Category Archives: Uncategorized

Niagara Falls: I See Canada!

Apologies for the long delay. Adjusting to a new location, new conditions, and all the time demands when having a house built have taken its toll on this enterprise. Anyway, today is New York, specifically Niagara Falls. This was the first time seeing this in person for me and the girls, and the second time for Danica. It’s just as amazing as I thought it was going to be: a true American treasure. Or should I say, American and Canadian, since you can look across the river and see the Great North. Due to COVID, sadly, going over there for a visit wasn’t going to happen. Maybe in 2022 we’ll see some sense come to that particular border crossing.

New York does not have the greatest roads, by the way.
Yeah, not for long.

I’m a product of my generation, so the first thing I thought about in anticipation of the falls was Superman II, and some dumb kid getting saved by Christopher Reeve. (Fun reminder: Yep, I was a comic book kid and my memories of childhood back that up. Back to the real thing:

That’s a lot of H2O.

We had a few hours there, and it was very hot that day. When we got close to the water, you could feel the cool wind coming off of it, which was appreciated. We spent some time on this side of the falls, snapping some photos and listening to a group of Christians singing songs very, very loudly (were they competing with the waterfall?). I’m skeptical how much of that really moves people to either become Christian or commit further to Jesus (I’m guessing essentially zero), but each to their own, I suppose.

Take it in fam.

Close up.

Of course we read about the barrel riders that used to go over the falls starting about 120 years ago (well, the first person to survive it). Just like the milk crate challenge, I’m pretty sure I could do it. I have a request out to Danica. I guess it’s going to committee. I’ll keep the public informed. If you want a fun little deep dive into this odd artifact of American history, read here.

Tesla: #1 to Edison’s #2.

One unexpected thing was this statue of Nikola Tesla. That’s another fun deep dive into the fantastically interesting life he led. Why is he here? He and George Westinghouse built the first hydro-electric power plant here. Ground breaking. This is where one of the greatest upward shifts in human history happened. It’s hard to really wrap your head around how easy things are now due to his engineering genius.

Getting very, very wet.

The photo above is the Cave of the Winds, and it’s on my bucket list of things to do. Why not this time? NO DOGS ALLOWED, and leaving Tigli in the RV for hours wasn’t going to happen. Next time! It looks like it’s one of those tourist things that lives up to the hype!

Ragged Mountain

We’re at our Airbnb now, finally out of the RV, and we’re happy to see it’s literally 100 yards from a ski area called Ragged Mountain. Beautiful, and inspiring for the upcoming season.

We’ll, it is the Granite State after all.
Yay, detachable!
Apparently they mow the slope in the summer?

The Airbnb is tiny for 4 people, but no complaints; it’s huge compared to the RV.

In the Buckeye State for a Day

Up until getting ready for this post, I didn’t realize that “The Buckeye State” was a reference to the state tree of Ohio. The more you know. The obligatory proof of entry:

Well, thank you Ohio!

At this point we were getting very close to the end of the cross-country journey to New Hampshire — only a couple more stops to go. This was a beautiful campground. If anyone happens to need a place to camp while in Ohio, you got a great place.

This wins the KOA sign contest that other KOAs didn’t know they were in. Thompson/Grand River wins!

We got to the campground early enough to do some exploration. Beautiful. There was a big lake that was for fishing and just hanging out and appreciating the natural beauty, which we took advantage of. I have to say that on the trip East, I got real lucky with grabbing some stunning sunset photos.

The theming was also nice and well executed. Kind of a pioneer theme/old West thing going on (which is a bit incongruent, but still cool). The kids at this point had been pretty good, but we felt all the treats and downtime were making them soft, so we threw them in jail for a bit to toughen them up. New Hampshire is rough I hear. This’ll learn ’em.

Not fake. At all.

The next morning we had a bit of time before we had to leave — the next stop was at Niagara Falls, which was only a few hours away, so we took advantage. The other lake was meant for play, and all sorts of options: a floating slide, mini-kayaks, paddle boats, etc. Clare was an enthusiastic user of these options, and of course made a friend for the morning in the process.


After she cleaned up a bit, we were off. Almost there! Next up is Niagara Falls, my first time there!

NH Sunset

Crows Nest RV Park in Newbury, NH

St. Patrick’s

Rainy morning in New Hampshire

Attended Mass at what will probably be our some parish this morning. Beautiful choir and old, beautiful church. It was probably the most traditional Mass I’ve been at ever, just stopping short of Latin. So different than St. Anthony’s in Tigard, but not better or worse. Just so different. You can tell the priest is really connected to his faith, too. We’ll be back!

Next week, since we’ll be in an Airbnb north of New London, we’ll be attending the church nearer, though. We’ll see what it has in store in 7 days.

New Hampshire Morning

Illinois and a Bit of Family History

And Family Beer and Liquor!

After a long stretch of Iowa, we finally entered Illinois, which as the sign informs everyone, is the Land of Lincoln. Fun fact: I did a report in elementary school about Lincoln, so I actually knew that. He was born in Kentucky, though. This was a bit of a special stop. Outside of Chicago, I’ve never been to Illinois, so that’s cool by itself. But this is family history: my Granddad was born and raised in rural Illinois. A bit of a treat, trying to see things as they might have been near 100 years ago. First stop, of course, was a KOA.

That little windmill was going when were were there.

Lena KOA in Lena, IL. It was a nice campground with the standard pool, bounce pillow, huge chess set, and yard games, like horse shoes and you know it, corn hole, which we played before it started raining. We were outrunning thunderstorms all across the the second half of the plains, and when I got there, my cousin who lives in the area (actually, my Dad’s first cousin, even though she’s about my age), warned me of tornados. Nothing happened though, thankfully. We decided to get food to go at a nearby restaurant, which was fantastic. If I were a local, I’d be a regular at the Rafters Restaurant. So good. Before the sun went down completely, there was an opportunity to snap this shot of a ridiculously stunning sunset.

Now, to my Granddad. He was raised in Belvidere, IL, near Rockford.

RV takes the lead.

Population of about 30K, so not a small town, per se. Let’s see… looking at the Wiki page, when my Granddad was growing up there, it was about 8K, much more rural. Not too far from the Big City of Chicago now, but I bet it was another world when he was growing up. I’ll have to hunt around for photos of the area back then at some point to enhance my imagination. We did stop there, but without a better place to go, we went to grab coffee. How much did Americanos cost back then, you think? I did have a good day. Thanks for the suggestion Starbucks!

We did pick up the Starbucks Illinois coffee cup as proof we were there.

Iowa: Corn as Far as the Eye Can See

Behold Iowa:

Yep, that’s it – our view for a good part of a day. I really appreciate their sense of order there, at least with their road system. I suspect having land flat as a Fireman’s Breakfast pancake helps in that regard. The trip through the Corn Corridor of America really had me ruminating on how much resources we spend as a people on corn syrup and ethanol. The later is especially ridiculous. But I digress.

Now a couple photos from Mitchell KOA Journey in South Dakota. Yeah, more SoDak, but this could be in Iowa (in fact, I’d forgotten briefly that it wasn’t). Lots of corn.

My first honest to God tornado shelter. Thankfully the sky was clear so no need to sit in a concrete box for an hour.
What IS that thing? Mysterious farming equipment (to me).
A stunning sunset in the corn basket of the USA.

Next we’ll be visiting Illinois, my first time in the state outside of Chicago. I have family roots there, which will be a bit of a topic.

Cowgirls in SoDak

Apologies for a 5 day hiatus in writing here. We arrived in New Hampshire in Sunday! The first day was a bit strange though — both the girls had been fighting colds for a few days prior, and since Grace was going to a week long theater session at her new school (great opportunity meet some of her new classmates), we wanted to be absolutely certain it wasn’t COVID. Getting tested took about 2 hours at a local urgent care place, but thankfully it was negative for both of them. Then, of course, Danica and I came down with the same cold while trying to catch up after two weeks of PTO. GREAT. This too shall pass.

Back to South Dakota! We stayed at what was definitely the largest KOA of the bunch – Mount Rushmore KOA. This is a camp that was created back in the 60’s, and then became associated with KOA in the 70’s. It was huge, with a lot of things to do. The girls both took advantage of one of the available activities and went trail riding on horseback the afternoon after we went to Mount Rushmore. Unsurprisingly, they had a great time.

We also drove into Mill City for lunch — really needing a cheeseburger — which is about 10 minutes away. We’d seen a lot of motorcycles, so deduced that OH, STURGIS. But it just so happened that there was a rally that day there. My old friend Pat Camp would have been right at home there. I’d never seen so many Harley’s in my life. Cool bikes, great people. We had Tigli, and I swear a dozen bikers said very untough sounding things to her. It’s her superpower.

Finally, I’ll leave you with a photo I took while the sun was going down at the park. I can’t say that I would like to life in South Dakota, but the Black Hills really are beautiful.

More of South Dakota

I’m pretty far behind the blogging, but ever since my heart issue, we’ve been racing to keep on track. We had to call an audible on a couple KOAs that weren’t on the menu, and change our path a bit, but we did indeed get back on schedule. That was a few very long days of driving. I’ll do my best to catch up the last days of our trip over the following week.

So there’s this necessary stop along I-90 in South Dakota:

Yes, Wall Drug.

I knew about Wall Drug, but I didn’t know about how they put small road signs along every highway in the state leading to it. It’s insane — you start seeing “World Famous Wall Drug Soon” over 100 miles from the actual exit. Since we had Tigli, and the store frowns upon dogs in their store, regardless of how cute they are, we couldn’t all go in at once. We probably barely scratched the surface of the storied tourist trap, but it was still interesting. The only thing they got me for was a Wall Drug camp coffee cup (those ubiquitous metal cups you see at camp sites).

🎶 I’m a Porcelain Cowboy 🎵
For those from White Salmon, THIS is apparently where The Logs got their Jackalope!
Even Tesla jockeys need tchotches!