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This page has the details and stories of our trip in August, 2004.
First leg - the Adirondack mountains
Second leg - Buffalo
Third leg - Toronto
Fourth leg - Watkins Glen
The Adirondack Mountains
We left around 11:30 in the morning Tuesday, August 17th. It was a fairly uneventful 3 hour and 15 minute drive. The kids slept most of the way, like they usually do. There was a ten minute period where my gas gauge read empty and there was no sign of civilization, but we found a Sunoco and the kids got up and took Heidi for a walk. Heidi did well in the car. As we got close to Old Forge, everyone stated that they were hungry and wanted a McDonalds or Wendys. I gave a brief lecture about avoiding chain restaurants in order to experience the local cuisine. I then had to explain what a chain restaurant is. Anyway, we stopped at a place called Curley's Tavern. The kids were impressed because it looked like a very high-end restaurant, and in fact the childrens menu did give the choice of crust or no crust on the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. No one ordered that though. The menu was cool in that there was no real list of items. It has an item name and description, followed by a number in cursive, shich was the price. For instance: The Reuben is a classic sandwich with corned beef piled high and topped with Russian dressing and Sauerkraut, on rye bread. Seven.
After we ate, we went to check in to Nick's Lake State Campground. They asked if we had a dog with us. I said yes. They asked for proof of the dogs rabies shot. I went to my glove box, where that document has been for months, but it was no longer there! The Park Ranger said he had to see the dogs tag. I got the dog, but Amber had taken the tag off! The Ranger gave me 24 hours to show proof of rabies vaccination! I borrowed Mary's phone, called information, got the number for our vet, called our vet, and asked about the dog's status. The dog was good until the end of August! Whew! So, I went back to the Ranger's station and gave them the phone number and had them call the vet. That was a close one!
We set up camp with Mary, Dan, and Ted. Mary has quite the kitchen setup! I'm not sure what happened to my pictures of Mary's kitchen though. I know I took some. :-(
Enchanted Forest Water Safari:
Wednesday I took the girls to Enchanted Forest Water Safari. Jake backed out, which was fine. I sold his ticket at the gate for $20, which saved some lady $3.95. I had bought the ticket for $18.95, so I made a little money too! The girls did their thing in the park. I enjoyed the sun, my book, and the wave pool. The day was fairly uneventful, except I had to return the next day to look for my wallet! Yep, somehow my wallet got lost. I left my info at the office, just in case someone would turn it in. We did find the money to buy a refrigerator magnet though.
We got up early Thursday morning, around 6:30, so that we could take the 75 minute drive to the Hudson River for a 17 mile white-water rafting trip. We brought dry clothes, and wore bathing suits and T-shirts. Rachel looked very cute in a grossly oversized wet-suit jacket that went down to her knees and had sleeves folded back past her elbow. She also had wet suit booties that were eight sizes too large! Since she wouldn't be paddling, we had to be sure she'd be warm. We used Adirondack River Outfitters (ARO).
Once we launched, there were rapids immediately. Right now I have only one picture. Rachel was nervous and unhappy, but after we got through them, adn she realized that we weren't going to die, she cheered up. Dan and Ted took the front, Jake and Amber behind them, and Mary and I in the back. Lynne was our guide. We took one stop for a lunch break. Lunch consisted of a tortilla that contained peanut butter, honey, and some kind of cereal, all rolled up. Quite tasty and filling.
In the last half of the trip, it rained for about ten minutes. We were already soaked from rapids and splash wars with other rafts. There were also some spots where you could jump in and swim with the raft, and Amber, Jake, and Dan did so.
Near the end Lynne let me take over the ship. I sat in back and steered, and we didn't hit any rocks! I enjoyed bellowing orders: "All ahead full! RAMMING SPEED!!!!" :-)
Afterword, ARO treated us to a chicken barbecue dinner. The drive home was tiring. Good thing Mary and I had the walkie-talkie radios!
Back at camp:
We came back to camp and the Ranger's wouldn't let us in! They were all confused because they thought we were supposed to check out, but in fact we were paid up through Sunday. They then said they were very mad that we left the dog unattended all day (against the rules). She must've barked a lot, because people complained. Stupid dog. The Ranger's were going to take her, but then our other friends, Don and then Evelyn, showed up and took the dog. Stupid dog. Furthermore, the Rangers also were angry that Mary's tent was outside our site lines (there are no site lines, and we were on an end where there was no adjoining site). We think they were just really, really mad about the dog barking all day. Stupid dog.
The trip home was quiet, and when we got home it didn't take long before Ryan and Brandon were over to play with Jake. I made calls canceling my credit cards and gas cards, and called the hotel in Buffalo to make sure that I could check in without my drivers license, since my wallet was gone. I had my work ID though. They said "No problem". I also unpacked, did laundry, showered, repacked for the next leg, and ran to the bank to get cash since my trip cash was in my wallet.
We got to Buffalo about 15 minutes before the Titans did. I went to the front desk, wearing T-shirt, Jean shorts, and sandals, and said "I'm Alan Shechter, with the Titans." He sent me down the hall where I encountered a woman guarding a barricade, and she also let me through. I was then in an area where there were three buffet tables covered with envelopes, each envelope with a player or coaches name. I looked for my name, and then a security guard panicked and tried to escort me out. "Sir, you can't be here. Keep moving." I told him who I was, and he asked for ID. I told him I lost my wallet. He eventually called the General Manager and some woman who seemed to be in charge of everything else. They appeared very nervous, and one even commented about "There's a buzz in the air. This is exciting." I just thought to myself "Whatever." They finally got me my room key, and the kids and I left to our room. I'm not into the autograph thing.
A little later, after the Titans arrived and my kids were in the pool, I saw Stuart, my good friend and fraternity buddy whom I lived with for three years. He's the Director of Operations for the TItans. He's the one who got us the hotel room on behalf of the TItans (the room assignment list had my room as 'coaches assistant'). He had a few more things to do, and we eventually ended up in his room to hang out. Nice room. Two floors. You can see the spiral staircase in the pictures. We talked and watched the Olympics.
Saturday was quiet. Stuart was nice enough to grab some leftovers from the Titans breakfast for my kids to eat. We had already had breakfast, but the Titans do brunch, and my kids were hungry again. We had a rousing game of Bohnanza, where the object is to plant and harvest bean fields. It's a clever card game, and we all enjoy it.
Going to the Bills game:
The Titans itinerary showed that three buses go to the field, about thitry minutes apart. Stuart advised us to follow his bus, which was the last one. He told the police escort that we were to follow the bus. So, I practiced juggling my clubs, which I do when I have brief periods of down time, and then the bus pulled out. I must admit I was as excited as the kids when the police escort had us going through red lights and driving on the wrong side of the rode. I guess it's vital to not stop and become a target or something. At one point more police officers joined us, and one put on his siren to tell us to back off. One of the original officers pulled up to him and let him know that we were supposed to be there. He backed off. I chuckled.
Stuart had also procured me a media parking pass so that once the bus got to the stadium, I was able to park close, and for free. Nice. Real nice.
At the Stadium:
Our seats were up high in the stadium, but it would be awhile before we got there. Stuart had once again come through. We had Pregame Field Access passes! When we got in the stadium we received free Buffalo Bills bags, stickers, keychains, and programs. We put everything in the bags and headed down to the turf. We set our stuff near an end zone and walked around. Here's a slideshow. Stuart showed us the latest thing in Turf fields by bending down and picking up a bunch of ground up bits of tire out of the grass. He said that more teams are switching to it. Jake took some as a souvenir. We 'borrowed' some footballs out of the Titans equipment bag to see how they felt. Surprisingly slick and hard! I like my new football better. :-)
As an aside, I just one a football in an armchair quarterback contest at work.
The players from both teams came out on the field and warmed up and ran drills. The Buffalo Jills cheerleaders let Amber hold some pom-poms and get her picture taken with them. Amber was on cloud nine! We positioned ourselves near the field exit for when the players go off the field before they are announced at the beginning of the game. Here's another slideshow.
Going to Toronto:
We left the game in the fourth quarter. I had to ask an officer for directions to Canada. No police escort though. :-(
I wasn't very concerned about crossing into Canada without my drivers license because I had our birth certificates. Since it was late at night, there was no line, and we got through in less than two minutes. We hopped on the QEW and proceeded to look for food. The thing is, in Canada, when you see a blue sign that has a knife and fork and says next exit, that exit can be quite far. Then, when you take that exit, you end up going for miles in the middle of nowhere before you see lights. We did this, and ended up at a little joint where the kitchen was closed, the bar was open, and both the locals were present. We used the facilities and made it back to the QEW. We found a bigger town and did the Burger King drive through. Then off we went. I tried to keep the kids awake, but they were out cold after eating. They missed the Toronto skyline as we approached. They woke up when I checked into the hotel.
Ah yes, checking in. The hotel, a Sheraton, didn't save our room. Doing what hotels do, they gave us the upgrade. It was nice having the extra space, but instead of two double beds, we had a double and two cots. On the bright side, cots have come a long was since I remember cots. These were more comfortable than my bed at home! The Sheraton also wanted $33 a day to park. There was a public, underground lot across the street for $6 a day, which is where we parked, and never went to the car until it was time to leave since the Toronto subway system is so nice.
We got in just after midnight. Driving into Toronto and then seeing the skyline is pretty cool. But, the kids were all asleep. I pulled up to check in. The valet offered to park my car - for $33 a day! No thanks. I went to check in, and the guy asked for ID. I gave him my printouts, and he was OK. He then checked and said he needed my credit card. I told him I didn't have it, but it should all be pre-paid. He checked, and confirmed that it was. He then wasnted a deposit. I gave him $80 US currency, and later received $100 back. *sigh* Anyway, they had sold our room. He offered an upgrade to a much larger room. The size of the room wasn't that big of an issue for me. I just wanted beds to sleep four. The bigger room had only one bed, but the guy said he'd send up two cots. That didn't appeal, but I really didn't have a choice since I had already paid and no refunds were possible for an online booking. We got a room on the 34th floor, which excited the kids. The room was nice, and the cots were surprisingly comfortable.
We slept in and then got up to go to Casa Loma. We took the subway. Tokens were $2.25 each, and I asked for 8 tokens. The guy instead handed me a day pass. A family of up to five people can ride all day for $7.75! What a deal! We got to the castle. The kids of course wanted to go right to the secret passageway that Sir Henry has that went from his study to his bedroom. I went ahead and closed the hdden panel, and then had the kids go in and find it. Casa Loma has hand held phones that they give out for free, with a map of the castle. When you enter a room, you dial that room number, and a voice will tell you about the design of the room. For instance, in one room it took three men three years just to carve the woodwork! In each room there was a sign with a description of what the room was used for, and more numbers. One number would be a recording from the woman who lived there, and other numbers were from people who used to go there for parties and such. We bought a refrigerator magnet. Of course, we have many pictures!
Well, since the subway was essentially free for the rest of the day, we had fun with it. We took it to China town, just to look down the street. We took it to the CN Tower, just to see the tower up close (we didn't go in). We got on one trip just to get the front car so that we could try to get pictures of the rail system! It didn't work too well because the glass reflected. I had done the same thing in Manhattan many years ago, but now I remember that I was able to put the window down. Oh well.
We went to dinner at an outside cafe, which was the Hard Rock cafe. The pictures are of some fountain setup just outside the cafe. A funny story at the restaurant: The "music" that was playing was from the original Woodstock Music Festival. Max Yasger gave his speech. Jimi Hendrix played the National Anthem. At one point I said "We're listening to Woodstock." Amber replied "The bird?" I laughed pretty good at that!
Of course, we took the subway back to the Hotel. It was about 9:30PM. Our electronic room key card didn't work. We all tried many times. A maid was on our hall, and she tried. It didn't work either. She called management, and a suit came up. First he asked for ID. I told him it was in the room. He tried his key, and it didn't work. He called maintenance. The maintenance guy came up, and his key didn't work either! He used the old fashioned metal key to bypass the system, and determined the electrical connection wasn't working. We were offered a complimentary breakfast for sitting in the hall for 20 minutes. Now normally, we would go out to eat at a diner or something, but the complimentary breakfast in the Sheraton was a nice offer. There was a full buffet that was very good. The fruit was wonderful! We were given a bill of $50! We used our free breakfast passes instead. Fifty dollars for breakfast! Jeesh! We got directions from the concierge to The Breeze, and off we went.
Spirit of Ontario 1:
Nicknamed The Breeze, this was an absolutely wonderful way to travel! I had already logged over 760 miles on my car in less than a week (roughly 13 hours) and was in no mood to drive any more. Plus, there were at least four things I could do on The Breeze that I couldn't do driving: watch a movie, nap, read some of my book, and drink a beer. I checked the ships store for a refrigerator magnet, but they were sold out.
We pulled into the Toronto Harbour, and were directed to park in one of the columns of cars lining up amongst the stack of train containers. They didn't ask for any papers or anything. When our line was directed, we drove up into the ferry, and then up into the second deck. There were many spotters inside guiding people since most people cannot judge the front of their car when turning sharp. They packed us in tight! See the slideshow.
The ferry trip was great. The nap was much needed. We pulled into Rochester and waved to many people on the pier. We drove off and got in line for customs. This was the moment I had been concerned about. When it was our turn, I handed over our birth certificates. He asked for my drivers license. I told him I lost it. He laughed and said OK, and then cleared us to go! Whew!
Later that day, at home, the Enchanted Forest Water Safari people called. They had my wallet (minus a few hundred dollars in cash) and were mailing it out.
Not a whole lot to tell here. It's a wonderful hike. A mile up and a mile back was the short hike. There are some longer, but nobody was in the mood. It was very humid and miserable. We packed a lunch and brought water, which was a good thing. We had some ice cream afterward, and I bought a Watkins Glen refrigerator magnet. :-) Here's the slideshow
Some firsts for the kids: White-water rafting, a police escort, a Bills football game, being on the field at the stadium, meeting football players and cheerleaders, going in a castle, a subway ride, Toronto, The Breeze ferry over Lake Ontario, Watkins Glen gorge.
We were going to take another trip over Labor Day weekend, but the kids unanimously screamed "NO! We haven't been home enough!" Especially Jake, who had spent six nights at camp, one night home, six nights in VIrginia Beach, one night home, and then this trip! What a summer!