Day Forty-Four: Big Falls, Mist gets in your eyes, Pennsylvania redux

We woke up in New York. When I say that, I think it conjures images of skyscrapers, millions of people, and Long Guyland. Happily, we were in upstate New York. Specifically, the Five Fingers region of upstate New York. More specifically, we were in Skaneateles.

I only mention the town, because, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how it would be pronounced. I asked the lady who checked us in at our motel. She smiled indulgently, then said it so fast I could hear it whiz as it went over my head.

“Again, please?”

An even more indulgent smile that showed she now realized that she was speaking to someone of lower than average intelligence. “Skinny Atlas.”

I blinked. “Skinny Atlas?”

A nod.

So, Skaneateles is apparently pronounced “skinny atlas.” I admit, I never would have gotten there.

Skinny Atlas, like most every other town in upstate New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, seemed to be in constant preparation for a Hollywood screen test. Every small town we drove through was apparently competing to be the most quaint, picturesque, adorable, village in all of New England. There must be a less desirable area somewhere, but we didn’t see it. We did a lot of driving with our mouths hanging open, gaping at the rolling hills, manicured acreages, changing foliage, immaculate houses and lawns, all decorated for the fall season.

This morning, we drove straight through to Niagara Falls. I’m going to tell you a quick story that will illustrate that Dawn has the patience of a saint to be married to me. Yesterday, as we were driving, we saw signs for Schenectady, New York. I have this habit of reading signs as we drive by them. When I said, “Schenectady,” I kind of liked how it sounded. Say it yourself. “Schenectady.” Satisfying, isn’t it? So, over the next hour or so, I found about 112 different ways to work the name, “Schenectady” into our conversation. For about the last 110 of those times, I could see Dawn’s ire rising. Which, of course, is why I continued to say it. Dawn and I have been friends since we were teenagers. This is one of the ways it still shows, four decades later.

Today, we passed a sign for the town of Tonawanda. When I said that was also a cool name, Dawn gave me the Level Five death glare that said, “Shawn, if you start saying ‘Schenectady,’ again, you will regret it.” You know me, so you can probably guess how well the death glare worked. Luckily, she was driving, so I escaped any actual punishment.

We knew today was going to be a great day because, well, Niagara Falls, but also because we were getting together with my best writing buddy, Terry Schott. Terry is the author of The Game is Life series, and a seriously talented writer. For some reason, he’s agreed to write a book with me that we’re going to release under a pen name sometime in 2017. If you’d like to check out Terry’s books, start with The Gamewhich is available on Amazon for free. Free is a good price.

Terry and I got to hang out in Austin back in March, but he and Dawn hadn’t met yet, so this was our joint “getting to know you meeting.” Happily, Terry is hilarious, and Dawn is great about taking hilarious people down a peg or two. So, there was a lot of laughter, exaggeration and the occasional outright lie told over the next few hours. When politicians lie, they are lying. When writers lie, we are working on the beginning of a new story. It’s an important distinction.

Before we parted ways, Dawn snapped a quick shot of the two of us.


By the way, that’s my expression when I am saying to Dawn, “Are you ever going to take the damn picture?” Just in case you were wondering.

After we said good-bye to Terry, we drove straight to the Falls. Here’s the thing: I’ve been to the Falls before. Back in the early eighties, I traveled with the Unlimited Hydroplane Circuit for three summers. One of those summers, we had a race in upstate New York. On an off day, I drove to Niagara Falls. I walked up to the observation deck, saw the falls, shrugged, and drove back to Buffalo. While in Buffalo, I saw The Empire Strikes Back, which impressed me a lot more than Niagara Falls. Mea culpa. I was a 23 year old kid, dumb as a box of rocks.

I wasn’t sure how impressed I would be today.

Happily, thirty-three years has taught me a few things, including how to appreciate natural beauty as it manifests in Niagara Falls. Dawn had no preconceived notions, so she was excited before we even got there. Once she saw it, I don’t think her smile faltered for the rest of the visit.


Gorgeous view of my beautiful bride at the Observation Deck, but we didn’t want to stop there. We wanted to get wet. So, on to one of the Maid of the Mist boats, famous for getting millions of people up close and personal with the falls, not to mention soaking wet. They provide free plastic ponchos that theoretically keep you dry. Why did they make them hot pink? I have no idea, but it makes for a striking image.


The Maid of the Mist ride isn’t long – I think the whole thing lasted maybe 25 minutes, but it is so worth it. I can’t imagine going to the falls and not taking a ride to really see the falls crashing down toward you. I didn’t get too many shots of the falls from the boat, because I didn’t want to get my camera wet, but I grabbed a few:



And, oh yes, we got wet. Everyone got wet and everyone was having a good time, laughing and smiling. We stood next to a Middle Eastern family. While the boat was heading back to our starting point, the father came to me and asked if he could take a picture with me. Of course, I returned the favor. I didn’t catch his name, but if he ever sees this blog, hello! We enjoyed talking with you.


Did I mention that we got wet? 🙂

After the boat ride, we weren’t ready to leave the falls yet, so we walked along the river that drops off into the falls, which is also beautiful.


Finally, we knew we had to leave, although we didn’t want to. It was a tremendous experience visiting Niagara Falls. If you ever get a chance, I strongly recommend it. If you’re in the area, it’s very inexpensive. You can actually get in and see the falls for free, and it’s only $18 per person to ride the Maid of the Mists. We’ve paid more for a lot less elsewhere on this trip.  It gets two thumbs up from Dawn and Shawn.

When we finally left, we drove south back into Pennsylvania. There are only two states on this drive that we will drive through twice: New York, which we also caught on the way to Maine; and Pennsylvania, which we drove across when we saw the Flight 93 Memorial and Gettysburg. Both are states we would like to come and visit again.

We are only about 90 minutes from Cleveland, now, spending the night in Erie, Pennsylvania. That means we are also 90 minutes from the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. I don’t always agree with the politics of the voting committee that runs the HOF, but I’m not going to bite off my nose to spite my face. If I’m within a few miles of this many epic rock ‘n roll pieces of history, I’m going in. The question is, how many hours will pass before I can make myself leave? Tomorrow will answer that question.

Until then, cheers, and safe travels!




  1. Love it! Love all the notes, side notes, and trivia. Makes the trip so much more real. I am travelling with you vicariously, and wishing it was not going so fast. Yeah, I know, you are looking forward to getting home. Thx for the trip…I am looking forward to the book.


  2. Couple of comments here, first of all I’ve never been to Niagra Falls…it’s magnificent!!! WOW!! What great pictures, love the pink ponchos. And Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I myself wasn’t able to go due to medical reasons but at least 5 family members, some from out of state went & did not want to leave. Be prepared, they said it’s 3 floors or more (not sure), and a lot of walking!! They still didn’t get to enjoy all of it, not enough time. Enjoy it, I think it would be a close running with Graceland & Sun Records in Nashville.


  3. Love the photos! Wonderful rainbow in with the falls. 🙂

    I know you guys are pressed for time, but since you guys like historic lighthouses, before you jet out of there in the morning, you might want to check out Presque Isle State Park right there in Erie. The waves hit the beach just like the ocean, and it is a beautiful lighthouse.

    Loving your enthusiasm and excitement, it’s contagious!

    Hugs to you both.


  4. I worked in Cleveland for a couple weeks many years ago. I’m sure you’ll be surprised to hear that I visited the Hall of Fame a time or two while I was there. I’m also sure whatever is there is much different now than it was then. Still, I’m confident that you’re not going to hate it. 🙂


  5. I’m so glad to see you had a beautiful day to see the falls. I loved the description of the day (especially the cool sounding towns) and the beautiful photos. It made me homesick, but in a good way. 🙂 Safe travels!


  6. Would love to see Niagara Falls one day; on my bucket list :-). Your sense of humor is much like that of my hubby – he’s really good at beating a dead horse, LOL – to the point that he’s broken me from using some words as they make me want to clobber him when he gets started! Still enjoying reading your travels; but you gotta be glad you’re not where you were two weeks ago! We’re battening down the hatches where we are – not close enough to the coast to evacuate, but expecting a tough day or two.


  7. So remember in the future not take a picture of an amazing natural beauty and a state park at the same time. The magnificence of the falls is completely lost with Dawn in the foreground.


  8. Love all your stories and photos but really like how you caught a rainbow in the pic of the falls. Made me think of my dawn.
    Carry on.


  9. What a fun day! I so want to go to this area and visit someday. Love all the pictures, including those of you in pink. I think it is probably because of October being Breast Cancer awareness month. Just a guess. Enjoy and safe travels. So excited to hear about the HOF.


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