– Columbus, Ohio to Buffalo, New York –

Despite our late night last night, Mark, Ripley, and I were up at 5 to go for a run this morning. Mom had intended to go as well, but she had gone back to sleep before we had even gotten our running clothes out of our bags, so we left her to sleep. The trail we took in Hilliard (the neighborhood we were staying in) was nice, and the weather was almost cool. My fingers were very cold by the end of the run.

We made it back to find Mom and Dad up and about and already showered, so we were able to go directly to get ready as well. For breakfast, we took turns, with two of us sitting with the dogs and two of us eating, and then switched. It was a somewhat disappointing La Quinta breakfast, but at least it was free, unlike yesterday’s Panera breakfast.

Derpy Ripley face

We were out of the hotel just after 8am, but we then had to drive across the street to buy Mom some shoes.  She seems to have forgotten the tennis shoes she intended to pack, so she picked out something else that would do for the trip at Walmart. Mark and I bought bottled teas in lieu of our usual gas station tea.

With our purchases made, we hit the road. We didn’t do much between Columbus and Cleveland, as you might expect. We did stop for tea eventually at a Panera, where we also bought a pastry. Mmm… morning brownie. Outside of Cleveland is Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which we drove through. We didn’t stop. It is the lamest national park in the whole national park system. It’s a ditch for a tiny river with trees.

Sbarro for lunch

Mark, Ripley, and I have been before, so we weren’t inclined to stop again, and my parents readily agreed upon hearing our descriptions of the place. It’s even underwhelming when you drive over it. You can’t see the river from the bridge. Magical.

Once we were around Cleveland, we turned onto I-90 and drove along Lake Erie until we reached Erie, Pennsylvania, where we had our lunch. We stopped at a Sbarro and introduced Dad to the pizza-by-the-slice model that’s so common up here. Mom had a leftover sandwich from yesterday, so she didn’t want any.

Mark carrying Ripley in Ripley, New York

When we crossed into New York, we discovered that there was a town right on the border called Ripley, so we had to stop for a photo with our little princess. They didn’t have a great “welcome to town” sign, so we had to take one with the little green one that just said “Ripley” at the entrance to town. It didn’t turn out to be a great picture.

Ripley had fun getting out of the car, though, and Mark toted her back, which is one of her favorite things. It’s awesome for Ripley when Daddy gives her a ride. She’s so spoiled.


This whole area was full of grape vines and wineries, which I didn’t remember from our last visit to the area. I have no idea when grapes are harvested, but some of the ones we saw still had unripe-looking grapes, so I have to assume it is later in the year. I think this is the closest I’ve ever been to grape vines.

We also stopped at Barcelona Lighthouse, which is in Westfield, New York. The lighthouse was built in 1823, and was apparently the first lighthouse in the world to be powered by natural gas. I particularly liked the building materials. It’s made of fieldstone and mortar, as is the keeper’s house beside it. It makes the place unique compared to many other lighthouses we have seen.

Barcelona Lighthouse

My parents haven’t visited the Great Lakes before, so we spent some time looking at Lake Erie during the stop. Dad even got out his binoculars, which we’ve managed to bring along this time. We forgot binoculars that were literally sitting in my parents’ living room waiting to be packed on both our Alaska trip, and our Winter Death Valley trip. How smart is that?

Niagara Falls Pano

Of course our major stop today was Niagara Falls. It was supposed to take about 5.5-6 hours to get there, but we didn’t really cross the border until around 4pm, despite our fairly early start. As always, the border was busy, and we were in line for about 20 minutes waiting to get into Canada.

Once in, we had a little way to drive over to the Falls, since we entered the country a little south of the city of Niagara Falls. If you’ve never heard before, the U.S. side of Niagara Falls is quite boring compared to the Canadian side, especially if you want to be able to really see all of the waterfalls. You can get a little closer to the water on the New York side, but the pictures won’t be anywhere near as good.

It’s too bad we didn’t take the tripod to get a full family portrait

Parking in the Niagara Falls area is $25 per car, which is quite a bit of money for parking, but it had us within easy walking distance of the falls, so we were willing to pay it. The weather was quite warm, and we were all definitely wearing our hats.

I wish I’d thought to put sunscreen on Mark, but I hadn’t really thought about how long the walk would be or how sunny it was until it was too late and we were more than halfway there. The shade was amazing, but out in the sun it was definitely hot.

So pretty

Our pictures make Niagara Falls look peaceful and easily accessible, but be aware that the area is absolutely swarming with people. We had to fight our way to the fence for every photo we took. It’s crazy how many people were there. I suppose, on a Sunday in July, I shouldn’t be surprised.

We couldn’t stick around, since we were staying in Buffalo tonight, but apparently they have fireworks every night over the falls during the summer. I was a little sad we’d be missing it, though I bet it is as busy then as it was this afternoon, if a little cooler.

The two lesser waterfalls

Niagara Falls is actually made up of three waterfalls: the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, and the Bridal Veil. The Bridal Veil is the tiny falls on the right above the viewing platform on the American side in the photo above. To the left is the American Falls. The major attraction is obviously the Horseshoe, and it is amazing from the Canadian side. There’s almost always a rainbow in the mist.

Above the Horseshoe Falls

When we finished taking photos, we walked back to the Suburban and cranked up the air conditioning to cool back off. It was after 6:30, and we still had to cross the border. Once we were back in the States for the night, we stopped for dinner between Niagara Falls and Buffalo, which is only about twenty minutes away.

Mom and Dad had Five Guys, and Mark and I walked over to a little Vietnamese restaurant in the same parking lot and had that. I was very glad for the vegetables, as it always feels like they are a little harder to come by on vacations for some reason.

Vegetable Pad Thai

Tomorrow we will get up to run, then hopefully have breakfast in our hotel. Tomorrow night we will be in Montreal, and finally on our way up to Atlantic Canada. It should be pretty exciting.

– Trip Total : 1550 miles

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