I was asked to be Marissa’s sponsor for Confirmation, and the day had finally arrived! I took about a week off work and decided to drive out to New Jersey. I asked people about places to stop along the way, and managed to spend at least a little bit of time at each of them.
Thursday, May 19, 2011
I got off to a late start because I was giving people “just a minute more” to send me their prayers for Fr. John’s birthday project. 🙂 I didn’t actually get on the road until about 1 pm. I used my new enhanced driver’s license at the border in Sarnia for the first time and entered a foreign country (!!). It was sunny and beautiful and I quite enjoyed the Canadian countryside as I cruised along listening to Catholic talks on CD. Everything was in bloom, and the wildflowers made wide swaths of yellow, blue and purple in the green of the grass.
When I arrived in Niagara Falls, I stopped on the US side. The park entrance was gorgeous with all of the flowering trees:
Everything seemed to be in bloom and it was just gorgeous:
The path took me down to the rapids right before the Falls:
It was a lovely day, and I wished that I had some more time to spend in the park.
However, I was starting to not feel well and thought it better if I pressed on to Letchworth State Park, where I was going to stay the night. But first, I wanted to walk along the river one more time and maybe walk across that bridge up there…
This is the view from the bridge (not THE bridge, but a little bridge):
At the end of the bridge was this flowering tree. I know, it’s a lot of flower pictures, but I’m a sappy flower-loving girl like that! Deal with it! 🙂
Tulips, tulips, everywhere!
This is the view of the bridge passing into Grand Island:
Along the drive through upstate New York, there were several areas with these windmills.
This part of the drive had the most hills warning trucks to be in low gear. I had been a little anxious about traveling this “mountainous” part of the journey because the weather report had indicated severe thunderstorms, but Thank God! the weather held out. As I got closer to Letchworth, there were fewer and fewer rest areas and cities. By the time I got to Castile, I hadn’t seen another car or another human for a couple hours. It was really disconcerting. It was also getting dark and was about 8:30 pm or so. I got to where the GPS said the park should be, and didn’t see anything. I drove down the road a little further and saw some signs for it, and finally made it to a sign that indicated for me to turn left for the park, but I promise you, there was NO place to turn left! I continued on the road, getting increasingly anxious (mostly because of the lack of people). My GPS wasn’t working, it was getting darker, I couldn’t figure out these signs (there must have been multiple park entrances), and I had 100 miles to empty. I was sure that there was a gas station within 100 miles, but I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find it. Plus, I was still feeling sick and was looking forward to the bed in that cabin I was going to rent for the night.
After seemingly driving around in circles for 30 minutes, I finally found a park entrance. I was so relieved to see the guard shack! Pulling up to buy my park ticket and arrange for the cabin, I saw that there wasn’t anyone in the booth. Okay. Well, it’s later in the evening, they probably just pulled in to another booth further in, right? There wasn’t any barrier to the park, so I continued my way in. Didn’t see another booth. Didn’t see where the campgrounds or cabins were. Didn’t see any people. Okay, this is creepy. I passed a house on one side of the street and a little parking lot with another building on the other side of the street, but these weren’t labeled as anything, so I continued down the road. I got to the end, where it said, “Service Vehicles Only.” Obviously, this wasn’t where I was supposed to be either. I turned around and headed back. I got back to the house and the parking lot and parked next to the only car in the lot (no people, again). I resigned myself to sleeping in my car for the night. I got out of the car and took a walk around to see what was there. I followed the sound of water down this trail and found a scenic overlook. In the distance, I could see one of the waterfalls lit up:
I went back to the car and checked out the building next to the parking lot. It was a public restroom! Running water, electricity and everything! Score! 🙂 I turned in and tried to sleep. Not the most comfortable thing I’ve done, but it wasn’t that bad.
Friday, May 20, 2011
I got up pretty early and thought that I should exit the park before I got arrested for trespassing or something. The first think I did was go back down the path to the scenic overlook I had run across the night before. Sadly, it was so foggy that I couldn’t see a thing.
I cleaned up in the public restrooms, rearranged my car and started to make my way out. My phone, of course, was about dead, so I couldn’t check the GPS or anything. As I made my way back to the park entrance I had come in, I saw a sign for “Lower Falls” and decided to follow it. It ended at a (deserted) parking lot, with a trail leading to the Falls. It was wet and foggy, but quite nice.
Right off the parking lot was this cute little restroom, much more rustic than the one by the parking lot where I stayed the night:
This is the “trail”:
This was my first view of the river:
These were the stairs in the park: stone steps, wet and half covered in leaves. Just what a girl with a neuromuscular disorder needs to be climbing on when there’s not another soul around. Good thing I fancy myself a billy goat and lack a self-preservation gene! 🙂
Some even had warning signs, which was nice of them.
This is the first rocky outcropping that I happened upon and immediately scrambled atop it for a better view of the river.
Views from the rock:
On the one side of the path were signs like this:
warning us not to get too close to the edge. The forest just dropped off into the river, and there were no fences or anything to keep people safe from their own stupidity.
This is a picture of how it just drops off into nothing:
This, I thought was funny, the trail was covered in tree roots. And it was all wet and muddy and quite slippery.
What was I getting myself into?
My first view of the lower falls! And look, see how it just drops off? I could just walk right over the edge. No safety net.
There was so much spray coming from the falls that I had a hard time keeping my camera lens dry enough to take a photo.
I actually was good and didn’t hike beyond the sign. I merely hiked…laterally…closer to the drop off above the falls. 🙂
Since it was the end of the trail, I had no option but to turn around and head back. This time, I took a moment to check out the other side of the path, dragging my attention away from the water (I’m such a sucker for water!).
By my first rocky outcropping there were incomplete “stairs” going down to this overlook:
The outlook itself was almost completely flooded out and very muddy, but it had some great views:
Here’s looking back at the Lower Falls:
On the far side of the overlook was another set of stairs heading down, in parallel with the river, leading to a bridge which crossed over to the other side of the park.
This bridge was pretty high off the water, which is important to remember for the next part of my story:
See, the bridge itself was flooded out, and I was not a fan of the idea of getting my shoes and socks any more wet and muddy than they already were. So, here I was… Looking at the bridge, trying to think of how I would cross it without getting wet.
Did you see that? The wall of the bridge? It’s like a ledge. About 18 inches wide. I bet I could walk on that ledge across the bridge.
I tried to get a picture from the ledge of the river. You know, to document my stupidity, right? So here I am, on an 18″ ledge, looking through a camera… 🙂 I got about 1/2 way across the bridge before I started to get scared of falling, since, despite my billy goat tendencies, I am actually afraid of heights… So, I turned around and went back.
Now, it was time to ascend back to the car and head again towards New Jersey.
But first, a stop at another overlook, right by the entrance of the park. You can see why they call this the Grand Canyon of the East. 🙂
There was another guy there, taking photos. I was so thrilled to see him, because I hadn’t seen another human in 12 hours. I asked him where the nearest gas station was, and after a while, he understood what I was asking and tried to give directions. Thank the Lord the GPS was working, despite the fog! 🙂
Here’s a video clip of the last overlook, before I left Letchworth:
This is what the drive was like: a little rain here and there, some Catholic CDs and a river alongside the road for most of the trip!
Now entering Pennsylvania!
There was not too much to see in Pennsylvania, so I pretty much blasted through. However, as I got close to New Jersey, the last exit in Pennzie, in fact, I decided that I had some time to kill and stopped by the Crayola Crayon Factory.
Completely ironically, Derek was also at the Crayola factory (but the real one, not the tourist one) for a job interview! I picked up some Dry Erase Crayons and Glass Markers and headed off again. 🙂
Now for the raison d’être! Marissa’s Confirmation! We ate dinner that Derek made for us, then got cleaned up and on the way to St. Magdalen de Pazzi Catholic Church in Flemington. All the confirmandi were dressed in red robes. There were a lot of kids being confirmed, and this was just one of two groups! 🙂 Sadly, the church asked that family members not take photographs during the liturgy, so I don’t have too many.
Here’s Marissa in the car on the way to church. Her dress was lacey; she thought it was a rather “Churchy” looking dress. 🙂
After Mass, we briefly stopped in the social hall and had our picture taken with her priest. We went to TGI Friday’s for a late night snack. There, along with expressing a desire for a disco ball for her room, Marissa said that she wanted to go to confession. Since we were planning on taking a trip to New York City in the morning, I suggested that we see if we can make confession at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. High-fives were exchanged. 🙂
Saturday, May 21, 2011
What can I say? I love trips into the city! 🙂 The crowds of people don’t bother me in the slightest. 🙂 I love all the different buildings and stores. It’s all quite beautiful. Diane got us passes on the Grayline Uptown Bus Tour, which was good, since all my previous trips have been downtown, below say, 60th street. I’ll try not to glut you with photos, but it’s rather difficult for me to not share them all! 🙂
Diane on the tour bus!
All kinds of fancy old buildings on the Upper West side! 🙂
Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine
And my favorite of this cathedral:
Union Theological Seminary
General Grant National Memorial
Brownstones in Harlem
Public Service Announcement from the City of New York:
Central Park: I wish I had more time in the city where I could wander around the park
The Seal of the City
I love the bird flying on top of this roof!
The Guggenheim Museum
This is MY kind of sidewalk! 🙂
It was getting pretty late in the afternoon and we hadn’t eaten yet…
I love how detailed this building is!
The Irish Pub: I wish this pub were more noticable…
I still have to see this play one of these days!
Times Square, Again
Madame Tussaud’s: Our Next Stop!
Pope John Paul II and I
He’s trying to help me take the photo!
Marissa and a Rockette
Diane finding someone shorter than she!
That’s right, dude! I’m stopping your puck with my foot! Bwahahaha!
Happy Feet 4D
We are stylin’ in our shades!
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Church of St. Francis of Assisi
We had dinner at a place called, I think, Lucky’s, across the street from Penn Station.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Today was a pretty relaxed day. Diane and I caught the noon Mass at St. Magdalen’s. When we got home, we found a little kitten in the driveway. She was taken in and adopted by the family.
Throughout the night, we debated names for her.
Eventually, I think Diane settled on the name Chloe, but we will see if it sticks.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Their house is next to a farmer’s house, and they even have one cow which is theirs!
The tub is for washing the dogs. Don’t worry, there’s indoor plumbing! 🙂
Today, Marissa went to school and Derek, Diane and Garrett headed off to work. I thought this would be a great time for me to head over to Wernersville, PA to check out the gravesite of Fr. Walter Ciszek, who wrote the book “He Leadeth Me” which I recently read.
On my way out of town, I passed by St. Magdalen’s and decided to stop and take a few pictures, since it is such a pretty church:
As I was taking photos, I saw people going into the church. I asked someone and as it turns out, they were having Mass in 5 minutes! What awesome timing! 🙂
Jesuit Retreat Center at Wernersville, PA
Fr. Ciszek’s grave
I walked through the entire cemetery, praying at each grave marker. It was foggy and wet out and my shoes and jeans got soaked! 🙂 But I loved it. I then popped into the retreat center for a look around. There was a sign on the door that said, “Walk in” and so I did. 🙂
I took pictures of their artwork, too!
And their living spaces!
And their worship spaces!
Even the entrance to the retreat center was pretty, so on my way out, I parked my car in the middle of the street and took a few photos. 🙂
It took about 2 hours to get to Wernersville from Stockton, and on the way back, Diane messaged me on Facebook and let me know about some Lost Caverns. I wasn’t sure if I was going to stop by and see them, but as I came up to them on the highway and saw the signs advertising them, I decided to pull off and check it out.
It was pretty neat. This is a photo of one of the first rooms, which had been used previously for weddings. The stuff on the wall is called flowstone.
This one is an apparently rare and delicate formation where the water comes up from the rock:
It was interesting to hear stories of how the caverns had been used variously as wedding sites, dance hall, cool storage for the golf course across the street and even for stashing bootleggers’ treasures during the Prohibition!
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Today’s the day I had to leave to head for home. I had packed most of my stuff the night before and left about 6 am. I drove to Rochester, NY where I met up with Bill McDonald, my godmother’s brother. He met me at the memorial park and showed me her site.
It was a beautiful area in the forest. There was a tiny waterfall and creek nearby.
We then headed into Rochester proper and had a lovely lunch. It was really nice to be able to catch up with him.
After lunch, I started on the second half of the long trip home. It was pretty uneventful. I didn’t make any random stops, really, although I did make a wrong turn and start heading toward Toronto when I was in Canada. And the thing with my GPS in Canada… It will track you and tell you the upcoming turns and things, but it will not update if you make a wrong turn! But I managed to turn around and find my way back to the correct highway without too much anxiety. It was almost too bad, because I’m sure I would have enjoyed Toronto!
And, who minds a detour when you have cool driving sunglasses like this? Until the next trip, Ciao!