Our 2004 Road Trip, Part 6 of 10: Bathing with the Maid of the Mist

Anne + Niagara!

Welcome to the wild, wonderful, wet world of waterfall watchers!

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Once upon a time in 2004, Anne and I got married and had a honeymoon! A week later, we (and my son) embarked on our fifth annual road trip: a drive northeast from Indianapolis up to see the watery wonders of Niagara Falls and its adjacent tourist traps.

When you’re in the Niagara Falls area, multiple viewing angles are possible — from above, from the bottom, or from a distance. On a normal day, they’re all virtual water rides, especially the literal option.

* * * * *

Maid of the Mist!

Wave hi to the tourists who arrived before or after you in the other boats!

Next stop after the Cave of the Winds was the famous Maid of the Mist tour. You might remember this scenery from such productions as Jim Carrey’s F-bomb scene from Bruce Almighty or Jim and Pam’s non-fake wedding on The Office.

Blue Plastic!

The borrowed raincoats are color-coded — blue for the Maid of the Mist, yellow for the Cave of the Winds. If you took one with you as a souvenir, they’ll know.

Tour boats from either nation motor right up to the base of Horseshoe Falls and just kinda hang out for a few minutes before jetting back. That sounds dull in print, but it’s all you need. Staring at them from afar is one thing. Letting their foam pervade all your senses is absolutely another.


The good news: if you find yourself blubbering in the midst of it, you won’t blubber alone.

By the time you’re within a few hundred yards of the Falls, you’re blinded by all that mist. To this day, we still have no clear mental picture of what Horseshoe Falls really look like in and of themselves, outside of our own 35mm photos and the digitally enhanced photos on all their merchandise. The parts you can see are breathtaking; the parts you can’t see are all the more imposing.

Niagara Falls!

Sidling along majestic Niagara Falls. As you do.

Bridal Veil Falls!

A clearer shot of Bridal Veil Falls at far right, the source of our Cave of the Winds downpour.

Horseshoe Falls!

The boat continues south to Horseshoe Falls, which is a separate body from Niagara Falls though they’re both separate branches of the Niagara River.

Horseshoe Falls + Canada Flag!

A reminder peeks out that this beauty isn’t there just for Americans to hog all to themselves.

Horseshoe Wall + Onlookers!

If you squint at the very top of the wall past Horseshoe Falls, you can see the dots lined across it — tourists on the Canadian side, standing and staring from afar.

It was late by the time we returned to shore, so we walked along the riverside in search of a bite to eat. There’re several concession stands and more than a few genuine New York low-rent eateries. Allowing for the fact that Anne and my son were averse to food too radically unusual, I guided them toward an upstate New York deli. It was nowhere near as photogenic as the tourist traps, but it was cheaper, closer to authentic, and not as overhyped.

Hard Rock Cafe!

We have a Hard Rock Cafe back home in Indianapolis. We’ve been there exactly twice, both times to meet internet friends from out of town. We once tried the Hard Rock Cafe in Manhattan and weren’t blown away.

Last stop for the day: a genuine American tourist trap — the so-called “Daredevil Museum”. The promise of free admission lured us in, and it’s a good thing it was free. The “Daredevil Museum” was, in reality, without sarcasm…a Mini-Mart. There are a few props from, shall we say, undiscerning visionaries who tried going over the Falls in their makeshift crafts, survivors and otherwise. Those included a stack of stitched-together giant innertubes (successful), a large insulation-filled contraption not unlike a space capsule (successful), a damaged jet ski (fatal), and a lone child-sized life jacket (miraculously successful). There are framed newspaper articles dated throughout the last century of both winning and life-losing attempts to traverse the falls and/or the river.

Daredevil Museum!

What has two thumbs, looks at this monstrosity and thinks “flotation device”? Not this guy!

Niagara River!

Even before you reach Niagara Falls, the Niagara River is not a gentle fly-fishing stream. It’s the sort of intimidating rapids where suspense films begin with a boating expedition crashing and everyone aboard goes full-on feral.

The rest of the Daredevil Museum was part souvenir shop, mostly convenience store, and, because of course, part Niagara Falls Information Center. We were in and out in fifteen minutes, maybe bought a drink or a snack, and called it a night.

Historical note here: the convenience store closed the exhibit — or maybe it closed entirely, I’m not sure — circa June 2013. All the Niagara daredevil exhibits were moved to a new space across the border at the Niagara Falls IMAX Theatre, which charges admission to view what we once saw for free at the Kwik-E-Mart. I understand they also show an IMAX film about Niagara Falls.

Based on our memories of the best day of that week, I doubt their big flick is a superior substitute. It might have more sunshine in it, but still.

Family + Horseshoe!

A brief moment of stepmother/stepson bonding over their mutual dousing.

To be continued!

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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