Saturday, September 16, 2017

Roller Coaster Road Trip 2017: Niagara Falls


Here's a forewarning...be prepared for a picture-filled post...

When I last left off on our 8-day journey, we had been at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.  We had ridden twenty-three roller coasters in the first four days, and for the next two and a half days we'd be slowing it down a bit.  That wasn't a bad thing of course because we were headed to a place I've wanted to go to since I was a child...Niagara Falls...before heading up to Toronto, our last stop.

The day was Thursday and we packed ourselves up from that beautiful cabin on Lake Eerie and headed northwest towards our destination.  Along the way I had an idea...hey, you guys wanna stop in Buffalo for some real Buffalo wings?  Hey, when in Rome!  We had to pass through Buffalo to get to where we were going anyway and it would be right around lunchtime when we did, so.  The boys agreed and a quick Internet search had us heading to Anchor Bar, a place claiming to be the home of the original Buffalo wing.   



We finally arrived at the Anchor around 12;30 and the place was buzzing.  A quick 20-minute wait and we were all seated and ready to order.  All I can say is wow....great, meaty wings!  Probably the meatiest wings and some of the tastiest I've ever had.  With full bellies, we headed out to Niagara Falls and Alice in Wonderland.


Now I mentioned Alice in Wonderland because the house we were renting via AirBnB on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls was themed after Lewis Carroll's famous tale.  More on that in a little. In planning for this trip, I had heard from many people that the Canadian side of the Falls is much livelier than the American side.  From what we saw on our side, this is absolutely true.  Good choice!

Since we weren't able to check in to our rental until 5 p.m., we had a good three hours or so to explore the town of Niagara and of course, the Falls.  Our first sight of the famous cascades came upon crossing the bridge after the border crossing.  Like with any natural wonder, I am sure, that initial view of the Falls filled me with wonder and a strong desire to see it up close.  



My first impression of the city of Niagara Falls and Clifton Hill was that is was a busy entertainment center built around the attraction meant for families, and others, to enjoy.  Restaurants, miniature golf courses, haunted mansions, souvenir shops, ice cream parlors and even a couple of casinos lined the streets leading down towards the main attraction.  There was plenty for all to do once the wonder of the Falls had worn its initial appeal.  



Once we'd found a place to park the car, it was time to explore.  After making a quick trip to Starbucks for a cup of iced coffee and to charge our engines, we headed on down the hill towards the giant wonder.  For the next 2-3 hours, we took in as much as we could.  The sight of the falls was something to see, the kind of thing that's hard to take your eyes off of as you walk along the promenade of the Niagara Parkway.  Stopping at virtually anywhere along the path, the Rainbow Bridge, connecting two countries, is to your left, the American Falls is across the river and the Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side straight up ahead and to the left.  Breathtaking all around!








Once we'd taken it all in, we decided to see what attractions within the Falls we could do at this time of the day.  We had already decided that we wanted to take the Journey Behind the Falls, one of the boat tours (Hornblower is the boat operator on the Canadian side.  Maid of the Mist, which I had heard of before, is on the American side.), and zip lining.  Going behind the Falls turned out to be the only option for us that evening, and it was hella cool!






As was our mood all afternoon long, this little excursion brought out the wonder in each of us...to watch the rushing water from behind the Falls was awe-inspiring and then to go down onto the 'deck' to see the giant waterfall from below...spectacular!  

Well I'm going to stop right here because there was lots more to come on our little 36 hour trip to this wonderful place.  Stay tuned as we check in and check out Alice in Wonderland, get a whole new perspective on the Falls at night, and even check out a beautiful whirlpool up the Niagara River.  And in the meantime, be sure to check out my previous entries on this awesome Roller Coaster Road Trip 2017:















Monday, September 4, 2017

Summer's End: A Reflection on Living Life & Rejuvenation




It's last few hours before it's all over. Yeah, yeah, I know you all feel so bad for me and the rest of us teachers out there who are all getting back to real life after about 9 weeks of summer vacation. Well, while I do agree that summer is a great perk of the job, it is a much needed respite after ten straight months of, well, non-stop craziness, at least for me. Recharging is exactly what the doctor ordered.



I'm not speaking here to extol nor to defend the virtues of working in education, though. As I like to do every so often, I am here tonight to express appreciation and gratitude for my life. Having not worked in the summer for the first time in my teaching career, I had the total pleasure of experiencing life in a myriad of ways this time around, and for that, I am eternally grateful...and proud!



Where do I begin? I had so many pleasurable experiences over the summer that seem too innumerable to list. Dinners with friends, kayaking, parties and bbq's, the Roller Coaster Road Trip, camping, the beach, deep conversations, Philly, new friends, dancing, Fire Island, and even a semi-steady summer romance are just some of the many pleasures in life I got to enjoy this summer. I am a very lucky person!


Earlier today, and this was not the first time, someone said to me, "look there, the man who's really living life." I always say to this, "Who, me? Nah, it just looks that way on Facebook." Really, though, it is partially true. I live my life as I see it through my own eyes and that's where the proud part comes in. If a friend suggests an activity, I usually jump right in. Taking what comes your way is really a great way to get to experience life, to make memories that will stay with me to the very end. I know so many people who've got hangups, so many who waste their days in front of the television sets or just being 'bored.' To me, that's kind of sad and I could never imagine myself being that way.

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My friend Rich is always telling me that I need to say no sometimes. He's right, but not totally. Yes, I've always got more on my plate than I can sometimes handle, and I'm always running against the clock, always in a rush, but once I am at whatever thing I have scheduled with someone, I usually find the enjoyment in it. Even when things go awry on a jaunt, at least I have a great story to tell.

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So as I get ready for the first day of school tomorrow, I go into it once again with a fresh mind and happy memories that will carry me to the next summer. No, life is not over (except maybe the sleeping late part, lol). It simply continues through a different means. There are still good times yet to be had, and I intend to make the most of those that come my way.

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So to all of my teacher friends out there, I hope that you have all lived a little this summer and appreciated every moment. May the new school year bring out the best in all of us as a result of our blessings. See you all soon!

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Saturday, September 2, 2017

Roller Coaster Road Trip 2017: Lighthouse Point at Cedar Point


As I spoke about in my last post, our visit to Cedar Point was the ultimate in roller coaster fun, but that wasn't the only great thing about that stop.  For all of our other stays on this trip, we used AirBnB for lodging, but for here, and at Gary's suggestion, we stayed on the grounds of The Point and it was spectacular!


Lighthouse Point is an area within the Cedar Point property that consists of an RV camp, cottages and cabins.  We opted to rent one of the cabins, just steps from the shores of Lake Eerie.  The rental was a little pricey, but oh so worth it.  The three of us had left Cincinnati early in the day and as we made our way up to Sandusky, my curiosity about our digs was piqued.  Gary had described it to us beforehand, but it was hard to picture just what it would be like.  All I can say is wow!  

The cabins are located just outside the park (a five-minute walk), towards the northern tip of the peninsula.  There's a common area swimming pool, a deck, and a barbecue just outside of each lodging, and the place itself is charming and clean.  It was nice to be able to escape the crowds of the park for a couple of hours and enjoy a swim, some relaxation and even some home-cooked BBQ. Oh, and discounted tickets to the park are also available to guests of Lighthouse Point.

Well, there's not much more to say about the place, except if you're ever planning on a multi-day visit to Cedar Point, this place is so worth the visit.  Check out some more pictures of the cabins of Lighthouse Point...

the front door

inside the entrance


bedroom

Gary relaxing on the deck


A view from the grounds


Rich having a giggle

Gary grillin'

So that's about it for Cedar Point.  Be sure to check out previous posts on our adventure and stay tuned for Niagara Falls...










Tuesday, August 22, 2017

This Is Why P!nk Moves Me!

We are searchlights, we can see in the dark
We are rockets, pointed up at the stars
We are billions of beautiful hearts
And you sold us, down the river too far



Image result for pink what about us


This is why P!nk moves me!  After a post in which I complained that she'd been absent for too long, I now make my repentance.  I should have known better!  From the very first time I ever listened to a whole album of hers, 2001's M!ssundaztood, I was moved by her music, and that only grew with each new record, Try ThisI'm Not DeadFunhouse, and the ultimate, the one that got me to make a silly video lip-syncing to her, The Truth About Love.  

Yup, the master lyricist and overall uber-talent has done it again, perhaps even eclipsing (sorry, I couldn't help myself!) anything she's ever done in the past, and that's saying a lot.   At a time when we all could use a clear head, without all of the bickering, name calling and such, she's given us this gift, this gem of a tune, and it's from all of our perspectives.  


What about us?
What about all the times you said you had the answers?
What about us?
What about all the broken happy ever afters
What about us?
What about all the plans that ended in disasters?
What about love? What about trust?
What about us?

I've heard P!nk say in the past that she doesn't like to tell anyone the meaning behind her words, that she likes fans to garner their own significance from them, but this time there is no mistake.  P!nk has gotten political before, back during the Bush years with the raw Dear Mr. President, with the Indigo Girls.  That time, there was no doubt which side of the political spectrum she was speaking from. She performed the song during the Funhouse Tour in 2009, and when she did she said that she'd been booed while performing it in certain places.  The partisan divide that's ripping this country apart today was already well into big-crack mode.  

Image result for dear mr. president pink

We are problems that want to be solved
We are children that need to be loved
We were willing, we came when you called
But then you fooled us, enough is enough

This time around, P!nk isn't singing from one side of the aisle, though it isn't hard to see from the video to the song that she's still writing from the same perspective.  However, if we can all look beyond what we know to be her views, forget left or right or anywhere else, we can easily see that she speaks for all of us, and maybe if we listen closely, we will understand.

Back in January, Patrick Crowley opined in Billboard Magazine whether the singer would write a Dear Mr. President for Mr. Trump.  She'd been openly vocal about her displeasure with the newly elected President, but at the time there was no hit of any song:

“To anyone reading this: if you think this is a time for misogynistic jokes, or for laughing about voting in a person that doesn't believe in climate change, or humanity. To any of you closet racists, homophobes, sexists..... please block me. Please unfollow me. We do not respect each other. You do not have my respect, and I obviously don't have yours. We are not friends. To everyone else, we shall overcome. Stay on the path of love and tolerance. Hug your kids. Teach them about diversity and about fighting for others, and sticking up for themselves. I will do my part.”

Yes, there is no doubt to how P!nk looks at our President, and things have gotten worse in the seven months since she said that.  But with this song, she's not pointing a direct and angry finger at Trump. The they she speaks of includes virtually anyone who's said they had the answers, made broken promises for our happy ever afters and made plans that ended in disaster.  Sure, that includes our current Commander in Chief, but also past ones, as well as congressmen, senators, Cabinet members, and virtually anyone else who has an R or a D next to their name.    

What about us?
What about all the times you said you had the answers?
What about us?
What about all the broken happy ever afters?
What about us?
What about all the plans that ended in disasters?
What about love? What about trust?
What about us?

Yeah, what about us?  Politicians from all sides have been working for a long long time to create this great divide that is scarily coming to a head, and yet they never do anything really that makes our lives better, fixes our problems, or shows their loyalty to us, the ones who always come calling.  All they've done is point fingers, ridicule, and line their own pockets off the true holders of power, those with money.  And we all suffer the consequences.  

Unfortunately, she seems to hearken something I've been afraid of for a very long time now, something terrifying that I alluded to in my last opinion post:

  Sticks and stones they may break these bonesBut then I'll be ready, are you ready?
It's the start of us, we cannot come on
Are you ready? I'll be ready
I don't want control, I want to let go
Are you ready? I'll be ready
And now it's time to let them know

Yes, I am with her.  I am ready!  There are a great many of us in this country who recognize the ominous state that this Administration is leading us towards, and I hope to God that it never comes to pass, but if it does, yes, I'll be ready.  I would hope that many will take a hard listen to the words of this song and will recognize that the two sides in this struggle are not necessarily what we think they are.  Though we may think differently, we are all a part of those billions of beautiful hearts and we all just want to be happy.  We need to recognize this and let them know.  Take a listen and a look at this cleverly written piece and accompanying video and you'll realize that P!nk is such a gift.  There's a reason why this song has resonated with so many, but it needs to resonate even more!  
  

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Roller Coaster Road Trip 2017: Get to The Point!


Boy did we start this trip off with a bang!  After a quick, unplanned stop in Kennywood on our first day, and the wonderful day of coaster riding at King's Island on the second, our third and fourth days were to be the main event with a stop at America's Roller Coast, Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. Sandusky is only about a four hour ride from Cincinnati and so with an early start we were able to make it to Cedar Point by early afternoon, giving ourselves a whole day and a half of ultimate coastering.  

For those of you who've never heard of Cedar Point, well it is the Mecca for roller coaster enthusiasts all over the world.  It's collection of world class roller coasters of every kind are rivaled by all and beaten by none.  This would be my third soiree to The Point and ultimately proved to be my best visit yet to the park.

There are several talking points I'd like to make about our visit to Cedar Point, but for this post I'd like to focus on the coasters.  If you're a fan and you've never been, then maybe this post will make you want to get there. Trust me, you won't be disappointed!  Take a look at some of the best the park has to offer...

Gatekeeper


Gatekeeper is the second newest coaster at Cedar Point, opening in 2013 to much fanfare.  The ride is a the park's wing coaster and is located towards the front entrance.  It's structure is imposing, with a cool blue track hovering along the shores of Lake Eerie, slithering through two giant 'keyholes' at the front gate.  The ride itself was much more fun than scary, very smooth and definitely worth it.  Take a virtual ride...





Millennium Force

Millennium Force is one of my all time favorite roller coasters!  It is one of only a handful of giga-coasters and it's one of the best.  Giga coasters are ones that reach heights of over 300 feet and this one rises to 310 feet and with spectacular views and an unbelievable first drop of 80 degrees, this one is simply spectacular.  We got to ride the thing several times, and I can now say with first-hand experience that it is even better in the dark.  This one never lets up on some wicked twists and turns and some great negative G's.  Take a ride...




Maverick

When you first take a look at Maverick, you think to yourself that it looks just like an okay roller coaster.  It's not very big or tall or anything like that which would whet your roller coaster whistle. But then you ride it and whoah!  This is one wicked ride!  There are a couple of things about Maverick that make it such a great roller coaster, and judging from the wait time, plenty of others agree.  First of all, it is very smooth, and that first drop is a doozy.  That is the kicker that sends you off on a wild two and a half-minute ride through twists, turns and of course some wicked loops, starting with a 0-70 mph launch over a 95 degree, 100 foot first hill.  The first time Rich and I had gone to Cedar Point, we'd waited most of the day to give it a try because it didn't look impressive and the wait was so long, but once we had ridden it, we'd wished we had tried it earlier. Not so this time. This trip to The Point had us riding the thing several, heart-stopping times.  Take a virtual ride yourself...


Top Thrill Dragster



Before there was Kingda Ka, there was Top Thrill Dragster.  Ever on the cusp of the newest technology in roller coastering, Cedar Point broke out with this then unique ride way back in 2003 and at the time it was the tallest in the world at 420 feet, only to be surpassed by a mere 36 feet by the aforementioned King of All Coasters.  The layout is very similar to Kingda Ka...zooming at high speeds (120 mph) straight out to a towering hill, up and over.  The only difference in layouts between these two monsters is that this one does not have another hill after the big drop.  The finale is simply straight back..fun still!  My pal Gary thinks that this one is better than KK, smoother and more fun. Perhaps!  Take a look...


Valravn



Valravn is Cedar Point's newest coaster.  It's what they call a dive coaster, that is, one whose train is wide, sitting ten across, over 200 feet tall (this one's 223), and perches at the top of the lift hill, dangling riders perched over the drop for a perilous few seconds before plunging downward into a wild frenzy.  The ride opened up in 2016 and stands as the tallest, fastest (75 mph) and longest (3,415 feet) of its kind in the world.  Loved it!  Take a ride...  


Well, that was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to great coasters at Cedar Point.  At the risk of posting too many videos and commentary, I've left out great rides like Magnum XL-200, an old favorite of mine, Raptor, Gemini, Wicked Twister, Rougarou, and more.  Check 'em out on YouTube is you so desire.  In the meantime, stay tuned for more about our Roller Coaster Road Trip 2017, including a relaxing spot on the shores of Lake Eerie, Niagara Falls and Toronto.