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A long trip in a small space


Family vacations could be a recipe for disaster. First of all there are the high hopes of a family adventure,  shared experiences and, in this instance, a college visit for my oldest son, who at the time of our trip, was just about to start his senior year in high school.

Then there is all that time cooped up in a car, which can’t be good. And finally there are the memories of your own childhood vacations, which seemed to take place without tantrums and theatrics from children old enough to know better.  

Does anyone know what I’m talking about, or am I the only person who is part of a couple with peridically impaired parenting skills?.

We didn’t leave for our 10-day vacation at 7 a.m. back on Aug. 23, as I had hoped. We got on the road about 10:30 a.m., and then I made the mistake of following travel advice that recommended going through Jersey and Pennsylvania  on the way to Niagara Falls – a big mistake, There were times in these two states when the cars just stopped and we stayed put for at least 30 minutes at a time. With 2-3 other stops for food and bathrooms along the way, we didn’t get to Niagara Falls, Canada, until 9 p.m.  

We also traveled to Toronto, a city in which I could imagine living. In someways it seemed American, but with a somewhat disorienting difference.  The subway there still uses dime-sized, the kind that disappeared in New York City about three decades ago. The kids really liked the tour of the Skydome, now known as the Rogers Center and those all-day breakfast places that seem very popular there. They were very useful for a family has trouble getting out of the hotel before noon. And then there are all the Tim Hortons, a chain of doughnut/sanwhich shops founded by the late Toronto Maple Leaf hockey player. I recently read that there are more Tim Hortons per Canadian than there are McDonalds per American. Score one for the Canadians.   

Our final stop was Ithaca, a great college town with a four-block center that’s closed off to traffic, but still seems quite lively. It was our jumping off point for a visit to Binghamton University, a school that is now on my son’s list of possibles.

At Niagara Falls we visited an amazing butterfly center, Fort Niagara, which I remember from my first trip there when I was eight, and stumbled upon a free jazz festival in Lewsitown, N.Y., where John Pizzarelli was about to perform.

And then there was Niagara Falls, itself. Though my wife wanted to visit them for years, I resisted. I think it had something to do with its old image as honeymoon capital and the tackiness that had been described to me as creeping up too close to what is truly a wonder of the world. 

Right after a quick dinner, we walked off to find the Falls. I pointed out to wife and kids what seemed to be a pretty huge waterfalls and off in the distance what seemed to be a second smaller falls. Having studied the tour books, I explained the big falls were the Canadian/Horseshoe Falls and the smaller ones were the American Falls.

But as we walked through the mist the smaller falls were getting bigger, huge in fact, monstruously huge. They were the Canadian Falls. One of the tour guides later explained that 20 percent of the world’s fresh water went over the falls. I don’t know how they measured that, but I didn’t doubt it. 

The next day we put on the raincoats they handed out on the Maid of the Mist boat and headed into the Horsehoe Falls, where the pilot seemed to park the boat. It  seemed like were standing in the middle of a rainstorm. It was great.

Sometimes it’s good to be wrong.

This entry was posted on Monday, September 17th, 2007 at 11:35 pm by Len Maniace. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Category: Family, Parenting, Vacation




About this blog
Parents’ Place is a hangout for openly discussing the A’s to Z’s of raising a child in the Lower Hudson Valley. From deciding when to stop using a binky to when to let your teenager take driving lessons, Parents’ Place is here to let us all vent, share, and most of all, learn from each other.
Leading the conversation are Julie Moran Alterio, a business reporter and mom of a toddler, Jorge Fitz-Gibbon, a reporter and single father with joint custody of a 9-year-old son, and Len Maniace, a reporter and father of two sons.


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About the authors
Julie Moran AlterioJulie Moran AlterioJulie Moran Alterio, her husband and baby girl — “Pumpkin” — share their Northern Westchester home with three iPods and more colorful plastic toys than seems necessary to entertain one tiny human. READ MORE
Jorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-GibbonJorge Fitz-Gibbon has been a journalist for more than 20 years and a father for nine. READ MORE
Jane LernerJane LernerJane Lerner covers health and hospitals for The Journal News in Rockland, where she lives with her husband and two children. READ MORE
Len Maniace.jpgLen ManiaceLen Maniace is a reporter and father of two sons. READ MORE