Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Race to the Falls

Update: LeBron James announced his return to Cleveland July 11th, which makes this post from my day in Cleveland on September 13, 2012 more timely than I originally imagined.

Late to Rise

It was a beautiful, sunny day in Cleveland, birds were singing, children were laughing, and Rock continued to roll. I slept so poorly, however, that I took little joy in these circumstances as I rose late, like 11am late. I got ready slowly, and Naomi was kind to serve me some brunch to get me going. I lugged all my stuff out to the car, and wound my way back out of the greenery of Eastlake:

Like I was saying last blog post, this is the pall that most people perceive when they think of Cleveland:

The downtown, however, isn’t quite like that in real life:

The Long, Strange Trip

One could possibly describe my road trip the same way as the Grateful Dead tagline. The “long” part for sure. I had to take a picture of this sign to try to explain to myself, and now to you, why the Rock’n’roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland:

Regardless of whether you agree it should be there, it’s a pretty cool place; it’s a glass pyramid above ground, ringed by guitars of all colors and designs, and there’s a Johnny Cash bus in the lot as well:

I finally went inside, and was slightly surprised (shouldn’t have been) that I couldn’t take pictures within the actual museum, but I could in the outer display areas:

This was touching: 9/11 Memorial guitars

Linkin Park was the basic soundtrack for my swimming career in high school, so I had to capture a shot of one of their guitars:

Into the Hall
I then put the camera in the bag and hurried through all the museum displays, which were fascinating to say the least. I don’t know a ton of music history but I like music from nearly all decades and most genres. You can learn more about the information in the Rock’n’roll Hall of Fame at http://www.rockhall.com/.

I had to hurry because it was already 3pm by the time I bought my ticket to the Hall of Fame, and sunset at Niagara Falls, over 200 miles away, was at 8pm. I’m clearly not a great planner when I’m operating on my own! This experience of reading the displays as fast as possible and trying to absorb images and details quickly is reminiscent of my blitzkrieg through the San Diego Zoo weeks earlier. It was fun though, what a great opportunity!
I bought a t-shirt that was too small at the gift shop that had the list of Hall of Fame inductees from the 2012 class, including the Beastie Boys, Guns N' Roses, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers! I also got a CD (remember those?) of the Hollies, their Greatest Hits. It includes the well known Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress:

Not only for road trips, for in general, it’s good to feel that late 50’s early 60’s nostalgia through the tinny echoing voices of the singers and confident plucks of the guitar strings. I needed the good music for this afternoon, I had quite a task ahead considering it was 4:30 by the time I left the Hall of Fame. Even knowing that, I had to satisfy my itchy camera trigger finger along the waterfront of Lake Erie:

From there, it was an hour plus to my pass-by of Erie,Pennsylvania. Lively green American grassland and forest along the way:

I had plenty of daylight left then, but I knew at the end of the line, I’d be severely pushing my luck on sunset time. I didn’t have a tripod with me at the time, which would have greatly extended my nighttime photo-taking capacity. I drove farther over the speed limit than I felt comfortable with, willing the horizon to come closer, quicker!

Empire State, Take One
New York and “Lady Liberty” welcomed me at the border with PA:

The scenery of upstate New York could definitely be described as welcoming:

Sorry native New Yorkers, "Upstate New York" means "any part of New York that's not New York City or Long Island" to us non-natives. Seeing the place for the first time though, the word “idyllic” springs to mind, and has made it into my conversations with anyone who has brought up Upstate New York ever since. I really wish I’d been able to relax and soak it in more visually, but this wasn’t the time. See how low and dim the sun has gotten?

I hope I was playing some very urgent song on the iPod, like the song from the Burly Brawl in the Matrix Reloaded. Buffalo looked faded and dated, like old industrial America preserved for our modern eyes.
In fact, as you look at the faded gold coming from that gilded tower, doesn’t it look somewhat like a lower-rise Gotham?

It took another half hour to reach Niagara Falls itself, driving along the Niagara River and Grand Island with all the bridges going across:

The Deep Breath Before…
I swooped into Niagara, past the casinos, and into the parking lot at the falls, practically throwing my camera equipment into a bag and hurrying along the river banks, where the river began to churn into whitewater:

It then changed to an undulating deep blue flow as it approached the dropoff…

The Plunge!

Deafening cascades those were. It’s the combination both the sight and sound of the constant falling oceans of water that makes it mesmerizing, and peaceful. There was a lot of misty spray coming off the falls that was cooling off us bystanders as well. I was snapping away with the camera, bracketing to change the lighting of the falls and the smoothness or granularity of the water as it hung suspended in each picture:

These are the hotels, casinos and other assorted buildings lit up on the Canadian (eh?) side of the falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario:

This is the best shot I could manage with the Duckies due to my ineptitude with a camera in low light:

The river seemed to be churning even more fiercely, perhaps in farewell, as I walked back to the car:

A nearby cafeteria-style restaurant was close to shutting down, but I managed to order and wolf down a huge pile of fried rice and orange chicken, which was needed because I’d neglected food for a while in order to make the sunset deadline at the Falls.

Final Destination: Not Niagara Falls
If you’re tired just reading up to this point about how far I’d come to make it to the Falls, then you’ll no doubt feel the same weight on my physical and mental energy when I figured out that I had another 160 miles (2.5 hours) of driving left in inky blackness of night to Syracuse. Like, ah I was all ready to bed down there close by the Falls, but in order to pace the rest of New England in a manageable fashion, I had to make it halfway across New York state.
I had such a feeling of accomplishment, though, from getting to see Niagara with enough light left to get pictures of the Falls and enjoy them for a  few minutes that it rejuvenated my drive (pun) to go further that night. INXS and Snow Patrol provided the usual evening’s entertainment, and I made it to Syracuse near 1 am, and the night manager at the hotel was awake and attentive to get me in my room quickly. Thank God, at last I could rest and ready myself for almost the rest of all of New England the next day. That was good night, from Syracuse!

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