Saturday, November 8, 2008


Well, writing about this trip has been a long time coming. My procrastination is due in part to the craze of life, but can most be attributed to sheer intimidation. You see, I've had a hard time figuring out how mere words can do this trip justice. It was a ridiculous feat...looped lake Erie in 72 hours, witnessed Niagara, traversed 6 states and 2 countries, and camped in upstate New York. Whew...

So, here goes. Two of my best friends and I headed out into the great unknown back in August. None of us had been to Niagara Falls and when we realized that it was a mere 9 hours from Chicago, we set out to conquer this collective dream.

Armed with weekend totes, 3 awesome playlists and a 2lbs each of trail mix and intoxicating puppy chow, we set out on our journey. Britt's Rav4 became our simultaneous karaoke/comedy club for the weekend.

Day 1:
We leave Chicago at 5pm, head over to neighboring Indiana, and then make our way into Michigan. Upon finishing my TOPS Pop mix made especially for the trip, which included the C-A-N-A-D-A song, Linds attempts to play her mix from her ipod. We soon find that her ipod is imprisoned in it's case, and thus she cannot hook it up to the ipod player....frustration builds. After a good 20+ minutes of passing the ipod around the car we eventually stop for dinner. Plan A - we stop at a Big Boy (I am excited at this point b/c i've never been to one), but then we realize that it's a sit down restaurant and don't want to forfeit the time for that, so we head back to the car, snagging some Big Boy pics on the way. While outside the restaurant, Linds calls her sis for instruction on getting the ipod free and the solution relies on a butter knife - leading to the next turn of events. I must preface this part by stating that i'm the farthest thing from a klepto or thief ever, but dire circumstances call for desperate measures...A light bulb goes off. Big boy has butter knifes. So, i went back for a bathroom break, borrowing a butter knife on my way out. The only problem was that upon inserting the knife into the case it got stuck and we ended up with a ipop! haha. Then finally, after much perseverance, Linds got it free. What luck.

We then opted for plan B, McDonald's, to grab something quick. I happen to get a Happy Meal with the most awesome toy - Wicket L'Ewok! Needless to say, he became the center of the next hour of laughs and our official TOPS trip mascot. Back on the road again, we eventually stopped for dessert at one of my fave places, Culver's Frozen Custard, yum! (similar to Shakie's for all you Oklahoma peeps). So...all the talk of looping Lake Erie must have made me a bit loopy b/c i had the bright idea of pulling a prank on the poor kid at the cash window in the drive through. Remember the in the movie Home Alone when Kevin plays the movie that has the guy with the gun who says "keep the change, you filthy animal!" Well, i thought it would be a fun idea to say this to the guy when he tries to give me back the 20 cents or so that he owes me...yep...i did it. The guy was certainly caught off guard and gave such a confused look and then proceeded to retract his arm and indeed keep the change. The funniest part is I was in the back seat and on his side of the window and after the joke i was yelling at Britt to go, go, go...and she unknowingly made me sit there for a good 30 seconds (which felt like an eternity) bright red and laughing hysterically.

Five plus hours later, we decide to stop just short of the border in Port Huron, Michigan to get a hotel room, so that we can fully embrace the grand entrance into Maple country in the daylight. One would think that it would be fairly easy to get one room at a cheap hotel in a no name town in Michigan at 1am. WRONG! It just so happens that Billy Bob Thorton had performed that night in Port Huron, and all the hotels were pretty much booked except for like 1 smoking room at each. Tough luck right? Well, fortunate for us, we attempted one last hotel, The Best Western and they did have the Jacuzzi suite available and it was non-smoking, clearly a no-brainer!
Britt strangely offered to take the pull-out couch (ya, the one the lady at the desk said didn't exist) so Kirkbride and I gladly accepted the king as our fate, while reminding Britt to check the sheets for hairs, haha. It was a short stay at the BW. Didn't make much use of the Jacuzzi either. Yet we did cash in on the complimentary breakfast - love the places that let you make your own Belgian waffles. - For the record, real waffles in Belgium are quite disappointing compared to our large fluffy imitations.

Day 2:
Obviously, this day started with the free breakfast, and then we were headed toward the bridge that would take us to a monumental moment...first time in Canada, ever! Cameras ready and the loony CANADA song blasting we rolled to the boarder patrol. To backtrack a second, this awesome Canada song basically praises all the wonderful things about Canada, one of which is a Tidal bore, which of course we had no idea what it was. So, naturally we decide to ask the border patrol man (who happened to be quite the looker). So, Linds asks "Do you know what a Tidal bore is?" Clearly confused, he says "no". Hmmmm..."Well, are you Canadian?" asks Linds. "Yes, we can't hire Mexicans to guard our border" replies the guard. Haha. Fair enough. After all this, he still let's us enter his country. Crazy. A few minutes later, we realize that he never even asked for Linds' photo ID, haha...we should remember not to let Canadians control OUR border!!!

A few hours pass and then Google maps leads us straight to suburbia Niagara...what? We have to stop and ask a few fellas how to get to the main attraction asap...time was waning and we only had a few hours to spend with this natural wonder. Back on track, we roll into Niagara around 2 or so and are surprised to find ourselves driving amidst casinos, restaurants, high-rise hotels and stores. A mini Las Vegas if you will. We soon catch sight of the steam rising off the falls and steer toward it. Our first glimpse of the falls was from a lookout above the falls and it was truly breathtaking. Clearly the work of a mighty and loving God. The crystal green waters, cascading over rock into a pool of foam and white caps, rising again to repeat the cycle. The sound, a faint roar, mighty and calming at once. Here we attempt capturing it's vast beauty on film and then proceed to the base of the falls to embark on the Maid of the Mist tour. Or "$14 of fun" as I so joyously called it. And yes, I was surprised to get my change in quarters after i paid...i mean seriously. I was in Canada. Shouldn't they give me Canadian currency? Or is that too much to ask in a tourist trap? After a decent sized line, we take one of the most awkward group photos in front of the green screen (you know the ones they try to sell you after with the superimposed background?). Basically, Linds and Britt were holding hands and I for some reason wasn't even looking at the camera, haha! Oh well...we didn't buy it anyway, but Linds did get reprimanded for taking a photo of our $20 photo they took. of the best moments of the trip! For the boat ride, we all donned the cobalt blue ponchos they provided us, did I mention they were souvenir ponchos? Yes, that's right...Britt kept hers. So, all 100+ smurf-like people boarded the boat and we were off sailing toward the majestic waters. Passing by the American side first (yes, Linds...the American side, yep, same as the U.S. And no, we're not kidding!) and then to the more aesthetically pleasing Canadian falls. Despite the hilarity of wearing a blue poncho, i was super grateful for it when we reached the base of the falls. Pellets of rain beaded down and i had to carefully snap my pics as not to ruin my camera - i really should upgrade to one of those fancy waterproof ones. Thirty minutes later, mission accomplished. MOM was over and we were back on dry land. Apparently, Linds wasn't too impressed "I wouldn't want to do that again, no offense". Can't win em' all I suppose.

50 pictures later, we decide to walk into the strip and get some grub. Plan A - Ruby Tuesday's...we go in, sit down, get water and menus from the waitress, and then remember we are being cheap on this trip and leave without notice, with our eye on Wendy's. Do you see the pattern? Yes, it definitely wasn't' the healthiest trip of my life and my stomach hated me for a few days after. Following dinner we stopped in at this interesting shop that sold pipes (not the tobacco kind) and other interesting objects. While Britt was enamored by some of the merchandise, Linds and i were completely distracted by the HE/SHE working there. Seriously, one of the strangest individuals I've ever seen. To this day, his/her sexual identity remains a mystery. We press on and decide that our time in Niagara has come to an end and take the Rainbow Bridge (funny, huh) back to the U.S. We timed it perfect leaving at sunset and were able to steal some amazing views of the famous falls.

Our next destination? Houghton, NY. Why you may ask? Well, it just so happens that Linds' twin bro lives in Houghton with his wifey and it made perfect sense to bunk with them. However, to mine and Britt's surprise, Linds had arranged for us to camp outside their dorm hall (yes, they live on a college campus that was desolate b/c of summer). Albeit I wasn't too key on the initial idea, i must admit it was likely a top runner in the best moments of the trip. First off, we left the least experienced camper (ahem, Britt) out there by herself for about 15 minutes, which she swears felt like an eternity. Ok, i know there were woods on one side of us, but really, how scary can it be? Then, when asked who was sleeping in the middle, I jumped at the opportunity (literally, i jumped into the middle). This is rare because the middle is not really ever preferable (think planes, cars, birth order), but this night it meant warmth and security. Linds documented the camping experience with a photo shoot that produced gut wrenching laughter that surely echoed through the woods of Houghton. Did we sleep well? Depends on who you ask :)

Day 3:
We rise and shine (well the sun shines in on us) in our tent. Then head inside for coffee and chocolate chip pancakes - delish. What kind of coffee was it Linds? "Ooh, I can tell this is Caribou" says Linds. "Actually, it's Starbucks" replies Emily (bro's wife). "Oh"...Linds is confused. We get ready and head to church where Linds' bro is preaching, which was quite a treat! Afterward, we load up the Rav4 and point our compass toward Chicago! Another 9 hours, but we aren't phased. Nope, we actually all agreed that the car ride was the most fantastic part of the trip! During this drive we finished off the trail mix and puppy chow, and hit up Steak and Shake (my first time ever) where B & L decide that I have to do it right if i'm doing it. So, i get a patty melt with the famous chili, you have to try the chili, right girls? Fries, the fries are the they said, and of course you can't get the full experience without a shake right ladies? Well, i promised myself i'd never do that again, haha. But I was quite impressed by the low prices and deliciousness of their beloved S&S! i forgetting something? Ahhh...that's right, at S&S, Linds used her Tide pen for the 3rd time that day...2x being for coffee spills on the way to church.

Taking pictures at every state line, we make our way back to Illinois with only 1 minor detour caused by my concentration on what the letters of the Myers Brigg test stand for instead of the road. Arriving at the cusp of midnight. A fun-filled weekend with memories that I've only scratched the surface on. Easily one of the best 72 hours of my life!

As we pulled into Chi we are welcomed by the song Wide Open Spaces. "ooooh a fitting end" - Britt..."Don't say end" - Linds..."Oh...a fitting...(silence)" - Britt