July 10 - Things Fall: Niagara Falls, New York

Bright and early, we left camp at 11:45 AM to see the Falls. By the time we got there, they were in full force, just as they have been for 50,000 years or more. Everyone was suitably impressed, and each had their own favorite part.

Cody was immersed in the Cave of the Winds trip. For $4.50, we rode an elevator down to the base of Bridal Veil Falls (the smallest of the three, with about 1% of the flow going over), donned yellow hooded nylon jackets, and trooped along a wooden walkway to the "Hurricane Deck". Each November, the wooden planks are taken up, so they won't be cracked and broken by the winter ice, and each spring, they are placed again in that's year's most advantageous spot for experiencing the bounce back of spray after it hits the rocks at the bottom. (This year, the builders painted a "No Smoking" sign right below the wettest part of the deck.) Cody was the first one on the deck, and the last to leave, standing the whole time in the most exposed spot, getting totally drenched and hyped. I spent my 90 seconds there trying to protect my contact lenses and my youngest daughter. Cody reluctantly came down the final wooden stairs.

Others of us liked the funky observation "tower" on the American side. Instead of taking you up a thin mushroom-topped spire, like the two on the Canadian side, this one takes you down from a rusting platform to the old asphalt walkways at the base of the American falls. (One used to walk down there beside the falls.) We ate strawberry frozen yogurt and lemon chill, and took a few pictures of each other. Annie found a ten foot high spray-slickened rock to be a perfect sliding platform, and had to be yanked bodily off it at the end of our trek. Shaine seemed to enjoy moaning about the Maid of the Mist tour, which we didn't take, saying she was missing the best part of the falls that way.

But I think the highlight for all of us came as we were leaving. Coming off Goat Island, which separates Horseshoe (Canadian) falls from Niagara (American), our driver (from cody: not me...) took the corner too tight, and ran the outside tire (of four on the rear axle) over the curb, shredding it (the tire - we never went back to lok at the curb). While this was amusing enough in itself, the subsequent four hours really gave a climax to our day. We drove into a Holiday Inn parking lot adjacent to the incident. It took about 2 1/2 hours to get the correct AAA repair guy to come help us, due in part to their being another Holiday Inn just up the street, where the truck kept going to find us.

After Jim and John arrived with their twin tow trucks, things became more interesting. Earlier, we had taken the five bikes off of the rear carrier in order to access the spare tire. Will and I then proceeded to pump up the spare, which I had deflated in order to let the carrier ride safely against the RV. We managed to pump the spare back up with our Zefal Double Shot floor pump, no mean feat, given the size of the truck tire and the 50 psi we put in (out of a recommended 60). I took Annie to get an ice cream sundae at the Holiday Inn. By the time I got back, action was in full swing. Things always feel better when something is being done about a disaster, even if no progress was being made. Jim was a round, jovial guy with a hearty New York twang, a furry beard, and thinning hair over his mobile black brows covering deep-set eyes. He also had a cast on his right forearm, and seemed to be mainly directing poor John in all the work. They had the giant hub cap (with its fake lug nuts) off, and were working on the real ones. They were mulling over the RV owners' manual with Cody and Will, trying to find where the jack and lug wrench might be stored on the vehicle, and learning only that "in order to change a tire, you should call your auto club or other truck repair professional." I thought we'd done that.

Anyway, Jim proved to be not only jovial, but also resourceful. He had us take the bike carrier off completely, told John to loosen all the lug nuts, then had John back one of the tow trucks up to the rear of the RV. After several adjustments, he placed the riser (sort of like a fork lift attached to the rear) under our truck, and lifted the sucker clean off the ground.

During this effort, Cheryl noted the "bad luck" we'd had with flats in the past few days. Jim gave a huge laugh, and said, "Let me tell you about luck. Three weeks ago, there was an explosion at my garage, and it burned to the ground. When the volunteer firemen got there, they saw me, and joked about letting it burn cause I'm a friend of the mayor's. But that's not all. There was this off-duty fireman, who went on and on about me and the mayor. I told him to get off my property, and he spat at me. Well, you know what I did then. I laid him out on the ground, but the other fireman - the ones in the middle of fighting my fire - tore off their jackets and breathing gear, and came over and wrestled me to the ground."

Explaining more with his arms than his mouth, he told how they'd put him on the ground, wrenched and kicked his arm, kicked him elsewhere, and then gone back to the fire.

"Luck?" he said, still smiling and laughing. All the while, John is yanking on the lug nuts, driving the tow trucks around, and generally getting dirty and tired while Jim has all the fun with his story. "That's not the worst of it. See that truck there?" He pointed to the one parked in front of the RV, presumably to take the blow if his jury-rigged jack broke loose, the blocks at the RVs front tires weren't high enough, and parking brake and gear failed. We looked. It was black, clean, and in great shape. "Two weeks ago, I was out on a triple-A call, and some bastard banged me from behind. Twelve thou-sand five hun-dred dollars damage," he said, emphasizing each syllable and raising his brows, smiling at me. I repeated his figure, and he repeated it back to me, laughing. "And that's not the worst of it!" He was in full force now, smiling, laughing, bouncing around like some night club comic on roller blades. He turned and pointed to the other truck, the one holding up my RV. "See that one? Last week, somebody ran into the side of it!" There was a new appearing dent behind the driver's door.

"Now, I'm not complaining, but when you talk about luck, you got to put it all in perspective." It seemed like his perspective: most things that happen are pretty darned amusing, and make a great story at times like this.

"Were you covered for all this?" I asked.

"Not for most of it. I only got $350,000 for my garage, and I had a least $1,000,000 in it. Twenty-five years of my life! And that's not to mention ii customers' cars!."

At this Cheryl said, "Oh, you mean your service garage? I thought you were talking about, like, your garage at home."

"Oh that; no that ... yeah, that was last year ... my house burned down ... let me tell you about luck." He kept smiling and talking as he took my AAA number and handed us back a business card on it, driving off into the sunset (which was really quite beautiful), John and Jim and the twin black tow trucks.

No Miles, but lots of Smiles

**Next Day's Journal**

-Al Bikrutz