Sunday, June 18, 2017

Niagara Falls!! Day 2

Race morning and I overslept! I was wearing earplugs to block out the hallway noise and didn't hear my smartphone alarm, which is unusual for me. I must have been tired!!. Fortunately I woke up on my own, just a half hour later than I'd planned, but still with little time to eat breakfast of Cheerios and banana in my room and then get dressed and out the door toward the start line 2 miles away. I didn't even brush my teeth before leaving the room! Good thing I'm in the habit of laying out everything I need for the race!

My friend Dan had offered to get up early and drive me there, but I just couldn't ask him to get up so early, and especially since they were checking out later that morning. They could sleep in, have breakfast and maybe do a little sightseeing before hitting the road for home. I was going to walk but then remembered I could use Uber instead. I made the request on my phone app and within minutes the driver was there to get me. He'd already made a couple of runs to the start line so knew where it was and what to expect in terms of traffic. As we found ourselves in a long line of cars trying to turn left into the parking area, I had him just make a U-turn and drop me off on the shoulder. It was only a short distance into the park where the start line was. It was raining, a cold rain, but we had a short wait, standing under trees to stay as dry as possible.  I positioned myself near the back of pack and then soon we were off and running.

The route was stunningly beautiful, traveling north along Niagara River on Niagara Parkway, through the heavily wooded Dufferin Islands Nature Area, to Niagara Falls, then past the Falls, past the visitor center, and past the American Falls. Right at the turnaround, there was a public bathroom building and I took advantage of it. I'd not seen any porta-potties, but after this stop, I realized that I'd passed at least one other public bathroom along the way and clearly this was the race organizers' intention that we take advantage of these. Now we were all heading south, back past Niagara Falls and the visitor center and back toward where we would pass the starting line area and continue south for another 8 miles along the river.

the race route, data from my Garmin GPS watch

We went through Kingsbridge Park, through the cute little community of Chippewa, and past lovely homes overlooking river. As I got within a mile or so of the turnaround point, I heard my name called and saw a woman approaching me as she passed me going in the opposite direction. It was a running club friend I'd never met in person but had connected with at the club Facebook page. She said she'd wait for me at the finish line.
At the finish line!

Then I made that U-turn and began heading toward the finish line. The rain had stopped and the sun was struggling mightily to break through the thick clouds. Soon I was making that last turn into the park and toward the finish line and there was my new friend, waiting for me.

Finisher medal, honoring Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad

We introduced ourselves to each other, chatted a bit with others, then realizing she'd be going right by my hotel in order to cross rainbow bridge back to US, I asked her for a ride back to hotel.

Running club friend Estelle and me at the finish line

As we walked to her car, we chatted some more and compared notes of upcoming races we had scheduled, wondering if we'd soon cross paths again. I enjoyed her company and the fact that she was close to my age, which is becoming more and more a rarity I'm learning, as I keep doing these races.

At the hotel, I bought a cappuccino at Starbucks then went up to my room. I rested in the room for a bit, hydrating, snacking, sipping my cappuccino and enjoying the views. But then hunger for real food hit and I showered, dressed and went down to TGIFridays off the lobby for lunch. I sat in the restaurant and got caught up with emails and Facebook while I enjoyed my hamburger.

I considered what to do next but then decided I'd done plenty that day so went back to Starbucks, bought myself a treat, including a cake pop, and returned to my room to watch TV and relax.

For dinner that night I walked to a nearby Applebee's and picked up dinner to go, some kind of Asian shrimp stir-fry which was actually quite good and with plenty left over to save for the next day.

That night I was treated to a fireworks  display over the falls. I was pleased to learn that they do this every Friday and Sunday night, and since I didn't arrive until Saturday and missed the Friday display, this Sunday display was the perfect way to end the day. View from my room:

Early the next morning I got up, got dressed and headed down to the visitor center to be there as soon as they opened. I bought tickets for the Behind the Falls experience and for the visitor center movie experience, Niagara's Fury. That done and with tickets in hand to beat the rush, I went down to Tim Horton's there in the lower level of the visitor center and bought myself a maple glazed donut and a coffee to enjoy while I waited for the first showing of the Niagara's Fury film. I'm glad I got my ticket so early because the line was very long!

The screen inside the theater, before the movie started

Then along with all of the others in line, I donned my blue poncho and filed into the surround-theater where we viewed a 360 movie about the formation of the falls. We were warned that the closer to the front, the wetter we'd get. Well heck! I stood right up close to the front railing where I got splashed... a lot!!

Then got in line for the Journey Behind the Falls experience, this time donning a yellow poncho and filing into an elevator with a group and taken down 150 feet where we exited into 130 year old tunnels that run under the falls.

In the tunnel, heading for the portal behind the falls
The tunnel itself: deafeningly loud and a bit claustrophobic

The sound of the water roaring overhead was deafening! I walked to the tunnel exit just at the base of the north end of the falls horseshoe, where I had a spectacular view of the bottom of the falls and out toward American Falls. It was breathtakingly powerful and beautiful!

View platform at the base of the falls

View platform at the base of the falls
Here's a short video taken at the base of the falls:

I retraced my steps back through the tunnel to a tunnel branch and took it to a viewpoint that looks out through a portal that is immediately behind the falls themselves. Here the noise was beyond deafening, and seeing the water thundering down in front of that opening was actually frightening. Here's hoping this 130 year old tunnel doesn't collapse!

One of the viewing portals behind the falls
I continued to the end of the tunnel where we had an unobstructed view of the falls. Impressive but loud and I was pretty much ready to get out of these tunnels and up at ground level again.

Here's a short video taken at this portal:

I decided to splurge and have a leisurely lunch at The Keg, an upscale restaurant at the hotel with wall-to-wall views of the falls from the 9th floor. The food and service were excellent and I lingered as long as I dared to enjoy the views. Did I want to walk back over to the falls again?? I thought about it for a while, but then decided that staying close to the hotel seemed like the better idea. But Starbucks sounded like a good idea.

Rainbow over the falls

Back in my room, I started to gather my things and do some preliminary packing. I warmed up my leftovers from Applebees for dinner that night, my last night in Niagara falls.

I had breakfast at Starbucks then checked out and called for my car. They park off-site so a van ride was in order to get to the remote parking lot and my car. The drive to airport was straightforward from here. I had hand-written directions to get to a gas station a couple of miles before getting to the airport, but the car's GPS system routed me a different way and, not being familiar with this GPS system, I was at it's mercy.

Next thing I knew,  I was on the spaghetti mess of elevated roadways that headed into the airport. Then I found myself at the wrong terminal and wrong Avis garage. I got that sorted out and finally got myself headed to the right terminal and garage. By this point I had to pee enough that I was willing to pay the steep penalty for not refueling. The rental car return attendant offered to let me exit the garage and go in search of gas, but I knew my bladder and patience just wouldn't last.

In the airport, I got checked in, navigated the very simple and painless re-entry into the US as a Global Entry traveler, then found a place to sit and have something to eat while waiting for my flight. I'd gotten there plenty early, not knowing how long it would take to get there or how much traffic I'd encounter along the way. But with my Kindle Fire, the time passed relatively painlessly, and pretty soon they were starting the boarding process for my flight. First class seat, dinner, and on-board personal entertainment on my little ASUS computer and I was a happy camper.

It was a really great trip, fun to see Dan, Pam, and Sal while there, great to meet a new running friend, and wonderful to FINALLY see Niagara Falls in person! It was one of those really well-done and scenic races that I'll long remember. I can't think of a better way to see Niagara Falls!

Next: a couple of months' rest from doing half marathons.

1 comment:

  1. Nicely done Barb. Another race in the bag and you got to see the falls. I've never been there either but they sure look pretty.