Published: October 3rd 2011September 24th 2011
At the ferry terminal
Hingham. Great way to get to Boston
We aren't actually conducting a competition to determine the best waterfalls in the world. We haven't checked out Venezuela's contender – the Angel Falls – yet. But we are prepared to say now that Iguazu in Argentina and Brazil leads the pack. Victoria – Mosi-Oa-Tunya – on the border of Zaqmbia and Zimbabwe is at least number 2 and a powerful challenger for number 1. Niagara, for our money, probably comes in at number 3. The 'probably' is there just because our research hasn't yet been exhaustive but we have seen a few of the other contenders and we would put Niagara above them. All subjective of course.
The decision to travel north from Richmond, Virginia to have a look at Niagara was influenced as much by the opportunity to see if the 'fall colour' had arrived in New England, as by the chance to have a look at the falls. Our plan was to travel up through Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and into New York State, checking out the countryside before we checked out Niagara. Then we wanted to find out if the trees and covered bridges in Vermont were as beautiful as they are said to be, before
the longest single woodent span in Vermont (so the sign says)
looking in on Boston in Massachusetts. There is a bit of distance between these locations and not so many inter-States, although we didn't really want to take them anyway.
It took us a couple of days to make the drive to Niagara from Richmond. A scenic drive on roads that took us through farmlands, small villages and the mountains. Can a place be too pretty? Moving into West Virginia and north the houses perhaps weren't as flash as those further south and the villages not so crisp but they did start to look a lot more real to us. No longer always impossibly neat and tidy, a few more unpainted houses and older vehicles. Still lovely scenery everywhere. It is possible of course that some of the people in these areas might tell us that you can't eat scenery but there are some very nice places in this part of the world.
The experience at Niagara is very different from the other two major falls in our personal 'best of' list. Niagara is very developed of course. The 'American' side of the Falls were even 'de-watered' for 4 years to allow the American Corps of Engineers to deal
with erosion of the Falls. The erosion was causing the Falls to move back up the river, as falls tend to. This though was not in the plan for the many whose livelihoods depend on the Falls staying precisely where they are and doing just what they are doing. And they are doing that very well. We came in from the American side which is impressive. There is a considerable amount more water coming over the 'Canadian' side. There are boat rides you can take that run right in under the spray but there was enough rain around to keep us just wet enough and we stayed up on top of the falls and watched.
By this stage of our time with Sarah we had found that her camping skills were still impressive. Teach 'em young is what I say and they will never forget. We didn't stay in a camp where she needed her little spade and roll of paper but I am sure she would still be able to cope even with that. She has also retained the skill she must have developed at Humpty Doo in finding buried poly pipe, even with a tent peg. The
flood in the campground was only a small one and the ground needed a drink there anyway.
There was a thought that we should try to travel right up to the top of New York State and come down through the whole of Vermont along route 89 – I think. We had decided by then, though, that we were a little early for the full effect of the Fall Colour and we needed to be in Boston, so we compromised and aimed for Fair Haven about a third of the way up the State. Rain on and off all day had convinced us that camping wasn't going to be as comfortable as it needs to be so decided to drive till we were as close as possible to the border, and the promised pretty roads, as we could get that night. Of course, as soon as we moved off the interstate – route 87 – the motels dried up. Pat and Sarah were getting so desperate that they even tried for rooms in a restaurant. They came out muttering about the English language and people who don't seem to realise that an 'inn' has rooms and isn't just a
what we thought a Pennsylvania farm would look like
swanky name for an even more swanky eating house.
Never fear, we found a motel that Jack Reacher would have been proud of. Not really dodgy but it could have been. Not terribly well located either on a lonely road but, happily, right next to a place where we could get a good feed. Not a good place on the weekends the bloke told us, but quiet enough during the week. Toga parties seem to be the in thing for Saturday nights. The beer was good. The food was good and the people were friendly. What more could anyone ask?
Part of the plan in this three weeks was to ensure that Sarah gets a taste of the USA. Now able to tick off staying in a cheap motel, albeit with her parents, we decided next morning to commit one of the great sins of our travels and backtrack. It was only a few miles though so I think we can get away with it. A proper diner for a proper diner breakfast. There were the requisite half dozen truckies and assorted workers, all mature men, sitting at the counter flirting with the cooks and wait staff, all
female. Great food and excellent value and perhaps the friendliest people we had found in New England I may return to this issue later.
There was a bit of Fall Colour about but it was very hard to get a decent photo. The rain was an issue and, as we had suspected, we were a week or two early. The bits we did see were worth the drive though and there is no doubt that, in full bloom, or, as our currently resident scientist would say – when there is even less chlorophyll – it would be spectacular.
Covered bridges were also a hit. Viewing the footage of Hurricane Irene and watching as a covered bridge was washed into a creek and then viewing the destruction of some of the roads we wondered whether there were any left at all. But there are plenty left. We found a number and even drove through one.
The drive through Vermont was one of the nicer drives we have done. We did miss out on picking up a bumper sticker saying 'In Vermont Even the Gas Stations Are Pretty'. That about sums it up. A very pretty State.
(one bit of it)
camp in Boston was in the Wompatuck State Forest, selected because it sounded like a reasonable place to camp, it was cheap and because there was readily available transport into the city both by train and boat. We decided on the boat. It would be a pleasant way to start the day for the commuters and so it was for us. We have heard a lot about Boston and, after a day wandering the streets of the city, we had some understanding of the attraction. The Visitors Centre provided us with information on the walking tour along the Freedom Trail and away we went. An easy city to walk around and plenty to see.
Boston makes a great deal of its early history, of course, and, although we knew the basic facts, it was interesting to walk the streets, read the plaques and get some sort of feel for the place where the American Revolution was touched off. I will say that, as we gathered more information on the development of the issues that led to the protest action and about the actors themselves, it did start to feel a little like this was really more about the money
some merchants were about to lose than about revolutionary political action aimed at leading to independence from the colonial masters. It was also interesting to see more clearly that the primary players were Whigs rather than Tories. Interesting that the latest use of the name in the US has rather more to do with the conservatives than those on the left of politics.
Like most Australians I have suspected that the shopping mall was a concept developed in the US and exported the world over. Shopping malls have their place but I have never really been all that comfortable about them. I suppose I have thought somewhere back in my brain that the old days where you used to walk up and down the street from shop to shop were better and that shopping malls are somehow a little plastic. I am not a completely fickle person. But sometimes it doesn't take much to change my mind. One day shopping – or you might say following people who are shopping and carrying things – in a Boston suburb has turned me into an avid supporter of shopping malls. Not, I hasten to add, shopping malls of the US variety.
No, I mean proper shopping malls with roofs over the top, a bit of climate control, random coffee shops, even bars and seats scattered around so that poor old men can rest their aching bones.
They do have proper shopping malls in the US but there are a lot that are strange, to us at least. The deal is that you buy a large area of land. Turn the majority of it into a massive car park. Then you build and rent out shops around the sides of the car park. You might put in footpaths but, in truth, you expect people to drive to and from each shop and, on the day I was forced to observe, that is what most were doing. I will admit that it was raining pretty constantly and driving from shop to shop wasn't all that bad an idea but wouldn't it be easier to put a roof over the joint and leave the cars outside? Or even whack up a few verandahs – overhanging roofs that come out from the shop front. You know the sort of thing.
The rain didn't really affect the shopping expedition. The shopping frenzy was supposed
to be held at bay until we arrived in New York but all these cheap and available American clothes were just too much and my two ladies found the need to attend and look at every piece of clothing in every shop irresistible. They had a lot of fun and even purchased a few things.
The weather forecast for the Boston area was for more and more rain so we decided that it was time to pack our wet tents and head for New York. I should say that the tents functioned well and kept the rain out but the humidity was another question. Very damp and starting to become uncomfortable. Those big vehicles with tin sides and lids were looking very desirable to me. We did have a geat camp though with nice fires each night, plenty of room and good facilities.
The drive down to New York was in the rain most of the way through Rhode Island, Connecticut and into New York. Not a long drive but traffic was pretty full on most of the way with the rain and a number of accidents. At one stage we were facing a 2 hour delay on
I-95 but then Tom Tom switched us off to some 'Parkways' – these were for cars only and were a pretty handy way of getting around the snarls on the Inter-State. Driving in NYC was surprisingly easy although still traumatic and we found a place to park, at cost, near our apartment hotel without problem.
I will deal with New York in our next post. This will follow very quickly. Sarah has now left us and we are taking a couple of days, or maybe just one, to catch our breath, catch up on our blog, sit and possibly listen to some country and bluegrass.
There are more photos below