Lake Erie Circle Tour Journal: Day #7 Back to the U.S.

Day #7 Sunday, June 2, 2019

Breakfast at the Butterfly Manor began at 8 a.m. and started with yogurt, orange juice and coffee followed by scrambled eggs, sausages, and toast. Also on our breakfast plate, a bit of an oddity, a salad. The young couple running this house were very sweet and accommodating. They did all they could to make our stay pleasant. We talked with them a little before packing the car. They had come with their families from China. I wish I’d asked how their families had come to land in Niagara Falls.

We didn’t have a plan for the day. I had had my fill of forts and locks and was anxious to move on to other things. John though, was interested in seeing the Lock 3 museum in St. Catherines. Three, or rather four, forts in a single vacation I couldn’t handle. But a lock museum, well, okay.  It wasn’t far and wouldn’t take up much time. And it turned out to be a pretty good little local museum. Outside there was a viewing area where visitors could watch ships passing through Lock #3 of the Welland Canal. For first time viewers of the lock system, this would be a great place to view the whole process.

We crossed the Rainbow Bridge into the U.S.  Now I could stop worrying about losing our passports, always the thing that nags at a traveler’s mind. Everyone says that it’s harder to get back into the U.S. than to leave it but the crossing for us was simple. There had been no reason for us to be concerned about the two open bottles of leftover wine we were transporting in our ice chest. We were asked more questions entering Canada than we were asked on our return to the states. The agent did tell us that we had all failed to sign our passports (Sign them? We were supposed to sign them?). It didn’t appear to make a difference. He handed them back to us and waved us on our way. It was the easiest crossing ever. It was so easy that it felt…weird. If I were susceptible to conspiracy theories, I might think that the agent already knew everything about where we had been and what we’d been doing. Could George Orwell’s world exist? Was Big Brother spying on us? Maybe they had tracked our license plate. Maybe they were using facial recognition software to track us! Maybe they had hidden cameras watching us from space!!! Maybe the agent DID know everywhere we had been… Naw, he was probably just anxious to get rid of us so he could go and get his mid-morning cup of coffee.

We went to the Robert Moses Power Plant Visitor’s Center. I had been looking forward to a tour but they no longer give plant tours, a result of Homeland Security rules. There is an observation tower overlooking the river and power plant below. Rooms are filled with educational displays, games and hand-on attractions. Information is intended to educate and entertain both the young and old. They can’t compare to an old fashioned tour led by a guide though, and much like our Science Center at home, I found the information too simplistic to be interesting. Lots of children however, were having a grand time moving from display to display. One stray kid was having his own grand time riding up and down the escalator. He’s probably the kid that will grow up to be president.

On to Buffalo, we drove around the SUNY campus where John had gone to school to earn his Ph.D. all those eons ago.  We found his old apartment and I took a photo as he stood next to the front door. The people living there now, if they were at home, probably wondered who is that man and why is standing outside my door? We followed the route he took downtown during an anti-war protest when he and a friend were caught in a crowd that was tear-gassed by police. Memories.

Our vacation was winding down. The days were beginning to blur, one into another. We didn’t have a room reserved for the night, but Rory found a Quality Inn in Hamburg that would serve our needs and it had a pool. I knew Kay liked to swim but hadn’t had a chance before now.

We had talked about trying a restaurant on the lake. As we were settling into our room, Rory discovered that the restaurant we were looking at was rather pricey. There was a restaurant next door that looked comparable and was cheaper but didn’t have the view. Rory was willing to go to either. I knew though, that by now we were all stretching our budgets. John argued for splurging for the place on the lake. I argued that the place next door would be faster. John didn’t understand why time was an issue. I didn’t think I should have to explain. Kay had not put in her two cents, but I knew that if we ate next door, there would be more time after dinner for Kay to go the pool. The Waterstone Grill had a decent rating, was cheaper, and would be faster. I reminded John of how much money we had already spent. Suddenly, he was on my side. We went to the Waterstone Grill.  

It was mealtime but I was not at all hungry.  I told John to order whatever he wanted. I would have a few bites of it.  He ordered the pork chop with mashed potatoes and asked the waiter to bring a second plate because I wanted to share his meal. The waiter said that he was supposed to add an upcharge for that. If I hadn’t been crabby before, hearing that was bound to set my temper ablaze. An establishment that wants to charge me for what I don’t eat is not a place I’m going to look upon favorably.

It was not a buffet or a salad bar. I was sitting at a table with friends and was not taking up any space that could be used by another paying customer. An extra plate wasn’t going to cost anything. I wasn’t even asking them to divide the meal. We would do that ourselves. And of course, we would double the bill when it came time to figure the waiter’s tip to be sure he didn’t get short-changed. He did after all, serve the both of us. There is not a single good reason for restaurants to charge a fee for meal sharing.

The oversized portions that restaurants serve make it impossible for many older people to finish a meal. When we’re at home, it’s not such a big deal. We can take home our leftovers. When we are traveling, anything we don’t eat is destined for the restaurant’s dumpster. Being raised on mental visions of “starving children in Africa” older Americans can have a problem wasting food. It presents us with a dilemma. We aren’t sharing a meal because we are cheap. We share meals because restaurants serve too much food.

After dinner, Rory, Kay and I made our way to the pool while John curled up with a book. The pool water was cold. That would give the Quality Inn a ding when it came time to write my review. Just a couple of degrees more would have made all the difference. A cold pool in July or August may or may not be “refreshing.” But in May, when the temperature outside is struggling to reach 70, it is not refreshing. It is cold. Rory seemed to adapt the quickest. Kay and I stood it for as long as we could. Back in my room I took a long hot shower to warm up. Rory and Kay did the same down the hall. What the Quality Inn saved by not turning up the temp on their pool they were likely losing in the long, hot showers taken afterwards.

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