Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The ZamFam Takes a Road Trip: Part 1

When I lived on Grand Cayman, we used to get what was called "rock fever." Living on an island only 7 miles wide and 32 miles long, you couldn't get very far. A few toodles around in the black blazer and you were just seeing the same flat ironshore and scrub brush you'd been looking at for the past several months. Most people living above the subsistence level, which was everyone except ex-pat teachers and Jamaicans, would take advantage of $49 fares to unwind in the chilly northern climes of Miami, but we poorer folk were left to languish on some secluded Caribbean beach, perhaps in a hammock slung between two palm trees, faithful dog and good book in tow and dream of a road trip. As with so many things in life, the dream is often better than the reality. In fact, I once read a book called The Art of Travel whose entire thesis was that the anticipation of travel was better than the reality of it. I'm not sure I agree completely, but the author may have had a point.

We did take the longed-for road trip and was the dream better than the reality? Did the ZamFam survive Routes 94, 80, 72 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike? What about the dreaded border crossing? Well read on, armchair sojourner, and you can venture to some of the most touristy places in North America with a most un-touristy family. So strap in and imagine yourself hurtling down the highway in a ubiquitous mini van with two girls, ages 6 and 3 and a little guy 1 and 1/2 strapped in the back. Girls are bickering, whining, coloring themselves with marker. Said little guy is squawking, throwing toys, kicking the back of your seat. This can all be tuned out with practice. You get plenty of practice during a fifteen hour ride. At one point imagine peace and quiet. Girls watching charming Madeline movie, Bug peacefully sleeping. Chica is reading a tear jerker to El Guapo, both adults choked up a little. . . Flash to the next moment, Bean hollering, "Bear just wrote on the DVD screen with pencil!" Mother flying through the air to the very back of van in a single bound, shrieking, "Why did you do that?!" Bug waking up screaming. Welcome. You are now in your very own mobile pod of hell. Welcome to the ROAD TRIP.

We loaded up the ZamFamVan (ha ha, I'll stop -- maybe or maybe not. Dear K just returned from Zambia and said they joked ad nausea about things being "zamtastic," etc. I just might commandeer that and drive my whole universe insane. waaahhhhhaaaaaaa!) and headed out with El Guapo's sister's family to visit El Guapo's other sister who lives in Baltimore. We decided to caravan along a northern route and see Niagara Falls on the way. We hit the Canadian border, identification in sweaty palms, around midnight. We drove right up to the guard booth and were greeted by a crisp young Canadian woman. We were toying with the idea of saying we were "Just oot and aboot" when asked the nature of our visit, but with our hearts thumping in our chests, we spoke through gritted teeth that we were just wanting to visit Niagara Falls. Our Canuck was all business as she went through each of her checkpoint questions, and we breathed a sigh of relief when she said everything appeared in order and to enjoy our visit. Not wanting to arouse suspicion, El Guapo said, "The car behind is with us . . ." Before he could finish asking where we could pull over to wait for them, the guard said with a mischievous glint in her eye, "Do you want me to give them a hard time?" Awesome. Who knew Canadians were so much fun? She was obviously not French Canadian . . .

Aaaahhhhh. The next morning we headed to the long-awaited vista. The destination of honeymooners from around the globe. The Wisconsin Dells meets Branson AND Gatlinburg. All for some water falling over some rocks. Some gorgeous bottle-green water rushing past and plummeting 170 feet down into an 180 foot deep pool at a rate of 6 million cubic feet of water per minute! Incredible. As I must have said a thousand times, much like the Grand Canyon, no picture can do it justice. It is so grand and amazing, one must experience it in person.

Spectacular, isn't it? It doesn't look as big in pictures as in real life, but trust me, this is just amazing up close . . .

Ok, Ok, just kidding. This is what it looks like approaching the giant drop of Horseshoe Falls. What is really funny, is that in a slide show (real slides in a projector), my dad played this same (lame) joke back when I was a kid, and I didn't remember it until just now. Insert cliche here about the apple not falling far from the tree, great minds thinking alike or both eating the same retard sandwich!!

I snagged this picture online, but it shows just how beautiful the water is. That is one of the things about the Falls I love best, the color of the water -- almost Caribbean blue, almost. . .

If I would have sent you a postcard, it would have looked like this.

Here are Bean and Bear with a real Canadian Mountie of the non-French Canadian variety. How do I know? Because it was almost 100 degrees that day and this woman was wearing a full-on wool uniform and was not sweating a drop! Amazing, and definitely very un-Frenchlike to be able withstand such hardship with grace and aplomb.

Here's Bug's impression of Niagara Falls. It was so moving, he was driven to tears.

My own little maids of the mist. Here's where I was having a heart attack and a stroke. See that tiny little rail? It's about 170 feet down into Maid of the Mist Pool directly back there (a difference between the US and Canada -- if this were in the US, you would have to look at the Falls through a telescope. They would never let you get that close!) Can't you tell they were having a great time, though, at "April Falls?" (Bear-speak for Niagara Falls/April Fools which somehow got smushed together in her brain!)

Speaking of Maids of the Mist, all afternoon, "We want to do that!" was ringing in our ears. We're on a budget, we're not real touristy, we need to head down to Baltimore . . . . Did the ZamFam 5 make it onto the Maid of the Mist? Were their plans foiled by a lightning storm, a Canuck run amok or a hairy, smelly Frenchman? Stay tuned.

And all that talk about the dreaded border crossing? The guard did joke with us, but we weren't nervous. I mean c'mon, it's CANADA.


Queen of the Salisbury Castle said...

Fun Fun Fun! I want more! What else happened, I can't wait! I LOVE to hear about other travels of those with young'uns. It just makes me laugh. I was right there with you. Only you are blessed with one more bundle of joy than I...

hey, I need you to tell me about the label thing. I'm not getting it. I'm kinda slow that way.

Love you!

TropicGirl said...

WOW girl! I just read the comments you left on my blog and since you were commmenting to me, I thought "HEY! Maybe she found time to blog too!" You did! Now I have to read it! Comment to follow!

TropicGirl said...

Awesome! Love the pics. Love the story. Love MOST the "Chica reading to El Guapo and both getting choked up." Love you two!! Mwah!