midler. She was a young spitting image of Bette and we asked her to take pictures of us. She did.
But the minutes counted down. My flight was called and I had to go. We embraced and I couldn’t hold my tears back any longer. I didn’t want to leave but I had to. My visa had run out almost or I’d have stayed but well… that is life shitty though it is and we would see each other again soon. After the goodbyes were done I picked up my laptop. Straightened my hat and headed for the new full body scanner that had just been installed. Belt off. Laptop out. Pockets emptied and I walked through into the departure lounge without a beep. I could still see Kit and wiping my eyes I waved one last time. The sadness in her face mirrored mine but then I walked. Off to my flight and Newark Airport.
The flight was on time. The same Brazilian built Embraer aircraft we had arrived on. Just 57 seats. Just like a coach with wings. Sadness trumped my fear as we took off for the 90 minute flight to New York. The weather was good. I even took photos from the aircraft window and as we came in to land I got to see New York and the Statue of Liberty. We had missed it on the way in. And the flight was uneventful. I got myself a beer and the obligatory pack of salty pretzels before we landed.
New York was a nightmare. I phoned Kit to let her know I’d got there and searched for somewhere to smoke…..Nowhere….nada. So I made do with coffee and bought my duty frees. No temptation there at least as you only picked them up at the departure gate. So there I was The Only Living Boy in New York. Walking onto the enormous Continental Boeing 777 armed with booze vouchers. My medication. I didn’t want to fall for the same thing as on the way in. You can only get drinks on the flight with a credit card. Great stuff but the bloody visa machine broke down mid Atlantic so no more ‘drinkies’ for this guy on the way to the USA. This time I was armed with pre-paid vouchers (thank you baby). No bloody electronic failures would thwart this kiddo on the way back. Little did I know.
The take-off was smooth and I was still enjoying the tail end of my Valium/G&T . As I said before as soon as we were airborne I became Matt Spears, international frequent flyer and all was going well. I trolled through the seat back screen looking for films to watch and joked casually with my neighbors. The effects of my medication were wearing off ie the Gin and Tonics and I watched eagerly as the drinks trolley approached slowly, drinks voucher clasped tightly in my sweaty little mitt.
[Cabin Announcement] Please fasten your seat-belts. We are expecting a bit of turbulence ahead.
The drinks trolley was just two rows in front of me. I willed it closer. We bumped.
[Cabin Announcement] Would all cabin crew please return to their seats and buckle in we are about to experience bad turbulence till we get over the Atlantic.(Sound of alarms in the flight deck)
[Me] Oh fuck!
I watched as … just out of reach the drink trolley was closed up and put away and the cabin staff beat a cowardly (in my view) retreat leaving me in a terrible condition … ie sober.
[Me] Oh bollux!
It started. Outside all looked good. The sun was a fiery ball setting behind Canadian clouds. The clouds looked cute grey and fluffy and many thousands of feet below us. And we hit it. As I said I have flown many thousands of miles recently over various continents but this was a cracker. We went up. We went down. We went up as we went down. We went sideways. We rolled. I even think we looped the loop. God knows how many hundred tons of metal and humans were tossed about like a ping-pong ball in a spin drier. Never in history have I gripped seat arms so tightly.
I tried to mentally will the by now securely strapped in flight attendant to bring me booze. No luck and then I realized that in a perverse kind of way I was enjoying this. People were swearing and praying as overhead lockers were popping open and I smiled. I was the Columbus Cowboy and I turned my mp3 player onto full volume and ‘Yehawwwwww’ . And an hour later it all went quiet.
The seat belt signs went out. The cabin crew resumed serving. I got my large one and breathed a sigh of relief. We even got dinner.
I even slept a little although aircraft seats are not designed for this. I am sure they just want to make sure you enjoy every damned minute. But the hours passed quietly and we saw the rising sun over Ireland. Shortly after we started our descent into Heathrow. After six wonderful months away I was almost back in blighty. What would it hold for me?
To be continued………….
Apologies for my late posting of this. Only four months late but hey here we go. Canada was great. Niagara Falls were fantastic. The sun shone, well at least it did on the first day. After that I think we entered the monsoon season. It didn’t matter too much on the second day as we took a trip on ‘The Maid Of The Mist’. This is a small boat that takes you right up to and under the Horseshoe Falls. You get soaked whatever the weather but I thoroughly recommend it. The falls look just so much bigger from below and the noise of millions of gallons of water per second descending around us was thunderous and phenomenal.
And so we had a great weekend. We visited Niagara on the Lake, which boasted many English flags and joy oh joy. I found a shop that sold sausage rolls. Now we take sausage rolls for granted in the UK. I mean fresh ones, not the sad polythene wrapped ones on the supermarket shelves. You just can’t beat a nice hot greasy sausage roll. So hot that it burns the roof of your mouth … delicious. But in America? Nope they don’t exist. I found myself often salivating at the thought of one in Ohio. I even considered downloading a recipe and creating some. Hey this guy can do Walnut and Banana bread so why not sausage rolls?
But anyway here we were in this small colonial town in Canada. Sausage rolls on offer and I bought two. One for me and one for Kit. I don’t think my baby was that impressed and to be honest neither was I. They microwaved them for a start and pastry just don’t like that. The filling tasted of chili too. Hmmm Ok looks like I’d have to wait till I returned to the UK after all. But never mind.
Also over the weekend we visited a great restaurant. In Niagara they have Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock Cafe and Rain Forest Cafe. We chose the Rain Forest Cafe. Lots of animatronic animals and you even get a thunderstorm every half hour. No rain. Just the thunder and lightning. (If only I had a penny for the amount of times I see lightning misspelled as lightening on line…) Amazing. There is even a starry night sky above. Very impressive but we thought it was more for families with kids. But it was a great experience nonetheless.
Another interesting stop off in Canada was on the way to Niagara on the Lake. The Totem Pole. A Native American craft shop. Very expensive but full of beautiful things. Native made moccasins,totems, headdresses etc. Kit bought me a wonderful bolo for my collection. Beautiful but almost too delicate to wear. I wanted to take some photo’s in the shop but I was told it wasn’t allowed as the Indians (sorry Native Americans) don’t like you photographing their art. Fair enough and we had a great conversation with the owner of the shop. It turned out that she wasn’t a local squaw but a rather nice silver haired lady from Bournemouth in England. Small world eh? It was a pleasure to see real American crafts. Mostly the stuff you see for sale seems to be made by a lost tribe of Cherokee who migrated to China.
And so our trip to Canada came to an end. We made full use of the whirlpool jacuzzi in our room and spent the last night dining in Tony’s Rib Shack. But man we were shattered and so early to bed ready for our return to the good old USA on Sunday morning.
Sunday arrived cold and windy as I packed up my souvenirs. A stolen i Hop coffee mug, An empty pack of DuMaurier cigarettes that I had paid $12 for. Plus various souvenir sugar packs and coffee cup hand protectors. Happy days. I was also to collect a Radisson Hotel room key card that Kit forgot to hand back in. And we were on our way. Breakfast across the road in a small diner. Full fry up to keep us going and then we hit the road back to Uncle Sam.
I still kept an eye out for real mounties but I finally realized that Canadian cops look much like American ones and drive cars. I sighed but still half hoped to see a Mountie in his red uniform on horseback but no luck so I settled back to enjoy the ride home only giving Kit occasional driving tips and helping her with my free advice. I know she appreciated it. I still have the bruises…We stopped at the duty-free supermarket before we hit the Peace Bridge and the USA. I spent my remaining Canadian pesos on a Canada for Dummies tee-shirt and baseball cap and that was it. We prepared to cross the border.
We just got the feeling that this could be eventful and it certainly was. We crossed the Peace Bridge and approached the immigration drive-thru booths. We handed the guard our passports. Next thing is we are being told to keep our hands in view at all times and turn the engine off as he slid a stinger under our back wheels. No “Welcome to the USA buddy.” No ” Hope you had a good trip.” Just a plastic roll of spikes rolled out to stop us escaping. This guy was seriously going to fuck up our day. I looked at Kit and shrugged. She smiled weakly as the car was surrounded by a half dozen armed border patrol troops. It must be what I’m wearing I thought. Maybe they’ve had a tip off that Bin Laden is going to enter the US via Canada dressed as a cowboy. Yes I had the full kit on. Cowboy hat, Wrangler jeans,Durango cowboy boots and not a turban in sight. We were led away to the immigration centre. I automatically went to put my hands in the pocket of my buckskin Native American jacket but was sternly warned to keep my hands in view at all times.
And so the same rigmarole that I encountered at Newark. Why was I in the US. What did I do for a living? Did I have any concealed weapons or drugs. I did briefly think of telling them I had a moose gun in the boot but I didn’t have a moose as I was a lousy shot but I decided not to. We were finger printed and processed and they eventually realized that I wasn’t an Al Qaeda terrorist on his way back from a bit of Canadian r&r and let us go. I must admit I was worried as they searched the car. They might think I was an i Hop mug smuggler.What about my stash of stolen sugar packs from various Canadian coffee shops. I could just imagine them thinking…”Hmmm individual packs of cocaine?” But no. They let us go. And we breathed a sigh of relief as we exited the American side of the immigration building To find the car parked snugly beside a fleet of border patrol cruisers. Huge and powerful Dodge Chargers fitted with massive iron ram bars. The Border Patrol like to play hard but we were free and we drove off smiling.
Until we were about a hundred miles down the road. “The keys.” I said.”Did we get the car keys back Kit?” We searched and no, we had no keys. Well I had mine but Kits were still back at the immigration building. Kit’s car is key-less entry. If you have keys in your pocket you can unlock the car and drive away. Because I had mine in my pocket that was possible but my baby’s set were still back at the border. We stopped on the hard shoulder and called the border patrol. And after a few frantic calls they found them and promised to FedEx them to us. Panic averted and we set off home.
I even drove the last hundred miles or so to give my babe a rest. It didn’t stop her taking the mickey out of me though at one of my frequent coffee (smoke) stops. I saw a large AWD with a propeller on the back. I was telling Kit how cool this was. I supposed he just drove down to the lake and launched himself. Maybe did a bit of fishing. Took it easy on the water. I noticed Kit grinning before she told me it was just a fancy decorative tow hitch cover. Ok I’d been had but it had been a nice idea. I didn’t mind at all.
© 2010 Stan Rogers. All rights reserved.
We had a great trip to Canada over the weekend. Only just into Canada admittedly but Canada nonetheless to visit Niagara Falls. We had dinner out with some of my Raven’s family a few weeks back and they recommended it to us. Neither Raven nor I have seen the falls or Canada and after researching our visit beforehand it seems that the falls are a far more enticing proposition from the Canadian side and so that is where we headed for two nights of fun and enlightenment at the Radisson Hotel there.
It’s about a 350 mile 6 hour drive from Columbus, Ohio and so we set off early. The sun shone from a blue sky. It was a beautiful warm Thursday. Raven drove while I navigated and rode shotgun. A part of our route was along the I-271 east of Cleveland and it was spectacular. Mile after mile of forested hills interlaced with beautiful rocky boulder strewn rivers. Prime deer country too judging by the amount of their carcasses laying by the roadside. A man could make a good living here by setting up an eatery selling barbecued road-kill ribs. Some guy probably has.
We did stop for breakfast. In Amish country. The restaurant was great. It was enormous and I tried a full breakfast including a first for me … ‘grits‘. Now I have heard of grits and wondered what to expect. I must admit that I expected something … well … gritty? My full breakfast was served up by an enthusiastic Amish lady who smiled and commented on my empty coffee mug which I had emptied in about 10 seconds. “You sure was thirsty boy, she laughed, you sucked that one dry.” But with my coffee top up came the grits. Served in a separate bowl they looked suspiciously like Ready Brek, Or porridge. I was about to pour them on my breakfast bacon but decided against it. Instead I studied them as I shoveled down mouthfuls of bacon, eggs and hash browns. Finally it was grits time and on Ravens advice I poured maple syrup on them first. And tried them … yep they were just like Ready Brek or porridge and not gritty at all and so I sent them to follow my bacon in bellysville. Mission accomplished and we were back on the road.
Our drive was fairly uneventful. We travelled up the southern shore of Lake Erie on the I-90 but never really close enough to enjoy it. We stopped occasionally for coffee and for me to take the air … well ‘navigating’ is thirsty work after all. My lovely Raven developed a sixth sense for when I was running on caffeine empty or maybe it was just the enthusiastic slurping noises I made. Who knows? Ha. But the miles rolled down as we travelled out of Ohio through Pennsylvania and New York State.
New York State seemed to be full of vineyards. Mile after mile of them but soon we were stopping for a last coffee before our destination. Most of the last part of our journey was on the New York through-way which is a toll road. One oddity was the information officer at the services. We were a mere few miles from the toll booths but the guy behind the counter didn’t have a clue whether we had to pay the toll by card or cash. He actually told us to ask the girl in the sweet shop. Amazing.
$3.15 lighter and we approached Buffalo. I had imagined Buffalo as a quaint small picturesque one horse town but hey what do I know. It is enormous. Skyscrapers factories, the full Monty. But we passed by and before long we approached the border on the Peace Bridge. Large signs proclaimed ‘WELCOME TO CANADA’.
People that remember my piece on here about arriving in the States will recall my joyful encounter with the US Border Patrol. I know not to wisecrack unless I want to enjoy assuming the position as I watch the rubber gloves coming out and so we were all sweetness and light with the Canadian border guard. I must admit I did have to bite my lip when we were asked for our reason for visiting Canada but I managed not to tell her. “Moose hunting Ma’am. I hear they taste good. Where perchance may I purchase a very large gun.?” … “To see the falls.” we meekly replied and my passport was duly stamped. Raven’s wasn’t but I presume that was because she is a US citizen. And we were in Canada and Niagara Falls bound before long.
My poor Raven was a little confused at first as the speed limits are posted in kilometres per hour but we guessed and got by fine. No mounties pulled us over for speeding even though I did look out for their horses and bright red jackets. I was actually disappointed when we saw a police cruiser. No horses. Where are the horses? I wanted mounted men in red but obviously that wasn’t to be. I sighed and we drove into the town of Niagara Falls.
We found our hotel easily enough and onto my next fear. Now anyone that knows me will recall my fear of heights and I must admit that my butt cheeks were clenching at the thought of our room maybe being on say the 99th floor and getting to it would involve a glass fronted lift … eek. Would I be OK or would a change of underpants be imminent? But I was OK. We were on the fifth floor. That’s the fourth floor in England. North Americans seem to have lost their first floors for some strange reason. The second floor is above the ground floor. Strange but true. I have pictures. Ha.
Now this is Mothers Day weekend in the US and Canada. Another oddity. It is back in March in the UK but that’s by the by. So it is a busy weekend here for tourists and when Raven booked the hotel we couldn’t get a room with either a falls view or a jacuzzi. We booked a city view room with just a bath/shower. So imagine our pleasure at finding our room did have a falls view AND a whirlpool bath. Brilliant. And so here we were. Unpacking. An amazing view of the falls from our window and a jacuzzi to look forward to later. But it was still mid afternoon and time to unleash ourselves on the unsuspecting Canadians. What would they make of a mad English guy dressed in cowboy gear with his beautiful lady. Would I be mistaken for an Australian yet again?
…. to be continued …
© 2010 Stan Rogers. All rights reserved.