Sunrise and the Long Drive Home

I am, at the best of times, not a morning person. I mean, really at the best of times. So, after eating enough food for a week and then going to bed after midnight, I didn’t think Sue was serious about that “getting up to see the sunrise over the falls” thing. I was quite wrong, and she make extra sure by setting an alarm. For 5. 5 am.

Sue had been driving around in Cliff the RV for about a week, while this was just my second night. The furnace didn’t work, which left us both chilly. I was surprised to learn I was colder in the RV than I had been in similar temperatures in my tent. It’s all about micro-climates, and we just couldn’t get one going in the large interior.

So, the alarm is going off, and Sue is getting up and offering hot water for coffee, and all I know is I can see my breath inside the RV. But, I get up anyway and we head out to the fall. We had been close enough to Horseshoe falls to hear the water all night.

We took a walk along the viewing promenade, watching the sky as it grew lighter. A nice person offered to take our picture.

The actual sunrise was lost in the mist, so there wasn’t really one moment. And we got damp, but it was a good time. The coffee and tea were gone, and we were surprised to learn Starbucks didn’t open until noon. There was nothing else for us to do than go to Tim Hortons.

It was Sue’s first time trying the treat from the north, and she liked it better than the Dunkin Donuts we’d had the day before (after seeing them all over in the NE, I will admit the one we stopped at was a poor specimen). Sadly, after eating it was time to get moving. We filled up the gas tank (ouch) and headed east. We cut across Canada, crossed back into the USA, and drove home, pretty much withouth stopping, although we did take a lunch break so I could cook bacon. Why have a fridge and stove if you can’t have bacon whenever you want?

Home again I had time to think about RV travel. I’d managed almost a week total since we’d bought it (Sue was way ahead of me on Cliff Time, as we’d started calling it), and I could see some advantages.

Those tanks of gas though. Yikes.

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Those Falls, and sleeping in parking lots

We drove west and west and west. It had been a late start, and we had a long way to go. It would’ve been hard on Curiosity, but with the RV and taking turns driving it wasn’t so bad. Well, apart from the gas. After all the $6 fillups, the amount of money needed to fill the larger tank was a bit of a shock.

We reached the American side of the falls as the sun was setting. We found parking and walked out to Goat Island. Yes, there is parking on Goat Island. We saw the sign – after we’d parked. The walk was fine. Sue and I had both been to the American side before, but watching the sunset was new for me. Since Niagara is an expensive place to stay I only visited during the day – when there was time to leave and find a nice park to sleep in. That wasn’t going to be an option this time.

Once it was dark we walked back to the RV and headed for the border, arriving just after two tour buses. Sigh. One of the border officials walked over, asked how many people we had on board, then for our passports. We had nothing to declare, and he waved us through, commenting if we went through the procedure it would take hours – both buses were ahead of us. We manuvered Cliff around the buses, and crossed over to Canada.

We didn’t really have a plan for this park. There were some RV parks around, and there was a Walmart we thought we might be able to overnight park in. We were getting hungry, too. But we still ended up on the road along the falls (after some interesting traffic issues. Good thing Cliff is small for an RV). At one end there as a parking long – right near Horse Shoe Falls, and we pullled in to park and walk around some (and eat). I jokingly asked if we could stay in the lot overnight, and the attendant replied it wasn’t technically allowed, but no one ever checked and it happened all the time. A lot of the cars belonged to people gambling in the casinos, and some of them would be at it all night. So, we had a place to stay. Once we were in, we saw there was another RV there as well, clearly set up for a stay. We could have parked closer to all the attractions, and the restauants, but stayed further back. It was a little darker, less active, and we could hear the water roaring over the falls.


We walked up to Niagara, and I asked a random couple where we should go and eat. They weren’t locals (is anyone there?), but visited often. After asking how much we wanted to spend, and what we wanted to eat, they sent us to a bufffet in a casino. I had mixed feelings, but I had asked, and what was the point if I wasn’t going to take the advice?

Getting to the buffet was a chore – getting into the casino was easy but it was another 15 minutes of wandering through machines to get to the food. I know, that was the whole point, but it still sucked. 

The buffet, however, did not suck.

Imagine the three best buffets you’ve ever been two. Then imagine they were all at the same place, and all the food was just a little bit better. Oh, and all you can eat still too. We ate a lot

After gorging ourselves we walked along the river and falls back to Cliff. Both were lit up with spotlights, and it was cool. We tried to get pictures, but they didn’t really turn out all that well. It was after midnight when we crawled into bed.

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Donuts and RVs

In the morning I got a better tour of the 200 year old building I slept in, and some of the surrounding area. A lot of it was being “developed,” which meant a lot of land was being parceled out and new stuff put up.  RI is a small state, and apparently people don’t like to drive more than 5 or 10 minutes anywhere – 15 minutes is considered a long drive. This has resulted in a share divsion between urban and rural around Providence, and inflated land prices.

Another thing about the North East is the Dunkin Donuts. Now, we have those in the midwest as well, but nothing like the density they have in the NE. On the way to Twisted Throttle we passed 4, and a brief discussion once we arrived showed some others passed as many as 10. Most people were sporting coffee from there, after the late night, and I bought some donuts to say thanks for having me. In Milwaukee I wouldn’t have used Dunkin Donuts for that, but when in Rome (and Rhode Island)….

I’d been adjusting my valves every morning since I’d replaced the adjusters, and checked them again before leaving Twisted Throttle and heading west. I hadnt gone west for a while, and only had a bit over a hundred miles to go before reaching my goal for the day. A few days eariler, my girlfriend had left Milwaukee and started east, traveling in our new basecamp vehicle, a 1984 Winnebago Chieftain – 


We’d named him Cliff, and the idea was to use him has a base while we explored areas on the motorcycles, specifically with Sue’s two girls (8 and 10,  at the time). Sue had used him a few times during the summer, and we’d all managed one weekend trip (without the motorcycles), but this was the first time Cliff had crossed state borders. She had been wandering around for a few days, and planned to meet me in Albany. We didn’t work out any further plans than that – so as the morning and afternoon passed there were a variety of messages as we tried to work out where in Albany we were going to meet. In the end we picked a Walmart lot, and I arrived not long after she did.

Now we faced the small issue of needing a trailer. We hadn’t bought on before I’d left, since back then it wasn’t clear if Sue would be coming east or not. We called around Albany only to learn non one rented trailers, especially for one way. A couple attempts to find one on the local Craigslist also failed, and with the help of the Home Depot guys we found ourselves at Trailer Supply, where we  bought a trailer that was actually on sale, for less than we’d been expecting to pay to rent. It was “only” 5×8, which might cause issues later when it’s time to carry more than one motorcycle, but for now it was just Curiosity and there was plenty of room for that.

While bringing the trailer back from Trailer Suppy, one of the belts on Cliff broke. It had been squeaking some, so it wasn’t a totaly surprise. We managed to get back to the Walmart where Curiosity was parked to assess. It was getting dark, so we exposed the engine (which can be done from inside – a nice feature for when it’s raining) and confirmed the loss of the belt.

Walmart has this thing where some of them – most of them really – allow RVs to stay for free. We didn’t want to make a habit of it, BLM land has a similar policy and is generally nicer to stay in. But, since we were there, it was dark, and I didn’t want to spend hours working on the engine, we called it a night. In the morning, we found we had the correct spare already on board, and I started to adjust things to try and get it on.


While I’ve worked on engines, even car engines, before, it’s been a while. It was taking me a while, though I was pretty sure I was going to get it (I really was, it was just a matter of getting things adjusted). Sue was (understandably) getting worried about me making it to work on Monday. I was willing to miss a day if I had to, and we couldn’t find anyone open (it was Saturday) who was willing to look at Cliff.

A tow truck pulled into the lot, and I walked over to ask for a tip on getting the belt on. That guy, who was there to visit his girlfriend, grabbed my tools and had everything done in about 10 minutes. Sue called the number on the tow truck to give a compliment, and we were on the road.

Since we didn’t know when were leaving, we hadn’t thought about where we were going. While heading east, we decided it would be faster to cut through Canada and see Niagara Falls. 

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Road Island (and PEZ)

I was headed for Twisted Throttle, where I was going to be talking about my trip and packing. It wasn’t that far anymore, when I woke up in the morning, but I was confident I would find something along the way to distract me. This happened not long after I was in Connecticut with I saw signs for the Pez Musuem.

Now, I am not saying Pez is good for you, and I certainly don’t have the time, space, or money to start collecting (even more so at the level of the people highlighted in the museum), but I do like the ocassional Pez and the idea of a museum of the stuff couldn’t be passed up. So, I exited and tried to follow the signs – which weren’t that clear – to Pez mecca.

As it turned out, this was the major manufacturing plant for Pez in the United States and North America. The museum was only a small part of the overall building, and there wasn’t really a tour (as there is at other candy plants, like Jelly Belly). There were some pretty large windows you could look through at workers in lab coats and hair nets doing things with pez packages by the hundreds. But the cool thing about the museum wasn’t the production line, but the hundreds of vintage Pez on display. While I like Pez, I don’t pretend to be an expert (or even particularly knowledgable – that is why I stop at places like this). The first Pez were lemon only, and the dispensers didn’t have cool heads to them. People still bought them, but it wasn’t until the heads appeared things really took off.

The museum had a “gift shop,” which was essentially one wall of the room. It was $5 to enter, but for entering you got some free Pez, and there was a little card to fill out (you had to find the picture and identify the Pez dispenser) for a free dispenser. There was also a credit in the store, so really you could get your $5 back in stuff. I bought some extra dispensers for gifts, and Pez (to eat). Then it was back on the road, headed east.

Rhode Island didn’t look much different when I entered it, fall was just starting and the colors were changing. The coastal road had old stone bridges and tiny rest areas with fuel and convenience stores. There were a lot of cars that seemed to just be waiting there without moving, more cars than there were people, and I wondered if people used them as carpool meet-ups. 

I arrived at Twisted Throttle in the afternoon, not sure what I’d see. Like Revzilla, it was a store of motorcycle gear, but Twisted Throttle seemed to have more practical stuff, and way more than a selection of jackets and pants (They did have some jackets and pants too). I got a tour of the building and some sneak peaks at future product, then we all went out to lunch at (of all things) a BBQ place. It wasn’t bad, but a few days earlier I’d been in the south and RI BBQ just wasn’t going to compete. After we ate, I tried to let them work while I wondered if anyone was going to show up for the talk I was giving that night. It was Thursday, which seemed like an odd night to have an event, but as night came on people started to dribble in until there was about 20 people. Since I wasn’t sure what they’d been expecting, I was a bit worried about it, but apparently that was a decent turnout for one of their events and they were happy.

Since I wasn’t sure what to talk about, I gave a combination ride report/packing talk. As always, people were impressed with Curiosity and surprised by the very small pile of things I packed along. You really don’t need very much gear to travel, something people know but don’t fully internalize.

Part of my deal with Twisted Throttle was somewhere to stay, and while I’d expected a budget hotel I was instead offered sleeping space at one of the employee’s houses – a farm house from the 1700s that was simply fantastic. The barn was full of motorcycles and the view amazing. I slept really well.
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